Island of the Sea Eagle

Trip Start Sep 26, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed

Flag of Malaysia  , Kedah,
Saturday, October 6, 2012

Pulau Langkawi is set in the heart of an archipelago of around 100 islands and islets in the Andaman Sea. In recent years, it has become one of Malaysia's most popular destinations with many different types of travellers: Malaysians looking to escape the city for a few days or tourists looking for somewhere to relax on a budget. The mixture of sandy beaches around the outisde and forested hills on the inside, means there really is something for every kind of visitor. The word is spreading about Langkawi and while the locals welcome the changes tourism brings, every one we spoke to described just how different it is now compared even to 5 years ago!

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!! The journey was much more comfortable than we had imagined with large seats and films showing! In what seemed like no time at all, we had arrived into the hustle and bustle of the ferry port! We found a taxi driver (in all honesty he found us! And once he had, he wasn't letting us go!!) and about 30 minutes later we were at our hotel (Landcons Hotel) in the heart of Langkawi's busiest strip: Pantai Cenang!

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! The atmosphere was so calm and lovely with nicely lit restaurants, kids playing football on the sand and several others just taking in the dark night and orange sky. We also started playing our new game, an adaptation of our game in Penang, this time: Count the Crabs! We lost count fairly quickly but I'm pretty sure I won!

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! As it turned out we needed have worried, nature made the decision for us! Part way through Sunday it poured with rain and continued until pretty much 30 mins before Gareth pulled up in a taxi!! Whilst worrying (the forecast said it was going to rain for days to come!) it did at least give us the opportunity to catch up on all the things we hadn't had time to do since we left! Send emails, sort bank accounts, move money about, update the blog and cut Matt's hair! We ventured out only to get lunch at Tomato and popped in to the Mall on the way back to buy my 3rd pair of flip flops of the trip (old habits die hard!!)

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! At this point the continuous torrential rain was making us rethink our plans a bit, knowing we are nearing rainy season if it had come early and this was to carry on then we agreed an earlier flight out may be needed.

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! It said you have to climb 600 steps to get to the top where you will find natural jacuzzi-like pools made of smooth rocks and that from there you get a panoramic view of the the valley. When we spoke to Des & Anne, they said they had visited these falls but had found the climb very hard going and had only made it up 300 steps to the 2nd level falls and had given up before reaching the top. This completely confused us on our trip as we came across the 1st level very quickly & easily and ventured on up to the 2nd level with no problems at all! Both levels had exactly what was promised, beautiful waterfalls and lovely cool pools to swim in. Gareth discovered a snakeskin and was excited by how perfectly in tact it still was. I was more concerned that meant there was a snake somewhere nearby who had just shed said skin!!! Assuming we were only half way, (this being backed up by a big trail map) we then set about finding the route to the 2nd half and the magnificent waterfall at the top!! Whether or not Des & Anne had been having us on (they were quite a jokey pair!!) or not we still keep asking!
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. Rather than being greeted by a waterfall, scenic views, jacuzzis and beers, we got a sign saying U-TURN, a sign saying we were 1736m above sea level and leeches, which were loving the cut on Matt's ankle (not to his amusement). Bit of an anti climax so after more moaning we headed back. =). To treat ourselves we swam in the actual waterfalls that we'd passed hours ago and soon all our hard work was forgotten and we were happy and relaxed again!

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. This time I researched even harder and came up with an itinerary that meant if there was to be any potential detours, they could only come at the last place on my list so at least I would have seen all the others!!!

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!!! The Kompleks Kraft is an interactive museum of Malay arts and crafts as well as a mini museum which teaches you about Malaysian agriculture, fishing and musical instruments. We loved learning about the different craft techniques such as Batik and mat making, whilst Matt enjoyed playing with all the things you could buy! There was also a glass blowing studio at the back of the complex and we all sat for a while in awe of the craftsmen who could create snails and swans, amongst other things, all out of glass in a matter of minutes.

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 water was surprisingly chilly at first but we soon got used to that! A perfect end to such a lovely day!

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!!
During the tour we stopped at a number of different islands each offering a different activity... snorkelling, swimming, watching eagles feed, bat caves... The tour also took us to Tasik Dayang Bunting, also known as the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden (the mountains look a little bit like a pregnant lady laying down?!), which is the 2nd largest island in the archipelago and boasts a freshwater lake. Of course this lake comes with its own legend but confusingly it seems to overlap and contradict the tale of Princess Mahsuri we learnt about a couple of days ago?!

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! Those photos will find their way onto Facebook soon and we'll add them on here as soon as they do! An absolutely brilliant morning which none of us wanted to end!

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! And in fact I was mistaken for working there as a tour guide on more than 1 occasion, and helped a South African fix his Kindle on another!)
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. This is a protected coral area where only certain snorkelling and diving can take place. It's a lovely little area where the water is clear and full of fish, a nice beach and a couple of areas to eat and drink. To Matt's dismay though no sooner had they set foot on the jetty, a Chinese lady excitedly pointed out 2 baby sharks swimming past them. As lovely as that seemed it did put the thought of bigger sharks being about back into the forefront of their minds. Never the less on they went! First was to redo all that they had practised in the pool but at 12 metres under the sea. After dinner it was back in the water for more of a fun dive. Going down to 13-14 meters, EJ gave them a bit of a tour of some of the reef, seeing all sorts of different fish. Matt has got a history of not being great with boats so he spent the rest of the night feeling wobbly as if still at sea but Gareth was fine.
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. Even though on the beach, the baby sharks were being very sociable, swimming up and down the shallow waters and there were a couple of older bigger ones swimming around, sadly they didn't get to see them from underneath. Good job probably! Filling in their log books and a quick pic with EJ they were passed and on they way back.
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! They were really friendly and chatty & found it hilarious that no matter what we had been up to during the day we always seemed to bump into them when we were sat in the lobby using the Wifi so it looked like we did nothing other than sit there! On our final night we gave them a spare big bottle of water we had bought but hadn't opened and in return they gave us their contact details and invited us to go and visit them! Sounds like a fair deal! :-) Another really lovely, genuine bunch of people we have met whilst away, hopefully we will see them again one day! Our favourite memory of Grobbie (the man!) was his jokes, the best being when he invited us to join them at the Pistol Bar, our confused faces set him up nicely to say "We will drink midnight and piss til dawn!" A very funny chap indeed! :-)

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! It was quite a scary feeling being so high up but the views far outweighed any nerves and despite being a little misty, the scenery was stunning!

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
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