Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chateau Resort: Kenting Beach

Buffet trays heated by candles overlooked the ocean and there was round the clock maid and room service, recreation rooms with miniature pool tables for little children with cues like Pinocchio noses long from telling fibs, little leaves hanging from the sides, and the man at the desk came to my room the first morning and connected my internet as I stood in flip flops with a fussy and shy Lauren Kinu clutching my shoulder. In the evening a lounge singer in surfer shorts hit the keys of his electric piano and sang George Michael’s Careless Whispers then threw pucca shells into the crowd. A man with brown, sun caked skin caught them in a water glass full of foamy beer.
There were children everywhere, like stepping into a swarm of bees. One fell from his chair while straining for a second slice of French toast and his mother, who wore a t-shirt with a giant pink heart above a caption reading: “My heart. My family. My dreams come true,” reached down and scooped up the screaming boy and rocked him in her lap for twenty minutes while her husband shoveled sword fish marinated in pineapple sauce into his dripping mouth with a machine gun fork. To my left another boy in a sailor’s outfit was falling asleep, his head bobbing up and down drowsily over a plate of coconut-fettuccini, and to my right a mother banging a stroller lodged in traffic, while her contented infant sucked the juice from a mango and squealed.
I squealed too. We were all squealing for something more.
Resort living is an acquired taste. We had stayed two nights and three days at the Chateau Hotel along gorgeous Kenting Beach on the southern most tip of Taiwan, and by our last night I was repeating the phrase over and over to myself while watching a group of young boys play virtual tennis on a Wii: we came, we saw, we were pampered.
The End!
We had arrived under a cloak of darkness, to my right the blood wine sea, to my left distant mountains and abyss. Yet by the light of day the landscaped changed drastically. Dirty palm trees and overgrown burial mounds of sharp grass, roadside vendors in surgical masks waving us toward his parked van and stacks of onions sealed in plastic bags. So many onions, who could buy them all? Then the stretches of nothing but dilapidated buildings of failed hotels and fountains and restaurants littering the highway and left to rust.
Only the Chateau seemed to thrive, while the others, the smaller villas and family owned motels were belly up and beached like reeking fish left to rot on that icky part of the stretch of sand that nobody wants to walk.
I’ve always been such a sucker for these places, these areas that slip through the grasp of the world. The corner where the trash is stacked. The off beaten path that leads to the cliff too dangerous to build a franchise cafĂ©. That’s where I’ve always chosen to be, to rest, to find myself. So when I arrive at these resorts, these posh fun spots of the not so rich and famous middle class, I just don’t know what to do. My girls bury me in sand up to my neck. I flip magazines while lounging on an adirondack. I blow up the inflatable seahorse and sit in the kiddie pool making sure no one drowns. Making sure that the smiles of my daughter’s are sufficiently wrapped wide and wild across their faces. These memories are for them, I know. But I have my fun too. I sink to the bottom of the shallow pool and swim silently around their pink legs with the theme song from JAWS da-da-ing in my head. I reach out and nibble them under the water and hear them howl and shriek from above as they try to run away. It’s muffled, but I know it’s a combination of terror and joy and silly fun. Daddy is a shark. Daddy is going to eat us. But then I rise up and sit with my legs crossed upon the bottom of the tiled floor. There is an announcement from the bikini clad director of activities. They are forming an adult limbo contest with one free cocktail to the right, to the left the children are assembling for the water polo, basketball shoot, obstacle course. All kids are winners, she says into a megaphone as the boys and girls line-up. Every single one of them is wearing goggles and a swim cap, smiling and standing perfectly in line, ready to take the plunge. All kids participating get free seashell necklaces, the woman says into the microphone, and I slowly drop down under the water, sinking until I am only a shadow. Then I kick against the wall and surge forward. My mouth is open, my teeth are barred. I am aiming for her legs. She does not see me coming.

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