|Well, OK, so it wasn't exactly the red carpet... but it was the royal yellow carpet. And it wasn't movie stars... it was the Sultan of Kedah.
We got back from a very successful day of shopping, and stuffing our faces at our favorite Indian restaurant in Alor Star (more on that later), and as we are driving up to our hotel, we notice there are a lot of cars in the parking lot, and as we get near the front door where we are always dropped off and picked up, we see golden yellow carpet laid out leading into the hotel, and Shah says, "The Sultan is coming here." We didn't quite absorb that at first, then, "The sultan? The Sultan? THE Sultan?" The same guy that was the 5th King of Malaysia, and who is in line to be King again in 5 years (after Steph's friend the current King is done), the one whose organizing committee invited Steph to come ride in the Royal Kedah International Invitational Ride 2007, that Sultan is coming here, to our hotel? Yep!
I was afraid to even step with my un-royal sandals on the yellow carpet that led through the automatic doors, so I tip-toed around the sides of it and slipped inside. Steph asked what was going on, and the nice boy at reception told us yes, the Sultan was coming here. Could we hang out and watch? Sure, not a problem, like no big deal, just like we were hanging out for a bus or something.
So there we were, two gringos dressed for shopping not royalty, celebrity gawkers on the fringes, watching the Malaysian glitterati - ladies and men in waiting in beautiful dazzling vibrant outfits, the women in traditional dress (like the red one and the pink one I tried on, but they looked quite stunning on these women), and the men in gorgeous traditional Malaysian silk shirts. Who needs tuxedos when you've got beautiful material like this.
As we waited and gaped, a nice young man dressed in a nice tailored western suit and standing back and watching everything, came up and asked where we were from. I thought I was going to be asked to leave for looking like an underdressed, gawking tourist, but he just wanted to visit and welcome us - he was Eugene, the manager of the hotel. He told us the Sultan's wife had started a charity for underprivileged people, and they were here for a ceremony for that. Eugene asked how long we'd be here, and even apologized for the mosquitoes in the hotel! (Many have been happily gorging on my blood). We asked if we could watch and take pictures; he said sure.
A few people would walk in the doors here and there, and greet and be greeted by the glitterati in line. Everybody just looked dazzling. The reception boy would tell us who some of the people were, "That's the Sultan's daughter. That's his brother." The brother arrived with a police car with flashing blue lights in front, him in a car with a flag on the front hood, and a car full of men (bodyguards?) after. He shuffled in, and greeted everybody kindly, shook hands, and followed the yellow carpet past us into the elevator.
More waiting around, then the videographer lifted his camera to his eye, so we knew the Sultan must be coming... yes, here's more flashing blue lights: a police car, followed by a formation of about 6 police motorcycles in pairs, followed by a car, followed by flashbulbs popping. The celebrity has arrived! Again a nice sweet older man entered, kindly greeted people (here in Malaysia they have a lovely common handshake where you use both hands to shake, and you touch your heart with your right hand afterwards. The Sultan, the guy who invited us here to Malaysia in the first place, walked along the yellow carpet to the elevator, and he smiled at Steph as he went by. Better than any movie star, because he just looks like your little old grandpa you just want to give a great big hug to!
Well, that just made our day. The only thing missing was the Raven. Don't worry, he is going to Sunday's Closing/Prize-giving Ceremony where the Sultan of Kedah, the King of Malaysia, Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Prince Rashid of Qatar, and Sheikh Sultan Al Nayan of UAE will be present. But, he's never been on the Royal Yellow Carpet before, so we fixed that!
We ran upstairs, got the Raven, and brought him down, where he sat on the Royal Yellow Carpet. Hope we didn't offend anyone, but I don't think we did. It was worth it because the Raven had a great time!