Sunday, March 22, 2009


I took a trip to the famous Langkawi Island from January 24th through the 26th. I enjoyed myself thoroughly and below there are some thoughts and reflections on my trip.

General Reflections
My overall impression of the island was that it was nice, but seemed like a tourist trap. The island was quite built-up and the modus operandi appeared to be sucking as much money out of visitors as possible. The island was an escape from what the real Malaysia looks like. In terms of beauty, the beaches were decent but the landscape was fantastic. There were small, lush tree covered hills that were stunning and really put me in awe of nature’s beauty.

The island is worth going to if you want to get a very touristy type of beach experience. Depending on your budget, you could stay at a swanky resort (as some ETAs did) or at some pretty cheap hostels (which I did). Regardless, it’s doubtful that you will spend much time at your place of residence—there are so many things to do on the beach that you will keep yourself very busy. That being said I would only recommend Langkawi to people who want a fully developed tropical island beach vacation; it was definitely not for people who just want a more pristine, underdeveloped island where you can sit back, relax and get in touch with nature (for that type of experience, I would highly recommend Palau Kapas—more on this on some later post).

The one thing that I absolutely loved about Langkawi was the food. There were many different types of foods to choose from—Italian, American, Malay, Thai, Indian, etc.—but I really enjoyed the Indian food. There was an Indian restaurant called the Taj Mahal (go figure) which served some truly authentic Indian dishes. I’m generally a very picky eater but this place had some fantastic dishes. One of the best dishes that I had was the butter chicken—the warm, tender chicken was properly marinated in a thick sauce that was achingly good and made me come back for a repeat visit. It was a great change of pace from all the Nasi-whatever I had been eating and the food did wonders for my famished stomach.

Beware the Seven Wells
On Monday the 26th, I decided that I wanted to head over to the Seven Wells. The Seven Wells is a series of ponds about 200m up a 1200m high mountain. I climbed a series of steep steps up the mountain and reached the scenic top. I arrived at the spot fairly out of breath but normally I wouldn’t have found the climb up so difficult; however, since I was carrying my backpack—that contained all of my travel items and probably weighted about 20lbs.—on my sun-burnt shoulders the climb was a bit of a challenge. The extra weight made the climb up a bit difficult, but the view was worth it.

After enjoying staring out at the scenic vista, we (Neil, Matt, and I) decided to go off on a side-trail. The trail had a sign that said 1000m, so we figured that we didn’t have to go too far. We trekked for fifteen minutes through the jungle, with heavy overgrowth on both sides of trail. We were making a steady climb at about a 40 degree incline up deeper into the jungle. We then saw a sign that said 700m and we were quite confused. We had been walking for quite a while and shouldn’t the distance be decreasing?

At this point, I was starting to feel exhausted. The backpack on top of the sweltering jungle heat was quite taxing. My shirt was completely drenched from sweat and every step I took, little droplets of sweat trickled down my face, passing down my beard, before finally dropping to the ground as I walked further into the jungle. Another fifteen minutes later, we saw another sign that said that there were 500 more meters to go and I was utterly perplexed. Then it finally dawned on me—it wasn’t 500 meters to go, it was 500 meters vertically to the top of the mountain.

So I continued to trudge on in my quest to the top of the mountain. Since I was walking slower, Matt and Neil had walked far ahead of me and I was traveling alone in search of the summit. The further up I went, the steeper the climb. Finally, there was a sign that said the peak was just up another incline. This incline, however, was extremely steep, probably at about a 70 degree angle. There was a rope that you had to use if you wanted to go up to the top. So I started going up and maybe 30m from the top, I saw Matt and Neil coming back down. I asked them what was on the top of the mountain and I was quite disappointed to find out that at the top of the mountain there was only a little sign that said, “Please turn around.” There was no scenic vista, nothing of value at the top, just a little sign telling whatever poor sap had made the journey to turn around. Damn.

So my trip back down the mountain was a race to prevent dehydration. I knew I was on the borderline of exhaustion as my head started feeling light and I had to pull my belt even tighter. I raced to the bottom and ran directly to the small store that offered refreshments. There, I bought three 16oz. bottles of juice, 2 16oz. bottles of water, and then proceeded to drink all of these things in under 10 minutes. The hike had been exhausting, but at least I was able to get my workout in for the day.

I did have a good time in Langkawi—lots of fun in the sun (from which I received my first ever sun-burn), good cuisine, lots of explorations, and some good conversations. Langkawi was a great trip to wrap up my January travels in Malaysia and I was ready to go tackle my “responsibilities” in Kerteh, Kemaman starting Febuary 1. Yay for vacations!

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