Island of the Sea Eagle
Trip Start Sep 26, 2012
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Where I stayed
Following a conversation with the lovely girls on reception at the Chulia Heritage Hotel, we booked ourselves seats on the 8:30am Saturday ferry from Penang to Langkawi. At 3 hours for the crossing, we figured it was only a little longer than the time spent going through Check in and baggage reclaim at the airport and at RM60 each (about £12) there was no contest!
We were so hungry by now, not having eaten since the night before so we followed Emma & Graham's advice and had lunch at Islandish restaurant, they were delighted to hear they had been recommended and couldn't do enough to ensure we too enjoyed our meal!
The guide books say that Pantai Cenang is "a long strip of sandy beach which has numerous beach chalets and a fine selection of restaurants and bars. This is a great beach for a swim and offers a spectacular sunset. Pantai Cenang is the liveliest and most sociable beach on the island from where lots of watersports companies operate." All of this is true! It really is a beautiful beach which never seemed overcrowded! On our 1st day we soaked up the sun, walked this beautiful seashore and waited for the night when we were spoilt by the most stunning sunset either of us had ever seen, the colours were indescribable and the photos we took really don't do it justice
Just as we had gotten used to what we thought was the 'Malaysian way' of doing food we discovered that Langkawi is, in fact, much more about restaurants than it is food courts and the price therefore went up accordingly! A meal out here is still nowhere near as expensive as back home but we had been spoilt in Penang where you could eat incredibly good food for next to nothing, so it was hard to adjust at first! We did, however, make an excellent discovery on our first night: Tomato Food Court! This is a cross between a food court and a restaurant meaning there are waiters and a menu but you can choose from a number of different food stalls and styles! Genius!
We had 2 days here by ourselves before Gareth flew in from Singapore after completing his 26 weeks through 26 different countries with Odyssey Overland. We weren't keen to waste 2 whole days doing nothing but at the same time knew we ran the risk of doing something Gareth wanted to do and therefore waste time doing it twice
Eating at Islandish on our first day proved not only to be a sensible move because of the delicious food but also because on our 2nd night when we ventured out for dinner it was still raining! (But only a drizzle at this point) As we approached Islandish, the man, who I have decided is the owner, called us in to the restaurant insisting we borrowed an umbrella! Literally as we put it up and took about 10 steps away it was as though someone threw a bucket of water out of the window on top of us! I'm pretty sure people aren't supposed to be under umbrellas in rain like that, but there we were! It was hilarious. We are eternally grateful to the 'owner' of Islandish!! We ate at a restaurant called Sawadee that night, nothing particularly exciting to write about the food or service but we did meet a lovely English couple (Des & Anne) who we chatted to long into the evening
As we got ready for Gareth to arrive suddenly not only did the rain stop but it turned into a glorious sunny day. Maybe he had brought it with him as he had said it was sunny in Singapore?! Gareth arrived at about 1pm on Monday and after embarrassing him by jumping on him and hugging him, we quickly dropped his bags off in the room and headed straight to the beach (desperate to grab the sunshine not knowing how long it would last!!!) where we had the chance to catch up on the last 6 months and hear some of his amazing stories! We also took him to meet the staff at Islandish where we started to put together a plan for the rest of our time here in Langkawi!
On Tuesday morning we hired a car and set off on our first road trip! Matt was chief driver of our cute white Myvi! It was an automatic so it took a little bit of getting used to but fortunately they drive on the same side of the road as us so no other obstacles to overcome!! The boys had given me the choice of what I wanted to see and do today so I had taken my time consulting the guide book and selected a number of interesting attractions! We had spoken to a taxi driver earlier in the week and he had warned us that the cable car was closed for maintenance but I wasn't disappointed for too long as there were so many other things to choose from!
First on the list was Telega Tujuh Falls which literally means 'Seven Wells'. The guide book described Telega Tujuh as not only a cascading waterfall - but the most spectacular of the waterfalls on the island
Behind the top pool is the start of a Geopark, following this hiking trail takes you to the peak of Seven Wells. With hardly any signs and very rough terrain track we wondered if we'd gone wrong, but in true British style we carried on in hope of the top of the waterfall. Roughly an hour later and a fair bit of confusion and moaning we reach the top
After spending some time swimming in the waterfalls, we dried ourselves off and headed back to the hotel so we could freshen up for dinner. As we still had the car we decided to drive to Kuah, the city centre, and find somewhere to eat there. The drive there was pretty simple but aside from walking around the jetty and seeing the giant Sea Eagle statue, there wasn't really much else to do! It certainly wasn't as bustling as the guide book had made out and we were all pleased our hotel was where it is rather than here! We had dinner at a local food court and popped into a supermarket to replenish supplies of water and snacks before heading back to Pantai Cenang. When I say snacks, I mean chocolate mainly, as we'd had none since before we left England.
After being tricked into a huge hike by the boys, they kindly agreed to keep the car for an extra day and said I could plan our adventures for that day
1st Stop: Tomb of Mahsuri
This is a quiet shrine which was built in memory of Princess Mahsuri, a folk heroine who, 200 years ago, withstood a brutal torture after being falsely accused of adultery. As well as her bravery in the face of torture, Mahsuri is famous for the curse she laid as she died spilling her white blood proving her innocence. She cursed the island to 7 generations of misfortune turning a thriving island into despair and war. We had a nice wander around the shrine and museum which explained the story in great detail and we all left feeling quiet and calm.
2nd Stop: Pantai Pasir Hitam
Also known as 'Black Sand Beach' because it has black sand!! The black sand is natural, due to iron deposits in the sand, despite far fetched claims of local legends!
The guide book described it as 'a very scenic and unusual beach but not good for swimming' - I'm not sure why it's not good for swimming?! It looked lovely to me! Matt was intrigued by all the fishing boats and a rustic pier and spent time taking some beautiful photos of them. We had a little wander about here and got some lunch in a little food court. Matt & I decided it really was about time we tried a coconut, so we did! I think I'll stick to water!!
3rd Stop: Kompleks Kraft
Gareth & I were in our element here, Matt just followed along!!
4th Stop: Temurun Falls
You see how clever I was... after yesterday's fiasco at a waterfall, I planned this as our last stop! Covering it up by saying, "We won't enjoy the other things if we are wet." But actually meaning, "If you boys find another hiking trail, it will be getting too late to do it and even if there is still time to do it, I will have already seen the things I want to see!"
Three concrete dams were recently built here to create bigger swimming pools and to make them more attractive they have been covered with nice stone mosaics. The top pool has a gorgeous 100-foot waterfall coming over an unusual wall of black rock which is lovely to swim in. We spent quite a bit of time here relaxing and enjoying the cool, refreshing breeze
The next morning saw us up bright and early, all excited but with a hint of nerves, as we were being collected at 9:30am by Seeman Watersports to go on a 3 hour jet ski tour of some of the surrounding islands. None of us had ever been on a jet ski before so we were all a bit apprehensive but we really needn't have been as this company really do live up to their reputation as being the most safety conscious on the island. It cost RM500 (about £100) per jet ski, so to save a bit if money (and coz really I'm a bit of a wimp) I decided to hop on the back of Matt's! Many of the other companies we looked at offer a 4 hour trip instead of 3, the reason being they pootle along at a nice gentle speed and take a long time getting to each place. This is not the case with Seeman Watersports who use 4 stroke, 1500cc, Sea-Doo jet skis - now I'll be honest I don't really know what any of that means except they go extremely fast & there were times I was convinced I was going to go flying off the back! Especially when they reached about 60mph and the water got a bit choppy, we all seemed to be hanging on for dear life and I think the boys found it all far more painful than I did, if you know what I mean! ;-) It really was an amazing experience and we all want jet skis now!!
The Legend of Tasik Dayang Bunting goes like this... A Princess (named Mahsuri) claimed she became pregnant by drinking from the lake. She was then falsely accused of adultery and executed. The legendary crocodile which inhabits the lake is said to be Mahsuri's child. Local women still come here to pray for children. Can you see our confusion?! Still, a beautiful place to visit nonetheless even if you do have to do battle with monkeys to get there! One actually launched itself at Matt as he tried to walk past - not good!!! I think even the mainland heard me screaming. We were all very happy to be back on our jet skis and away from the monkeys at the end of that stop!!
One of the best things about Seeman Watersports is that all equipment (shoes, sunglasses, snorkelling gear, water) and photos were included in the RM1000 we paid and as we were the only 3 people on the tour not only did the guide take a crazy number of pictures of us on the jet skis but he also let us take his camera when we went off exploring the islands
It's surprising how tiring hanging on for dear life can be and we were all feeling the effects pretty quickly! So we had a chilled afternoon sorting things like laundry, flights to Miri (our next stop) and most importantly, getting the boys booked on their PADI Scuba Diving course! That evening Matt & I wandered out to the night market where I bought a couple of T-shirts I'd had my eye on for a few days: RM15 (about £3) each! Bargain!!! Then home for an early night as they were being collected for their course at 8:30am!!
The next 4 days follow a bit of a pattern... The boys get up about 7:30 and are collected around 8:30. I go back to sleep and wake up around 9:25 (Jeremy Kyle o'clock seems to exist in every time zone!!). Over the 4 days I have then successfully completed the following things...
Finished reading my first book - Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend (even though I'm a few months late book club girls, I loved it!!!)
Researched and booked hotels in Miri & Brunei
Contacted companies about our Mount Kinabalu climb
Downloaded my camera (over 1000 photos in less than 3 weeks - not a bad effort!!)
Uploaded the photos so far to Facebook (this involved sitting in the lobby for hours as that's where the Wifi is!! Needless to say I looked ridiculous sat there for so long
Updated the blog - thankfully I found an app which meant I could write it in draft first and therefore didn't need to be connected to the Wifi so I could combine this with the final item on my list...
Work on my tan!! - it's really coming along and no one is more surprised than me!!!!! Those who know me well will know how frustrated I get that Matt only has to look at the sun for a second and he goes brown whereas I go a delightful shade of red (affectionately known as Tomato Red!) and then in a couple of days I'm back to white!!! Well not this time guys!!!! I have very clear white bits and the other bits are most definitely brown not red!!!! Woo hoo!!!!!!
I've also been busy learning some key Malaysian phrases: here are a few of my most impressive...
Selamat Datang = Welcome
Helo = Hello
Terima Kasih = Thank You
Ayam = Chicken
Udang = Prawn
So that's what I've been up to, the boys on the other hand have been far more adventurous..
Day 1: Theory - they were pleased to have a lovely instructor called EJ (his names too long to say so is just EJ) whose English was very good and was very funny and friendly. Today involved watching hours of DVDs and buying a textbook. They were in a terrible mood when they got home as they announced they had homework ready for an exam in the morning!!! They had to study a whole inch thick book on scuba diving and do practice tests. This was definitely cramming at its best as it seemed a lot for something completely new. I was so proud of them though as all bar a couple of tantrums where the textbook and a pencil got thrown across the room (bet you can't guess who that was!) they studied really hard, only stopping for food!
Day 2: Exam & Shallow Water Practice - All their hard work paid off when they both scored 90% in their exam!!! Woop woop!! I think there must have been two pretty big sighs of relief shortly after. They did their pool training in the morning instead of the afternoon as it was forecast to get very hot around midday and they wanted to avoid getting sunburnt. This involved trying all the equipment out and learning the techniques under the water with only hand signals to communicate.
Day 3: 1st Open Water Dive. Now both feeling a lot more confident, they had a 45 minute boat ride to the marine park
Day 4: 2nd Open Water Dive & Completion of Paperwork. Heading back to the reef on the last morning of dragging themselves up early. They had 2 more fun and relaxed dives but at around 20 metres deep in some poor visibility areas and learning about dive computers. On entrance to the water they said there was the biggest fish they'd ever seen not in a tank. Turned out it wasn't nothing harmful but I imagine they kept a close eye on it. This was their best day though as EJ was taking pictures and with two 40 minute dives they saw lots of beautiful sights and colourful fish
And that's it!!! They are both now PADI qualified scuba divers!!!! Really really proud of them! :-) well done boys!!
To celebrate we had planned on heading to a bar we had seen a couple of days earlier where from 4-6pm cocktails are buy 1 get one free!! Unfortunately when we got there, we discovered they are closed on Mondays!! So we headed to Warung Cafe where we had eaten a few days earlier & noticed they also have cocktails and happy hour is from 4-7pm but they are closed on Mondays too!!! So 3rd time lucky, we found a lovely bar on the beach who don't serve cocktails but do sell really tall, delicious strawberry milkshakes!! Result!! We did, however, splash out on an Indian for our last night, it turned out to be our most expensive meal to date at RM150!!!! This still only works out at about £10 each so really not expensive at all!!!!!
During our time at the Landcons Hotel, we met a lovely group of holidaymakers from South Africa, one lucky gentleman travelling with 3 lovely ladies
Our final morning saw us up pretty early (well early for me, it was a lay in for the boys after the last 4 days!!) to finish packing and check out of the hotel. They kindly let us leave our bags there as we had one final thing on our to do list before our flight at 16:35 and that was the Cable Car! Everyone we had spoken to, both at home and since we arrived in Malaysia, has said the Langkawi Cable Car is a must so we were determined to fit it in! A lovely taxi driver took us there and offered to wait while we went up so a few minutes later, with our tickets in our hand we were off up to 700m above sea level in a tiny pod attached to a cable
A quick lunch on the way back to the hotel to collect our bags and then we were off to the airport! After battling with the barcode scanner on the self check in, we went to drop off our bags only to be told our flight was cancelled and we were now on the 18:00 flight to KL! Not a huge problem as its about an hour flight and our connecting flight to Miri isn't until 20:00 but we will still have an hour, just means our sitting about waiting is already done and it will be a quick dash through baggage reclaim & check in at KL!
That was until, at 17:30, an announcement came that we wouldn't be leaving until 18:25 - so now, who knows whether we will make the connection, it's gonna be a mad rush that's for sure, but all part of the fun of being backpackers we reckon!!! (Until we have to sleep outside the airport that is!!!!)
So, keep your fingers and toes crossed we make the connection and we'll update you again from Miri! Love to you all!!!! xxxx
A final thing... there's been quite a few birthdays during our time in Langkawi... So, Happy Birthday to... Colin, Steph, Jerrie (the big 30!!) and Jem - hope you all had lovely days & were spoilt rotten!! xxx