Langkawi

This blog is an account of our recent adventures in Langkawi, Malaysia. It covers some of the main attractions and may be useful to anyone planning a visit to this wonderful island however it is also written to entertain family and friends so be warned if you are looking for a travel guide you might have to wade through some side-waffle to find the information you need.

I hope you enjoy reading, please share with others

Introduction

What a funky year it has been, moving jobs and countries while the virus ravages the world has been challenging. We have mixed feelings, we are sad that we haven’t seen our son Matthew in 12 months and frustrated at not being able to explore our fabulous new host country properly however, we also feel very lucky that we are employed, healthy and happy.

After months of city lockdown, we got the news last week that internal state travel was now allowed, I had a bunch of leave to use before the end of the year so there was no hesitation in booking a trip to Langkawi. We had visited once before on a day trip from a cruise and knew we would need to return to spend some time there, in fact we have been itching to visit since our arrival in Malaysia at the beginning of this year.

Just to address the elephant in the room, non-essential travel during a pandemic – sure there is risk involved but anyone who knows me knows I live for today, this ride could all be over tomorrow so with the appropriate responsible recommended precautions I would rather live life to the full and had no hesitation.

Monday 14th December – Happy Hour

Langkawi is just an hour’s flight from KL, so with no time at all we arrived in the afternoon and jumped in a grab from the airport (Grab is Asia’s Uber) for a 40 minute ride to the Andaman Resort located in the rainforest on the secluded west coast. On the way we saw loads of long tailed macaque monkeys, these guys are smart, they know this is the only road in or out of this part of the island and purposely sit in laybys waiting for newly arrived tourists to stop by with food.

Checked into our home for the next week, a fab room with a lovely sea view. We were warned to make sure we locked our balcony doors as the afore mentioned monkeys were masters of infiltration, even copying the maids by knocking on doors to gain access and then emptying the contents of the fridge, although we are already accustomed to these habits after having lived with a teenager for years.  

On check-in we were informed we were just in time for happy hour drinks at the bar on the beach, well it would have been rude to decline. The view of the bay was stunning and all the stress of the last 12 months just faded away, we couldn’t help but smile.

Just a couple of cocktails later and suddenly the sky turned from blue to grey and we had a massive downpour, it thumped it down, it was so wet even a local monitor lizard tried to get in from the rain which made me chuckle, although I don’t think the guys in the kitchen where he sought shelter thought it was so funny. As quickly as it arrived the rain stopped and we finished the day with a tasty local food meal and a walk along the beach spotting the crabs, looking forward to the adventures we will have.


Tuesday 15th December – Fun In the Sun

Early start to the day to join the hotels resident naturalist for a nature walk in the hotel grounds, on our return after a well-deserved tasty breakfast we hit the beach. The moment I had been waiting months for, like many others during lockdown we have been hammering the online shopping and among the loads of useless crap had treated myself to some smart new snorkelling gear. I was fully kitted out and itching to go, so off I went. After a couple of hours of exploration, I was confused having seen pictures of the bay teaming with life, all I could find were a few scattered fish on a barren of dead coral. It turns out that the 2004 tsunami had wiped out the coral reef, and the conditions were not right this week (tides, and sunlight etc.) to see what was left, should have done some better research – I think the phrase all the gear but no idea was fitting.

Meanwhile back on the beach while I was inspecting every little rock in the bay for something interesting Gill had been on the beach reading her book, all day, in the sun. Now we have lived in hot countries for over 10 years, but we don’t actually spend much time in the sun, our walks are early morning and evening and we live in the air-condition so we are still proper pasty white brits. Gill was determined to get a suntan and I fear had been a little frugal with the sunblock. After a day on the beach we got back to the room to get changed for dinner and Gill was visibly burned, quite badly – glowing red, but as she was sat in a reading position all day her arms had covered parts of her body, so she also had large white stripes. I do have a brilliant photo of her, but she has forbidden me to post it on the internet so for your benefit this is the closest match I could find to illustrate to you.

In the evening we saw a family of Dusky Leaf Monkeys on our way to dinner, I think these have to be my favourite type of monkey, they are so cute and very gentle, we could get very close and they didn’t care or hassle us for food like the Macaques.

We ate at the main restaurant tonight and just as desert was being served Gill pointed out a critter on a tree outside the restaurant so I did the appropriate thing, grabbed the camera and legged it out of the restaurant to investigate – the staff were very confused as this huge bloke showing a gazelle like turn of pace shouting Lemur!, Lemur!, Lemur! while running out of the restaurant in response to the “is everything ok sir” questions. On reflection I may need to seek help for my addiction to wildlife.

Wednesday 16th December – Sky High

Straight after breakfast we got a Grab to the Oriental Village but because of another masterful lapse of planning it didn’t open for another hour, so we went for a walk, spotting critters on the way to the 7 Wells Waterfall. A lovely spot only 20 mins walk from the village, well worth a look. We thought we had the place to ourselves until rounding the corner we were greeted by the majestic sound of teenagers tik-toking, nowadays every time you find a beautiful spot there is someone lip-syncing to Bruno mars (omg I sound like a right old fart, must have something to do with turning 40 this year).

Back in the village we headed for the main attraction the cable car to the top of the mountain, apparently the steepest cable car in the world. Usually when we do this kind of thing we get to the top and can’t see a thing but on this occasion were lucky and were rewarded with breath taking views of the island, truly stunning and a must do when visiting Langkawi.

As usual I had been spotting birds and critters and as we walked down a path I heard an unfamiliar squeak, shushing Gill and stopping in my tracks I entered stealth creeping mode and moved towards where I thought it came from, after a few seconds I heard it again, was it a bird or some kind of squirrel I wasn’t sure, and then I heard it again. After the forth time of hearing the sounds Gill burst, unable to hide her laughter under her facemask anymore, the sound was her hand rubbing along the railing, which she continued to do when we stopped for her own amusement watching me trying to track it down, she had me good and proper.  

Next, we visited the 3D art museum to cool off in the aircon and take a few piccys.

We then headed over to Eagles Square, the prominent landmark of Langkawi – A great photo opportunity and a chance for some lunch in the quayside mall. Spent a lazy afternoon back on the resort having a couple of beers and looking for critters.

(Look closely to spot the Gilly)

Thursday 17th December – Clowning Around

The hotel has a brilliant coral nursery, they are rescuing, taking clippings, growing and then replanting the coral reef and they allow guests to take a look with a guided tour. The guide was great, we learned loads and saw some beautiful colours. Chatting to the guide I asked about snorkelling in the bay, he confirmed it wasn’t a good time but that there was a shelf intact with families of clownfish and octopus and rays etc. Marked by 3 red floats in the sea, I had seen these when out previously and assumed they marked out something dangerous and so pretty much investigated everywhere else except this area, proving the old saying about assume making an ass out of u and me.

Armed with this new intel both Gill and I went out snorkelling to investigate but to our dismay visibility was terrible, I’m not sure if it’s worse finding nothing or knowing there is a bunch of cool stuff there but just not being able to see it.

Decided to try my hand at fishing from the beach while Gill read her book (in the shade this time) but didn’t have any luck, every cast just got stuck on the dead Coral. Then the rain came again so we packed up and decided to take a trip to the Underwater World Aquarium on Cenang Beach to satisfy our need to look at clownfish, although not comparable to being in the water it was a decent setup worth a visit to get out of the elements. We had western food for lunch in the Tomato Café – very tasty and highly recommended. Did some duty free shopping – Alcohol in Malaysia is heavily taxed and so expensive however Langkawi island is duty free to encourage tourism so its mandatory to purchase your limit in booze to take back to the mainland (we are talking the difference between a bottle of Gin costing £8 or £40)

 Once the weather cleared up we had a walk on the beach and a couple of G and T in “The Cliffe” bar – a great spot with a view of the sea and the beach and then back to the hotel for our usual happy hour fuelled critter watching before dinner.

Friday 18th December – Fish & Chips

Went for a walk in the grounds to the butterfly garden after breakfast, a great spot for wildlife as we crossed the little bridge over the brook I saw a snake, I whispered to Gill to look and coolly and calmly approached like a ninja to the perfect photographing angle . . . . . no that’s not true, once again the excitement of such a find gave me a rush of adrenaline and just like Lemur!, Lemur!, Lemur! – I shouted Snake!, Snake!, Snake! At the top of my voice while franticly waving my arms all over the place to make sure I got Gills attention who was a whole 2 feet away from me. The snake of course terrified by this massive loud Yorkshire man promptly buggered off as fast as he could so I didn’t get a good picture. I was really chuffed to have seen my first wild snake in Malaysia but sort of kicking myself that I was more lunatic than Attenborough like.

Spent the morning on the beach under a tree with a couple of Malaysian giant squirrels munching loudly on nuts (so loud we could even hear them when we got back to the room 50 yards away).

Gill braved a little sun, strategically covering up the red parts and trying to get some sun on the white parts to even it up. I had decided to have another go at fishing and if I couldn’t get out to the bigger fish I would just change my method and catch some little ones close in instead, I had loads of fun catching tiny Sergeant Majors, Trigger Fish etc. all returned safely back to the reef after a quick piccy.

For lunch we ventured out to Scarborough Fish & Chips, now us brits like our fish and chips and any expat living in Asia will tell you that proper fish and chips is hard to come by, we had been recommended this place and were not disappointed, great food and located on the beach with a fab view – in fact they were the 2nd best I have had outside of the UK (the best being Smiths in Singapore run as a traditional British chippy) – try the Snow Fish its very tasty! Next we visited the Langkawi Nature Park, we do like to get close to animals and so often visit Zoos and nature parks when on holiday. Sometimes in Asia these places can be a bit rough and even cruel, I am happy to report that this wasn’t bad, some of the enclosures could have been bigger and better thought out but it was clear that the staff were educated and really cared for the animals, you were given a food pack on entry and could hand feed many of the residents.

An interesting one for me was the presence of a tame Cassowary, these birds have always scared the shit out of me, they are designed like a dinosaur to headbutt, rip apart and destroy things with massive claws and beak. I thought the keeper was kidding when they said I could hand feed it, Gill wasn’t sure and had visions of another trip to the pharmacy for bandages like when I decided to pet a Tasmanian Devil in Australia but the bird was gentle and friendly. I am undecided if it was brilliant that I touched this prehistoric predator or if now its lost some of its mystery as it sorted sunflower seeds from peanuts to choose what treats to eat form my hand. After the park we went back to the hotel to chill and would you believe it were just in time for Happy Hour at the bar.

Note this was the only location all week we struggled to get a grab from, if you visit it’s a good idea to have a taxi arranged, we were stuck for a while trying to secure a ride.

Saturday 19th December – Mangrove Planting

This morning we went on a paid trip arranged though the hotel to the local mangroves. The guide was very interesting, telling us stories while on a couple of hours cruising the mangroves we saw plenty of wildlife (Mudskippers, Fiddler Crab, Sea Eagles, Kingfishers) and picked and planted the seeds of the mangrove tree to grow into new trees, I marked the spot on my GPS so we can come back in the future and see if it worked.

We then went to a local Malay house for a tasty traditional lunch and discovered that the other couple that were on the tour with us were also from KL and actual from the building next door in our compound, it’s a small world!

After lunch we went on a short walk through the rainforest to a waterfall and pool for a lovely refreshing swim to cool down, in fact as you can see Gill was quite shocked by how cool the water was!, we spent time chilling before returning to the hotel.

Spent some more time on the beach and a look around the grounds for wildlife, before the usual drinks and dinner. That’s the only thing really that’s an issue with this fantastic resort, its so far tucked into the corner of the rainforest its at least half an hour taxi ride to any other options for food and by this time we had worked our way through most of the menu, we wished they had a larger selection – that’s the trade off with having the abundance of wildlife around. We asked ourselves would we prefer to be in the thick of the action on Cenang beach where there are hundreds of restaurants but as we looked up at the Sea Eagles circling decided we liked where we were.

Sunday 20th December – Hornbill Hunting

We woke up extra early for a walk along the beach in the dark, there are a family of otters living around the bay we were hoping to see and everyone you spoke to seems to tell you some different time or place to see them but the consensus seemed to be dawn was the best time which is what got us out of bed at ridiculous O’clock. Alas they were not around, but plenty of other critters were, including our favourite Dusky Leaf Monkeys and also lots of strange big creatures in lycra and sweatbands on the beach that all seemed to be running from something, we didn’t know if we should run too but we couldn’t tell what was chasing them so wasn’t concerned and went to get some bacon instead. At breakfast we bumped into a friend and colleague from KL, who told us about others from the office here too – turns out everyone in KL had the same idea as us this week. A full day on the beach today, having given up on snorkelling it was fishing and sunbathing on the menu, I caught a few fish, Gill didn’t get burned – all in all a successful day.

In the evening we booked onto another hotel organised tour up Gunung Raya, the tallest mountain on the island – no, no we hadn’t joined the sweat band brigade we drove up it! On the way we saw loads of monkeys and then were lucky enough to see a pair of Great Hornbills, we had seen a few of the smaller hornbills around the resort but these were massive, the biggest bird on the island – magnificent!

The top of the mountain was quite heavily covered in cloud, but we managed to sneak a few sunset shots between the gaps on the way down.

Back at the bottom it was now dark, and our guide took us into the wildlife sanctuary where we saw another Lemur (I kept my cool this time) as well as a large gecko and some other critters. The tour was decent but we felt that they were a bit mean with the photo opportunities on the mountain for example driving passed a great view, the guide said “that’s eagles square”, but not stopping to allow us a chance to get a photo. We would recommend to others to hire a car and drive up yourself rather than pay for a tour.  

Monday 21st December – Island Hopping

It is our last day and we saved the best for last – trip advisors number one recommended tour in Langkawi – Jet Ski Island hopping with megawatersports.com – not the cheapest option but the best rated and now we know why – it was spectacular!

A 4 hour tour of 8 different islands by Jet ski including time on a couple of islands to explore or relax, the views were amazing, Pat our guide was great and the thrill of jumping the waves exhilarating (if a little harsh on my unmentionables) We stopped in a bay and watched 50+ sea eagles feeding, swam in a fresh water lake on an island, and relaxed with a coconut drink watching the monkeys and wild boar trying to steal food from the tourists.

We came back tired, a little burnt but on a real high and completely gutted it was over. Honestly, I wish I could make Gill smile and giggle like that Jet ski did. Now when we go on holiday, we will be looking up Jet Ski tours to try – this has set the bar high, if you visit Langkawi it is a must do!

Had lunch in the Yellow Beach Café, really nice chilled atmosphere and I can highly recommend the Pizza.

Then returned to the hotel for a little afternoon nap. Visited the butterfly garden in the evening and saw some frogs, a wild boar and another flying lemur – not as rare as I had believed at the start of the week, which made me realise why the restaurant staff must have thought I was mad, they probably see them every day!

Tuesday 22nd December – Home Time

So sad to be leaving, this week has gone so fast. One last walk around the grounds after breakfast to say goodbye to the monkeys we reflected on our week away – how lucky we are, even more so with the current state of the world pandemic at this time to have spent some time with each other in this marvellous place. I am sure we will be back here, I have unfinished business with the clownfish in the bay, until then I can look back at this blog remember the good times and dream of what I might do next time I see a snake.

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