The Other Half

Grand Plaza Parkroyal, Batu Ferringhi

The cocktails are delicious, the music is live, and the surroundings are beautiful. But there's no snakes.

And that's really the problem.

The Parkroyal is pure four-star luxury. A sparkling warm pool is set in a large garden, complete with a cocktail bar (full-service, complete with little flags reading "service please" that you wave around from your recliner). Three restaurants serve delicious local food and fairly adequate Western food.

The Javana Lounge features comfy chairs, a wide range of drinks, and live music all night. The two-piece band is a bit cheeky - while she sings, he's seated at a grand piano, which he uses only to prop up his laptop. It looks like the laptop is driving the backing tracks, making this glorified karaoke.

And it's there that we've ended up. The problem is that, apart from drink cocktails and listen to the music, there's not much to do.

The next night would see us - back in RM40/night accommodation where we belong - hanging out at the Sunset Bistro and drinking RM6 beers rather than RM30 cocktails. Unlike the Javana Lounge, or any of the Parkroyal venues, it's actually _on_ the beach. We run into a couple of Swedes and a very friendly local who turns out to be a snake handler.

An hour later the bulk of his audience shows up and we form part of a nervous eight-metre circle containing some very stroppy four-metre snakes. Along with the requisite python and (mostly harmless) mangrove snake, they've got a King Cobra, and it's not happy to see them. We had no idea any of this was going to happen.

There's nothing wrong with the Parkroyal. But if that's how the Other Half lives, it's comfortable - and boring.

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