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Published: March 8th 2018
Our best efforts to remember the little details of our last Asian trip had us turning to our travel diaries to answer some of the basic questions we had forgotten. And so little were these details, I didn’t record them. Getting cash, easiest modes of transport, foods we enjoyed, whether we need our own towels, and did we eat lettuce or take ice cubes at restaurants. It all blurs after a little time has passed.
Our trip to Malaysia started with an overnight in Kuala Lumpur, and the airport itself made us stand up and take notice. Well, look at you! The whole thing has a modern, almost hip vibe. Every rise in the place is a wide ramp - no stairs. Why doesn’t every airport do this? Each departure gate is in separate glassed room, with excellent AC. Once you’re in, no screening at the gate to the plane.
The ATMs have the highest limits of any we’ve seen in a while (often kept low to force multiple withdrawals with multiplied fees). The SIM card providers are waiting for you - in and out in no time. The travellers and staff are incredibly diverse - and not just
one or two flavours of humanity, it seems like every corner of the earth flows through here.
After the one-hour flight, we landed on the island of Langkawi. As we left the baggage claim area, a line of chicklet booths with car rental sales people waving their fee cards and shouting us down for our trade. A young woman serves us, drops the price a couple times unsolicited, and has us pay cash for our four days. She offers to meet us at the ferry terminal, if we choose to leave the island that way, just before we go to find our beat-up Perodua Alza - a Malay-made set of wheels.
Our domicile is a 4-unit dream child of our German host. Meticulously clean, well-situated and well-governed with rules posted at useful spots (including the one by the toilet to please place toilet paper in the bin, not the toilet). The flowers spread on the bed with the swan-towels were courtesy of his Thai partner.
We hear some great stories of the foibles of dealing with visitors. One family booked one double bed room for two and arrived with five...they were encouraged to move down the road
to another homestay. One fellow ordered the full breakfast included with his room, then proceeded to order two more and was quite surprised he would be charged for them - this resulted in the very clear menu presented to us in the morning quantifying limits of our selections. Yet another guest tied their laundry to the ceiling fan, thinking the spinning would do wonders for quick drying.
A fish and chip restaurant run by an Indian from England is just the way it goes here - eclectically diverse everywhere you look, without a niggle of it being somehow unusual. It is delicious and fabulous and encouraging to see it all in action - and seemingly so inconsequential to the locals.
Our Alza clocks some kilometres on our first day (on the left-hand side of the road) - including a circuit around the whole island, taking less than an hour.
We decide to take in the Number 1 attraction of Langkawi, the cable car up one of the highest peaks and from there, a Sky Bridge, a 150m suspended walkway between two peaks. The temperature, we found out later, was 43 degrees C, and waiting in lines for
cable cars had one of my legs shaking uncontrollably - oddly, John mentioned later that the same happened to him.
A few clear plastic blocks in the bridge bed gave straight-down views into the valley and greenery below. John laid down for me to try out a photo, and immediately a group of Asian tourists spun around to take pictures of him, laughing and chatting all the while.
The views were splendid with the lumpy, lush islands jutting out of the vivid blue water and vibrant green jungle everywhere else. A dream day.
For dinner, we walked across the road to a Malay-Thai family-run restaurant. As is becoming a fav, we order a whole fish (bass this time) and are kindly welcomed and served. Other guests arrive and are cordial, everyone enjoys their meals. And then the skies opened. The tin roof sounds like a band of drummers letting loose. The corrugated roof serves as multiple rain gutters and streams of water pour off. Puddles grow alongside the roadway and eventually overtake most of asphalt - with scooters and cars plowing through and creating their own sprays of water. We move twice to adjust to the incoming water on the picnic tables in the open air dining area. Just sitting to listen and watch the pounding rain was a fantastic experience, so we stayed for close to an hour to take it all in. The thunder and lightening that came later just served as nature’s exclamation point.
When we made a move to pay and leave, all the tables jumped into action. One kind man offered to drive us home in his SUV. Another went out back to try to find us some umbrellas - and loaned us the only one they had for the night. We left with a mini sense of the camaraderie that comes with sharing a big event. Exchanges of appreciation and good will followed us as we puddle jumped our way home.
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