Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cuti Cuti Malayia: Langkawi 2009, Day 1

In between weddings and thanks to H1N1 I decided to go local for our holidays this year. I thought that was going to be a very easy decision but it was a decision far more difficult to make and implement. We have done Semenanjung Malayisa to and fro and round in circle clockwise and anticlockwise twice. Sabah and Sarawak at least once. And me being me always last minute with his travel plan made it more challenging. In the end I chose Langkawi as it has been six years since the last family vacation there and I decided to be more adventurous this time.

Day one: June 8, 2009, Monday

Five to 0600 we were already at the eKiosk trying to check in but the machine kicked us out. Were we too early? I do not know but certainly the kiosk failed on us. So we pushed our trolley to the counter and checked ourselves in. The nice lady at the counter did ask us whether the kiosk is working or not? I said maybe we were too early and smiled.

The breakfast cost me around RM80 the realization after a loud complaint from my wife when my daughter came back with the change. I said jokingly what do you expect a piece of timun already cost us RM1. The whole nasi lemak special was RM11.90 and there was nothing special about the taste. It is an economy of scarcity and a monopoly.

Six to 0700 we walked into the waiting lounge and waited patiently for our gate to open. At 0756 the gate was still close and was obvious that our flight would be delayed. We are only allowed to enter the waiting lounge at 0800 whereas the scheduled takeoff time was at 0815. No explanation given and we waited for a bit more. Since we were seated facing out aircraft we could see the going on down below. Within few minutes of waiting we saw the workers, Banglas to be precise, were busy loading our luggage. We witnessed first hand their definition of loading. Which was simply throwing things in at will. Was I surprised by this? Not at all but the idiots should have known that they obviously could be seen from the waiting area. Eventually it was announced that we could board and no one seems to be bothered to wait for further instruction and walked into the plane. We took our seats and waited. The waiting was longer than expected and I knew too well that there must be something wrong. However, the pilot did a KTMB on us by not giving us any information about the delay at all. So we waited in silent and for me with a sense of fault de javu. I did not pay to be treated like I was treated by KTMB. But trying not to spoil the beginning of our journey I just sat there managing Mar’s antics. I did not know it then but another incident was in progress that could spoil the beginning of our holidays as well. A couple was actually occupying Sam’s seat. But Sam not wanting to make a scene relented. Had I known of the situation I would have yelled at the couple saying ‘If both of you want to do this go with Airasia!’ With all due respect to Airasia, this couple’s mentality was exactly that. No respect for others.

Instead of 0915 we arrived safely in Langkawi at 1030. The pilot apologized while on the air and too late for me to even consider it. Again not wanting to spoil our holidays I blacked out the feeling and walked down the tarmac to the arrival area. Once I switched on my phone it buzzed with incoming missed call and messages from the agent that was going to rent me a car. I called him and was told that my car was already waiting at the car park. True to Langkawi form the key was also there which reminded me of the joke by my friend. He said if ever I am in a desperate situation just be at the airport parking lot and I can have a pick at any car parked there. Apparently most of the cars parked there belong to various car rental agencies and they parked their cars with the keys visible or at places that are not that difficult to find. As soon as we loaded the car we drove out of the airport towards Cenang beach. At that point in time the weather was already hot and walking around was definitely not in order. I called up the resorts to find out whether our rooms were ready to check in. The lady who answered told me check-in time was at 3pm. I corrected her that indeed our rooms were not ready for us. Since we were already at Cenang beach we decided to check out the new renovated Langkawi Seaworld.

As we walked along the corridor I noticed that walking towards me was someone very familiar. I took off my shade and stood directly in front of his path. He looked up and we eyed each other a minute, smiled and without saying a word hugged. The last time we met was in 2004 during our reunion in Seremban. Lokman Hakim Abu aka Ray Clemence and his family were already in Langkawi for two days and scheduled to leave the next day. We chatted a bit and not wanting to take much of his limited time we promised to have dinner together that night.

We knew we were not going to find anything new at the Langkawi Seaworld except for the seals and penguins. For Mar’s sake I paid the exorbitant fees for all of us. I said exorbitant because they priced the fee according to the western standard but not the service. Further more with that kind of price they are not going to attract a lot of Malaysians to the place. Anyway once inside we made the best of everything and as expected Mar enjoyed the experience the most. As in any tourist attractions like the seaworld at the end of the tour was their souvenir shop. However it was a light different in the Seaworld where the management decided to have various small stalls selling their wares. This one particular stall immediately attracted the attention of Baqir, Kak Cik and Mar as we walked out. It was a stall making a wax hand ran by two young Malay guys. They got interested to do their hands and looking at the process easy enough I agreed. Sam and I were more attracted to the two young Malay guys’ entrepreneurship nature. We chatted with them and admired their resolve and resilient even more. Since the process was easy enough I thought it would be a short once. I was wrong we had to wait for 40 minutes for the whole thing to complete. We waited with our stomach already growling to be fed.

As we knew that food can be a bit expensive in Cenang we decided to have lunch in Kuah and I took the Temoyong road there. That road took us passed the Shrimps the place where Sam and I had our seafood dinner once. I knew instantly where we were going to have dinner with Lokman that night. Nothing much has changed in Kuah except the main road to the jetty was closed for upgrade. The usual shops and players were still there the only thing we were told by Lokman’s wife was that now the prices are almost the same everywhere.

Since the main road was being upgraded gone with it the seaside Medan Selera. It must have been moved somewhere but I was not that serious to find where it is now. I just drove around and we could not find anything decent to stop to eat until I decided to just stop at one restaurant as we drove in the second time around Kuah and had our lunch there. The food was ok but what surprised me the price was not as cheap as before. While eating I tried to make sense of the town, of course with my benchmark being the old one that I used to, and found out nothing much has changed. So immediately I knew we would just be coming back to Kuah town to buy chocolates and do a little shopping of the usual.

Around 1510 I walked to the front desk of Awana Porto Malai to check in. As usual I presented the lady at the counter the two cards. my ID and credit cards. We went through the motion until she presented the key when I realized it was only for a room. I remarked ‘One room only?’ Implying I had booked two. Obviously I need two rooms and since my booking was done by my friend who happened to be somebody powerful in the state the lady did not say much but just to murmur and audible ‘the booking was only for a room’. Quickly she conferred with her supervisor and they decided to give me the next room which happened to be a connecting room to the first one given to me. I sensed they had to bump somebody to give me that room. Regardless whose mistake it was I still need another room. I could not have my family cramp in one room for two nights.

The room was quite spacious with two big single beds in both rooms. However because they wanted to have a bigger room space they sacrificed both the bath room and the WC which were separated. I guess the architect and the owner wanted their guests to enjoy the atmosphere more then the utilities. Well this could work for some people but not others. Especially those that were paying for a five star prices. To us it did not matter as long as we can enjoy ourselves and have beds to rest at night. Those paying for a sea view room like us then got compensated by the beautiful harbour like sea view. The holiday season rate for such room is RM275 but I, courtesy of my friend, got them at RM240 each. Maybe had I played my cards better I could get even cheaper rate. Nevertheless I am thankful to my friend who made my holiday possible and enjoyable. The only drag – there was no broadband connection.

After I took my bath and said my prayers I called Lokman to set our appointment for dinner. Since we were musafirs I offered two options, to have an early dinner or later after Maghrib. He could not commit at that point in time as his family were busy shopping and said would call me later. With that I decided to go down to the pool with Mar. Well actually Mar had been pestering me to go since we checked in. I actually wanted to go as well not so much to swim but more for the therapy for my clavicle that I broke late last year. Because of that, to Mar’s dismayed, I did not stay long. I had to promise her that we would be coming down swimming again the next day.

Back in the room I thought I was going to take a nap but the agent from the car rental agency I rented my car from called me to inform that he was coming over to give me a better car. Due to that I decided to go down with my camera to take some shots while waiting. Baqir and Mar decided to follow me. Just a few minutes, while we were busy takings photos Lokman called to say that they have decided to have an early dinner and almost at the same time our new car arrived. With that I called up to the rooms to inform the rest to get ready.

Despite driving from Cenang we arrived at Shrimps first. The place was empty and we were the only customers there. Sam, small Mar and I were there once tasting the food for the first time years ago. It was at night when we were there and nothing much we could see except lighted areas. That day there was a bit of daylight so we could enjoy the whole place a lot more. The commercial fish and shrimps ponds were down below like rows of small paddy fields very close to the edge of the Andaman Sea. Since we were the only one there I thought we could have the best table. Indeed I had the choice of a spacious sitting down kampong style gazebo but when we walked up we saw lizards droppings were almost everywhere. Initially we asked the girl to clean the place up. But after thinking and conferring it over we decided to move to the bench table across Sitting about ten minutes we realized the table was no better as the previous one. The place was littered with droppings. Not to waste any time we ordered our food and watched the girl clothed and cleaned our table. That was when my wife asked the girl honestly whether we were not going to have problems with droppings falling from the roof while eating. I was surprised after all this while they still could not solved the problem. Have they ever tried putting a layer of mosquito net as a ceiling? To her credit the girl honestly replied that she could not guarantee that we were going to have a pleasant dinner. With that we chose to have an open air dining under spot lights. That was the best decision of the night. As we were moving to that table Lokman and family arrived. As I recommended Lokman and wife, Fazlina, came with four of their children. Their eldest son chose not to join us.

Obviously Lokman and I could go on talking about old times but being a good husbands and fathers we decided to talk about our families and included everyone in the conversation. We learned about each other even more. Lokman and I having an unbreakable bond now became even unbreakable with our families in the relationship equation. For sure the next time we are down south we will stop over at their place. The good food eventually served and even with their freshness and good taste became the prop for the family gathering. We chatted, chatted and chatted, the food came and went but never seems to be able to satisfy our appetite for chatting. Just like playing chicken all of us were waiting for someone to give up first and call it a day. In the end our youngest hinted to us the fun, the good night and the gathering had to end. I paid the dinner, said our goodbyes (even this took us almost 20 minutes to accomplish) and departed Since Lokman would be leaving the next day I sadly said to myself when is the next time?

While waiting for Lokman and family to arrive earlier I called En Ali the mangrove boat ride operator to set and appointment fro our boat ride the next day. Since he suggested that the best time to feed the eagle was around 10.30 to 1100 am we agreed to meet at Killim Jetty around 10 am. Because of that we decided to cal it for the night and headed for our hotel.

There was a bright moon when we arrived at the hotel and it created a very serene environment deflecting shining lights of the quiet sea. I was tempted to sit around at the hotel’s boardwalk to enjoy the moonlit night and taking few photos. But once up in the room I misjudged myself and did not realized I was really tired. It must have been because of the heat. I changed and once my head was on the pillow I was gone.

You can view all the pictures for Day 1 here.

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