Thursday, March 15, 2012

Last stop in Malaysia — Langkawi

For some reason the name of this beautiful Island seems to escape me every time I try to remember how to spell it.  But the memories of our stay here are unforgettable. I booked us into a super modern new hotel called “Fave”, which was located at the end (or maybe the beginning) of the strip of hotels at Cenang district/beach. We chose Cenang over other beaches because it was close to the ferry point for the many excursions available from Langkawi. It ended up being a perfect choice. 

I have nicknamed the Fave — the IKEA hotel. If IKEA designed hotels, this one would be displayed in the hotel section of the showroom.  Space saving devices all around, but so nicely done that you hardly notice. The pool is the type that overflows on all four sides, with a constant waterfall hugging the blue glass tiles, which cover every visible surface. The pool itself is only waist deep but it is perfect for soaking and laps if you are careful at the shallow end. So it is really more for show than for real swimmers, but we are five minutes from the beach so who really needs a pool anyway right? The hotel is not on the beach. Instead, the pool looks out on a jungle scene, which is gorgeous and the sunrise is amazing. Our room was small but perfect with a beautiful shower with floor to ceiling glass enclosure. Movie channel on the flat screen TV and a desk/table for blogging.

And half price happy hour from 4:00 to 7:00. Heaven on earth!

We left Georgetown on schedule, walking to the ferry dock for our 8:15 am departure. I have to say that the scene at the ferry dock was a bit reminiscent of India. And not in a good way. There was really no organized place for luggage and the system was simply to pile all of it at the entrance to the boat. The boat itself was small and legroom was at a premium. We left buying tickets until late in the evening the night before and we had, it seems the last seats on the boat. Back row, two end seats. If you were by chance claustrophobic, this 2.5 hr ride would have been a nightmare. The windows were blocked out so you couldn’t see where you were. A baby was puking (loudly) somewhere at the front of the boat. There was an Asian remake of Rocky on a wee television screen at the front that only added to the agony of the ride. 

Exit Malaysia!

Arriving in Thailand!

By the time we arrived at the dock in Langkawi it was of course pouring with rain and the exit plank from the boat was open to the elements. There were all 80 of us to walk the plank and then somehow the pile of luggage had to find its way off the boat as well without falling into the sea.  It all happened of course, but it could have easily been an additional Indiosyncrasy for Marc’s collection! Amazingly by the time this all happened, the sky cleared and all was forgotten.

We attempted in vein to find the “wan” our friend at Lucky travel had described. We did find a van taxi but it was just for us. The fare was very reasonable for the 30-minute trip to our hotel so we hopped in. Once we were settled at the Fave, we set out for the beach. Our first stop was a quiet beach just down the road from our hotel where a young couple was just hooking up for a paragliding experience. We managed to catch both the lift off and the landing. And I have to say it was beautiful with the clear blue water, sky and sandy beach as a backdrop. I snapped a few pics so that we could imagine ourselves up in the air. That is about as close as we will ever get. Way to scary!

Just pretend this is us!

We could see the second, larger beach from where we stood, but had to head back to the strip of shops to get to it, so we investigated the eateries and the shopping along the way. I forgot to mention that Langkawi is a tax-free Island. So as you can imagine, there was a long line of tax-free shops, like you would find at an International Airport. Beside the shops is an Underwater World where you can see the fish and corals that once may have been visible along the shore of this Island (we found on day two that all of the coral here is more or less dead unfortunately from over touritisting the reefs). 

This is through glass into a tank. We did not see anything like this in Langkawi unfortunately.

Triple wedding!

Just in front of Water World, there were three couples in the middle of a very public triple wedding. Each couple was beautifully dressed. They must have coordinated their wedding costumes, since all were in different colour schemes and they looked quite good together! A crowd of wedding crashers was watching the proceedings up front, while the invited guests were seated at beautifully set tables enjoying a wonderful meal. Was this a Thai reality show, or simply a fun way to have a wedding? We will never know. It was hysterical to watch though. We picked out our tax-free hazelnut dark chocolate and were on our way.

Have I mentioned that it is sweltering hot here? Once we left the comfort of the air conditioned duty free mall, we needed to find some refreshment of some kind before we fainted. Back to the beach, we found several accommodating restaurants with seating under palm trees. We had fresh pressed fruit juices and a snack and were re-energized. Next on the agenda was booking some excursions for snorkeling and boat rides around the island, famous for clear water, colourful fish and mangroves. These tours were being sold at every stand on the beach, on the main road as well as at every hotel. It became clear fairly quickly, that no matter how well you bargained, there was probably someone somewhere ready to undercut his or her neighbour to get your business. We ended up doing fairly well but it did require a return trip to our original tour salesman to demand a better rate. He was quick to oblige and refund our money.

We had a great dinner and a cold beer on the beach and still had time to enjoy the end of happy hour at the Fave, around the blue glass tiled pool with the sun setting behind the jungle scene. We were so hot, we could hardly walk by the time we arrived, but a quick dip in the pool and a cold alcoholic beverage and all was well with the world.

Now, I said earlier that the Fave was a perfect choice for us. Someone looking for a beach holiday would think it was the poorest choice. But luckily for us, we had had enough of the beach by the end of day one. From my description of the strip, I am sure you can tell, that it was not really our scene at all. Fun for a few hours to people watch and shop, but what we were here for was the nature above and below the water. That is all found off the coast of the Island.

Our snorkeling experience was far from amazing, but we did see some fish and realized that we have been spoiled by the great experiences we have had in the Sinai and Marc has had in Australia. BUT our day on a boat discovering Langkawi’s mangroves, swimming monkeys, eagles walking fish, colourful crabs, bat cave, and amazing scenery has to be added to the list of greatest highlights of our travels so far.

Snorkeling- sort of ...

A young man in a very nice Toyota sedan picked us up. We had no idea at the time that he would be our guide for the daylong boat trip, but Marc used the 30 minutes we had with him driving to the ferry dock to try to get some information about other areas of Malaysia worth visiting. His English was amazingly good and he was very generous with information. When we arrived at the dock, Marc asked him if he would be driving us back to the hotel at the end of the excursion. He wasn’t sure, but he would likely be our guide (depending on how many people showed up at the dock), so there would be time for more questions if we had any.

Mangroves, swimming monkeys, bats.

We stuck close to him as we could tell he would be a great guide and wanted to be on his boat — And we were! And he was! Wow, what a day. Pedro (this was not his real name, but from experience, he had found that no one could pronounce his name, so for simplicity sake, he asked us to call him Pedro) was truly one of the most knowledgeable guides we have ever had — and with a sense of humour to boot. Every stop along the way he explained what we were seeing, teaching us about the natural phenomena, the animal habitats, the surrounding geography and all with personal stories and humourous asides. It was an unforgettable experience. We both turned to each other more than once during the day to say “This is what we are travelling the world to experience!”  

On the way back we asked to be dropped off in town to figure out how we would get from Langkawi Malaysia to Phuket Thailand the next morning. We found a travel agent that arranged pick-up from the hotel to the ferry to Satun Thailand, transfer from the ferry dock in Satun to the bus station and a ticket on a long bus ride to Phuket. He had some errands to do, but would come by our hotel at 9:00 pm to get it all organized. True to his word, he arrived around 9:00. Gave us a receipt and two stickers. “Be sure to wear the stickers” he instructed us. “My driver will pick you up in the morning, and buy your ticket at the ferry” he began. “When you clear customs in Satun, there will be someone on the other end to give you your bus ticket and transfer you to the bus station”.

Sounded a bit iffy, but we paid the man and after a hand shake he disappeared into the night. Did it all come to pass? Well you will just have to wait for my next post ...  

1 comment:

  1. Its really good place to visit Malaysia, i also want to visit there, this is very nice place.
    Hotel Johor