Sunday, 12 April 2009

Asian Adventure 2 :: 10-12 Apr '09 :: Penang and Langkawi, Malaysia

Experienced a catalogue of errors in Langkawi. After doing a heritage site 'sweep' (a bit like in the supermarket but without a trolley and numerous canned items) of Penang in just under four hours (during which time, the roadside roti canai and the floating villages were the key highlight), we left the colonial charm of Georgetown and just half an hour later were deposited on the south western beach of Pantai Cenang, Langkawi. We soon discovered our 'strip' was little more than a mixture of ramshackle huts selling ring-stingingly chillified Nasi Lemak (pictured below) and enough gaudy flower-powered fashions to take you on a much-needed psychedelic journey through this drug-free tourist-saturated wasteland.

Added to having found two enormous dead rats on the beach outside our hotel, we discovered that the only snorkeling trips available from our area were day-long adventures. It was not a good feeling to find this out at 0945, when the last trip had departed at 0915. To attempt a mitigation of intense disappointment, we plumped for an 'island drop' which involved chartering our own boat with the promise of a 'private island' experience.

Within the hour, we were feeling the horrific effects of being 'lost in translation'. Clearly, in Langkawi, 'private' means in full sight of (i) the embarkation jetty, (ii) numerous speedboats trailing brightly coloured banana boats, and (iii) a few parasailing nutters. Needless to say, there was no snorkeling to be had. As the incoming tide began to lick our towels, we decided to go on a recce of the island. Turns out it was a dis-used wildlife sanctuary, complete with eerily quiet cages, slowly rotting picnic furniture, and a satisfyingly scary Monitor Lizard Pond.

With the sighting of one of the lizard 'escapees' and a large sign advertising the fact that 'Earth Tiger Tarantulas' could be spotted nearby, our minds were infiltrated by images of being chased through the undergrowth by the natives in true Blair Witch Project style. We retreated back to our strip of sand that the tide had kindly re-exposed and took some comedy shots to make ourselves feel better:

The two saving graces of our trip to Langkawi that we sought solace in and would recommend, should you become stranded and need to leave your resort to venture into this sadly disheveled area: Matahari for an excellent Malay tasting menu and the Beach Garden Resort Bistro & Beer Garden (fill your mouth with too many words and delicious seafood all in one evening). Overall, Langkawi received a poor score on the Asian Adventures Matrix, beaten so far by the rustic charm of Pulau Sibu and heritage sites of Penang.

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