November 16-20, 2004 -- After a quick overnight passage from Penang we arrived safely in Langkawi. It reminds me a little of the WhitSunday Islands in Australia. The water is a lovely greenish gray color from the limestone hills. There are load of other yachties here in Langkawi. From what I hear, some people spend years cruising up and down the coast of Thailand and Malaysia because it has some beautiful cruising destinations and it is relatively cheap. Just as you come into the main bay next to the town of Kuah, you can see a large statue of an eagle perched over the water. Langkawi actually means strong eagle. And it is easy to see why the locals named the island so; there are eagles flying around everywhere!
David and I have gone into town for a bit of exploring. Even though this is quite the tourist destination, there is not much to speak of here. Supposedly everything here is duty free. I think that we have found that to actually mean more expensive. We found a lovely little beach on the other side of the island. It was dotted with little chalets for vacationers. Asides from exploring though our main mission has been laundry. The marina we have been staying at is pretty nice. It has a pool and a great little restaurant. There are signs all over saying look out for the wildlife. We have manage to see monkeys and lizards and sea otters. The marina does not have laundry facilities, so for the past 2 days David and I have been washing everything by hand -- bedding, underwear … you name it, we have washed it. Thank goodness for the next few days we will not have pruny hands. We are going to be heading out for a little tour of island.
Catch ya later!
November 22-23, 2004 --
We managed to squeeze in a tour of Langkawi Island over the past 2 days. There was a lot to pack in! We hired a car and driver for the day who took us to many of the tourist hot spots. We started out at the Langkawi Bird Paradise. They had an amazing variety of tropical birds: cockatoos, hornbills, pelicans, flamingos, eagles … The parrots were amazingly loud, squawking and screeching for attention. There are eagles everywhere in Langkawi. In the evening, they swoop right over the boat and then dive into the water for fish. We had the chance to hold the eagles at the Bird Paradise. Very cool! You stare at them and they stare right back at you. If you look at David’s picture with the eagle you might even spot a bead of sweat rolling down his face.
From there we headed deeper inland and discovered neat rows of rubber trees. We stopped by the side of the road and checked out a small farm. The workers would come to trees every day and shave back part of the bark so that the white sap would run out and into a container. According to our guide, the sap from Langkawi rubber trees is of very good quality and is used to manufacture condoms and latex gloves.
Our next stop was the Perdana museum. Malaysia’s prime minister has been in power for at least 20-30 years. He used this museum to display the many gifts that foreign dignitaries would give to Malaysia. You name it, they had it. There was woodwork, statues, paintings, jewelry, stained glass, musical instruments, clothing, cigars, saddles, cars, and motorcycles. One of the most beautiful things there was the ceiling! It was decorated in Middle Eastern style with multiple colors, gold lame, arches, lanterns, and windows. Check out the photo! My other favorite gift at the museum was a colorful painting given by the country of Nambia called “The Dance. ” One of the funniest gifts was from the USA -- a carved peach! Now what do you make of that?
The Cable Car ride was next on our list of places to go. It has only been up and running for the past 2 years. It rises to 700 meters above sea level. As you go up in the car, the incline is amazingly steep. The trick is just not to look down!! I think that my ears must have popped at least 10 times on the way up. And the view is absolutely spectacular. At the top of the mountain viewing stations had been built for a great 360 degree view. They were even building a suspension bridge between 2 of the mountain peaks. You can see all of Langkawi -- islands, beaches, towns, and ocean. The hills are jagged and look like teeth that have been covered by dense green jungle. The ocean is a deep aqua blue which is dotted by many ant sized sailboats. We could see so many places that we want to go explore by boat -- private little coves, white sand beaches, calm bays … I think that of all the cable car trips that we have done on this trip so far, this has been my favorite.
From the Cable Cars we headed over to the Seven Wells. Langkawi has a bountiful supply of fresh water. We had heard that the Seven Wells was a “must-see” because of the natural waterslides there. But getting to the wells was an aerobic adventure! We must have climbed up half of the mountainside. I think that there must have been well over 400 steps to the top. Along the way small monkeys would dart from tree to tree. If only I had the same amount of energy. I must have stopped a couple of times to catch my breath on the way to the top. Thankfully, we were rewarded by the amazingly refreshing springs at the top of a waterfall. The water had formed a natural waterslide in the rocks, so David and I jumped in and slid down the mountain side! Yahoo! All along the waterfall people were swimming and sliding and having fun. It was a great way to finish up the day. We were going to see the movie set where the movie “Anna & the King” was filmed. Unfortunately it was closed for renovations. So we headed back to the Marina and planned for our second day of touring.
Day 2 of touring we headed for the Mahsuri memorial. Mahsuri was an princess on the island of Langkawi over 200 years ago. She was put to death over false accusations of adultery. According to legend, she cursed the island of Langkawi for the next 7 generations. A few months after her death, the island of Langkawi was invaded by the Siamese. Around her burial site a whole park and tour has been created with a re-enactment of the story and a museum with the “alleged” knife that killed Mahsuri. Her tomb is only marked by 2 white stones sticking up out of the ground.
Our guide took us to a small medicine shop next where they processed sea cucumber. Next to the shop was their very primitive “lab”: a large cauldron with a black, bubbling, and gooey soup, of sorts. Dave was even brave enough to put his fingers into the mixture. Supposedly, sea cucumber is good for the post-partum period, aches & pains, and insect bites. The shop even sold their own version of Viagra made from a local root. Seems like medical concerns are the same wherever you go in the world.
The next stop was at the Snake Sanctuary. To get into the park, you entered through the large cement jaws of a rattlesnake. To be perfectly honest, snakes are not my favorite animal. But somehow over the course of our visit I ended up with an albino python draped around my shoulders. It still makes me shiver to think about it! I may be smiling in the picture, but don’t be fooled! The park itself was a sad little place -- very under-funded, few animals, bad caging … etc. In one area, one of the snake keeper’s had even left out his keys to the snake cages! David try to enlist my help in freeing the snakes. But I think that we will have to leave that for another time!
We finished up our tour for the day at the Rice Museum. You could walk right through the rice paddies. The paddies are flooded with water and there are even little fish and snails that live symbiotically with the rice plants. We learned that there are many different varieties of rice, how rice is harvested and processed. David even made friends with the local scarecrow.
Now we are fixing up the boat for our departure from the marina. We are planning on cruising around many of the little islands and beaches here in Langkawi. Finally, I will be able to jump right into the water from the boat. I think that we will be in Langkawi for at least another 2 weeks and then we will start heading up towards Thailand.
November 25, 2004 -- Happy Thanksgiving from hot and humid Langkawi!! What a difference a year makes! Just 12 months ago I was in Kentucky enjoying a chilly holiday with friends around a turkey, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. This time around the temperature was a hot 91°, we sit around in our swim suits, and we eat fruit salad. It’s not quite Thanksgiving as I remember it! I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Thanks to all those who wrote!
November 26-29, 2004 -- We left the marina this afternoon for a bit of water exploration around the islands of Langkawi. All together, Langkawi has 104 islands to explore with many little coves and beaches. As we sailed out of the Marina, the Raja Muda Regatta was starting up. About 30 racing boats had sailed in from Port Klang to join in the festivities a day earlier. The bar was choked full of people. Large buoys were being set up in the bay for category races. Everyone was really excited.
We even had to help one of the racing boats get out of the marina when their engines suddenly died. They kept trying to hoist their sails in an effort to power themselves out of the marina. Unfortunately, the wind kept pushing them right into the breakwater and the side of their very expensive boat got banged time and time again. David and Dave jumped into our dinghy and gave them a tow out to the bay. I wouldn’t exactly place my bets on that boat winning! We sailed right through a large group of racers as they were practicing their moves. Racing boats are quite a sight to see. They hoist up beautiful multi-colored spinnaker sails. They zip all over the place. You can see the crew members rushing from one side of the boat to the other to balance the boat’s heeling from the wind. Racing look likes a lot of fun!
Once we made our way out of the racing lanes, we headed for our first anchorage off of Telga Beach. It was a great spot to stop and enjoy the view. The water was beautiful. David and I got out the windsurfer and I received some further instruction -- how not to fall down. I know that it sounds silly, but I have this weird fear that some little fish is going to come over and nibble on my toes. I must have fallen into the water a dozen times, only to scramble right back up onto the windsurf board. Slowly, but surely I am getting the hang of it, as you can see by the photos. I am learning to lean back and trust that the wind in the sail will hold me up.
One of the nice things about being on a boat is jumping into the water. It has almost become our morning ritual now that we are out in beautiful water. Everyone throws on their swimsuit and heads for the bow of the boat. From the bow we jump into the lovely warm water and cool off. Sometimes it can become a bit of a game or a tussle -- who can jump the farthest or the highest or the funniest. So who do you think that the best jump? It can get so hot here during the day and we do not have an AC on the boat. The water is a heaven sent refreshment! We have also discovered the joys of a bag of ice. Since we are near to the shore, we can pop into one of the restaurants or bars and buy some ice off of them. Then it is back to the boat for ice cold cokes, iced tea, and sucking ice cubes. Ah, the simple pleasures in life!!
We spent 2 days at Telga Beach and then headed for our next anchorage -- Kok Beach. This is another lovely little beach with a lighthouse and a fantastic view of the mountains and chairlifts. There must be at least a dozen other cruising boats who have chosen this beach for their anchorage. There are boats here from South Africa, Brazil, USA, England, Australia,
and Germany. Right on the beach is the Summer Palace which was one of the sets for the movie Anna and the King. David and I went to check it out, but it was still closed and from what we could see quite run-down. The lighthouse was quite nice and gave a lovely view of the anchorage. The only thing was that the main entrance was locked up, so David and I had to enter by a broken out window (shhh, don’t tell). There is a little marina hidden behind the beach that David and I checked out. We discovered that one of the boats there was an old British coast guard vessel that had been renovated and then motored all the way to Malaysia!! Pretty Wild!!
It is always so interesting to meet people from different places and hear the stories of their lives. We have met shark hunters, miners, travel agents, teachers,
and musicians. Everyone in the cruising community has some amazing stories to tell. For example, one of our South African friends used to mine for diamonds in the ocean for De Beers. Other people that we have meet from Switzerland
are making their fourth trip around the world by boat. They work for a few years and then sail for a few years. One gentleman from Denmark is making his way around the world single-handed. He is a professional clarinetist and gives music lessons & concerts on the clarinet. However, that did not keep him from getting drunk and lost in the dark one night, only to bump into Exit Only with his dinghy and ask if we had seen his boat!! Lots of characters out there. Maybe I will be the next one! <smile>
December 1-3, 2004 -- We set off from Telaga Harbor for a couple of different anchorages around Langkawi. The weather has been beautiful for sailing -- warm and sunny with a light breeze. At our last anchorage there must have a been at least 15 boats all within the same little inlet. So it has been quite a nice change to get back out into open waters. We came up on a nice little island and thought that we would put the anchor down. The minute our Buegel anchor had hit the bottom, it seemed that we were surrounded by small fishing boats taking their lunch break as we were. We got a few friendly waves from the fisherman, but no offers for fish. My theory is that they smelled Donna’s delicious cooking and decided to come over an investigate.
After finishing up with our lunch, we headed off to a more isolated anchorage. On our way there, we came across a large fishing fleet. The boats were about 40-50 feet in length with crawl-space-like living quarters stacked high. As we started to sail by we watched as the fishermen started to cast their large nets into the water. So instead of sailing off, we decided to stick around and watch the entire process. They must have thought it odd to see our sailboat making large and lazy circles around their nets. Slowly, they made a large circle with their net and began to draw it in. As they did, you could hear the fishermen singing and encouraging one another. It must have taken at least a good 30-40 minutes for the fishermen to get the net near to the boat. We could see small silvery fish jumping this way and that, trying to make their escape. They would scoop up a large bucket of fish from the nets and then dump it onto the deck of the boat. We could hear whoops of joy, so they must have been pretty happy with their catch for that day.
We stopped as Besar Island for our evening anchorage. We had a quiet little bay all to ourselves. The island had a small little beach that was surrounded by dense jungle. If you looked at other parts of the island, it almost seemed like the dark green jungle rose right out of the sea. There was coral just off the small beach, so David and I grabbed our snorkel gear and jumped into the water for a little exploration. Unfortunately, the coral was not in good shape. The sandy bottom was littered with small shells. Occasionally, we would see small and colorful fish dart by. On some of the large bommies large purple sea urchins looked rather threatening. Since there was not much to see we called it a day for snorkeling. As we looked into the beach that evening, we managed to spot everything from a huge monitor (iguana-like) lizard, to a wild boar, and scavenging monkeys. At night-time it really did feel like we were in the middle of the jungle. We could hear the monkeys chattering in the trees, the birds would chirp and whistle and caw, the cicadas droning endlessly, and the undergrowth could be heard rustling across the water. We managed to distract ourselves from the noises with a good movie and a large bowl of popcorn.
The next day we left for our next anchorage at Bunting Island. The island is made of limestone which rises out of the water in large cliffs. It almost looks like God took his finger and poked up the ground that was under the sea. Dark green jungle and overgrowth hangs precariously from the cliffs. At the base of the cliffs there are caves which have been carved out by the pounding of the ocean. This particular island is famous for its large freshwater lake that is only separated from the ocean by a narrow limestone wall. There are many legends about the lake. According to one story, the Japanese wanted to blow the wall away and drain the lake after a soldier disappeared into the lake. Another story tells of a childless couple who after 19 years of unsuccessful effort had a child after drinking from the lake. Thus the lake has come to be name Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. Legend also has it that the lake is inhabited by a large white crocodile. Many tourists are shuttled here by speedboat for a swim in the lake and a bit of adventure.
When David and I went in to investigate what we found was quite different. One of the sailors we had met in Singapore has been to this part of the world many times and told us about an alternate entrance to the lake that was far away from the tourists. We dinghied over to the landing point and discovered an old and broken down staircase along the rock face. So it was up, up, and away as we scaled the rock wall for about 30 feet. As we reached the top of the wall, we could see the lake just beyond us with many Japanese tourists in paddleboats. I heard a rustling in the trees and when we looked up, there was a large black monkey with white rings around its eyes hanging in the trees. It stared at us for a few seconds and then swung off for the tree tops. As we made our way down to the lake, we found that there would be no way to get to the tourist dock asides from swimming. David saw an old canoe that was floating 20 feet from us and brought it over. We could be intrepid adventurers and canoe across the lake! What we discovered was a hole the canoe and large hairy spiders living in the interior. The thought of making our way across the lake in a leaking canoe with large spider did not exactly fill me with confidence, but David assured me that he would not let me fall into the water. So we headed off with a stick for an oar and left the monkeys behind us. Ever so slowly the canoe began to fill with more murky water, so we paddled a little harder. We didn’t want to sit in the canoe because of the spiders, so the ride was a little topsy-turvy. Thankfully, we made our way across the lake in good time and we thanked profusely by the paddleboat vendor for the return of his canoe.
The following day we set out again for another anchorage around Bunting Island. There are limestone outcroppings, cliffs, and caves everywhere that are interspersed with small beaches and rocky coves. The water is a gorgeous emerald green that is as smooth as glass. It really is quite beautiful! As you go along, you might be lucky enough to see an eagle circling high in the sky and then dive for some fish. Along the beach, monkeys play in the water. Occasionally, you can see a lizard or snake making its way from island to island. I don’t think that I am in Kentucky anymore!!