Watery border crossing to an island Paradise

Trip Start Nov 30, 2009
Trip End Jun 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
Rainbow Lodge

Flag of Malaysia  , Kedah,
Thursday, May 27, 2010

After our five days of pretending to be normal holiday makers (except behind closed doors where we turned the gorgeous bathroom and balcony into a mini launderette) it was time to reload the backpacks and hit the road again. We took a mini bus down from Krabi to the port town of Satun in order to catch a ferry across to the Malaysian Island of Langkawi.  Slight hic-up mid journey when our mini bus driver stopped, tried to unload us and told us we'd have to get another bus to the ferry.  Without any type of ticket or receipt to say we’d paid for the next leg of the bus journey or the ferry we decided not to let him leave until we were sure we were going to get what we’d paid for.  Ended up having to open all the doors in his mini bus and get Kev to sit in it while I went and tried to 'Negotiate’ getting him to either give us some of our money back to buy another ticket or get him to buy tickets and give us a receipt.  After a 20 minute standoff he reluctantly agreed to come back to the bus station, bought the bus tickets and gave our driver an envelope with the money for our ferry tickets.  Clearly hadn’t figured on the combined might of the Rosboroughs, who especially after 3 weeks in Vietnam are pretty wised up to these little scams! 

The ferry crossing was fine, not a huge boat,probably just a couple of hundred people, but super fast and the sea nice and calm.  The journey to Langkawi only took an hour, past lots of small islands dotted around the bay.  The border crossing was a piece of cake, barely took 5 minutes and with a quick stamp in our passport we were in Malaysia, our 7th country in 6 months.  We’ve reached a stage where we need to ask immigration to stamp on pages that have already been used as we’re worried we are going to run out of pages otherwise.  With plans to go to China and Russia at the end of our trip we definitely need to  make sure we have 2 or 3 clear pages when we apply for those visas.

Being on Malaysian soil felt instantly different to Thailand.  Far more organised lots of clear signage and a very efficient pre-paid taxi stand to transfer us to where we wanted to stay.  It turned out that Malaysia also has a public holiday at the end of May, so things were reasonably busy even considering the monsoon, with our first choice of guest house full.  We found somewhere thankfully, although a huge come down from our digs in Krabi.  Back to backpacker world with a bump! The people running the Rainbow Lodge were however very helpful and had a nice sociable communal area with lots of other travellers hanging around.  Our room had a small terrace ( I say terrace, it was really just 2 plastic chairs outside the door) that looked out over a field with water buffalo and the distant hills, so more than made up for its basic facilities with the view.

After spending the day stuck in mini buses and on the boat we decided to get out for a run when we first arrived to stretch the legs and wake up a bit.  Nice on the way out, running past rice fields and water buffalo.  Not so nice on the return leg when the sun had set.  We took the wrong turning and ended up running around aimlessly down all sorts of dark lanes.  Opps.  It’s not that we felt in any danger, rather that it extended the run by an extra 15 minutes.  In 30 degree heat 30 minutes is about all I want to contemplate at this stage! 

We had our first glimpse of the beach the following morning, big long stretch of white sand, fringed with palm trees.  Unfortunately however it had been full moon the night before and there was a super high tide, which meant the water had come in all the way up to the top of the beech, swamping the beach chairs and tables and leaving us paddling our way along the whole length until the tide went out.

With neither of us being huge fans of too much beech lounging we managed one day of beach side reading and topping up the tans before deciding to hire a motorbike and explore the island.   Took to the hills by cable car to a great lookout point, with view out across the whole island.  Met a really nice couple from Melbourne on the way up who gave us a few tips for our visit to Oz in July.  Unfortunately the heavens decided to open once at the top, closing the Sky bridge walkway and leaving us shrouded in mist for half an hour or so before we could get down again. 

Malaysia is well know for its sealife, with great snorkelling and diving so we decided to take the chance to do some while we could and booked a one day trip.  Slightly different from our last snorkel trip as no small group this time with well over 80 people on a huge boat, but once we'd travelled out to Payar Island and been shuttled ashore there proved to be plenty of reef and fish to go around so not such a problem.  Coral not as impressive as we'd seen in Vietnam, but lots of bigger fish, including some baby sharks which was pretty cool.  Also a lot large shoals of fish, which at times would completely surround you and come really close so you felt as if you were another fish watching them.  Other notable sightings were 3 large squid, massive spiky black sea anemones, long spear like fish that swam at lightening speed and at last - NEMO!!  A little family of clown fish including a tiny baby one swimming in and out of their sea anemone home.  Just another day in paradise, I tell you this is a tough gig we've both got here!

Our favourite thing about Langkawi has to be the discovery of a fantastic disused pier bar/restaurant at the end of the beach.  It looked as if the developer must have run into problems before they could open as the place looked as if it had never been used.  Fantastic platform jutting out over the rocks and sea, big tented roof and glass folding doors and the best view of the sunset.  We found ourselves there 2 nights running, stocked up with duty free 1 ringit (20p) cans of beer watching the sun go down.  Even decided to make a real occasion of it the second night by getting an Indian takeaway as well!  Proper picnic!  We’d have loved to have found out who owns it and what the story was as it must have cost a fortune to build, a real grand-designs kind of place, complete with large ornamental plant pots, 2 huge decks over the water, a dance floor and fully working toilets.  Perhaps a business idea for the end of our trip?  Who knows.
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