After 27 days of interesting experiences, tough learning curves, forging friendships and crazy adventures, our Thailand travels had come to an end. For now, at least. If all went to plan, by the end of the day we would be kick-starting our journey through Malaysia from Langkawi, a small island off its northwest coast.
A long day of travelling lay ahead, departing from Koh Lanta at 8am by minibus (B300pp). The minibus arrived at Trang bus station at 10.30am from where we caught the 11am public bus to Satun (B90pp). The bus journey took approximately 5 hours and terminated on a random street in Satun. However, a songthaew was waiting to take passengers to Thamalang pier, 15 minutes away (B30pp). Before departing though, we couldn’t help but try some deep-fried ‘banana slices’ they were selling at a roadside stall. They made for a really delicious snack and were very popular with the locals. With bellies full, we headed to the pier to catch our pre-booked ferry to Langkawi.
When researching about Thailand visas, we read that the authorities will often ask you to produce proof of onward travel (within 30 days) before letting you into the country. Our ferry tickets, booked online through Langkawi Ferry Services before we came to Thailand, was our proof of onward travel (B300pp/RM30pp). So, all that remained was to get our passport stamped (B10) before jumping on the 4pm ferry. On arrival at Langkawi we received our 90-day Malaysian visa.
Tip: Most taxi drivers are heading to Cenang Beach (RM30) so you’ll find it harder to get to Kuah (RM8) if you’re staying there. However, as you’ll read below, it’s cheaper transport-wise to stay in Kuah.
The Best Seven Motel, in Kuah, was very simple but clean and the owner was very helpful and friendly (RM60/night). He even gave us a lift to the night market in Kuah centre that evening where we tried some interesting new foods before catching a taxi back to the motel.
Today’s goal: to make it to Cenang Beach, Langkawi Sky Bridge and end off at the Sunday night market for dinner.
The owner of our motel suggested the cheapest way to travel the island would be by scooter (RM40) as opposed to hiring a car (RM50-60) or taking a taxi (RM30 just to Cenang). Helmets on, map out, and nerves steeled, we set out to tackle the island’s busy highways on our super stylish orange speed bike (aka scooter). There is nothing more exhilirating and freeing than exploring a place by scooter. You can take it all in; the sights, the smells, life playing out before you, no seat or window to obstruct your view.
Cenang Beach was not as picturesque as expected, but perfect for sunbathing, water sports and quenching your thirst at a local beach bar. If you’re into your water sports, the operators were offering very competitive prices. For example, parasailing for RM50 as opposed to RM200 on Ferringhi Beach, Penang.
On the main road, you’ll find a range of places to eat. Sadly, Macdonalds was the only place in our price range down this end of the beach. However, we later heard from a fellow backpacker that there is an amazing, cheap Indian restaurant that serves incredibly tasty roti canai at the west end of the beach (opposite end to Macdonalds).
Next to Macdonalds is Underwater World Aquarium, and although many would say “once you have seen one, you have seen them all”, I can’t help myself. Plus, many of the sites we had read said it was one of the top ten things to do in Langkawi. So we paid the rather pricey RM40 (per person) entrance fee and spent a good hour or more exploring the aquarium. If I am to be perfectly honest, as far as aquariums go, it was enjoyable but not fantastic. I can imagine the only reason it is on the top ten things to do in Langkawi is because, contrary to what we where expecting, there really is not that much to do here … well new and interesting stuff that is. We were expecting a lot more.
So, we had made it to Cenang Beach and paid a visit to the Aquarium. Winding through the jungle roads, we made our way to our next destination, Langkawi Sky Bridge (30 minutes by scooter). Sadly, like a lot of places we have been excited to visit, both in Thailand and now in Malaysia, it was “CLOSED FOR MAINTENANCE!!!” However, we could still take the cable car up to the top of the mountain for RM30pp. They cheekily still charge you the same price even though you don’t get to walk the sky bridge. Standing at the top, peering through the clouds, we could imagine the view on a clear day would be stunning.
At the base of the sky bridge/cable car, is a small tourist village with a few shops and eateries located along little cobbled streets, with a small, picturesque lake at its centre. You can even take a pony ride, go go-karting, or visit a miniature animal farm (great for the little ones).
Late afternoon now, we jumped back on our orange mean machine, and headed to the Sunday night market, a few minutes away from Cenang. A little tired, we chose a few of our favorites and one or two new things to try (RM14) which we took back to the motel to eat there. I must admit, it was quite difficult trying to keep two juices from spilling as Mike nervously navigated us through peak hour traffic.
That night we went to bed hungry though, as the chicken on a stick (literally on a stick) was really dry and full of bones, the brown “donuts” turned out to be pure sugar and bean something or other, and the “you can never go wrong with a spring roll”, turned out to be stuffed with some sort of fish paste….yuckkkkkkkk! Mike’s last words to me as he drifted off to sleep were, “You must never choose market food!” In my defence, who disguises gross things in the shape of delicious donuts and spring rolls?
Today required an early wake up (on empty stomachs) to pack our bags before returning our beloved scooter and making our way to the pier. When hiring the scooter the day before, I had overheard the man saying his rental company was based at the pier so I asked if he and his coworker would give us a lift to the pier on the back of their scooters the next morning so we didn’t have to catch a taxi. They very kindly obliged and even brought a car to pick us up in the morning.
If you think that is kind, we were utterly humbled when the young driver of the car pulled over at his regular breakfast stop and bought us a local Malay breakfast after finding out we had not yet eaten. And although squid, baby octopus and fish curry is hard for a South African to stomach that early in the morning, we couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by his generosity and kindness to us, a stark contrast from our experience in Thailand. Having never eaten what looked like “stuffed” squid in this manner before, and not wanting to look like a fool, I confidently shoved a big chunk of it in my mouth, stuffing and all. Not a minute later, I regretted this spontaneity as I watched Wan, our driver, pull the “stuffing” out and explain “no eat … squid egg”. What appeared to be “stuffing” was actually the squid’s egg sack! Grosssssss! Trying to come to terms with what I had just eaten, my face obviously expressing some sort of confusion, he continued by using the analogy of a chicken and it’s eggs, making the situation a whole lot worse for me as I do not eat eggs at all. Yet somehow we couldn’t help but laugh at the situation.
As Wan drove us the rest of the way to the pier, we chatted and got to know a little more about his life. Thankful for all he had done, we said our goodbyes and made our way to the ferry terminal. If you are ever looking to hire a car or a scooter give Wan a call on 0195644581.
Our time on Langkawi had come to an end, but we weren’t too sad to be moving on. Unfortunately, like other backpackers we have met since, our expectations were set high by what we had read on the internet. We all agreed that two to three days is more than enough time to spend on Langkawi Island. Not because you can’t waste away a week in Langkawi, but because there are so many more amazing things to see and places to visit in Malaysia … like Penang, our next stop.
For information on what to expect in Penang, and information on how to get there, check out our next post.