After a rather disappointing day in Penang yesterday, we woke up early today to set off on our next island destination: Langkawi.
After a rushed breakfast, we hired a taxi and headed to the terminal to board our ferry to Langkawi. We bought our tickets yesterday itself, and its advisable to do so; our boat was full.
We hired a taxi to get to our hotel, which was on Pantai Cenang beach. (Cost us RM24)
By the way, if you wondering where the iconic symbol of Langkawi (the eagle statue) is, you can find it near a park very close to the ferry terminal. We passed it while driving out of the terminal but didn’t bother stopping to take photos… as there isn’t much to it.
We could see a sign on the main road pointing to Sweet Inn Motel, the place where we had reservations. Problem is, the sign was pointing to the left side, into the mainland and not to the right, where the beach was.
When we made the booking via Agoda.com in August, the description read “on Pantai Cenang beach,” and though it is only a 2 minute walk away from the beach, it’s not a sea facing hotel. Oh well, at least it was cheap. Our triple room cost us Rs. 2360 ($52/€37) for two nights — that’s under Rs. 800 per person for 2 nights!
The rooms were also quite decent. The triple room was one double bed and a single bed, a TV with mostly local channels, wardrobe and a clean enough toilet with hot shower.
We couldn’t check in yet because our rooms weren’t cleaned and kept ready. So instead, we dumped our bags in the office room and hit the beach.
We couldn’t hand around for too long at the beach. We needed to convert currency as we were running short of Malaysian Ringgits. Loi wanted to sit at the bar, so myself & Ramesh headed back to the main road in search of a money exchange.
When we first came across a money exchange center, they were closed for lunch. We had to walk quite a bit before we came across one that was open. There really weren’t that many money exchange centers on Pantai Cenang road. Not as ubiquitous as I noticed in Thailand. My advice is to convert money either prior to landing in Langkawi or outside the ferry terminal if you come by boat.
Money in hand, we headed back to the beach.
After having a beer to cool ourselves, we went back to Sweet Inn to check in to our rooms.
After we checked in, we freshened up and then stepped out again for lunch.
Considered to be the national dish of Malaysia, Nasi Lemak consists of some rice, roasted peanuts, papadam bits, small dried anchovies, boiled egg and and sambal, a spicy sauce (in the above photo, it’s the red one with calamari in it). The meal is filling and is usually very reasonably priced.
After lunch, instead of taking a nap, we decided to rent bikes and head to the Langkawi Sky Bridge while the sun was still up.
We rented 2 scooters at RM22 (Rs. 325/$7/€5) each for 24hrs.
The rental shop made a note of all the pre-existing scratches and damages before handing it over to us.
It’s best you inspect the bike as carefully as possible, so that they cannot point at any scratch or damage on the bike claiming you did that when you return it.
Helmets on, we set off. Ramesh rode solo while I rode with Loi sitting behind me.
We stopped here on the bridge to take a few photos.
We moved on.
Then, up ahead is a signal. From the signal, you have to take a left turn.
After setting off at 2pm, by 4pm we were at the Langkawi Geopark. It’s not that the journey takes that long, we just stopped on the way quite a bit.
We got into the cable car and continued up.
Apparently the final scene of the Hindi film Don (starring Shah Rukh Khan) was filmed on the sky bridge. I didn’t see the film, but that’s what Ramesh & Loi said.
If you want a video of the sky bridge, watch this HD capture by Ramesh:
The sun was setting, so we decided to head back down.
Ramesh took video of our journey back down:
(You can view it in HD for better clarity)
Once down, we checked out the Oriental Village.
The Oriental Village mostly comprises of shops, restaurants and other services like massage spas. We were a bit hungry so we sat in a cafe to have something to eat.
It was was past 6pm, which is also closing time for the cable car ride. We wanted to make the most of whatever sunlight was available while heading back. So we set off…
As darkness fell, we still managed to get back to Pantai Cenang beach road in around 45 minutes. Instead of heading back to our rooms, we decided to make the most of the bikes while we had them. We drove straight, on to Pantai Tengah beach and past it as well, until we hit a dead end which looked like another docking bay for boats.
So we made our way back and decided to return the bikes tonight itself.
The reason why we returned them is because the next morning we had booked ourselves for an island-hopping tour which would last until afternoon. So by the time we would have gotten back to our rooms, it would have been past the 24-hour limit.
(I kinda wanted to try it though)
We had a large plate of fries, some beers, and some pasta; all of which came to around RM44 (Rs. 650).
With that, day one in Langkawi came to a close! We had woken up early in Penang today morning and tomorrow, we had to wake up early again for our pick up for the island-hopping tour.
I had booked my departure for Dec 13th thinking I would get my Canon 7D by then (I paid for it on November 25th). I waited and waited and as the week before the flight neared its end, I started to get worried. It hadn’t even arrived by Friday, Dec 11. I was contemplating postponing my flight but that would have cost me thousands of rupees with last minute cancellations and new bookings — and as mentioned earlier, I wanted to be back in time for Sunburn in Goa.
So I decided to go ahead with my trip — and pick up a second Canon 7D from Bangkok which I would then sell upon return. I finished my work and only left office at 10:30pm that day. The next morning (Sat, Dec 12th), the first thing I had to do was to get foreign currency. I went to the HDFC Bank close to my house only to be told they wouldn’t be issuing any foreign currency because it was a Saturday and the foreign markets are closed (they also said they can’t give dollars based on Friday’s rates). It was one of those “Oh crap!” moments — until they told me I could try UAE Exchange close by. Fortunately, they were open for business (guessing maybe because they were headquartered in Abu Dhabi. Edit: Wow, I didn’t know the company is owned by a Shetty). I withdrew Rs. 60,000 from my account and got it exchanged for 10,000 Thai Baht, $200 in Traveller’s Cheques and $700 in cash. I planned on carrying so much cash as I needed to buy a wide angle lens from Bangkok.
The thing is, UAE Exchange sold me the Thai Baht at a rate of 1.6:1 rupee when it was 1.3, citing that it was “high demand” currency. I really couldn’t argue because, a) first time dealing with foreign currency and b) I really didn’t have much time.
After I got my currency, I went back home and started to pack. I actually didn’t have much to pack. I wanted to travel light and I knew I would be shopping from Thailand. I was advised by colleagues at work to check out bags from Wildcraft as it would be convenient to have just one big bag instead of carrying several. But when I checked them out, I really didn’t feel like spending Rs. 2500 to Rs. 3000 for what were in my eyes, branded hollow sacks.
So I just went back and decided to take my laptop bag and a sports bag borrowed from my younger brother. I finished packing and made sure I had all my papers in order. I had multiple copies of my flight ticket, copies of my Passport and a Tourist Visa form I downloaded off the Thailand Embassy of Foreign Affairs. Instead of taking a taxi or asking my brother to drop me at the airport, I thought I’d take the airport bus (the ‘Vaayu Vajras’) as I had always wanted to check them out.
My brother checked the routes and we decided to drive down to HSR Layout and catch the bus from there. I boarded the bus in front of BDA complex at around 8pm. The ticket fare was Rs. 150. My flight was scheduled for 12:30am and I was told the journey would take 1 and 1/2 hours. It took 2 hours. It was my first time going to the new Bangalore International Airport in Devanahalli and my lord — is it FAR! The roads to the airport was great but it felt weird sitting in the bus on what seemed like forever to get to a flight which would take me to a different country in just under 4 hours.
I checked in, finished all the procedures walked around and arrived at the boarding gate by 11pm. [Tip: Don’t bother carrying a bottle of water to the airport (unless you finish it by then), you’ll be asked to dump it at the security check-in],
My impressions on the new airport?
Meh. After all the delays and the amount of money spent, it really is just a glossy industrial shed. I do wish the HAL Airport is re-opened for at least short domestic flights. Anyway, I checked out the Duty Free, which was okay if you wanted to buy booze — and not much else. Checked out the food court, the restroom (it was clean, in case you wanted to know) and then just sat there. I switched on my laptop and logged in to the free BIAL Wi-Fi service, which took a while to figure out how to get connected. But hey, it’s free for an hours use.
Come 12am, it was time to board. I got in and headed to my window seat only to find some moron already sitting in my seat. I tell him that’s my seat and he points to his and says in his broken English to sit there instead. And then I tell the moron to get up. He mumbles something about it being ‘the same thing no matter where I sat’. (Gawd I hate such people)
The in-flight food was okay. Steamed basmati rice with nice boneless chicken curry and the usual sides you get in an economy class flight on an Asian flight route. The service was good, not that I requested it often. They had ‘Post Grad‘ as the in-flight movie. Looked like some chick-flick starring that Gilmore Girl. I didn’t bother watching it because I was busy reading through the manual for my newly-acquired Nokia E72, which I planned to use in Thailand.
I didn’t sleep much either. I mean, after lunch and dinner, you’re already half-way through your journey. I was scheduled to land in Bangkok at around 5am.