From One Island to Another

I had come home from Langkawi full of stories in my head but the recent haze and the flu I had when I came home erased most of what I wanted to say. Or maybe I had too much to say and didn’t know what to put down first.
Langkawi was supposed to be a business trip for Nic and I but we ended up mixing both business and leisure as we always do. I think that’s to be expected because we take a simpler view of business – business is about creating value but it is also about creating trust and building relationships. These values and principles have allowed us to enjoy the journey as well as the destination.
Langkawi is a slow island – more so if I compare it to Penang with its frenetic energy. Visiting the island of Langkawi during its low season was our intention; we did not want to jostle with the crowds of tourists. That’s probably one of the pleasures of being one own’s boss – we get to go when we want to. That freedom is priceless.

It helped that we knew a number of locals (or migrated locals). Many ‘locals’ weren’t even pure Kedahans! They were from elsewhere but spurred by the tourism business, many have chosen to stay and revel in the island’s little charms.
Like all tourist areas, one must know someone local in order to get the best deals. It’s a Malaysian habit.We want to know that we’re being ‘taken care of’. In other words, we don’t want to get ripped off.

It’s easy to fall into the island routine and never want to come back to Penang. It’s much safer. This was drilled into our heads by our friends because we kept worrying if we locked our rented Kelisa. Ain laughed at our city worries. Where do the thieves go, even if they managed to steal anything? Unlike Penang which is connected to the mainland by the Penang Bridge, Langkawi is an island unto itself. One has to get on a ferry or take a plane to be able to escape the island. No one leaves without the police knowing. We felt a trifle embarrassed. We heard the same thing when we dined at Sun Sutra one evening. The owner spoke to us and told us that he could have built the same restaurants cheaper even in KL. But the magic of Langkawi was, he could throw open his restaurant doors and no one would steal a thing! It’s unimaginably safe.
It’s also laidback. Island life is languid. People relax. They have fewer expectations. They are in the mood to be pampered, to take walks on the sandy beaches. They are more forgiving of little unintential mistakes. Add to this, Langkawi is a duty-free island.
Which means liquor is dirt cheap. Everything seems to be about a beer or two. A can of beer is cheaper than a can of cola. Even if one is not a drinker, it is still tempting. While the Mat Sallehs go for beer and liquor, we Malaysians go for the chocolates.
Vehicles are much cheaper too. Everyone drives almost new cars. A nasi campur owner we heard drives a Jaguar. Of course, the roads are still regular roads though a new highway is being built all the way to the airport.
What’s fascinating is that the sea of green, the closeness to nature, is everywhere one turns. When we were there, emerald green padi fields formed the landscape of one’s driving experience. Ah yes, to get around Langkawi, you absolutely need some wheels. You can rent motorbikes (RM20 a day) or you can cruise in a car (RM50 per day). The island begs to be explored at one’s own pace. No buses here. And taxis? It’ll cost a bomb. And you don’t even need to look for the car rental companies – they’re be harassing you as you walk into the spanking new jetty complex. Better than
any Tourism Malaysia kompang crew, these car salesmen thrust business cards at you as you fight your way out.

Do not attempt to see Langkawi in two days, as Malaysians are wont to do. The weekend getaway should be more relaxed. Take three days and drive slowly. Stop to marvel at the island’s beauty. It sounds like madness but there are no traffic jams in Langkawi. The only time one feels harried is probably during eating hours. Where shall we eat? What cuisine do you feel like having tonight?
And so we come to my favourite topic – food. I consider myself rather lucky that I have friends on the island. They tell me what to stay away from as much as they heartily recommend good eating spots. In the four days that we were there, we tried not to gorge on food which is difficult. And we only managed to eat around Pantai Tengah and Pantai Cenang! I had yet to sample the Chinese stir-fry in Kuah town! I had yet to try more of the affordable nasi campur in the little kampungs.
Tomorrow I shall tell you more of the food. Yes, the restaurants we dined at. And when we’re sated with that, I shall tell you about what you can truly do in Langkawi.
PS. We took the 2.5 hour ferry ride from Penang to Langkawi. The ferry leaves at 8am and 8.30am each day and from Langkawi, the ferry leaves at 2.30pm and 5.30pm. Cost per adult is RM85 return. The ferry is not the best of transport and yes, I saw many cockroaches! Seasick? Not really. But if you cannot stomach the 2.5 hours on the sea, you can try driving all the way to Kuala Perlis and then take the 1-hour ferry ride across.

2 thoughts on “From One Island to Another”

  1. Wow! Krista, Langkawi looks simply divine. I can hardly suppress my envy. Not fair! You do this to me on a Monday? Can’t wait for the foodie bits!
    Lovely piece of writing.

  2. when is the hi and when is the low season huh?
    i’d prefer the lee-ker/biarr more than the chocolates…anytime…hehehehehehe.

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