Langkawi – A Less Taxing Way Of Life

Overview (Langkawi Island)

Population: 64,792

Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)

10 MYR = £1.79 £1 = 5.58 MYR

Time Zone: GMT +8

2nd – 5th Dec

Once at our hostel we discovered something magical about it. They had a vending machine that sells beer for 2 Ringgit (about 34p). The island of Langkawi is entirely duty free and it was great.

Before we delved too deep into the crazy cheap beer we first went down the road to get some grub. We were heading out just after 6 and nothing seemed to able to serve us so ridiculously early, except this lovely little Malaysian place that made such nice fried rice we had to order another portion.

That evening we got as much change as we could muster and set to work on seeing what 2 ringgit beer tastes like. It was difficult to tell so we had to keep trying.

We got chatting to an American couple and a British/Polish couple who we played a lot of cards with and had a great time. For a few hundred pennies.

The next day we had some 2 ringgit noodles for breakfast and got ourselves a scooter for the day. It was 25 ringgits (just over £4) until 7pm. I was starting to really like this island.

Our scooter was glorious. She had some bite and a little black bubble on the back for our helmets or bag. Our first errand was to get cash to pay the hostel for a couple of things we wanted to book which gave us a nice little run around. I had ridden a scooter once before, 6 years prior so it was reassuring how quickly I got back into it.

We rode up the coast to an area called Oriental Village. The main attraction here is the cable car up the Mt Machincang but our bellies told us we needed to go somewhere else first.

After lunch we got to the ticket office to discover we had a two hour wait until our next available slot. Silly bellies. We therefore took our little scooter off for another spin.

Not far from the Oriental Village is a three tiered waterfall called Temurun. We didn’t know much about it before we got there but we liked what we saw.

The top tier is the highest by far. The pools at the bottom of each tier were lovely for a dip, albeit a bit cold. The area surrounding these falls was also home to dozens of monkeys.

After our brief stopoff at the waterfalls it was time to head back to the base of the cable-car. On the way back to Oriental Village there was a brief but vicious downpour. Riding a scooter in the rain is sore! The rain hits you as fast as you travel so it was a compromise between time in the rain and pain from the rain. Thankfully I acted as a rainshield for Kate who stayed relatively dry. The front of my t-shirt however was sodden. When we eventually pulled up back at Oriental Village, the rain had stopped.

We joined the rather expansive queue and waited. We got put into a waiting area, then another waiting area, then a 360° domed cinema for a rather long video of a rollercoaster. The idea is you feel like you’re on it because of the views around the dome but it was pretty irrelevant and I would’ve happily skipped it.

Another big queue later and we got to the bottom station.

We got put in a car with three other cable-car goers and were whisked up to 650m above sea level up the world’s steepest cable-car section. The journey itself was something to behold, scaling a cliff face suspended from a cable but the views from the top were even better.

Once we had enjoyed our view we had the top station to get to. The last stretch is less than a quarter of the total length and is only on a slight incline so neither the ride across nor the view were as good as the middle station. But you have the opportunity to ride a small furnicular train down to the SkyBridge.

A 125m pedestrian bridge across a valley the SkyBridge is the world’s longest free span and curved bridge (whatever that means). It’s a beaut. We walked along it in the dying light, turned around to walk back and it had almost vanished in the fog.

We had a bit of a wait to get back down and riding down the steep bit in the dark and in silence was mildly menacing. We arrived on solid, low altitude ground and rode the scooter back to the hostel in the dark, via stop at the petrol station to fill up the tank with 5 ringgits of fuel.

That evening we went to grab some Indian food. We found a restaurant that pretty much covered all the bases of available food.

The next day we had decided to upgrade our method of transportation to jet ski. We had booked onto a guided jet ski tour of the islands around the south of the main island. We were originally going to be picked up at 10am but had been informed the previous evening it was full so we were going on the afternoon slot.

We had a lie in and walked to our nearby beach where we found a Chinese restaurant (to complete the Malaysian trio) for lunch. We then went back to the hostel where we were picked up (early of course) to get to a different beach.

The jeep dropped us off on the beach, having driven along it, past the many sunbathing tourists. We were deposited at a table and told nothing. There was a guy on a seperate table that seemed vaguely involved in the whole operation but when we asked what was happening he just asked us to wait. Then another bloke turned up and said the same but said his mate was coming from another island to meet us.

40 minutes later the morning tour arrive and after some refuelling and tinkering we were waved at, the guy pointed at two lifejackets and some watershoes that we assumed we were to put on and were then pointed towards a jet ski.

I had never driven a jet ski before and so was prepared for my lesson. I was taught how to turn the engine on and told to follow our jet ski guide. So I did. That was it. In fairness it was fairly straightforward and there were some tips to read on the jet ski but I could only read them after we’d stopped. And the engine light remained on. And the fuel gauge didn’t work. But it was super fun!

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We stopped at our first island, Pulau Beras Basah (Island of Wet Rice) for a bit of snorkeling and monkey spotting before hopping back on the jet ski for another spin.

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We then stopped at a bay of Pulau Singa Besar (Big Lion Island) where three different species of eagles hang out. The many boat tours throw chicken into the sea and the eagles will hover round the boats before swooping down for their food.

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Our next stop was Pulau Dayang Bunting (Island of Pregnant Maiden). It is Langkawi archipelago’s second biggest island (after the main one) and draws the tourists and locals there for the huge freshwater lake in the middle that is said to make you super fertile. We moored up, paid our entry fee and walked up over the hill to the lake.

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On the way we encountered a bunch more monkeys, one of which really wanted my shoes and one was leisurely eating onion ring crumbs.

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After a dip in the lake we headed back to our jet ski to motor our way towards one last stop.

View from the jetty on Pulau Dayang Bunting

We took a couple of detours to the next stop. The first one was a large cliff face that throws back incredible echoes, which was fun to shout at. The second was an island with some spectacular stalactite like rock formations from the sea erosion.

At this point I felt pretty confident on the jet ski and it was great fun speeding over the waves. We had a 10-15 minute ride to a beach on Pulau Singa Besar. The beach had one inhabitant, a rather eccentric adventurer who had built an array of buildings for himself to live in. A lot of it was built and furnished from anything he had found washed up or left on the island, including a full box of lonely flip flops.

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We strolled on the beach for a bit before chatting to this chap about his life. He said his hobbies included walking to a waterfall on the island, which he offered to show us. We took him up on his offer and walked through bogs, mangroves and rainforest to get to a small run of waterfalls and the spot he had built a network of pipes from to get his fresh water to his camp. It was pretty and it was very nice of this man to show us his personal idyll.

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As we pulled up to the beach this was the view in my rear view mirror.

After our tour we were escorted back to our hostel where we removed the sand from ourselves before seeking out dinner. We ended up at a Western restaurant called Red Tomato for their stonebaked pizzas, espresso martini and cider.

After dinner we went back to our favourite beer vending machine and chatted to our new American friends.

The next morning we checked out for our journey out of Malaysia and across the border back into Thailand.

The hostel

Zackry’s Guesthouse was everything I want in a hostel: a bed and super cheap beer! It had a bunch of other stuff like scooters; they sorted tours and ferries; there was a swimming pool; and you could use beach mats and towels for free. But this is a cheap island for beer and they undercut everyone!

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