The speed boat from Penang Island to Langkawi was uneventful. Sure, there were bags piled over the entrance making it impossible to exit in an emergency and a curious lack of life jackets, but we were very used to this by now. After we arrived Ben informed me he had read that this crossing was not recommended in July due to the swell. He did not want to alarm me with this news beforehand, but luckily we had a smooth ride. We went from this to “Beware of the Monkey”; life was tense.
At the Langkawi port, chaos ensued as bags were thrown haphazardly onto a rocking platform and people stood around dazed and confused. We grabbed our bags and navigated the people maze to make it to the front of the terminal. The chaos now escalated as the taxi touts descended. Everyone seemed to be a taxi driver and they were all intent on getting us in their unmarked cars. Instinct told me that something wasn’t right, so we walked past all the taxis pretending we knew where we were going. We did not. Stopping at a taxi stand, we found it unmanned and unable to help us. One persistent fellow trailed behind us, refusing to be swayed by our feigned navigational confidence. With few other options we got in his van, now paranoid that this was The Great Taxi Conspiracy of 2017. However, he took us with little fuss to our accommodations and waved us farewell.
The T Star Cottage Langkawi consisted of three houses split into two halves and an upstairs and downstairs unit. We had selected the cheaper downstairs unit. Outside our room sat a little pond surrounded by tropical greenery. From the two loungers on our front porch I watched a small frog climb a tree for over half an hour. Time in Langkawi had definitely slowed down.
Despite spending four nights in Langkawi, we achieved very little. Our days consisted of sleep-ins, reading, long walks on the beach, swimming, and storm watching. The sleep-ins were particularly important, as the downstairs room turned out to be a nightmare. A group of dancing elephants moved in upstairs and family of smoking, drinking hooligans moved in next door. One night my calm nature was pushed too far and I found myself outside yelling at our neighbours to keep it down. I am officially transitioning to being middle aged. For some reason, when awoken in the night by obnoxious neighbours, it seems imperative to inform them of the time. It is my duty to make them aware of the existence of watches and clocks. “Don’t you realize it’s midnight?” I seethed, with my eye mask sitting on my forehead and my mouth guard still in my mouth. I can only imagine what they were thinking at the time, but thankfully after some brief elephant dancing they went to sleep.
One morning we awoke to bone-rattling thunder and lightning. It seemed we were inside the angry cloud. As our little house was made of little more than a pile of sticks, we were certain that this big, bad wolf was going to blow us down. The rain soaked through the roof and puddled on the floor around the bed. With each rumble of thunder the bed shook violently like an earthquake. It eventually passed and the water dried up. However, this was only one of a number of storms that rolled through during our stay. One afternoon we were sitting in a café as strong winds blew through, pushing over tall fences and breaking trees. Eventually the storms always blew through and the sun came out as if nothing had happened.
Our room was located close to Pantai Tengah Beach, a smaller beach to the south of the main beach. Being able to swim at Pantai Tengah was an added bonus. This was a luxury that have we rarely been able to indulge until now thanks to pollution and rocks/coral. The water was warm, almost warmer than the outside air, and we floated about lazily.
When we were feeling more adventurous, we walked down to the main shopping district. Langkawi appeared to be a duty free island somehow, so there were many stores selling cigarettes, liquor and souvenirs. There was also an Underwater World aquarium, but given we were now certified divers we felt we could this experience in a more natural way; assuming I ever get back in the water.
Many of the restaurants and shops on Langkawi were closed for Hari Raya, the end of Ramadan. This is the biggest holiday of the year for Muslims, as they break their month-long fast. As we reached the weekend, the height of the celebration, we couldn’t find any restaurants that were open. For breakfast, we sat on the steps of our accommodation eating cup noodles that we had purchased from their shop. The ladies running the desk took pity on us and gave us some of their own sticky rice cooked in banana leaf and chicken curry for lunch. It was delicious. Without them we may have starved. As frustrating as it was being unable to find anywhere open, it was nice that they respected the holiday and allowed everyone to enjoy family time together. This is vastly different from the western culture where many people are forced to miss family holidays in order to cater to business demands.
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