Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Pulau Langkawi

There is a direct ferry from Georgetown on Penang to the island of Langkawi. We booked it through the hotel and decided it would be sensible to try and prebook accomodation. I rang a hostel/guest house from a shopping centre in Georgetown and had a very interesting time hearing and trying to make myself heard. I imagine onlookers must have thought I was stupid, shouting, 'What, no ferry, no 3 nights, no 3 nights,' and so on. The ferry was packed, and I got annoyed by two blokes and their burqa clad wives, who jumped the queue when we were getting on the ferry then tried to arrange to be the first off too. We'd told the guy from Zackry's Guest House that we'd be on the first ferry, because that's what our hotel said, but in the end we were on the second. Luckily the bloke waited for the second ferry to come in, so we still got our pick up.

Zackry's Guest House is on Pentai Tengah, which is a reasonably quiet beach on the West of the island. The place isn't right on the beach, but it is just a short walk through the hotel over the road to get to it. This beach is much less developed than it's neighbour, Pentai Cenang, which has many bars and restaurants crowding the beach. The Rough Guide gives both beaches short shrift, but they are OK really. Quite nice sand, the water isn't the clearest in the world, but neither is it too murky. The beaches have the view of little green covered islands popping out of the water. At the guest house we splurged on an aircon/ensuite room for 4 nights -ah the luxury, we even had hot water.

We chilled out for a couple of days and had some walks on the beach and a little explore of the local area. Pantai Cenang is home to Underwaterworld, an aquarium, and mainly to escape the sun for a while, we popped in there. It wasn't the best aquarium, but it does boast a 3D movie theatre. The only trouble being that the only real 3D part was the advert for 3D technology that they showed at the end. Gemma says she was laughing at everyone, including me, taking off their glasses then putting them back on to try and work out whether they were working or not!

Near to us we dicovered the Cactus Cafe, a cool little place where the owner, Ba, keeps bringing us different tropical fruits to try and challenging us with wooden puzzle games. It's one of those places that people have written well wishes over every available space (mainly the ceiling as it's open sided). Nearby was the Reggae House, which we were going to go to, only they were showing football instead of their normal live music. The hostel has a large collection of shoddily pirated DVDs. Someone had put the English subtitles on, which were so badly translated that it was hilarious. The word 'Well' kept coming out as 'Soybean Cake', so you would get Professor Xavier in X-Men 3 saying things like, 'Come next soybean cake examples'.

My beer consumption rose somewhat because Langkawi is a duty free island. This means that a can of Tiger beer that would be RM7 on the mainland is only RM3 in most places here. At the hostel it's only RM2.50.

Car hire is pretty cheap here, so we took one out for the day. We had to stop at Telegah Harbour to get some money out, as the island is not exactly blessed with ATMs. The harbour is quite pretty, with a fair smattering of posh yachts. I got stared at by a table of fat people with Lancashire accents. Round the corner a little way is the Seven Wells waterfall. This is named for the series (of seven, surprisingly) pools at the top of the waterfall. The rocks between the pools are covered in slimy algae and the water flows so fast that it forms a natural waterslide. After walking up to the top of the waterfall you feel like you need a refreshing dip and sliding about between the pools is fun.

Nearby is the cable car, a two segment beast of a climb up a mountain. I seem to recall it is the worlds steepest cable car. Unfortunately there was some cloud when we went (very typical of our cable car experience so far), but we were still able to see some of the bays of the island and out over the jungle clad mountains. They have a large bridge between two bits of mountain. Walking over it I was unnerved slightly by the sound of thunder rumbling in the distance.

At the top of the island is it's best beach, Tanjung Rhu. This is also where Nicola & Karl had their honeymoon at the hotel of the same name. We drove up through the interior of the island, looking forward to dipping our toes in the water. The beach is lovely, a nice broad stretch of sand, clear waters and small limestone islands which you can walk out to at low tide. Looking out across the water I worked out where the thunder was coming from, as a wall of black cloud moved towards us. We had a brief walk down the beach before a wind picked up and turned the broken shell covering of the beach into tiny razors aimed at our legs. We got back into the car just before the rain started.

It wasn't raining too heavily when we started the car and drove off back towards the interior of the island. For about 5 minutes. Then it began to bucket down to the point that we were straining to see anything at all through the windscreen. We carried on towards the main town of Kuah, and then back towards Pentai Tengah and our accomodation. We had been planning to do a bit of a beach tour, especially given that the car still had over half a tank of petrol left. The rain sort of scuppered that though. Back at the hostel the rain continued to pour down. Sensing a slight break we jumped into the car and drove the short distance to Pentai Cenang for food.

After the rain comes sunshine, and the next day was glorious. Not feeling like doing much in particular, we had a gentle walk down the beach and crossed the rocks onto the other half. Gemma fell over on the rocks and spent the rest of the day rubbing her bum. The sea is very warm and lovely to swim in. I'm looking forward to doing a lot more of it after all of the time we've spent in cities. I feel very much like I am on holiday again.

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