We spent 4 wonderful days in Langkawi, en-route to Vietnam for this year’s Project Vietnam undertaking. Our visit last year to Langkawi was all too brief and we promised ourselves a return trip. We still didn’t allocate anywhere near enough time and we are determined to come back for a extended stay. In fact, a lot of the Europeans we came across were spending several months there. It is certainly cheap enough to permit that.
The whole time was spent around water sports. Why not when we were living right on the beach at Pantai Cenang? Here the beach is clean and white with good swimming water. Our bungalow was 50 metres from the water and afforded a great view of the comings and goings on the beach from the comfort of our front porch. The AB Motel is cheap and basic but serves the purpose very well. It really is just a place to shower and sleep, with most of the time spent on the beach, in the streets or off on an excursion.
We caught a taxi to Mt Mathincang where there is a cable car ride that boasts of being one of the steepest in the World. The total ride is 2.2km and the top of the mountain is up around 700m so it is really spectacular. Unfortunately, we shared our cable car with a guy (I think he was German) who had the worst BO I’ve ever encountered. The cable car itself is rather confined so we were gasping by the time we reached the first station. We took in the fabulous views from the mid level station (about 3/4 of the way up) then went back to continue the journey. I looked around for the BO man but he wasn’t in sight. As we took our place in the line, he materialised next to us and we got another dose.
The view from the top was even better and we took a walk down to an amazing semi-circular walking bridge that creates a walk over the rainforest canopy. After much camera clicking and ooing and arhing, it was time to climb the steps back to the cable car station. The buttocks were screaming in protest by the end. This exercise had definitely shaken off the BO man (did I forget to say that he was also disabled and walked with the aid of sticks?). Back in the village at the base of the mountain, we ate a wonderful lunch of Mee Hoon and Fried Kweay Teow washed down with lemon juice (it’s a Muslim country). After wandering the shops for a bit (and losing Christine), we taxied back to our home stretch of Pantai Cerang and had a swim followed by a lovely afternoon nap.
Another day was spent snorkeling on Pulau Payar, an island off the South West corner of Langkawi. It has been a declared marine reserve for many years so the fish life is more abundant than other places. The coral is disappointing by Australian standards but the water was very clear and the snorkeling excellent.
The large number of black tip reef sharks were fun and showed no fear of humans at all. We also saw a wonderful metre long groper and a huge metre plus barracuda. The whole day, with transfers, boat trip, lunch and snorkeling gear was $A40 each, fantastic value. These group trips are terrific entertainment because one gets to watch all the different types. Many people were amused by a group of 4 young Aussie girls who strutted their stuff and showed off their best “absolutely fabulous” talk. We called them the Princess Group. Then there were the Japanese couples who head for the water bound up in life jackets, snorkeling gear, hats and no idea at all of how to swim. Another Middle Eastern guy spent over an hour standing in the water surrounded by the teaming small coral fish demanding that his wife take photos of him. She seemed to tire of the game but wasn’t allowed to stop. Meanwhile, he was turning a brilliant shade of red on his back.
We cast our hatred of jet skis aside and hired one for a 4 hour trip around a group of islands of Pantai Cenang. The guide was a young Pommie guy named Tom who reckoned he had a holiday job from heaven. We visited a spot where three species of eagles come to be fed chicken scraps by tour boats. While this is a spectacular sight, with White Breasted Sea Eagles, Langkawi Eagles and Brown Eagles all diving and swooping, the practice is leading to a major change in the ecology of the birds themselves, who are losing the art of hunting and are forming social groups rather than the territorial bonded pairs that they usually form.
We explored some isolated beaches, snorkeled (although the water was not too clear) and spent a wonderful hour on an exclusive island resort relaxing on lounges in luxurious surroundings. The trip was an absolute highlight and changed our outlook on “personal water craft”. We tend to see people just hooning around on them and making a noise on beaches but used as a form of transport, they are unbeatable for getting around quickly.
Our favourite restaurant was the Palm View, a Chinese Seafood place a little North of the AB Motel. They served a magnificent duck dish and another night we tried an ostrich dish. The food was well priced and incredibly good. A meal of half a duck (shared), braised vegetables and beancurd, rice and 4 Tiger beers set us back around RM50 ($A17).
In general, things were pretty quiet in Langkawi. Apparently, the normal European high season hadn’t materialized this year for some reason. While this was good for us, with small groups and uncrowded beaches, it is not so good for the local Malays, with many stalls and restaurants staying shut or only opening for dinner.
Langkawi will draw us back again. We have so much more to do. Next time we will hire a car or some motor bikes and explore the island. Some trips North to Koh Lipe and Koh Lanta are also on the list.