Monday October 31st, 2011
Our flight to Langkawi, an island in the north of Malaysia, close to Thailand, was due to depart in the evening. It lasted all of an hour. What interested me most about the process was the fact that our ID was never checked. I supposed that it was because it was a domestic flight, but I saw other people getting their passports out when they checked their bags in. Is this the future of the self-check in process?
While waiting to go through security at LCCT, Doyle was bothering a little girl around his age, and Jeremy told Doyle, “When a girl says no, she means no.” Then the girl’s father said, “Actually, she means maybe.” Whilst I knew he was taking a dig at his wife when he said it, since he was looking at her and the look she gave him back wasn’t a pleasant one, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s this sort of attitude that my friends who speak out against rape culture all the time have a problem with. In truth, it also bothered me, too, because Doyle is only four, and I don’t want him getting messages like that from anyone, least of all from strangers. It seems to be hard enough with what kids are exposed to in the media to teach boys respect for women.
When we arrived in Langkawi, I noted that the domestic and international arrivals were right next to each other, which would make it very easy for an international arrival person to sneak in undocumented (presuming they didn’t have any luggage to collect). Sure, they wouldn’t be able to leave the country again very easily, but what if they didn’t want to? This isn’t something I advocate, but when I notice things like this, I can see why there are statistics of unknown but large numbers of undocumented workers in Malaysia.
Since we had such a short and turbulent flight, no food was served on board, so we stopped at Marrybrown, a local fast food chain, at the airport for dinner. Then we got a taxi to our hotel to check in, and they drove us around a couple of blocks to the apartment building where we’d actually be staying. I’d booked us into a 3 bedroom apartment, despite having read bad reviews.
I probably shouldn’t have ignored them, though. The kitchen facilities left a lot to be desired, supplying us with a fridge, kettle and toaster, and incomplete cutlery set. The dishes were okay at least. I was a little disappointed at the lack of wardrobe space, and the only furniture in the bedrooms were beds. Still, it’s accommodation, and it was near enough to some shops where you can buy the food you would want to stock your fridge with. It also had a beautiful view of a nearby mosque.
Tuesday November 1st, 2011
I ended up spending most of the night sharing a bed with Leo in his room, as he’d been unable to rest well for long without me.
In the morning, we wandered around the block we were staying on to see what was available for breakfast. Instead of stopping at one of the small local style restaurants that we’re already familiar with after living in Malaysia for three years, though, we just picked up a few things from the bakery, and drinks from 7 Eleven, and took them back to the apartment to eat.
Later on, since we were staying in Kuah town, I decided to lead us on a walk down past the nearby mosque to CHOGM Park – which I only understood the meaning of due to the recent CHOGM meeting back in my home city of Perth. This meeting being pretty significant in the history of the Commonwealth because it was decided that in the future, if the eldest person in the family in line for the throne is female, she can become Queen, even if she has younger brothers.
Anyway, in CHOGM Park (such named for the meeting held in Langkawi in 1989), we enjoyed looking at some nice lily flowers and lily pads in a stream that runs between CHOGM Park and Legend Park. Then we looked at some of the plaques for various Commonwealth countries, before wandering over to the playground region of the park. We spent a lot of time at the playground because there was a Malay girl there with her mother, who Doyle wanted to play with. I thought it was really sweet, but he kept trying to talk to her in English, which the girl didn’t speak. He asked me how to say, “I want to play with you,” in Malay, but that I didn’t know. Instead I taught him to introduce himself by saying, “Nama saya Doyle,” which he then said to her a lot while following her around on all the playground equipment.
After the girl left, waving goodbye to Doyle, we took Doyle to try out the rest of the playground equipment, and Leo got to try sliding down a slide with his Daddy for the very first time.
We kept wandering down past the Legend Park entrance, which I made a note to go back to sometime, and stopped at Eagle Square to get a photo of the giant eagle that faces the sea. Then we wandered through a small market, and headed down to Jetty Point for lunch. We had a quick glance around the duty free shopping, and ended up in Kenny Rogers’ Roasters to eat. Leo had fallen asleep between the playground and here, but woke up in time to eat.
After lunch, though, both boys seemed rather fussy, so we just walked back to the apartment.
I stayed and looked after the kids while Jeremy went out to get some food for dinner and breakfast, and we spent the rest of the afternoon/evening inside. Travelling with children and having a week in a place means you can take it a little easy rather than cramming in too much to your day. And besides, Jeremy had a bit of a flu.
After I put Leo to bed, Doyle and I watched “Mr Bean’s Holiday,” which we had brought with us on DVD, while Jeremy had an early night. Though that didn’t last too long, as Leo was even fussier than the previous night, and Jeremy had to help him sleep while Doyle and I finished the movie.
I relocated Leo back to his room after the movie, but that also didn’t last, and Jeremy ended up sleeping next to him in his room for the rest of the night.
Wednesday November 2nd, 2011
Jeremy had an even tougher time sleeping next to Leo than I’d had, so much so that he said he didn’t get any sleep. So I looked after the boys in the morning while he tried to sleep some more.
Around 11:20am, we got a taxi, which we’d ordered to take us on a tour around various locations on the island. 5 hours = RM125, and any additional hours were RM25 each.
Doyle was very friendly with our driver, even asking him his name, which is something even his socially awkward parents don’t bother to do (the driver’s name was Romi). It’s really nice seeing Doyle’s social skills develop where I in particular tend to fail. He was also very friendly with a flight attendant and other passenger on the plane, and especially seems to enjoy telling people about his baby brother.
Our first stop on our self-decided tour was the Bird Paradise Wildlife Park. This place proved to be an absolute hit with Doyle, who got to feed several animals throughout the park, including: flamingoes, porcupines, rabbits, birds, peacocks, mousedeer, and monkeys. At one point, Jeremy had his hand out and fed six budgies at once!
Whilst in the gift shop, I picked up a cute plush lemur toy for Leo, hoping it would help keep him company so he could sleep better, since we didn’t bring the plush frog he’s very attached to and sleeps with at home.
We ended up staying a lot longer at the bird park than we thought we would, but we kept to our preferred stops, despite it already being lunch time.
Our next stop was the Perdana Gallery, which is home to over 9000 collections given to former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad during his tenure as PM, though only 2000 can be on display at any given time.
I really enjoyed looking at much of the collections, seeing what sorts of things were given from various countries, and guessing the origin of some of them. Doyle preferred to follow around three boys in red shirts. The gallery’s camera policy was interesting in that if you wanted to use a camera to take photos, you had to pay extra… unless you used your mobile phone’s camera function, in which case it was free. My phone camera is better than any of my previous digital cameras! Jeremy had to check in our DSLR camera, though, because he didn’t want to use it.
I managed to photograph some of the most interesting pieces, despite Leo’s fussing, which made me want to speed through until he fell asleep. Still, the time of day and Doyle’s disinterest kept us moving through the rooms fairly quickly.
It was raining pretty heavily when we exited the gallery, so I was worried this would mean we’d have to skip our next stop, which was outdoors. Luckily, the rain let up right at the time we had the choice to stop or keep going, so we stopped at Pantai Pasir Hitam (Black Sand Beach) so I could snap some pictures. Some of the sand there is black due to large iron deposits. When I got to the lower part of the stairway that leads to the beach itself, I was interested to see some information about a local legend that involved a war with mermaids and the land people burning the sand, making it turn black, as well getting to see a praying mantis close enough to snap a great picture on my phone.
I went back upstairs to find Jeremy and Doyle, who hadn’t noticed where I’d gone, and I took them back down to see the praying mantis. By this time, it had begun walking along the rail, which was just such an amazing sight that I ended up having to film it. How often would I get to capture on camera something like that?
After that quick photo stop, we went all the way to Perdana Quay for lunch at the USSR restaurant. We’d seen it advertised in Kuah the day before and thought it seemed like such a strange cuisine to have here, especially since we’ve never seen, let alone been to, any Russian themed restaurants anywhere else in the world. It was perhaps a little overpriced considering the portion sizes, but I still enjoyed the Pelmeni (dumplings) I ordered, and I enjoyed watching Leo feeding himself mashed potatoes… with his hands. I didn’t really have a choice. He refused to let me feed him after a while. Jeremy’s beef stroganoff was also really nice, and not anything like the stroganoff I’m used to. If you think in terms of Aussie dollars, I suppose the meal wasn’t too badly priced. Food and drinks for two adults and two children for AU$35. You’d pay more than that for an equivalent restaurant in Australia.
Our next stop was the Oriental Village, but we didn’t stay here too long, just long enough for a quick look around and some snapshots. The cable car was closed, but even if it hadn’t been, we probably would have skipped it due to time.
The final stop was the Seven Wells Waterfall, which was a bit of a hike to get to up some stairs, but still quite nice to look at, given the height. We got in some good photos before several other visitors came and got in the way.
Back in the taxi to the apartment after that, and all up we were away for just under 7 hours. We paid the equivalent of about AU$58 for that time, which, to me, sounds like a bargain.
Jeremy needed another nap once we got back, so I took care of the kids and fed them until Leo’d bed time, which is when Jeremy got up and made our dinner. Leo seemed to find it easier to go to sleep with his new toy, too, so I had high hopes for the rest of the night.
After dinner and putting Doyle to bed, Jeremy and I watched The Terminator, another film we brought with us and I had never seen. It was very clearly dated, given the time periods the film was set in, but I could see why it’s popular.
Thursday November 3rd, 2011
The good news is, Leo didn’t need either Jeremy or me to go in to see him in the middle of the night. He did cry once, and I got up, assuming I’d have to go in to see him, but then he went back to sleep on his own. The new toy had done the trick!
We had an easy day today because my back was hurting from carrying Leo around like a backpack the previous two days. Jeremy and Leo headed out for more groceries in the morning while I stayed with Doyle, but then we didn’t head out together until lunch time, to find a place with free wifi, where we could also eat. Unfortunately, this meant we had to go to McDonald’s, which I generally try to avoid. At least Doyle enjoyed the playground and playing with the other children. Unfortunately it was very difficult to pull him away afterwards.
Before heading back to the apartment to relax for the rest of the day, we looked around the Langkawi Fair shopping centre, but it wasn’t that interesting. Doyle rode on a kid size car, and bought a hat, and we got a few extra groceries.
The highlight of the day was watching Leo gain a little more confidence in his learning to walk. He managed to take one step on his own from me to the bed, and several steps while holding my hands. It shouldn’t be too much longer before he graduates from furniture walking to walking on his own.
The most disturbing thing of the day was spending an hour and a half trying to get Leo to go to sleep because he seemed to be too busy getting entertained by a ghost.
Friday November 4th, 2011
Today we had booked a boat tour in the Geolocation UNESCO area with Dev’s Adventure Tours. Initially on arriving in Langkawi, I thought the tours with the eagle feeding other companies offered sounded appealing, but then I read about how it was bad for the local ecology, and decided to look at the tours that cared more for the environment. The reason I’m naming the company we went with is because I think they did a really great job. Our tour guide was a conservationist and told us a lot about the environment and why we have to take care of it, which is a lesson I want my children to learn, so I hope Doyle was paying attention.
We had a small tour group, with one couple from Syria, and a family of five from Lebanon, who live in Dubai. Doyle made friends with their youngest son, who was only about six months younger than Doyle. They were both as friendly as each other, and it was adorable to see them together. We ended up giving them Doyle’s email address at the end in the hope they could keep in touch because they were even talking about visiting each other! The mother said she would at least email some photos they took of the boys together.
The boat ride itself was a lot of fun. We first stopped at the bat cave to see some bats and learn about the mangrove trees, then we spent quite some time on the boat spotting animals such as kingfishers, crabs, monkeys, Malaysian dingoes, eagles, snakes, walking fish and a lizard. Then we were taken out into the open sea to take in some gorgeous views of the islands.
Next we were taken to the spot where other boats go to feed the eagles, and watching them all fly around and swoop and dive to the water was just breathtaking. Since eagles were my Mum’s favourite animal, I know she would’ve loved it, too. All of the eagle items on sale in Langkawi, and now seeing them in action, really reminded me of her a lot. If she were still alive, I’d have bought her something. Or framed one of the amazing photos Jeremy took for her.
We then stopped at a fish farm to look at some spitting fish that jump out of the water to eat, some large blue fish, and some stingrays. Our final stop on the boat tour was a floating restaurant for lunch, which also had an attached fish farm. I really enjoyed the tour, and our guide was very friendly and accommodating to the kids, which was great considering almost half of the party were children! All up, it was about 5 hours, and it only started raining toward the end, when we were headed back to the jetty where we started.
After they transferred us back to our accommodation, we stayed there for the rest of the afternoon/evening. The only significant thing to happen this evening was Doyle accidentally smashing a glass plate on the floor so that we had to wear our shoes and not allow Leo on the floor, since we kept finding more and more slivers of glass.
Saturday November 5th, 2011
Another fairly quiet day today since we had now done the main highlights I had been keen on doing. We headed out across the street for roti for breakfast to start, then hung about the apartment until it was a reasonable time to go to Langkawi Parade, the shopping mall that’s inclusive of a cinema.
First we stopped in at the duty free department store where we picked up a couple of clothing items and some alcohol to take back to KL with us, then re-stocked some of the kitchen since we were running out of food.
For lunch, we ate at the Elephant Café so we could take advantage of their free wifi. Leo had fun crawling around the floor there, since they didn’t have any high chairs, it it wasn’t particularly sanitary. He got SO dirty that I wondered if they ever bothered to mop their floors. I did enjoy the pizza and caramel smoothie I ordered, though.
Next we headed upstairs to get tickets for Tintin before wandering around the rest of the small-ish mall. There wasn’t too much more to see so we just went back upstairs to wait for the movie.
Despite having to chase Leo around the cinema for half the film, I really enjoyed it. I was a fan of the Tintin cartoon series growing up, but was unfamiliar with this particular story… funnily enough, it also happened to be based on the book I picked up in America. The fact there was a pirate aspect to the film was also of interest, since I’m taking in a lot of pirate media right now, while I’m working on my novel about a pirate.
After the movie, we took a taxi back to the apartment, where we stayed for the rest of the day. Leo went straight to bed since he hadn’t napped all day, waking only to have dinner, though it was a little difficult for him to go back to sleep, too.
Jeremy had an early night, so I decided to stay up and do a couple things on my own, like writing this and reading without interruption. I’ve been slowly getting through “On Stranger Tides” by Tim Powers, though I am a little bothered with some of the editing. For example, he incorrectly spells Anne Bonny’s name as Ann, and there are occasions when Blackbeard’s ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, has the same Ann misspelling. I’m unsure if this is intentional to keep it more obviously fictional, but to me, even with the little research I’ve done to date on piracy in the Caribbean, this seems like a glaring error (as well as later discovering Powers didn’t use Blackbeard’s correct surname either). Despite that though, I enjoyed the book (I finished reading it after I got home), and how different it is from the Pirates of the Caribbean film, despite it being the book the 4th film was based on. It was good to get to read about different characters – the only one in the book who is in the movie is Blackbeard.
Before going to bed, I ended up getting quite a lot of ideas for my novel and having to jot them down so I wouldn’t forget them. The story is now pretty much fully formed and my mind just keeps filling in the gaps. It’s a pretty incredible feeling to experience all this inspiration. It’s really the first time I’ve had this much thought about a project this long.
Sunday November 6th, 2011
Today we headed into the Kuah town shopping area, where Doyle used some of his pocket money to buy a toy Angry Birds game, since he’s such a fan of the phone version of the game. Most shops were closed due to the Hari Raya Haji public holiday.
Then we caught a taxi to Pantai Cenang (Chenang Beach) so we could actually have a beach swim whilst on this island. Pantai Cenang is actually a fair way away from Kuah, so it’s not something we could do every day. Leo enjoyed splashing in the water and making everyone get wet.
Once we’d had enough time in the water and sand, we found a nearby Western and Korean food restaurant to have lunch, before getting another taxi back to the apartment. When we got back, Jeremy and Leo had a nap while Doyle and I tried out his new game.
When it got to be around dinner time, we all headed out for a walk. We returned to the shopping area we were at earlier to buy some chocolates I’d eyed in the morning (I was curious about the cactus flavour Korean chocolates) and then found a place to eat dinner.
It was time to put both kids to bed by the time we returned to the apartment again. After that, Jeremy and I tried out a couple of bizarre flavours of Vodka Cruiser, as well as the cactus chocolate. I suspect it’s an acquired taste… I didn’t especially like it myself.
Monday November 7th, 2011
Today was our last day in Langkawi, and there was only one thing left that I’d wanted to see – Legend Park. We found an alternate entrance behind the mosque that is near where we were staying. The park has fallen into a bit of disarray, but it was still interesting to walk through and see the various sculptures and ponds. We also got to see a couple of wild hornbills fairly close to us, which was really quite incredible. I just wish I’d been able to get close enough for a photo.
Once we made it through the park, we stopped in at the reception of our hotel to ask about checking out and getting a taxi to the airport for our early flight the next morning. Whilst there, we took advantage of their free wifi.
Then we walked back to our hotel for lunch, played a round of Old Maid (teaching Doyle in the process) and I put Leo down for a nap while Jeremy had one himself. Meanwhile, the cleaners came, and since I’d fallen asleep with Leo, Doyle was the only one awake to talk to them… and he told them to go away. So much for having a fresh bin (it was overflowing) or towels. Doyle did say they were going to come back, but I wasn’t so sure.
When Leo and Jeremy woke up, they went out for a walk and I did my best to pack up most of our things. After they returned, I swept the floor, since we assumed the cleaners wouldn’t be back, but then shortly after they did return. Oh well! At least we got our bin emptied, beds made, and new towels.
I managed to get more reading done in the afternoon, too. So much so that I completed the first of three books within “On Stranger Tides.”
For dinner, Jeremy led us to a food court, where I got to try nasi goreng Pattaya (Pattaya fried rice) that was different from what I’m used to in KL. When we got back to the apartment, we put the kids to bed.
The rest of the trip for the return home the next morning was uneventful. We also arrived at the airport so early that nothing was open yet.