Sunday, January 4, 2009

The eagle stone

Here is the post about the Eagle Stone, better known as Langkawi where we had a gooooooooood vacation!

I don't know where to start or what to tell you first, there was sea, there was sun, there was food, scooters, jelly fish, waterfalls, sharks and many Dutch.

Officially known as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah, is an archipelago of 99 islands (an extra 5 temporary islands are revealed at low tide) in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of north-western Malaysia which is adjacent to the Thai border. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi, where we were, with a population of some 45,000, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Langkawi is a duty-free island.
The name Langkawi is a combination of "Lang" and "Kawi". "Lang" comes from the local native Malay word helang which means eagle and Kawi means "red". In the past, the land was a home to innumerable red-eagles(helang Kawi). Also some Hindu historian said "Kawi" is Sanskrit for marble, which is found in excess in this part of Malaysia. Both words are joined to form the word "Helangkawi" which ultimately became Langkawi. (Source Wikipedia)

Mutiara Burau Bay Hotel
We stayed in Burau Bay which is on the western side of the island, the furthest away from Kuah, the main town of Langkawi, and it was good to be far away from the city. We had our own little villa (Bungalow would say Ting) which must have been at it's best in 1972, but equipped with satellite TV. Mainly families seem to go there, and a few young couples. Mostly westerners. Apart from the beach, the pool and two restaurants there is absolutely nothing to do there. The food in the restaurants was just ok. Buffet dinner with different themes everyday. Nothing special here...
The beach is really nice. Fine sand, palm trees, clear water, water sports, and just a few jelly fish.

The first day we went canoeing hoping to see things under the water, unfortunately it was too windy. So the hour spent on the boat only helped my burned legs get worse, like an overcooked lobster. I ended up canoeing about with my t-shirt over my legs to prevent them from further cooking. Ting also had the pleasure to witness a fat pink jelly-fish swimming under her canoe, "It was the largest jelly-fish I ever saw". She was real happy after her rare encounter.
We also got to see the shooting of an Indian movie. It was really funny to watch the actors dance and sing in their numerous layers of heavy clothes under the scorching sun on a Malaysian beach. I have no idea what the title of the movie is and I highly doubt I'll ever see it. Bollywood is not exactly my favourite kind of film.

As the hotel is far away from everything if you don't rent a car or a scooter, you feel kind of trapped. So we rented a two wheeler. And it was really fun to ride through the lacy roads of Langkawi mountains.

Road Trip
Our scooter wasn't exactly in the best condition. The mileage counter was stuck at 11,756 Km and the speedometer didn't budge which ever the speed. The whole machine started trembling very soon after accelerating so I didn't go fast. The roads are very good, nice tar evenly spread, wide enough to let two cars cross. And as the island is pretty hilly the roads are really enjoyable to ride. I think even Ting sitting in the back enjoyed it. We both looked very stupid in our helmets though.. not exaggerating.

We went to have dinner along Cenang beach, south to where our hotel is, on the second night. A few shops selling the usual tourists goofs and really good food. We had barbecued fish with garlic and chilli sauce. I mean, very good, it's making me hungry again to think about it just now. And the price was insanely cheap. €7.50 for our full dinner with rice and drinks... I mean where can you find that in France? After dinner, Ting insisted we went shopping and for once she did actually buy things, a really nice brown dress, which she discovered later could be worn as a skirt as well, and a pareo for which we haven't found any use for yet, but I'm sure we'll figure out something soon.
The following day Ting and I rode to the closest waterfall called the seven wells. So beautiful and enjoyable I think I'm going to let Ting post on that. She really was happy there, her Dad used to take her to swim in waterfalls and the childhood memories seemed good.
After that first waterfall we decided to go to the Temurun waterfall further north and it was such a deception. Langkawi being in the dry season at the moment, a dribble of water was leaking from this 30 metres high cliff and a puddle at the bottom with a few skinny fish was all to be seen... We stayed long enough to see a monkey steal bread from this Chinese girl's bag, I was the only one laughing... On our way out we crossed a few people who were already expecting to be disappointed after seeing our faces.
Our scooter was rented until 6pm that day so we headed back to the hotel after stopping in this horse stable where all the horsed looked really sad. I don't know if it's their breed that makes their eyes like a cocker spaniel's eye... They did seem to be well fed and treated so we didn't really understand. Anyway, Caroline if you're reading this, know that you can ride in Langkawi as well!

Our holidays were hitting their half time already and it was the moment to take a huge decision: an other day cooking on the beach, or a trip to the marine park to snorkel?
I think the adventurous mind of my dear princess won over my laziness and we went snorkeling! What a good idea this was.

The marine park is 45 minutes high speed boat south of Langkawi's main island. They installed a diver and snorkeler friendly platform. To be honest it looks more like a factory than anything else: put about 300 people on a platform the size of a tennis court and you'll get what I mean. And I'm not even mentioning the family of Koreans not budging from the ladder leading to the water and just pushing everyone about, tossing too much bread in the water for the fish to gobble... I did get very upset at them but they didn't seem to care much. But let's start with our arrival on the platform.

After managing to find a table to sit, one of the staff tells you what's going to happen on the exciting day:
11h30 to 12h30: snorkelling and first dive for the divers
12h30 to 13h30: lunch
13h00: first small boat to depart towards the beach to see the shark feeding, shark feeding happening soon after.
14h00 to 15h00: second dive for divers / free to snorkel more /walk along the beach / try to get bitten by a shark
15h15: run to the boat and get some after-sun cream for the sunburns
No time is wasted and Ting and I had a great time! We saw the sharks from above and Ting even had them come close to her in the water, I chickened out to be honest... The snorkelling is fun once you swim away from the Koreans, millions of colourful fish, some corals and anemones; it's like swimming in a fish tank!
That was our day... I mean the entire day because to reach the platform at 11 o'clock we had to leave the hotel at 8h10am. We were back a 5pm for a shower and dinner. I really had a good sleep that night, I think the Koreans tired me out too much.

Holidays to an end
The next day was the last already, and with tears running down our cheeks we gave the key back at 1pm (one hour late) and waited for our chauffeur to drive us to the airport. He was the chatty kind who knew everything about everything. One fact is interesting though: Langkawi was hit by the unfortunately famous 2004 tsunami. A whole fisherman's village was destroyed, and one person died. Everyone else was out at sea and the children in school.

As you can read, it was a braw holiday. I probably missed many things to tell about it and some funny moments. Like when Ting and I were looking for the second waterfall (the one with no water) only to realise we had driven past it 3 times already. Or the monkey breakfast: one morning we were welcomed at our breakfast table but many many monkeys. The whole hotel was amazed at how these little burglars jump down from the roof to grab some bread and eat it happily! I should also mention the pool's permanent resident. A huge monitor lizard... It went to swim in the pool occasionally and took showers, getting the person rinsing himself to run away. I heard they are dangerous and indeed I wouldn't bother them too much.

That's all for now. I'll let my dear wife complete the stories about these holidays. She had lots more to say.

1 comment:

micheltdt said...

Hello Ting and Julien, congratulations, very interesting text. We are now impatient to read Ting's post about Seven Wells waterfalls... All the best from Dad fran├žais.