Trip Start May 03, 2006
48Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Amex Beach Resort
(Diary) '...1st of August today - sudenly feel like I've been on the road for some time now. Not the greatest of night's sleep - felt like I had bed bugs for company. Up and out and walked across the road to the jetty. Ferry takes an hour to cross the green waters to Langkawi. Similiar boat to the one taken to Pangkor, this time I sat inside and looked out of the window. After perhaps 30 mins - steep, limestone outcrops came into view - all forested, the bases of which narrowed, creating an overhang. It was the sort of scene that had caught my imagine many years ago. Langkawi is practically on the Malay/Thai border and so I shouldn't have been surprised with such topography.
Langkawi apparently consists of 90 odd islands - although I suspect any exposed rock in the vicinity counts as an 'island' however small
Had a bit to eat nearby and then checked out the beach, ok so the the set up is basically a 2 - 3km sweep of white sand, bungalows, huts, watersport shacks and the odd beach bar sprawling down to the sands with a few swanky resorts towards the western end. Set 20 metres behind the beach a road with various shops and restaurants, on the landside more restraurants and cheaper accommodation (where I was situated). So there wasn't much seclusion but I actually like the place - there was certain ambience to the place, it was laid-back and fairly quiet, this being low season. The beach was fantastic and not at all busy, sure there was the odd jet-ski and a few dodgy parascending/paragliding (?) operations - but it was vast enough to swallow such activities.
Relaxed on the beach most of the afternoon, there was a nice breeze and I tucked into Mosquito Coast by Theroux - I'd seen the film several times and wondered why I had never got round to reading the book
Wednesday 2nd Aug - Thursday 10th August
(Summary) OK - well there really isn't much to say - I just had a mini holiday at some beach resort on an island off the west coast of Malaysia. It had been my intention to do such a thing since India. Pangkor although more pleasing to the eye was too quiet and a touch too expensive for me, Langkawi had what I was looking for, the facilities and the choices. I was going to say that it could have been like any other beach resort one might expect to find in the Mediterranean - but on reflection it wasn't - it had its own flavour and as I write this now in the land of surlyness (Thailand) the people were almost friendly!
My routine involved beaching it in the day, the weather was sunny almost the whole period apart from a few isolated heavy showers and one night where it rained for an extended time. As the full moon approached on the 9th, waves crashed up the beach, I rented a body board and spent hours at a time in the sea. I read, finished and enjoyed Mosquito coast whilst on the beach - although at times I felt it to be almost disjointed, with almost spur of the moment thought given to various sections, the ending seemed almost clumsy
My beach days ended with a tab across the sand to Babylon for sunset drink (no not always beer!!). A beach-shack run by a group of laid back, long haired, hippified Malays. What surprised me was that the whole set-up was all quite genuine - infact I've found few better places to chill out and watch the sun go down. By the end of the week my bongo drumming skills had greatly improved - not that they were bad in the first place.
Apart from the folk who went through the motions of running the place I met a lot decent people at Babylon's - not least a family who on one occasion invited me to dine with them one evening. The husband was Malay, the wife a New Zealander and the kids more New Zealand than Malay - he had lived previously in Oz before moving to New Zealand and we used to talk about fishing most evenings. One night they took over the kitchen and the BBQ outside and produced a feast out on one of the tables - we all sat round and tucked into freshly grilled fish, beef salad, baked potatoes, rice dishes, veggie dishes, fresh prawns etc etc. I felt genuinely moved they had invited me to eat with them and the interest they had in what I was doing. They were very enthusiastic about my work visa and the wife even went as far as to provide me with some useful contacts in New Zealand
Other folk of note who I became friends with included a couple of posh welsh girls, some brummie who now lived in Oz, some token irish, and even a couple of Old Etonians (well they sounded like they were!).
I used to frequent a couple of establishments for dinner - one place where I even used to eat Indian food!!! Yes, indeed - I used to pig out on chicken tandori that they would cook in front of my eyes in the nearby tandor - not having been a big meat eater for many years - it felt strange to eat so much - but it was the most succulent chicken I think I've ever had. Another place was Debbie's Place - a so called Irish Bar, Debbie herself was Malay her husband Steve and Irishman, it was really a glorified bamboo shack - and the whole place was run with such enthusiasm that one couldn't help admire what they had both done, even in answering the same questions to different tourists every night they'd always maintain a positivity that had to be seen to be believed. Anyway - Steve used to be a chef and the food was cheap, good and yes familiar from home which made a nice break from the rice or noodles. It was a bit of an expat hangout as well - and it was interesting to chat to a few of the locals the most famous being Colin or otherwise known as the 'Magic Man' on account of his fairly good card tricks. The staff were crazy and the place on occasions became quite crazy.
I did a fair amount of walking in Langkawi - there was perhaps an hour circuit that took me up beyond the beach, passed some swanky hotel, across some deserted beach where a great number of crabs scuttled around, and along a creek. The creek was home to the fishing fleet, out of sight of course - I wondered how many folk came to this part of the world and ever saw the multitude of boats moored only a short distance from where they lounged on the beach? They'd file out at night, but perhaps a few early morning joggers might notice their return. Ramshackle buildings stood around further up the creek, the atmosphere was almost hostile - I guess I had no business snopping around and for a short section my pace always quickened as cockerels appeared menacingly, I don't like cockerels! After a weir the river meandered through meadows and then crop fields - cows wandered about, catfish could be seen in the water, wading birds strutted about in a nearby marsh. I'd eventually link up with the road and before long would be right back in touristville.
The only snag with the place was the absence of an ATM - I had to pay a ridiculous amount to cacth a taxi to the airport to get money and I stupidly did this twice. The airport apparently received charters from London last high season - wow! I could have rented a motorbike, there were no ordinary bikes for rent but the sight of the odd tourist limping about town after some unfortunate accident, deterred me. And so that was Langkawi - I went on a couple of pointless excursions to try to give the rest of the island some justice - but the weather was cloudy in the hills and we couldn't see anything. Really I just swam, walked, read, ate good food, met many interesting people and relaxed for a week - it was pretty much spot-on. My next port of call would be neighbouring Thailand - I could catch a ferry to Satun (in Thailand), a port barely an hour away by ferry.
One outstanding memory of Langkawi would have had to be the fairly common sight of Muslim girls on the back of the large yellow inflatable that was being towed behind a speedboat across the bay - all of them fully dressed and wearing headscarves, whilst their counterparts, the men folk, lazed about the beach in swimming shorts, smoking cigarettes and openly staring at bikini-clad western women.
Other memories of Malaysia would be the advert I saw on TV promoting some anti-dandruff shampoo, the girl's hair was never shown once. Palm trees, absolutely everywhere. Bad karoke, and mobile phones.