de Vos: Vacation planning |

de Vos: Vacation planning

Jon de Vos
The Friday Report
Jon DeVos
Staff Photo |

I think it’s odd. Folks come here on vacation. Then we turn around and go to where they live on vacation. Why can’t we just stay home for two weeks and pretend we’re having the time of our lives? No sardine-style travel, no TSA, no numbing credit card bills and the list goes on and on.

I guess it’s because we get bored with the home turf and want to see something different. We want different scenery, different shops, different restaurants, different people, a need to break with the routines that shape our humdrum days. J. Alfred Prufrock measured out his life with coffee spoons. It’s novelty we seek when the cubicle walls close in.

If we fly to our vacation spot, chances are we will not take a dirigible. Lighter-than-air craft had a hard time getting off the ground after May 6, 1937 when the German airship Hindenburg blew up in New Jersey. The Hindenburg was an aerial cruise ship for the wealthy, complete with a grand piano and silver tea service in the dining room. The airship made ten uneventful Atlantic crossings in lofty comfort. The trip took two days but it took a mere 34 seconds to turn it into a flaming hell when it crashed.

Dirigibles had an obstacle they couldn’t overcome: bad weather. Theories abound why the Hindenburg crashed, from a terrorist acrobat who teamed up with a German Shepard dog to plant a bomb in the rigging, to the more reasonable explanation of a static electrical discharge that witnesses reported just before the hydrogen ignited.

Some people just don’t know when to quit. Every generation or so, somebody gets gassed up (sorry) about the fact that airships can carry tremendous loads over great distances across impossible terrain. In 2000, that somebody was Dr. Carl von Gablenz, President of CargoLifter AG., who envisioned a lofty future in “roadless trucking”.

If you’re going to build 800-foot long aircraft, you’re going to need a big hangar and Carl started with a whopper. In fact, about 40 miles south of Berlin, he built the world’s largest structure without internal supports to house his massive “trucks”. The hangar is a staggering 1,180-feet long, 690-feet wide, and 351-feet tall. Unfortunately, Carl’s prototype airship crashed in bad weather which discouraged his investors and in 2002, he walked away, bankrupt.

The building sat empty for a year before a Malaysian company decided that if they couldn’t get northern European tourists to vacation on Malaysian beaches, they’d build the Tropical Islands Resort and bring Malaysian beaches to northern Europe.

They bought the hangar, set the air conditioner at 78, trucked in white sandy beaches and landscaped a tropical paradise, complete with waterfalls, swimming pools, giant water slides, restaurants, bars and lodging. All this plus indoor balloon rides and the largest spa in the world, covered with a thin, candy shell. Actually, it’s steel.

Visitors have lots of options. From luxurious apartments to private townhomes, adventurous couples can even rent tents in the jungle, for about a hundred bucks extra. And there are lots of extras. Even a strong dollar won’t offset a weak budget at this German-Malaysian resort. Outside, the dome itself is ringed with more nightly rental options, right down to mobile home sites for those who only want day passes.

The resort opened for Christmas in 2004 and hasn’t closed a day since. But if you plan to go there, (and who wouldn’t) you should perhaps hurry. Not all’s heaven in paradise. The resort has a capacity of 6,000 daily or a little over 2 million throughout the year. Resort operation was based upon 1.25 million visitors annually, but the peak, right after opening, was about 900,000 and traffic has slowed to about 600,000 in recent years.

No, we’re not going to Disneyland this year. I found someplace better.

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