Second Day: June 9, 2008, Tuesday
I woke up as usual and did my usual morning things before I yelled everyone to wake up he he he. The plan for the day was simple – be at the Kilim Jetty at 1000 and take a mangrove boat ride. The rest of the day would be an anything goes.
It was a very beautiful, morning over the Awana Porto Malai harbour which prompted me to stay out at the balcony taking few shots of the sea. I knew my photos would come out good and postcard like finished. I took enough to satisfy me and I knew I still have the next day to do it again. First thing first, since we had to be at the Killim Jetty at 1000 I woke everyone and announced that I would be going down for breakfast in 10 minutes. Anybody that was not ready would be left behind. With that ultimatum everyone got up and ran around taking their bath. I told everyone to dress properly for the boat ride and be prepared for the worst.
Breakfast at Awana was a disappointment First of all not much variety and secondly some of the food were tasteless. We just quickly ate and left. It was 0827 when we were taking our photos in front of the Awana before we left. Since I was a bit familiar with the handling of the car already I sped cutting though Langkawi to the other side of the island towards Killim Jetty. I only had to look at the map once and I knew my way already. Ever since we arrived I could see a number of cyclists on the road and they were note the tourist type but locals. That morning while driving to Kilim I saw a guy on mountain bike cycling hard on the same direction. Instantly how I wished I had my bike then. I guessed then there would be a number of cyclist communities in Langkawi. Baqir and I had been talking about the possibility of buying a new bike in Langkawi and seeing these cyclists on the road I got more confident that possibly there would be one or two bicycle shops around selling decent cheap bikes to take home. But one thing for sure though the next time we will be in Langkawi we will try our best to take along our bicycles.
Around 0910 I took the right turn next to the Perdana Conplex towards Kilim Jetty and we arrived 45 minutes earlier. Since we had our breakfast already I parked the car close to the jetty and walked around to take few photos of the place. The rest with the car aircon on full blast continued to sleep. The jetty, I suspected, mainly being the jetty for the local fishermen before was a bit dirty. The same Malaysian problem of poor maintenance. Judging from the attraction of the place it has greater tourist potential. What I am afraid without proper planning and monitoring the place will be ruined and no tourist value in the future. I have seen enough of these all over Malaysia to be apprehensive about the place. Really a pity if that really happen. LADA should seriously monitor the situation and should not allow even an ounce of opportunity for this to happen. You cannot fault the locals for behaving certain ways as they could not have been exposed and knowledgeable on how to keep on improving. Somebody has to seriously guide them. At the moment they rely totally on what they have, know and all the natural beauty of Kilim. Just one example is the number of boats operating within the area; no matter how many tourists coming there they should limit the number. As it was I could already see some of the spilled petrol or the emission of the boats creating oily sludge.
Fifteen minutes to 1000 I called En Ali to inform him that we were already at the jetty at which he replied he was on his way after picking up some petrol for his boats. I woke everyone up and asked them to go to the restroom to freshen up and prepare for the long boat ride. Ten minutes later we were standing in front of the big advertisement board explaining about the various places of interest. Initially I thought En Ali would be doing a short safety briefing about the boat ride but instead he ushered me closer to the board and told me what I had paid for and suggested that if I wanted to go to all of the places it would be a 4 hours ride and I had to pay an additional RM100. Not wanting to miss anything I paid for the extra two hours.
It was a medium size boat that easily could carry 12-15 people comfortably. With six of us it was even better. Our first stop was the Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave) which was surprisingly just near by. Our boat was commandeered by a nice young man, to make it easier let’s name him Captain, who sent us to the Bat Cave first and told us to take our time as he was going back to the jetty to collect our safety jackets. Gua Kelawar was indeed occupied by a lot of Kelawar. Our route was actually paved with concrete pathway and platform. Judging from the mud around the path in the cave it would be submerged during high tide. Of course one disadvantage in the cave was that I could not use my flash gun to take photos. I had to rely a lot on smooth handling and most of the time the results were unsatisfactory. Since we were on our own there was no guide that could explain anything to us. So we just enjoyed ourselves and once in awhile I was the guide to Mar, mostly explaining what I know. However, later as we moved forward in front of us was a couple being ushered around by a knowledgeable guy on the area. He started to explain couple of things that got me interested so we hung around close to them. We got an instant free tour guide. What I like about the cave was not so much of the bats but for of the rock formations that had gone through the test of time and changes. It was a nature art. Since the cave was within the mangrove swamp the pathway took us through quite a good section of the mangrove. I just love it and we stayed a bit longer trying to learn as much as possible about the swamp by observing the lives within it. I hope excessive tourism would not spoil the mangrove swamp. Majority of the locals as well as the tourists are still not properly educated as to the important role of the swamp to the ecology of Langkawi. The path took us around into another small cave that opened up to where we came in. Mar and I stayed a bit behind to indulge ourselves to more photography. When I got to the pondok where we disembarked I saw Sam with the children talking to the lady manning the place. True to form and thanks to her training Sam played the information seeker role beautifully. They learned a lot more about the place from the lady. I hope my children would learn from that experience and try to emulate their mum in the future. So much to learn in this world and the best way to learn is to experience the place and ask the locals to tell stories. Most people when asked about places that have been part of their lives would oblige with lots of interesting stories.
With our safety jackets on we left Gua Kelawar to the unknown, well at least to us. The whole thing was a journey of discovery for us. We sat back and enjoyed the ride and the places that our expert Captain took us. We were taken further in and the Captain did it in certain speed that we overtook few other boats. I was not sure why he did that but sitting in front I did not mind having a cool breeze blowing on my face. In fact I started to like it even more as he did a speed boat like cornering. We joked we were ‘drifting’.Then we came to and open area where both banks were about 200 metres apart. The Captain slowed down until we came to a complete stop. He started to look for something and poured them into the water. Instantly I knew why we were there. It was the eagles feeding time. We got very excited and I was ready with my Nikon to shoot. He then rammed the engine creating a bit of ruckus. He told us later it was to call for the eagles and indeed immediately I could see at least 20 eagles circling and cruising up above. Within a few minutes they came flying down to grab the food one after the other. It was a wonderful maneuver to watch. This was also when I cursed myself for not having long lenses. Mar was especially excited watching the eagles. All of us assumed that the food that was thrown into the sea was either small shrimps or fish but to our surprised when Baqir asked they were chicken intestines, gizzards and the likes. To make it even more interesting the Captain told us the eagles would not take anything else but that. I guess they were forced initially to taste the chicken ‘leftovers’ and over time became their staple. Thinking about it I was worried for the future of the place. If by their activities they could change the eating habit of the eagles without they realizing it they could disrupt the whole ecology of the place. It was just an instant small reflection to me as I could not but enjoying the whole scene of the beautiful birds flying in the sky. I was shooting at will taking as much photos as possible. When I saw my family was really enjoying the experience I knew the value was more than what I had paid. We stayed at the place for a while to enjoy the whole things and when other boats started to join us we slowly left the area.
The Captain announced that we were going to see the friendliest sting ray on earth and swung the boat around to track back to the way we came from and turned right to what I initially thought a commercial caged fish farm. It was a fish farm indeed but it was intended as tourist attraction. Once we were on board of the platform automatically a young Malay guy came over to welcome us and to act as our dedicated guide to show us around. I straight away impressed by this. Not only because they have it right by making it proper with dedicated guide/spoke person for each group of tourists but the guides were also knowledgeable and know how to handle the tourists. We were taken around from cage to cage to be informed and educated about the fish that they have there. Due to the other groups already there we started with a spitting fish. We called it tiger fish because of the obvious stripe on their bodies. This was also the fish that we saw at the Awana Porto Malai harbour and boardwalk. Of course we did not know it then that they also jump and spit to the surface to get their food. The guide pinched a slice of bread into a small ball, wet it using the water and then stuck it on one of the pole next to the water. It was placed quite high above the water and the guide asked us to concentrate our sight at the piece of bread. We did not know what to expect and we were really surprised to see suddenly a spurt of water came hitting the bread and brought it down into the water for the fish to immediately pounced eating it. It was really amazing. The second time knowing what to expect we concentrated on both what happened in the water as well as the bread. The only sad thing about it because of the relatively low light there I could not catch it with my camera. The next thing that the guide did was to wet another piece of bread and stuck it at the tip of his finger and put it up about a foot over the water. As soon as he did that the tiger fish jumped out of the water to grab the bread from his finger. He invited my family to try it and not even Baqir dared to do it. What a chicken! It left to the hero of the house, me, to do it to prove it was not painful. So I took the wet bread stuck it on my finger and put it out even higher then the guide before. Amazingly the fish jumped even higher and stuck its soft teeth on my finger to make sure it did not miss anything before jumping back into the water. Had I wanted to catch it I just need to make a quick grab.
Once we were bored with spitting fish we moved on to the next cage where they have a barracuda, and two coral fish one of them being a midsize grouper. Nothing much to see or play with except the guide shared with us about the peculiarities of each fish. Then we moved on to the ‘friendliest stingray in the world’ to play with. Nobody dared to put their hands out to rub the belly and mount of the rays so I just did. It was soft and when its mouth touches you, you can feel like something nibbling at you. When we were done with that we continued our round and in the end decided to go back to the spitting fish to end our visit there. So what do I think about the place?
1. They need to find new fish or things to add to the attractions, and
2. Improve the ‘look and feel’ of place a bit. Not too much that you spoil the natural setting.
On the boat again our Captain took us into the mangrove and immediately I was somehow reminded of St Lawrence’s waterway. Amazing, as that was from my geography classes way back in 1977-78. Anyway it was a very nice feeling and I love the ride with mangrove close on both sides. We came to another cave and this one looks like and underpass and it was known as Crocodiles Cave. Obviously the belief was that the cave was used to be occupied by crocodiles. When asked our Captain told us he had not seen any in his life there. It has a small entrance where only one boat can pass though one at a time and once inside it has to either reverse or find a way to turn inside the cave. There were about three boats already waiting when we got there. Our Captain suggested we proceeded as it could be a long wait and he described what we would see inside the cave so that we can decide whether to wait or to continue. We decided to continue and he took us along the waterway. With the almost still water he drove the boat at a faster speed maneuvering corners expertly creating a very enjoyable motion for us, especially if you were to sit in front with the wind blowing on your face. The kids joke about us being drifting. To certain extent they were right we were drifting smoothly on the surface of the water. We really were having fun with the experience.
From a far I could already see the opening in between two high wall rock formation and I guessed we were going to go through that. I was right when a saw a boat came through from the opposite direction. From a far you thought it was too small for our boat but as we inched closer a frigate could pass through comfortably. When I look at it the first time the first thing that came to my mind was Jason and the Juggernaut movie. The scene when his ship was bout to pass through a tight space in between to high rock walls. Of course in that movie mythical water giant came out from the water to part the walls for his ship to pass through. Of course I did not expect the same to happen for us that day :)). But your imagination works overtime once you remembered something like that. Once we passed through we came to a wider body of water and I saw two boats there waiting. Once I saw the eagles in the sky I knew why. Not as many as before but still a good number on them in the sky. I took few shots and we left to the open water. Our Captain informed us that we were going to feed some fish in an open sea beside a small island. I though it was going to be a short ride there but it was not. The sea was a bit choppy and since we were riding forward against the wave we were jumping and hitting the water quite often. With the speed the boat was driven it was really a jumpy ride. Suddenly Mar was quite, very quite in fact, and moved to sit on the floor of the boat next to Baqir. Her face was almost blue of fright and I pitied looking at her. Since we were jumping on top of the waves, water splashing in at will and this made Mar even more scared. I was worried as well and it was a long ride out. Had I known what we were going to see I would have not ventured out there. Eventually we came to the small island where there supposed to be a lot of small beautiful fish to feed. But because of the sea condition it was not conducive for that and the Captain took us around to the other side of the small island that was shielded from the waves and there was another boat and a family snorkeling already. We joined them but we did not seem to see any fish. Our Captain started to take out a packed of crackers and crumbled some into the water. In a few minutes we could see a lot of small fish came swimming grabbing the crackers. It was just one type of fish so it was not that interesting. Nevertheless we fed them still and once in a while munched the crackers ourselves ha ha ha.
Sensing our boredom the Captain turned the boat around a drove slowly back but not through the route we came out. Since we were not riding against the waves it was a better ride. The Captain being mindful of Mar’s reaction before said we were going to do it slowly. So we were a bit relaxed. Looking beyond from our back the Captain told us that 10 minutes towards that direction would be Thai’s water. He started to share with us that it was not that far if we want to cross. However it was not as easy because Jabatan Laut via it’s radar at the top of one big island we saw as we came out would monitor all the boat movements in that area. However there is a black spot – during Suboh. So if you fancy crossing to Thailand by boat in Langkawi do it during suboh :). The Captain drove slowly out even more and I thought he was taking us to the border line but then turned inwards again towards several islands. By that time we saw a lot of other tourist boats like us around the area. We saw one boat beached at one of the island and the people were playing and swimming on the beach. This was one question our Captain asked us earlier on, did we sign up for swimming as well. Meaning he will take us to one of the nice secluded island for us to enjoy the beach. Maybe some other time I said as we did not have our gears with us. With the sea getting calmer between the islands our Captain sped towards one island on our right. I saw from far that there must me another cave to see as I could set jetty and walkway going up. When we arrived there we were told that it was Gua Cerita (direct translation being Story Cave ha ha ha. Actually it was translated as Cave of Legends) and we were the only ones there. Before we went ashore I asked the rest whether they wanted to do this and with a boisterous yes we climbed down to shore. The beach area was not too big but if you want to have a dip it would be pleasant enough. We lingered around reading the plaque to learn about the Gua Cerita story. The legend has it that the Gua Cerita was a place where the Sang Garuda hid the beautiful permaisuri and once in a while he would come to share his story. I could be getting this wrong but it was something like that. He he he actually what was written on the plaque was.
Mudah dimasuki dengan sampan dari Tanjung Rhu, gus ini dapat didaki melalui tangga kayu. Terdpat dongengan yang mengatakan Gua Cerita ini dikaitkan dengan peperangan burung garuda yang menakjubkan. Ia datang kesini kerana seornag puteri dari China telah diculik dan dijadikan tawanan. Dapat dibaca walaupun samara di dinding gua ini beberapa tulisan kuno yang dikatakan adalah rangkap-rangkap dari kitab suci al Quran’
There was an English translation of the above there but I do not wish to translate it here.
Satisfied with that and after few tourist photos shots we climbed the stairs into the Gua, It was not a deep cave but deep enough if you want to make it a home. Inside in one corner was a flat rock formation that resembles a bed. Giving greater myth to the idea of it being the bed for the Chinese princess. We did not explore the cave earnestly just enough to satisfy us that we were there. Of course being a cave I suspected there was/is, were/are already occupants. After I gave my salam we walked down to our boat. On the boat and on our way back I could sense that we were already at the tail end of the ride and I tried to squeeze more shots of the surrounding. The clear indication that we were almost at the end was when our Caption took us to the rock formation where the Kilim Geoforest Park was inscribed on the rocks for all to see as a signature. Obviously the route back in was a different route where all kinds of rock formation to be admired were displayed. They were all there for individuals to admire and form their own judgments as to what formation they are. To us without wanting to spend time thinking too hard decided on the obvious. Soon the inevitable arrived and we docked at the place we got on the boat.
It was almost 1 pm when we were on firm land once again. Due to the sea water we headed for the restrooms to clean up and do whatever we could do to our shabby appearances. Satisfied with that we parked ourselves at one of the warong to taste the local food. Not much different but good enough for everyone. Judging from the surrounding if it were not during tourist season the place would be almost empty saved for occasional group tours. One thing I like about the whole operation was it was mainly local. 45 minutes after we left the place.
I knew what to expect at Perdana Complex, Baqir had been here so he was also noncommittal about stopping there. But I thought just to be a decent and complete tourists we need to explore the place. I paid for the entrance fee and all of us walked in. As expected the whole complex was filled with all the gifts, tokens and mementos presented to Tun Mahatir by various guests to him while he was in office.. A major section of the complex also housed Tun’s old car collection. Other than that nothing else interesting there. We did the necessary tour and walked to our car for Padang Matsirat. Our first stop there was Atma Alam Batik Village where my personal objective was to source for good art piece. I did not find any to my taste but of course being there I further contributed to the economic being of Langkawi all the same. My wife and daughters took a bit of time browsing, selecting and finally agreeing to purchase. With my eye lids being pull down by a sheer unseen force I put my tired body down on the only comfortable chair there and dozed off. Knowing better they only woke me up when the time came for me to part with more of my RM. At least it was not stressful as I did it virtually courtesy of Mr Visa.
By then the day was really hot and sticky that we could not wait to go back to our hotel. But then on the way out I made a turn to the left at Padang Matsirat town to stop at Beras Terbakar bazaar. We have been to the place at least three times already so most of us did not have anything specific to do there except my dear wife who wanted to find unique new patterns for her batik lepas collection. At this rate not only I have to break the walls to make room for my arts collection but a small museum for my wife’s batik collections as well. With that I just passed the bazaar quickly with the others to make sure I did not miss anything and parked ourselves at one of the cafes outside. I could not resist the temptation so I had cendol, 100 plus and hot Nescafe tarik kurang manis at the same time. With that concoction I knew I was going to pay for it after our vacation. Closed to 1700 we left the place and straight away headed for the hotel.
Backed at the hotel I could not go to sleep and since Mar was pestering me to go to the pool ever since we were back at the hotel I relented. It was a short deep as I planned to start shopping for chocolates at Kuah that night.
Impulse buying prevailed for me again, RM300 worth of chocolates and around RM200 for the other stuff. Then deciding on the place for dinner was really a challenge where in the end we settled for the Medan Selera at the Kuah Jetty.
It was a beautiful night again at the hotel harbour but we were too tired to enjoy it too long.
You can few the photos of the second day by ckicking the nlinks below.