Monday, August 18, 2014

Langkawi - Part 8

Sayonara Langkawi! 

The night before I hit the sack, I prayed for a morning without rain.
And it was answered!
We had a lovely and cloudy morning, it was breaking dawn as we rolled out from the motel with our gear.
The plan was to head out towards Kuah town and have a hearty breakfast there.
Even with the miserable night in Kuah, we've had a blast!

The motel

Cycling to get our breakfast!
We found a local shop serving breakfast.
They had roti canai and nasi lemak bungkus.

I wasted no time in scooping a plate of nasi goreng, a piece of fried chicken and a piece of frid egg.
Michelle had a light meal, fearing sea-sickness on the way back to the mainland.
Langkawi was just waking up from slumber on an early Saturday morning.
Our goal was to get to the Kuah ferry terminal before 10am.
And after a good fill, we rode towards the port area.
Upon reaching the entrance of the complex, we began to fold up the bikes and bagged them onto our carry on cover.
This takes at least 10-minutes and by the time we entered the departure gate, it was already 09:30am.
We had to pass through the Customs counter and while I was moving my bike and pannier, a Senior officer there asked what I was lugging.
"Apa ni?" (what is this), he asked.
"Basikal lipat encik", (it's a folding bike) I responded.
"Baru ke?" (is it new?), he continued.
"Bukan, saya bawa dari tanah besar" (nope, I brought it over from the mainland) I replied.
We struck a conversation and the Customs man revealed that he came from Kampung Pandan in Kuala Lumpur.
There was a lady officer in the background.
She was laughing.
"Ingat kamu ni orang Jepun", (I thought you were a Japanese) she said.
Jokes aside, we were screened and passed through the checkpoint to the departure hall.
We set our gear aside and feeling the something was amiss, I went out again to the Starbucks face to get cup of coffee..

Packing up the bikes

Waiting for our ride.. 
While I was waiting for my coffee, the barrista placed a cup of coffee belonging to Mr Wong.
He is an elderly Chinese guy, waiting for his brew.
There were some Starbucks mooncake for sale and this became a small chat.
Mr Wong is resident of Langkawi and he's seen much of the development taking place on the island. 
Ending the conversation, I wished him well and headed back to the departure area.
The coffee was strong enough to kick-start my day.
We waited a bit and when the boarding call was made, we lugged our bikes to the vessel.

Good deckhands - some guys you rarely encounter..

We inched our way to the ferry and on the gangway, a couple of deckhands had offered help to load the bikes onboard.
They never asked a thing, and were very helpful.
I thanked them and told one of the deckhands that the bikes must be standed upright.
We found our seats and chilled out till the boat had left the jetty.
There's one and a half hours to kill and the weather was fine as the sea was not as rough like the day we got in.

All aboard! 

Back on solid ground - mainland.. 
Bad in-cabin entertainment - a source for brain rot..

I must say that ferry operators show the darnest movies.
We didn't mind the Jabatan Laut safety video featuring a pretty actress, but the movie that came after that was utterly aweful. 
They showed some local Malay comedy that actually drove me to tears because it was so stupid.
Now, the strange thing was this, even when the vessel was moored at the jetty, some folks were still glued to the TV.
Our cue to hit the shore was when half the passengers have alighted.
Slowly, we lugged our bikes to the car. After three nights, it was still in one piece and the spring tide did not submerge our ride back to Subang Jaya.
I went to pay the parking fees and was charged RM45. 
Then, fired up the engine and we were on our way.

The best crab rice in Bukit Tambun

The legendary Hai Wong Fan.. 
The plan was to head towards Butterworth and have lunch at Bukit Tambun.
Our choice makan place was Cia Xiang restaurant.
This place is well-known for their crab rice and we've been going there since 2011.
Lunch break was about an hour or so before we hit the road.
It was purely a five hour drive from Butterworth to Subang Jaya.
But since we entered the outskirts of the Klang Valley rather early, I suggested to Michelle that we drop by at her parent's place and have dinner with them.
After all the public relations exercise, it was time to head home.
We missed our kids and spent the rest of the weekend with them.


Langkawi is an interesting place to bring your bicycle.
But, there are a lot of cars and crazy drivers.
So, that said, I wouldn't recommend it for novice cyclists. 
If you have at least two years of experience on the road and are physically-fit, Langkawi is yours to take on.
With this island crossed on our checklist, we will be concentrating on exploring the east coast of the Peninsula.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Langkawi - Part 7

Farewell paradise...

We had a great time in Kedawang.
The stay in Teratak Damai was awesome.
If we were to make the Langkawi ride an annual affair, we would consider a repeat stay at this accommodation facility.
Now, comes the time to cherish all the good memories and roll back into reality.

Getting ready to roll

Saying goodbye to our host

Our lovely kampung house

Old friends
The Ninja-cat
Destination: Kuah

It's a short 20km ride to Kuah from Kedawang.
After saying good bye to our wonderful host, we cycled towards the junction to Padang Matsirat.
We found a Nasi Lemak stall and had some makan there before hitting the busy road leading to Kuah.
The fare was pretty decent and after a good fill, we headed towards the junction.
Even on a Friday, the traffic was pretty heavy.
We rode past a car workshop and found a graveyard for damaged vehicles. A reminder of drunk driving with cheap alcohol.
Barely two kilometers into Kuah, we stopped near an Indian restaurant, probably the one and only around to take some readings on Google Map.
Our intended location was Motel Seri Mutiara.
I managed to track down this cheap accommodation via and did a Google search to get its phone number.
From there, I booked a room for a night at RM70.
And for a brief moment, I did thought of heading straight for the mainland, throw everything into the car and shoot off to Penang or Ipoh for a night.
But the motel has been booked, so, I don't want to ruin the opportunity to spend a night in Kuah.
It never felt right at the first place, but I pushed on.

At the motel in Kuah

We arrived at Motel Seri Mutiara at 11:45am.
There were plenty of time to burn since we've used up nearly half the day.
When I got to the reception, the owner was asleep on his reclining chair.
Two young backpackers were waiting for him to wake up.
I politely called him and got the man out of his power nap.
We could see the relieved faces on the backpackers.
I told the guy about checking in and his immediate reaction was: "Oooooohhhh yang berbasikal tu ya?" (Are the one with the bicycles?).
They had some vacant rooms and I took the one on the ground floor.
This motel is quite bike-friendly and is a choice accommodation for cyclists from the mainland and also foreign touring cyclists.
The rooms checked out to be allright and later, I had a chat with Encik Radzi, the owner.
He was car mechanic before going into car rental full-time.
From his earnings, he built Motel Seri Mutiara three years ago.
Today, the business is expending with a new lot behind the existing accommodation complex.
En Radzi said his guests are mainly from the mainland including some foreigners.
The longest stay person in Seri Mutiara was a gentleman and his wife from Italy.
Their high currency gave them a three-month stay in Langkawi.
We talked a bit about getting group bookings and since we were at it, En Radzi told me that he can arrange for car rental packages, island hopping tours and transfers to the jetty terminal and airport.
After chatting with him, we rode out towards the ferry terminal to purchase our tickets.
Its meant for the next day at 10am.
With that done, we had a confirmed passage back to Kuala Kedah.

We had lunch and a Chinese coffee shop after that.
It was the most horrible meal ever.
After a few days of eating Malay food, Michelle said she got fed-up.
So, Chinese food it is!

And we thought we ran out of hills!
Not the usual happy camper..
Bring on the night...

Okay, we have the rest of the day to ourselves.
So, we went back to the motel to chill out, weather out the heat of the day in the air-conditioned room and waited to ride out for dinner.
I wanted to have a meal at the Fishing Village restaurant near Pantai Beringin.
Michelle said we should not blow our cash. So, it's back to Kuah town.
I knew of this makan place can Kauboi.
It's quite a popular pork-free seafood restaurant. I've eaten there before, so, instead of going around like headless chicken on a bike, we decided to chow down there..

Sunset in Kuah

At Langkawi's Pekan Rabu

Kauboi seafood

Teochew styled steamed garoupa

Chicken feet kerabu
We had two bottles of beers, four dishes for dinner.
The Teochew styled steamed Garoupa came at RM37, the most expensive of the lot. Next was Kerabu Chicken Feet at RM10 a pop, RM8 for the Horr Chien and RM8 for the fried Kangkung with belacan.
This is pretty pricey because we could get the same back in Subang Jaya.
But hey! We're on a holiday and in Langkawi...
If we would have taken the 1pm ferry to Kuala Kedah, we wouldn't have ended up with crappy food. But that was the plan, so we stick with it.

Locking the bikes

Checking out Langkawi Mall...
Smoothies for a night cap and tourists from Klang

Michelle and I rode out towards the Langkawi Mall.
This is one of the most happening places in Kuah. But it was Friday. And it became too quiet. Like Kelantan, Terengganu and Johor, Kedah observes Friday as a public holiday.
There's much more happening in Cenang that there is in Kuah. We've pretty much resigned to our fate of getting "trapped" in Langkawi for another night.
At the mall, we had some smoothies at Secret Recipe before calling it a night.
While parking our bikes at the motel, I met an elderly Malay Lady.
"Dari mana?" (Where from?), she asked.
I told her that we were from Subang Jaya and learned that she and her family came from Klang, Selangor.
We engaged in a conversation and later, I met her entire family.
They came in from Kuala Perlis a few days earlier and were on the last leg of their stay in Langkawi.
I wished the friendly lady good night and retired.
The thought of lugging the bikes onto the ferry without damaging them lay heavy on my mind.
After making sure that all was good, we retired for the day.. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Langkawi - Part 6

Good food, great company...

It's our last night in Kedawang before we head back to Kuah.
Marina took us to Padang Matsirat to try out a Gulai Kalut shop.
This is a place where the locals eat and we appreciate that.
Gulai Kalut is basically a spicy gravy dish where customers can select their choice of fish and vegetables.
This place is located near the Langkawi International Airport and for non-locals, one would never be able to find it as its not a touristy joint.
So, there we were, getting dinner cooked and having ulam (wild vegetables) for starters.

A selection of fresh seafood

Marina and Michelle

Ikan sembilang in Gulai 
For an obscure joint, the Gulai shop was packed.
We had a choice of fried fish and the only dish we had with gulai was the ikan sembilang (sea catfish).
I am a big fan of the catfish and the fare was pretty good.
And when it comes to our bill, I paid RM56 for dinner. That's inclusive of the takeaway order for Reuben.
I told Michelle that we should treat our hosts since they provided great hospitality.

After hour conversations..

I don't really know many of my wife's friends.
Those whom I've known, I don't really know them well enough to hold a conversation that lasted hours.
In the case of Marina, well, we got off pretty well. 
She invited us to have coffee at her home and since we don't have much to pack, we stayed on.
The coffee was good and I also got to learn more about our host for two nights.
Originally from the Klang Valley, Marina had relocated to Langkawi to start a new lease of life.
She said she was tired of the corporate lifestyle and all the high-society living bullshit.
I sense that she's very sincere about her thoughts and thanked her for having us over.

 Calling it a night..

We had the coffee and chatted till it's pretty late.

Michelle gave me the facial expression that it was time to retire and we went back to our little kampung house.
After plugging in my cellphone and setting the alarm, it was lights out.
Our plan the next day was to cycle to Kuah town and check-in at another homestay.

Langkawi - Part 5

And now, the boring part... 

We rolled back to Jalan Teluk Yu and began cycling along the kampung road towards Teluk Ewah.
Along the way, there was a police road block.
This was meant for motorists flouting traffic rules.
I noticed that the cops had pulled over a group of tourists on a rented car.
Their offence? 
Well, for not wearing their seatbelts.
Further ahead, we came across a group of foreign dudes on their rented bicycles.
They were speeding and my guess is that they were headed to the cable car station.

The cable car and Gunung Mat Chincang

Rolling along Jalan Teluk Yu
Rolling along with an average speed of 15km/h, we cycled along the road that leads to a cement factory.
This facility provided ample employment to the residents on the island and it's been there since the 80s.
Cycling along Jalan Teluk Yu is like any other typical scene in the rural setting.
It was around mid-noon that I've decided to pull over at a roadside stall selling nasi campur.
I noticed that the owner is an elderly Chinese man and there were other customers packing their meals.
We had a simple lunch there and our bill came up to RM13.60. Pretty cheap considering the fact that my plate of rice was filled to the brim with vegetable, a piece of omelette and a piece of fried chicken.

My lunch

Relaxing at the roadside stall
Taking the scenic route...

Upon reaching Jalan Teluk Ewah, we made a turn to the right towards a Pantai Pasir Hitam.
This is one part of the island that is not too crowded.
The Langkawi Craft Complex is just nearby.
To get back to Padang Matsirat, we had to use Jalan Ulu Melaka.
This is quite an interesting route with an undulating terrain.
And if you want a nice view of the island, there's the Gunung Raya observatory.
We rode past the junction leading towards the area and headed straight to the Jalan Padang Matsirat junction.

Taking a breather at Jalan Ulu Melaka
I checked on my mobile device and noticed that we've deviated from our course.
We rode a little further to reconnect with the Padang Matsirat road. Only this time, we were further up the road before the junction along Jalan Kedawang.
I told Michelle upon reaching the Petronas station near Kedawang to head to the wholesale market to stock up on drinking water.
Alcoholic beverages are duty-free in Langkawi, so, we feasted on imported beers.
Since we rode for more than 64km, I thought it was best to celebrate by having a bottle of chilled ale.
We packed the drinks and headed back to Teratak Damai where we had a chance to rest a bit.

Our beautiful little kampung house

Even on a holiday, there's work to be done..

The administrative office in Teratak Damai

The flora

Our home away from home
A nice and chilled one!

With Mystic, the house cat.. 
Just chilling out..

We had time to kill, so, I took out the beer from the fridge and had it with some nuts.
That's the bliss about going on a holiday.
We missed our dogs but were glad that have some time out from work.
Later in the day, I had the chance to indulge in a conversation with Reuben, Marina's other half.
He runs a pharmacy near Cenang and had been living in Langkawi for more than five years.
Reuben's from Seremban and speaks fluent Malay with a Northern accent.
His ability to adapt was amazing.
I also found out that the man is a martial artist and had represented the country at a kickboxing tournament overseas.
We talked a bit while Marina showed Michelle around Teratak Damai.
Basically, the accommodation facility is a small setting with three houses for rent.
It's pretty well organized and the couple's target audience were overseas guests.
Since Reuben runs his business from 10am till late at night, he had to make his exit to oversee operations while Marina hosted us to a simple dinner..

Friday, August 15, 2014

Langkawi - Part 4

Burau Bay and beyond...

Going to one tip of the island...
The best view in the house...
From Pantai Cenang, we took the Jalan Kuala Muda to Padang Matsirat.
There, the road was flat.
We slowly rode towards the outer perimeter of the Langkawi International Airport.
During the LIMA show (Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace), you can get a good view of the commercial and military aircrafts doing demonstration flights.
In my foray as a reporter, I've done two LIMA shows: the 97 and 99 exhibitions.
I did mostly Maritime as the Glamour team from the New Straits Times where I was formerly employed did the Aerospace segment.
So, being based in Tanjung Malai, I was on my own.
For a week, the team's aviation "experts" would do their thing while I gave daily updates at the Maritime segment.
I spoke to some folks here about LIMA and they clearly hated it.
Most of the trade visitors, some said, never spend their tourism money on the island.
We cycled to the end of the runway and found a nice spot to capture flights touching down.


At the edge of Cenang

Our 24" folding bike

At the edge of the runway
 We spotted at least three aircrafts about 15-minutes apart.
If there's 200 passengers, you get 600 people arriving in 45-minutes.
And Langkawi can accommodate all that.
We worked our way towards the edge of the runway and just as I was taking a corner, I spotted a tortoise crossing the road.
Some car nearly smashed it and we wasted no time in getting it out of harm's way.
I placed the tortoise on a grassy area across the runway so no car would hurt it.
We were relieved to see it slowly crawling away.

Riding beside the airport's runway

Saved this little guy from an impending doom..
Kuala Teriang - Pantai Kok, this is where the fun begins..

The Western side of the island can get very hilly.
We are talking about gradients between 10 - 15% and if you are unfit, nothing will prepare you for the climb.
From Kuala Teriang, the slopes began to show its gradual incline.
We had an 18-speed bike and I maintained my climb on the larger chainring - cranking in about 50rpm on the average.
With a speed of 5km/h on the slopes, we began the ascend towards Burau Bau.
Beyond the hills, there's the Perdana Quay, a posh yacht club.
During the Langkawi Heritage and Scientific Expedition in 2002, I helped out an ichthyologist from University Malaysia Terengganu to gather samples from the rivers and streams around the island. 
I was then a feature writer with the New Straits Times and during my week-long stay in Langkawi, I spent a great deal of time at the Burau Bay Resort.
Having traveled around this stretch on the island, I had some recollection on how to get around.
After a series of climbs, we rolled down towards Pantai Kok and cycled towards the Telaga Tujuh nature park.
From a distance we could see cable cars ascending to the peak of Gunung Mat Chincang.
You can see this from Padang Matsirat as it's also one of the highest points in the island.

The slow and gradual climb

Perdana Quay

One of the inhabitants along the road
At the crossroad.. 
Looping back towards the centre of the island.. 

We cycled towards a dead end near Telaga Tujuh.
There, I fixed Michelle's saddle while she went to get some bottled water to refill our drinking bottles.
So far, so good.
We haven't experienced any mechanical failure or puncture.
Telaga tujuh is an interesting place to be if you love hiking.
There are seven waterfalls in the area and it's also a tourist destination.
We took a rest there and later headed back towards Pantai Kok to ride on Jalan Teluk Yu.
There's a distance to cover towards Teluk Ewah and Ulu Melaka where our loop joins back to Jalan Padang Matsirat...