Trip Start Aug 01, 2010
161Trip End Ongoing
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The boat staff is fairly useless at answering the simple question of where are we!?! Thankfully, a charming guy from Singapore with his family of 22 people going on holiday explains us in very good English that we are actually very close to the main beach of Cenang where we are thinking of heading anyway. Good for us!! However, Cenang beach is not quite at the harbor and we are not sure how we will get to the city without having any Malaysian money on us. The Singaporean man offers his help to reach the main town (22 or 24 not so much difference for him) and even gives us some names and locations for cheap accommodations
Before heading off with the man and his family, we have to go through the border and maybe customs. We have to wait for almost one hour in that harbor for our passport to be ready. In the mean time, we understand that our passports are sent by car to the town of Kuah where the immigration office is!?! What was the point of dropping us off here instead of Kuah then?? And they obviously, don’t check our passport against our face once again! Interesting process isn’t it! And customs? What customs? There are no customs here, the customs with big massive scanner and search staff is apparently all in Kuah we are told!! We now wonder why we bothered so much staying carefully next to our bags since the morning and during the whole boat duration if custom does not exist!?!
After all this, the family man has gone and he will have all his family passports delivered to him at his hotel. How weird is that as well!?! Anyway, two taxi vans are here ready for the nine odd backpackers without money to take them to the cash machine and hostel!! Yeah! All sorted, it seems!
The taxi takes us nicely to two places but it is all full!?
The next morning we arrive at Palm’s guesthouse (that we find in Lonely Planet) at 10am to take their last available room. The place is really nice and is owned by a British woman. The room is cheaper than last night but still does not fit our budget. It seems that the whole island is like this and the British lady tells us that Malaysia is generally a bit more expensive than Thailand. We are surprised as we were expecting the inverse rather.
Another thing that the lady elucidates for us is that Langkawi is a holiday place for locals that also come here for the weekend. Lucky us, we have arrived on the island Friday evening during the school holiday period!! Now, we know why so much hassles last night!
We don’t really like the town of Cenang beach that has no real character and everything seems expensive again, so we think that we should leave tomorrow
So we go around a few travel agents to see what the must sees are! Langkawi is the name of the archipelago that comprises of 99 islands and is also the name of the biggest of these islands. All sorts of holiday activities for kids and grownups are available on the island and we are told that going around with a car is the best option. We are offered a car with a driver for four hours but the price of renting a car for 24hours beats everything so Rudi gets to drive!!
Renting a car in Malaysia is dead easy! You go in some kind of corner shop that sells all sorts of things and rents motorbikes and cars. You are asked to show your passport and driving license (they don’t even do a photocopy of it), fill a form, go around the car briefly, and pay 70 ringgit (14pounds) for the 24 hours and 100 ringgit for deposit!! Only 20 pounds for the deposit – we wonder what can they change or repair with 20 quid!?!
Anyway, off we go in our lovely tiny winy car!! 'On the left side please Rudi!’ says Agi!
Tell Rudi if he is wrong but he has been driving many cars with the wheel on the left and quite a number of cars with the wheel on the right and in any case the indicators were always on the left side of the wheel with the windscreen wiper on the right side. Well, in that car this is the inverse!?! So driving on the left is not really a problem after all these years in England, but putting the windscreen wiper on to indicate when we are turning can be problem!?! Thankfully, it all goes fine at the end.
Our first attraction, the biggest on the island, is the cable car that takes people up to the peak of Gunung Mat Chinchang, where the amazing Langkawi Sky Bridge is located. Unfortunately for us, the holiday period screws it all and it is shown a two hours queue before boarding the cable car. We quickly leave the place to go to our next attraction: the black sand beach. It is fairly poor in black sand and not so impressive. The next attraction on the map is the hot springs. The place is still under construction with workers doing their jobs but tourists like us are allowed to enter and walk through construction areas!?
On the way, Agi wants to buy fruits and veg (How unusual!?!) but we stop by two local supermarkets and realise that they don’t have fresh food stands. However, we notice again that all shops are duty free (Langkawi is a duty free island) so we stock up in beer, cider and cigarettes instead!!
Overall, the landscape on the island is extremely green with some flat lands where rice is growing in abundance and very hilly mountains in other parts. And now and then, our monkey friends are showing up by the road.
Unfortunately, we do not have time to visit the fruit farm as we need to leave for Kuah, the ferry town where our next boat will take us to Georgetown on Penang Island.