"Are you?" I ask back.
"I think so," he says, scratching at yet another mosquito bite. "Things keep biting me."
Here we are in Malaysia, in a secluded village on a tropical island. This is the beach reward we promised ourselves for three years in China, when all of our other foreign-teacher friends went on vacations to Thailand or the Philippines and we chose more remote, colder places to visit like minority villages or Gansu province.
And for a relaxation site, we have chosen well...we are at Salang Village on Tioman Island, more a cluster of resort bungalows than a village.
Eddy, the manager of the Puteri Salang Inn, where we are staying, mentioned relaxation three or four times when giving a tour of the property: "Here's the hammocks, for relaxing. The TV room, relaxing. Here is free tea and coffee relaxing. You can take a mat to the beach for more relaxing..All relaxing here."
Eddy himself doesn't seem to do much relaxing other than watching European soccer highlights on satellite TV at night. The first day here he plucked green coconuts from one of the trees on the property and showed the guests how to chop them open, drink the milk and then spoon out the insides. The rest of the time he's busy cleaning, gardening and answering questions.
He rented us some masks and fins and we went for a long snorkel from the beach to the point and back.
Monkeys were teasing tourists on the shoreline, seagulls screamed us away from their nests on the rocks, and underneath were shoe-sized parrot fish, tiny schools of stripy fish whose names I forget, and, the highlight, a two-foot long sea turtle who swam along underneath us for a few minutes. Tired out and stung by little jellyfish, we retired back to the beach for lunch.
Are we relaxed yet?
We came to Tioman Island from the nation's capital, Kuala Lumpur (which we are still trying to figure out how to pronounce correctly—until then, we'll use the initials, K.L.)
K.L. was a pleasant stop. We stayed in a very basic and reasonably cheap hostel (Backpacker's Traveler's Inn) in Chinatown, and spent our time doing a little shopping and a lot of eating. Malaysian food is a fusion of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine—a different taste for every meal.
We go back to K.L. for another two days at the end of the week before heading to Indonesia for four weeks. More relaxing!
** Click here to see our pictures from Salang!**