Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Langkawi: Day 3

Bright and early the next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel, got ready, and then headed out to the car rental place. I think it was called Tune or something, can't remember. We'd been there the day before, and the lady told us that if we came at 9am, we'd be able to get a car for the whole day at the special early bird price of RM65 (rather than the usual RM100 or something). Unfortunately, RM65 was the for the manual Kancil, which had already been taken, so we went for the RM85 auto Viva instead. We paid our deposit and got a briefing, they took note of the scratches and bumps already present on the little white car, and off we went.

Our first stop was Pantai Pasir Tengkorak. Timothy had been there with his cousins and told us it was beautiful -- even more so than the more touristy Pantai Cenang -- so I was quite excited to see it. The drive there was nice; the roads were gloriously empty and winding enough to keep you on your toes but not worry you. It was my first time driving a Viva, and I was pleasantly surprised by its engine power and easy manoeuvrability. We got stopped at a road block on the way there, but they just asked for my license and IC and where we were from, and sent us on our way. I guess if you had to pick a car to stop, it would be the rental car with three young whippersnappers in it.

So we arrived at Tengkorak, parked, paid the RM2 fee each, and headed to the sea. When I saw it, I stood still, gobsmacked. Timothy had been right: it was beautiful.

Look at how blue the sea is!

The beach was a good deal smaller than Pantai Cenang, and there weren't watersports stalls set up. You got the sense that it was less popular, but only because fewer people knew about it. Wading in the water were some locals, and that was how we knew the place was legit. I wandered around the small beach before even putting my stuff down or applying sunblock, gazing at the blue, blue sea and large rocks and perfect sand. Then I came to my senses and found a shady spot to get out my sunblock and sunnies to prevent damage from the evil UV rays.

Hashtag no filter.

As you may have gathered from my previous post, I am not a sunbathing person. After a while of lying in the shade and just basically enjoying being at the beach, I decided to get in the water. The waves here on the north coast were stronger and larger than at Pantai Cenang on the south coast, so it wasn't ideal for swimming. However, the water was so beautifully clear that it was impossible to resist, and I stayed in a lot longer than I normally would've given that I kept getting slapped in the face by salt water every time I came up for air. We took like ten thousand photos each and sunbathed and swam some more. A while later, a rowdy group of Chinese kids arrived and killed the peaceful island vibes by starting a very noisy game of tug-of-war, so we left.

Our next destination was Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells). The plan was to see the seven telagas, then hike up to see the top of the waterfall; according to some websites, it was a decent 45-minute hike up, so we came prepared with sports shoes and everything. The first order of business upon arriving was lunch, which we had at one of the gerais (stalls) there. After a short wait to allow for some digestion to take place, we began climbing the stairs to Telaga Tujuh.

Miley Cyrus - The Climb

It took longer than expected, but the never-ending flight of steps made me eager to see these wells. Some local legend went along the lines of Telaga Tujuh being so beautiful that fairies came to drink the water from them. However, in all honesty, it was a bit of a letdown. It was pretty enough, but I expected a lot more after all that hype and that climb. One thing I can say for it is that the water was amazingly, beautifully clear. Timothy wanted to drink it, but I reminded him that even Katniss had to sterilise her water with iodine in The Hunger Games.

I have no knowledge of photo composition whatsoever.

Six thousand photos later, we started on our hike. It was completely deserted, and the trail was worryingly difficult to see at times. It reminded Sze Li and me of Scouts' camp and prefects' camp respectively. All along the way, the other two kept wondering aloud why it was so dry -- if we were heading up to a waterfall, wouldn't there be water along the way? I'm somewhat nature-impaired, so I just shrugged and continued trudging on, not stopping to consider this oddity.

We were about half an hour into the trek when we came across an American guy and a bunch of Danish girls on their way down. The American guy had hiked all the way to the top of the waterfall only to find that there wasn't one -- it had dried up. He passed the message to the Danish girls who had been on their way up, who in turn passed the message on to us. It was all very international, and I'd just like to say how thankful I am for the English language. Feeling a little put out, we hiked back down to Telaga Tujuh, hung around there for a while, then headed back to the hotel with Timothy at the wheel.

Farewell, Telaga Tujuh!

Once we'd gotten showered and cleaned up, we headed back out, to Kuah this time. Our aim? Duty-free shopping. We bought the bulk of our stuff at a place called Zeno Duty Free, I think; it was the largest shop there, and the selection of liquor amazed me. However, I had a bit of a walk around that part of town looking for an ATM, and noticed other places had chocolates that Zeno didn't have, like Bounty and Milka, which I grabbed. (Incidentally, I recently saw Milka being sold at Jaya Grocer for, like, double the price that I'd gotten it for in Langkawi.)

We had to return the car by 9pm, so we had a quick, good ikan bakar (grilled fish) dinner at this restaurant/stall thing, and drove back to Pantai Cenang. At 9pm on the dot, we handed the keys over, feeling exhilarated and accomplished. We walked back to the hotel to drop off our stuff, and then began the Epic Quest for Babylon.

One of the bars we wanted to visit was Babylon Mat Lounge. From what I'd gathered from online reviews, it was this chill, hippie place where you sat on pieces of driftwood and listened to live music. It was supposed to be pretty near our hotel, but earlier, we had come across this sign:

Dang it.

It would be a bit of a walk, but we were prepared to do it. How often did we come to Langkawi, anyway? So we walked and we walked and we doubled back -- surely going down that creepy, dark road would be going the wrong way -- and then we doubled back again -- no, that had to be it -- and thought we found it but why wasn't there a sign and was there someone we could ask and-- Long story short, it ended up being a wild goose chase because Babylon was "No more" according to this guy we asked. Somewhat disgruntled, we headed off to Chiang Mai.

After a quick glance through the menu, I went to the bar to order for us. Chiang Mai guy remembered me! I can't remember what I had, but I know Sze Li got a pina colada and I tried some and it was delicious. (Then again, is there anything that has coconut milk in it that isn't delicious?) The two of us were alone for a bit because Timothy had (BEEN FEIGNING) diarrhoea. Sze Li and I were just sitting on our mats, sipping our cocktails and talking, and the next thing I knew, her face changed and I turned around to see Timothy grinning and walking over to us with a slice of cake.

"Happy birthday!"

The two of them had gotten me cake since it was the perfect opportunity to celebrate with just the three of us. I hadn't been expecting it at all, and had banished thoughts of my birthday from my mind since it was an A.L. (After Langkawi) thing, and I had been preoccupied with many B.L. (Before Langkawi) things. It was very sweet of them, and I was quite touched. (I had wondered why the two of them had seemed particularly interested in this cake store when we had been shopping along Jalan Pantai Cenang the day before.)

They were releasing a tanglung (lantern) at Chiang Mai.

We went back to the hotel after that because Sze Li was tired. The other two seemed ready to call it a night, but I didn't want to waste our last night in Langkawi, so I grabbed my stuff and headed out for a nighttime walk before either of them could stop me. It was, after all, something I would never get to do in crime-ridden KL, and Langkawi was supposed to be safe. So off I went.

I wandered around our hotel, then made my way out to Jalan Pantai Cenang. Knowing that left would take me to the beach, where I wasn't planning on going, I turned right instead, which was the way to the Laman Padi and the airport. (So many taxi drivers slowed to ask if I was wanting a taxi.) We'd driven past the Laman Padi on the way back from Kuah, and the lights were beautiful. I didn't end up getting there in the end, because there was this stretch of road that was dark, deserted, and a bit creepy, so I chickened out and doubled back. It looked like I'd be going to the beach after all.

Walking at night in Langkawi was so different from walking at night in KL. I mean, as someone who is constantly updated about the latest robberies and crimes and murders back home via social media or her well-meaning mother, I was definitely wary and on the alert for any creepy people. Although I was on guard, I also felt safe. There was a peaceful, sleepy feeling in the air as I passed by closed stores or stores that were in the process of closing; it felt a bit like Jalan Pantai Cenang was removing its makeup after a long day, ready for comfy PJs and an even comfier bed.

Walking along the beach at night is great. There's really nothing like it. I walked along the shoreline, letting the cool waves wash over my feet again and again. A little further down, I bumped into the owner of Chiang Mai, who was fishing with some friends; he'd recognised me before I him since he was shining a torchlight at me. I think he said something to me in Malay, and I was surprised he spoke the language. I asked what they were doing; he showed me a small crab he was disentangling from the net, and I remembered that Chiang Mai did barbecue as well. After chatting for a bit, I continued on my way.

It wasn't actually this dark. Can you just see the green lights?

I walked to the far edge of the beach, doubled back a bit and sat in the sand, staring at the sea. I could see Chiang Mai guy and his friends in the water, bringing the net further out. The sea and sky were a greyish black, but there were these weird dots of green light in the distance. I wondered what they were. I sat and I thought and I stared at nothing, and it was so nice just being alone. Sze Li and Timothy are great, and I appreciate that our friendship is such that we're able to sit in silence without feeling uncomfortable, but I most enjoy silence that isn't shared.

After a while of being a selfish silence sort of person, I got up and waded out into the sea. For a while, I just stood there, staring at the endless grey expanse before me. The sea at night looks very, very scary. It's a different sort of infinite than it is in the day -- like hell and heaven, I thought. To my sense of touch, though, nothing was wrong -- it was the same feel of sand between my toes, the same cool sensation as the water lapped at my feet. It felt a bit strange to stand there and have peace and anxiety battle it out inside of me.

After a while, I figured I should start heading back. The walk back to the hotel was uneventful and I met no one (apart from another guy walking on the street). I got back to our room and let myself in quietly as the other two were already asleep. After a shower, I hopped into bed. It was about 3am by this time, and I was very glad that we would be able to sleep in a little the next morning.

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