Langkawi is described as a ‘paradise island’… an ‘island of beautiful sunsets’… an ‘island of legends’…. It is also described as an island that some people love and some people hate… Without a doubt, Langkawi is beautiful… with a lush, jungle interior with monkeys, many species of insects and waterfalls… and a beautiful coastline of powdery white sand, cresting waves and a view of hundreds of tiny little hilly, green islands, forming droplets of land in an otherwise endless sea of hues of blue.
Why might people hate Langkawi? Well, my theory is that it depends on what people see and experience whilst in Langkawi… it also depends – like any place, I suppose – on what a traveller is looking for… Pentai Cenang for example… is a seemingly never-ending strip of white sand with 2km of beach full of sun-chasers, thrill-seekers (there are loads of water sports available here: jet skiing, parasailing, banana-boating, etc), loud music bars, restaurants, etc. It’s touristy. I suppose, it’s like any other touristy place on earth that sells the same bikinis, the same beach towels, the same magnets, key rings, lighters – but only with ‘Langkawi’ written on it rather than… ‘Santorini’… ‘Crete’… ‘Mykonos’ etc…
Despite these similarities, there are still some noticeable differences between relaxing on Pentai Cenang than on the Greek Islands, for example… everyone makes up the tourist demographic… Muslims, Chinese, Africans, Arabs, Westerners… in one snapshot, you may have a girl in an ever-exposing bikini… a family laughing and plunging in the sea, fully-clothed… a woman in a full-bhurka walking next to a man in swimming trunks… and the cultural contrasts in terms of what people might wear become more and more prominent and the list of examples can go on and on.
Despite the above… what’s great about Langkawi is that you don’t necessarily feel uncomfortable wearing a bikini… this may sound peculiar… but in Pulau Pangkor, Nico and I chose a particularly nice place to stay as it was both Christmas and Nico’s birthday… we had a lovely bungalow – designed Malaysian-style… and a large, communal swimming pool… the days were hot and sweaty and both of us longed to jump in the pool… however, we were the only westerners there… the rest of the residents were Malay and enjoying their public holidays… rightfully so… however, most of the women wore head scarves… and all the women and most of the men for that matter… swam in the pool fully clothed…
Neither Nico or I were quite sure what to do in this instance… to swim as we ordinarily do in the hope the locals will understand that we are culturally different? … Or to swim, fully clothed, in appreciation and respect of their culture, and in fear of offending if we did otherwise? The dilemma led us not to swim in our pool at all… which is a bummer, really. In retrospect, though, I still don’t know which is best to do.
Nonetheless, Langkawi was meant to serve many a purpose for Nico and me… Firstly, it was an island (much longed for after extensive time inland in Malacca, Cameron Highlands and Kuala Lumpur)…it served as a perfect stopover point between Malaysia and Thailand (particularly significant as we planned to meet with my old school friends from ACS in Greece: Lili and Mandy in Koh Lipe, Thailand)… and, finally, we would be able to complete our PADI dive training to assist us in achieving our diving objectives during the remainder of our travels across South East Asia.
Langkawi satisfied most of these objectives… (I’ll discuss its’ shortfall in a future entry)… but had the added value of giving us new friends. 🙂
As mentioned in my PADI-diving posts, East Marine Dives divided the divers-in-training into two teams of three. One team was composed of 2 Japanese students (who were really lovely but had difficult names so I never learned them… :S… terrible, I know) and Mr. Wong, a very friendly man from Hong Kong.
The second team was composed of Nico, myself and a 23-years-old Swedish boy named Jonathon. Though all of us shared good relations during the PADI course, Nico and I ended up joining Jonathon – and Gustav (his friend), another lovely Swede – in Pentai Cenang…
Following 2 dinners; many a conversation; a lunch; an omelette breakfast; a hike up to 7 Wells; a swim in the freezing waterfalls en route to 7 wells; co-scooter rides; a visit to the Oriental Village; a bottle of Champagne; shisha; live aboriginal music in the highly-recommended Babylon Bar; a shared, mutually-terrible sleeping experience at Amani Guesthouse; a beautiful bottle of Marlborough, New Zealand Savignon Blanc wine; and a shared 2012 New Year’s countdown, followed by the releasing of a wish-lantern… I can now say that Nico and I have made two new Swedish friends… a pleasant surplus – or little ‘extra’ – that staying in Langkawi gave to us.
I’ll share a few more pictures of us and Langkawi below.