Haunted Resorts

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December 2nd 1995
Published: October 14th 2020
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I was summoned to spend six weeks working in the thriving Sarawakian capital of Kuching in late 1995, and I somehow managed to convince Issy to join me for the last three of those weeks. We had our then two offspring in tow - Scott aged nearly three, and Emma at eleven months. It wasn't still winter in Melbourne, so I'm not sure what Issy was thinking. I'm not too sure what I was thinking either for that matter. We had two interconnecting hotel rooms, but the establishment was an unachievable hike from the city centre. We didn't have access to a car, so Issy was cooped up 24/7 with two restless toddlers whilst I enjoyed the relative luxury of working in an office. I'm not at all sure how she coped. I thought I'd try to get her some respite by asking the hotel receptionist one morning whether she could arrange a baby sitter. She gave me a strange look and responded that the only sisters she had were adults, and in any event what business was it of mine, so it quickly became apparent that this wasn't going to be a particularly productive conversation. Issy bent over to pick up a sock off the floor one day and did something horrible to her back, so we reluctantly made our way to the emergency department of the Kuching Public Hospital while one of my brave work colleagues was left to assume child minding duties. X-rays were taken, and a torn ligament was diagnosed. Issy was in agony, and the staff wanted to admit her. I'd heard stories about Asian public hospitals, and none of them were good. One unconfirmed rumour suggested that you needed to supply your own food. I wasn't too keen on subjecting her to any of that, so we snuck out while no one was looking and she recuperated slowly back at the hotel.

We decided to make the most of our time in the region, so at the end of our Kuching stint we headed to the island of Langkawi off Peninsula Malaysia's east coast. We were driven out of the airport past seemingly endless rows of military huts. We'd thought Langkawi was primarily a holiday island, so weren't all that enamoured with the thought of sharing it with half the Malaysian army. We were therefore relieved to find out later that the huts were actually part of a large "resort" hotel complex. This was however tempered somewhat by some lingering concerns about the architectural credentials of whoever they'd got to design it.

We spent a week at the spectacular Century (then Sheraton) Langkawi Beach Resort, which was built in the style of Malay palace around a number of sandy coves in the south west of the island. Lazing around the resort's pool quickly became akin to a not too relaxing jungle adventure. We had to battle to protect any snacks we ordered from packs of marauding monkeys. We also had to make sure we kept tiny Emma firmly strapped into her pram, as carting her off into the jungle along with whatever sandwiches and chips they'd managed to scavenge didn't look to be totally beyond them.

We soon discovered the powder fine white sand of the spectacular and monkey free Pantai Cenang Beach near the island's south end. It became restaurant central in the evening, and we dined on the sand at a German owned establishment most nights. The food was excellent and we had the added bonus of the staff always being quick to provide toys and games to keep our offspring amused while we ate.

We hired a car one day and headed off towards the north side of the island where we hoped to catch a glimpse of two renowned luxury resorts nestled in the jungle. We couldn't get past the security guards. In hindsight this may have been a blessing. I read now that at least some of the guests think that these fine establishments are haunted. One reported "strange images" in her photos. Another's review included that "the wedding hut on the beach .. is haunted with a woman (with a cat's face) holding something wrapped in a shawl (believed to be a baby)." Spooky. Yet another wrote "I have heard to (sic) ghosts in hotel rooms in Thailand before as many worshippers buy spirits and feed them (with blood) so the spirits/ghosts will read the future and grant them Lottery numbers." So you're happy to attract spooky ghosts to your room as long as you win the Lottery? Interesting. I am however reminded of a trip Issy and I took to the not too far away island of Phuket with some friends about a decade earlier, before it had been discovered by the tourist hordes. We stayed in a cabin across the road from the beach. One of our friends was in the adjoining room - our bedheads were only separated by a thin wall. Our friend arrived at breakfast one morning looking like she'd seen the proverbial ghost, which it seems she really had. She said she'd been pinned to her bed for hours by a malevolent female spirit and spent most of the night praying to try to make it go away. Now Issy is probably the sanest person I know, well aside perhaps from the minor detail of her having agreed to marry me. She didn't tell our already seriously spooked friend at the time, but she swore to me later that she'd seen the ghostly figure of an old woman fly over our bed and then on through the wall separating our room from our friend's on that very same night. Very spooky. I'm glad I'm a sound sleeper......


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