2.3.2017 Langkawi is like the 60’s……

….if you remember it, you weren’t there….

Have to admit that writing up yesterday, today and tomorrow has been a challenge. Photos were required to jog memories whilst we desperately tried to remember what exactly did go on in Langkawi!

Suffice to say we made some wonderful friends at Crowded House, and, as is usual with our friends most of them drank, some a lot, so we were happy to have a few days of hedonistic fun and let our hair down…. apologies Guy.

Today was BBQ day, our hosts, Tommy and Lisa, with help from Kevin, had promised a Crowded House BBQ, starting at 8pm. We only needed to provide booze which isn’t a problem on a duty free island.

It was really exciting to have that expectation of a night out (even if it was technically a night in), we get so used to having no plans at all that knowing you have a night with friends ahead of you is a feeling I have missed.

Breakfast was Nasi Landor, curry and rice. We chose as many different dishes as we could to fit on our plates. They were all delicious. I have lost the memory of what they were individually.

Then onto duty free, we wanted to do cocktails, so decided on Bacardi, pineapple juice and mango with Sprite (bought coconut milk but it curdled unattractively). Guy carried the beer home and got a few looks…..!

We needed to get back to the hostel to get maximum time for chilling the beer after warming it up to 35 degrees. Also fridge space was at a premium so we needed to fill it before the Swedish did šŸ˜.

We saw a token toucan on the way home. They do not look real. We wanted a Guinness.

So we had time before the party and decided to go to the pool in the next hotel which we had free use of. Already in the sun loungers and with a beer/cider/coke zero in hand are our new Swedish friends Dogge, Cecelia, Jonas and Helen. We named them Abba, it was easier.

The next few hours were spent relaxing by the pool, maybe having a beer, and watching 2 people have their Padi diving lesson in the pool. 

As today was my Dad’s birthday we were booked in for a birthday call, so had to make sure we hadn’t drunk too much before we were due to call at 5.30. We managed to pull it off, we thought, although when he reads this he will know!!!

The rest of the night was a haze of beer, cocktails, wonderful foods – fish, kebabs, prawns, chips, dips and sauces which Lisa and Tommy had spent ages preparing, and brought out one after the other. 

Before long the table was strewn with empty bottles, cans and skewers. It was a fabulous, entertaining evening that went well into the night.

Music was provided, which we all sang along to enthusiastically. Many stories were told, most forgotten.

If any of our new friends are reading, it is the best night out we have had in the past 6 months of travelling, we love you all!!!!

1.3.2017 Langkawi – Meet the Swedes

After last night’s expensive meal we needed to save some money so had a laksa and mee from a street stall, this is one of the few times I haven’t really liked the food but as it cost less than 80p for the soup I wasn’t too upset. The laksa was really fishy, too much for me. 

Luckily round the corner was an Indian place selling fried snacks which were delicious.

We just finish them before we spotted a French cake shop so stopped there as well. 3 meals and barely a vegetable to be seen!!!!! They were exceedingly good almandine and mine was a liqueur soaked mocha cake. Best ever.

Not much got done today, heat and humidity are tiring, we chatted to more people at the hostel and polished up our conversational skills.

Dinner was at another street stall, our German hostel neighbours sat at the next table……What a coincidence! It was cheap and cheerful food, noodles and vegetables (at last).

We completed our tour of an Irish bar in each country we have visited by visiting Debbie’s Place (John, is Debbie moonlighting???). Can of tiger isn’t quite the same as a Guinness from the tap, but we coped.

Got back to ours and the party was in full swing, we met the Swedish contingent, along with the French owners. Other nations arrived later. We sat down and carried on practising our conversational skills, mine ran out much earlier than Guys!

28.2.2017 Langkawi

This is our first day exploring the large Malaysian holiday island of Langkawi, it has been a tourist destination for many years now so we had high expectations.

First though, breakfast. At a really good restaurant around the corner from our hostel, Fat Cupid, we only went in to check the menu but ended up staying as it looked so good. It was relaxed, with white decor and had a pool, very us!

Guy had nasi lemak, classic Malay dish of rice, curry and bits, bits included peanuts, smoked dried fish and a fermented fish and chilli paste.

I had kaya (Malay coconut jam) on toast with boiled eggs. The kaya was bright green and tasted like a sweet curd.

We then inspected the local beaches, they were as stunning as the brochures claimed, clear blue water and white sands.

A sweaty walk into town and we saw the next beach and checked out that one as well. Pristine. 

It is a weird set up here in that the beach is away from the street, encouraging you to shop rather than admire the view, which considering this is a duty-free island, could be the point.

We admired the view of the main street more.

Back at Crowded House hostel, we have a balcony for each section of the hostel, meaning you get to share it with whoever is close by. This means you actually get to meet people and talk to them, something which hasn’t happened much on this trip – in this age of smart phones and kindles.

The balconies look across a field, watching the cows grazing, herons grooming them and our fellow travellers return from their day. We have a beer or two and chat to a Swedish guy, Jonas. 

For evening food we walk to Jasmin restaurant, a Syrian food place. The food is western prices and not amazing, but it is nice to have lamb, hummous and fresh nan bread.

It is 10.30 and Jonas has met other Swedes and they have a great time chatting til the early hours, we retire early making the most of some sleep…..

You never know when you will sleep again in Langkawi…..

27.2.2017 Ko Mok to Ko Lipe, Koh Lipi, Koh Lipeh… whatever…. To LangkawiĀ 

The problem with reality is it just isn’t as good as fantasy.

We had paid a small fortune (Ā£120) to travel by speed boat from Koh Mok to Langkawi, this involved 2 speed boats with a 3 hour break in between boats which gave us time for the international border crossing and for that we gain an extra hour in our lives. As we had paid a lot we had visions of James Bond type boats quickly and efficiently getting us to where we wanted and arriving in Malaysia after a days travelling with flashpacker freshness. 

We ordered breakfast (which was also going to be lunch) of one last Pad Thai and iced coffee. There were no noodles in the kitchen so we had stir fried rice, bland until we doused it in chilli, which had the unfortunate effect of reminding our stomachs of last night’s spicy yellow curry. Still we had a couple of hours to clear our stomachs before speed boat relay started.

We waited near the beach for the boat to arrive. It was supposed to arrive at 11.20. 11.20 came and went, 11.45 too, by 12.00 we were concerned. A few phone calls later and it was confirmed it would be here at 12.20. It arrived at 12.30. We still had a 2 hour turnaround so were unpurturbed at this slight delay.

Getting on the boat everyone seemed quite quiet and sober. Wierd, but then I though they are probably all on their way home so I could understand that. Not many backpackers would pay this price for the journey.

We had 30 mins to go to the next island to pick up more passengers, the speed boat bounced along the waves, lurching in that irregular fashion they do. Hummmm……I remembered the afternoon rains the past couple of days, that were accompanied by a slight breeze, which had been cooling on the beach. Maybe we would avoid them?

Pick up done and we were settled in seats across the aisle near the back of the boat. Bags piled up at the back of the boat. Plenty more tourists at the back of the boat.

The speedboat bounced along the waves, still juddering in its usual fashion. Clouds were gathering, blue skies were replaced by plump, grey clouds. People were looking around nervously, the boat started to bounce more, we were both thinking this is ok, nothing is as bad as the ferry to Taiwan. No Chinese are on board so we should avoid copious vomiting and over flowing sick bags.

Then the wind picked up and the waves started to lash through the back half of the boat, within 10 mins we were drenched right through our skimpy outfits, having dressed for 35 degree heat, not a water park ride. Salt water stung our eyes, hands and feet wrinkled like we had been in a hot bath for an hour. 

Our fellow passengers in the front half, or shall we call it the dry half of the boat, all looked on amused and took photos whilst we at the back end of the boat, got a through brining. It was funny, you put on a brave face and laughed, we only had another hour and we should be there.

Looking to the back of the boat, the bags were drenched in sea water, which if you have a fancy Dry Sac like Guy is fine. If you have a 18 year old canvas bag with everything in plastic bags you begin to wonder if the bags are big enough to ensure nothing gets wet. Nothing you can do about it now though. Just soak up the spray and keep smiling at the cameras.

The boat bounced along, buffered by the increasing winds, the crew had the look of Thai drug runners, all about 18 years old and laughing at the farang getting scared and soaked. 

About 2 hours into the journey it was clear we were no where near our destination. We did a mid sea transfer of more farang on and off the boat, the clean, dry Russian and Chinese tourist came on and sat at the back of the boat.

Just when you think it can’t get any worse, the heavens opened, the rain intensified and the thunder and lightning began. The temperature dropped, I was shaking, and just a fleeting thought of a warm, centrally heated office in Redditch passed through my head. 

Chinese tourists filled sick bags, Russians braved it and laughed along, even the lasses false eyelashes didn’t bat an eyelid. Stereotypes are created for a reason.

Another hour of this and we eventually arrive in Koh Lipi a full 10 mins before we our next ferry leaves. The Thai drug runners shout ‘Langkawi, Langkawi’ and us and another couple are bundled off the boat, through the thigh high warm waters (bliss) dragging my salt water drenched rucksack and hand luggage up the sandy beach to immigration. My passport is drenched, I am drenched, I have never been through passport control looking like a drowned rat, but we get through, only partially able to fill out the departure cards as we are shaking from the cold so much.  

Next boat takes us and our passports, separately, to the ferry, which has waited for us to arrive. We have a brief bit of heat before getting shepherded into a cold, air conditioned cabin. Just what I needed when soaked to the skin.

Immigration is the oddest yet, an elderly Malaysian is clutching about 30 passports. He shouts out the nationality of the passport and somehow this matches the owner, usually. We get ours near the end of this lottery, the last one isn’t even announced, it is given to the person remaining. He does check ‘Has everyone got a passport?’. I am not sure if it matters if it is the right one…… he has done his job and retires.

My teeth are chattering, body shaking, Guy lends me his shirt, I pull it on, it is soaking in seconds. We watch a Steven Siegal movie. It is a long trip, not bouncy, just long and air conditioned.

Finally, at 18.45 Malaysian time, we are in Langkawi, the sun is still out, just and we emerge into the sun shine. Bliss. Then onto the air conditioned immigration hall. Cold. The customs woman is bemused at both my passport and my appearance. I explain it was soaked on the ferry. 

The customs guy is checking everyone’s rucksacks, I put mine on the desk with a loud squelch. He touches it, prods it, says it wet, I concur. He says he doesn’t want to check it. Result!

Guys Dry Sac is checked. Ha ha!

We finally get to the outside warmth of the ferry terminal and an ATM. We have been offered 40 Ringitt for our taxi to Cenang Tengang (Ā£8), seems steep. Move on and the next guy says 38 Ringitt (50p) saving, not quite what I was expecting. Once he realises we are not going to hire a car or scooter from him (why would we, do we have a death wish???) he lets us go to the taxi queue and get a taxi for 30 Ringitt. Odd procedure, but we get the price we wanted.

Taxi driver asks if we want air con, we shiver and gasp No, and he opens the windows to the warm, evening breeze and we try not to drip or soak our salt water into his spotless upholstery. 

We have an enthusiastic welcome from our French host at The Crowded House guesthouse, get our room, I unceremoniously dump everything out of my back onto the clean, new white tiled floor. Each corner of each plastic bag failed to prevent sogginess. I get some soggy trousers and a matching soggy top out of the bag, hope they dry as we step out for something to eat.

Just as we step out the heavens opened, again!!! I am thinking, if I get wet, at least it is rain that can wash off the sea water. Guy who is dry, is not keen on a rain shower. 

Our host waves 2 umbrellas at us, bless him, and we trudge off to Fat Mums for a huge bowl of delicous, soothing laksa, and a less exciting beef rendang.

Obviously this is all my view of the day, to report back from Guy the best part of today was realising Malaysia had same plugs as UK….. English colonialistion has its advantages. He was so thrilled he made the comment ‘it is just as Phil Collins nearly sang, No Adapter Required’ …..(one for Di there xx)

4 Feb – Georgetown, Malaysia to Ko Lanta, Thailand

Up at 7am for our 8.30 bus to Ko Lanta. The company had told us to be in reception at 8am so we grabbed curry and roti for breakfast and checked out. At 8.30 we asked the receptionist to call the number on the bus ticket which she kindly did after charging us. The person on the line said not to worry it was on its way. We had been in this situation before and knew that the buses tour around the hotels picking up passengers and concluded that we were probably the last pickup. We waited and watched Mrs Overall slowly fulfill her duties. At 9.45 the bus arrived. It was empty. We were the first pickup. Thankfully we only had to pick up two Paraguayans and we left. The driver spent no time trying to make up for his lie in and we hurtled towards the Thai border. We changed buses in Hat Yai and again in a car park somewhere for the final leg to our island paradise. We also had two short ferries and we chatted excitedly to our fellow passengers. An Italian couple and an elderly German bloke with a beautiful Thai girl.

The beautiful slim Thai girl in the figure hugging grey dress is and or was a man. I guess its where you drawn the line or where the surgeon draws the knife.

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We were dropped off at the backpacker zone and just like our friends from Nazareth were turned away from many many inns. The sun had dropped and after a slight foot stompy tantrum (me), we got the last room at Dreamy Casa run by a very helpful Italian guy who recommended a restaurant for tea. We headed straight there and shared a seafood green curry and a Tom Ga which was one of the best things we’ve eaten. Sweet and sour coconut fragrant soup. Bloody delicious! We had a beer in a bar far cooler than either of us run by a rasta whose dreads reached his calves and turned in.

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3 Feb – last day in Georgetown, Malaysia

Writing this up with hindsight, today was an odd day. It started well with a free breakfast in the modern cafe underneath the hotel. Noodles for me and curry and roti for Al. We had deluded ourselves that the trip wasn’t just about food so we should do a bit of tourism, so we headed to the bus station to get the number 10 to the botanical gardens.

We dodged the local wiseman who was shouting at the pigeons and found our bus stop. Patiently waiting, we watched a woman chain smoke and twitch her head round every 10 seconds. A slo-mo exorcist. Buses came and went but not the number 10. After an hour we gave up and decided to refocus on food, but first we needed to do a bit of admin. Tomorrow we intended to catch the ferry to the island of Langkawi so we thought we’d get prepared and check the port and buy a ticket. The office informed us that both the ferries were full. “Very unusual, because of Chinese New Year” Oh dear. Plans need to change.

Next to our hotel we had noticed a chinese restaurant serving suckling pig and having failed to get it in Hong Kong and Macau we decided to head there and over a feast of roast pig discuss what we should do next. The restaurant had a table which was a good start as the night before we had been turned away. We were seated and given hot towels, jasmine tea and nuts. We perused the menu and chose suckling pig and roast duck, nothing else appealed. The waiter informed us there was no roast meat. We paid for the towels,tea and nuts and left.

Next door was the cafe where we’d had breakfast and on their menu was a charcoal burger, not cooked over charcoal, but where the bun contained charcoal and was black. As this was unique and close we thought it would be a quick interesting option. Our waiter from breakfast greeted us with a big smile but when we ordered he told us they had no bread at all. “Delivery in two days.” We thanked him and left.

By now we realised things weren’t quite flowing smoothly so it was time to book a bus ticket out. A travel agent told us it wasn’t an auspicious day. We agreed.

We bought a bus ticket for 8.30am the next day to Ko Lanta, an east coast Thai island and finally headed for lunch. Char Kway Teow for me and Mee Goreng for Al.

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We found a street sign for salvation too, but we haven’t tried it yet.

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After a siesta, my sore throat called for honey and lemon tea which was accompanied by a soothing cappuccino cake.

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This raised the appetite so for our last Penang meal we headed for a guardian recommendation of a hawker stall of Char Kway Teow (fried noodles) and also wanton noodle soup. Both were delicious.

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As we were passing and as we are both hopelessly nostalgic, we couldn’t help but have a cold tiger in an iced glass back at Hong Chow, the hotel we had stayed in 15 years ago. The menu and the decoration hasn’t changed and it felt comforting.

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2 February – More Penang food…..

We made the most of our posh hotel room and checked out at 11, and walked 50m in sweltering hot heat to our next hotel, we were both sweaty after that!

A day of food awaited us, so to walk off some calories we wandered down the esplanade, which in usual towns is something lovely, however the part we stared at was not that scenic, overlooking the container ships, we had to dodge the unsecured, uneven concrete pavement, deep smelly drains, and general rubbish that was in our way.  Thankfully we got to the nice bit without any injuries, and saw some tourist sites, see below!

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Obviously, after that short stroll, it was time for more food, and what better than tandoori chicken and naan from Restaurant Kapitan ….oooooh, it was delicious. It was full of locals, some of whom looked a little worse for wear after a heavy Saturday night, which was comforting!

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Today was the day for all the Chinese new year celebrations in Penang, loads of roads had been blocked off, several stages set up for folk stories, dancing and other Chinese NY celebrations.

We did see some massages going on, using meat cleavers!
*please don’t try this at home*

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There wasn’t much else happening so we wandered back to our hotel, stopping at the Chinese hotel we stayed at 15 years ago for an ice cold beer and a reminisce. And watched a couple of pretty feral travellers request a room there , they went to view it, came down and walked out! Our standards must have been pretty low last time!

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We thought we would go and see what was happening for the celebrations, so made it to the closed off area and found it absolutely rammed with Chinese, and other revellers. When you went past the stages they were screaming Chinese into the microphones which was enough to send you deaf! It was so congested, and there were no beer stalls, that we decided to decamp to a bar and take time out!

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Had a couple of beers talking to a New Zealand traveller, who is off to South America next month. 

Guy wasn’t feeling 100%, we are not sure if it is malaria, avian flu,  viles disease or just a slight cough, so we decided to call it a day and walked down the road to our hotel. It must have been about 8pm, and there were some very ‘made up ladies’, obviously feeling the heat as they were scantily dressed, waiting around for a lift or a friend to pick them up for the night, I assume to go home, who knows! They didn’t hassle Guy, so that was good! (Some of them had very masculine features.)

We went for another Indian restaurant for another tandoori chicken for Guy and vegetable murtabak for me!

Guy felt up to watching Liverpool vs baggies, then we had a restless nights sleep due to the karaoke bar across the street which went on til 3am!

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