Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Langkawi Island - Playing Tourist with Dad

While we were back in Malaysia during Chinese New Year (well, a week before CNY), we took a short trip to Langkawi with my parents and sister. It's been a while since we all went on a family vacation, so we were really looking forward to this. Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, about 30 km northwest of the coast of Peninsular Malaysia. The main island (Langkawi Island) is only about a 45 mins flight away from Malaysia's capital, Kuala Lumpur. It is also accessible by high speed air conditioned boats from Kuala Kedah (RM23, 105 minutes), Kuala Perlis (RM18, 75 minutes) and Penang Island (RM60, 165 minutes). Oh and before I forget, Langkawi is also a duty free island! Yup, that's means cheap alcohol and imported chocolates! A can of beer cost less than a bottle of water or soda in Langkawi! Beautiful beaches, amazing sunsets, cheap chocolates and booze...what more could a person ask for? :D
Kevin and I took the first flight out from KL (I believe it was a 7am flight) and my dad flew in from Penang about an hour later. My mom and sister only flew in later that afternoon because my sister could only leave after school. Car rentals are really cheap in Langkawi (because it's a duty free island) and we managed to rent a MPV for the three days we were there. A small compact car (Myvi or Kancil) is only about RM50 per day during the low season. How much did we pay for our Toyota Avanza? I don't know, we got our Toyota Avanza for FREE! One of my cousin's friend managed to hook us up with a rental company and he paid for everything (thanks Robert, we really appreciate it!). We picked up the MPV from the airport and drove to our hotel to check in. We stayed at The Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa. My dad managed to get a good rate (again, some friend's son hooked us up) for that resort. We only paid RM350 nett per night as opposed to the rack rate of RM600++. What a good deal!
After checking in, we still had a whole day to check out the island before my mom and sister arrive. We decided to play tourist and drove around the island, stopping at various tourist spots. Armed with a map of the island, we were off! Our first stop was Awana Porto Malai (since it was pretty close to our hotel).
Awana Porto Malai is a hotel located at the south most tip of Langkawi. With it's Mediterranean influence architecture and long boardwalk with amazing views of the lagoon, Awana Porto Malai is indeed a beautiful place. We also enjoyed looking at all the nice yachts that were docked at the marina. The yacht 'Jalur Gemilang' belonging to Dato Azlan Mansor (1st Malaysian to sail solo around the globe) is supposed to be docked there too.
Our next stop was The Field of Burnt Rice. Here is Kevin, standing in front of the famous spot. So, what's the story behind this place and why is it so famous? Well, soon after the death of Mahsuri, the Siamese invaded Langkawi Island. The chief of the Langkawi army came up with a great plan. He ordered all the villages to collect all their paddy harvest and burn it at this spot. This was done so that the Siamese could not get a hold of the paddy, which was the main reason for the invasion. With that, Langkawi was free from the Siamese! Legend has it that remnants of the burnt rice could still be seen at this spot up til today.
Kevin and I in front of the home of Ku Halim (just next to the field of burnt rice). It is an example of a typical traditional Malay home. No real story behind this, we just thought that it would be cool to take a photo in front of a traditional Malay house! Oh, and if you are looking for cheap sarongs, Malay foodstuff and traditional Malay gamat (sea cucumber used in medicinal remedies), you can pick some up at the bazaar just outside this compound.
Our next stop is the Kota Mahsuri Cultural Center. This is where the tomb of Mahsuri lays. How can you visit Langkawi and not visit the tomb of Mahsuri, right? Well, wrong! I must say that we had such a horrible experience there. Firstly, we now have to pay to get in (it used to be free!). Well, I don't mind paying if it was a token sum but it's RM 5 for Malaysians and RM10 for Foreigners. On top of that, we have to pay RM3 to bring in our camera. RM23 in total just to get in. I asked the person at the counter, apart from the tomb, what else is in there? She said oh there are traditional dances as well as traditional Malay music demonstrations in there. Hmmm, maybe it's worth the RM23 then? Wellllll, no! I then asked her what time those performances are and she just laughed. She didn't know how to answer me. She then turned and asked another guy and he too laugh! I really don't see what's so funny. In the end, I found out that there are NO SUCH PERFORMANCES! It's supposed to be part of the whole 'experience' (which explains the expensive tickets) but I guess they don't have that anymore. So, RM23 just to see a tomb, no thank you! Also, we asked them for directions to The Loaf (will blog about that later) and they gave us the wrong directions! Not a few miles off but they lead us to the other side of the island! Boy, I was so mad at those people.

After a disappointing stop at Kota Mahsuri, we headed to Langkawi Legends Park and Eagle Square (Dataran Lang) which is located near the Kuah Jetty. No visit to Langkawi is complete without a picture in front of the huge eagle! Standing at over 12 meters tall, it's definitely a sight to behold. The name Langkawi is derived from the word "helang", which means eagle and the old Malay old "kawi", which means reddish brown. Hence, Langkawi means reddish brown eagle! By then, it was almost time to head over to the airport to pick my mom and sister up. We made a quick stop at the duty free shop at Underwater World to pick up some beer and continued on to the airport. Want to know what we ate for dinner that night? Will blog more about that the next time!

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