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When we sailed from Penang to Langkawi we thought we were back on Cook Strait!


It was a hard day, with the wind coming from dead ahead and at close to 30 knots with rain squalls…we had water all over the boat, we were not able to lay the rhumb line to Langkawi, it was not what we were now accustomed to!
But at least we had no need for the engine, we were sailing and any sailing is better than motoring! Then as we got closer, the wind went further to the east, we could lay our course, and as though it had all been planned; as dusk fell, we were among the many islands on the southern coast of Langkawi,

we found a very sheltered anchorage among the fishing boats…

Well, it was relatively sheltered, but it was still very gusty, we did 360’s all night. There was a good reason why all the fishing boats were in there too and not out fishing; the wind…
Beautiful as the spot was among all those undercut and over-hanging islands, we were getting close to our Christmas deadline so the following morning had to move on.
But the fishing boats were still not going anywhere because of the wind and as we continued across the southern coast with just a tiny sail, we saw a rather too adventurous tourist long-tail boat almost capsized and swamped…fortunately it was in company and they had help to retrieve all their lost belongings…

Our destination was the Telaga Harbour Marina and as it was fortunately well protected from the wind, we had no problem entering and taking a berth.
We soon decided it would be perfect for our needs over the next few weeks, away from most of the other ‘liveaboard’ boats and with an excellent outlook to the harbour entrance.

(that’s us; second from the left!)

Over the next few days which included Christmas we got to know Telaga and some of the rest of Langkawi.
Telaga is relatively apart from most of the island’s population, but there is a small community with shops and restaurants and more importantly, the facilities to hire a car or a scooter. With either, the whole island becomes readily accessible.

It was an excellent place to leave the boat in safety for a trip back home to NZ.
The marina had been totally destroyed by the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 and rebuilding was only just completed, everything was very new…surprisingly on the first anniversary, 26 Dec 2005, there was NO recognition, it was not mentioned by anyone, life was just going on!

The main town on the island, Kuah, is diagonally opposite, but still only about 40 km away by road.

It’s a disorganised sort of place, but as you get to know it, you find that there’s more and more of what you need, it is just a matter of locating it, -including Mr Chew, the dentist!

Kuah is the centre of local government so there are many public buildings for the bureaucracy.

Asians are prepared to make their government buildings more exciting than what we are accustomed to; the Langkawi Development Corporation (LADA) is housed in a lavender multistory…
Others have spires and domes.

On the waterfront is a giant statue of a Sea-Eagle

the symbol of the island.

The town has a port for coastal freighters, ferries, a sizeable yacht marina and even a facility for mega-yachts. It is working on the grand plan, but there are still the little fishing boats drawn up into the creek…

or snuggled on a sheltered beach

The island only has about 60,000 inhabitants, the town of Kuah is by far the largest, and away from it the population is spread out apart from a few villages. Much of it is typical rural Malaysia with rubber trees, water buffalo and rice paddies.
The traffic on the roads is very manageable, making cycling a pleasure and even riding the hired 50cc motor-scooter an acceptable risk!

In the middle of the island is the highest point, Gunung Raya. At about 850m high it is a steady climb from sealevel and about 13 km from the main road turn-off. The road is sealed all the way, well formed and of consistent gradient, a great work-out for the cycling legs

and at the top is an excellent view

There’s also a large secure ‘conference’ centre and accommodation, built in the days of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as an extravagant ‘get-away’ place for the Malaysian Government Cabinet.

Dr Mahathir has been responsible for much of Langkawi’s development, since 1986 when it was declared a ‘duty-free’ island and targeted for tourism, to become another Bali or Phuket. Many good roads were built and lavish resorts constructed at the tourist spots, but not all have been totally successful, optimism sometimes overtook realism!
The island has some beautiful white sand beaches and these have been developed with many resorts such as Tanjung Rhu,

‘Black Sand'(?) beach,

and the long stretch of Cenang Beach

where there is the most of the development with many hotels, small shops, restaurants and attractions.
Nowhere is crowded, there are far more facilities than the patronage demands. As we have seen elsewhere in Malaysia and Indonesia, since the Asian economic ‘crash’ there are many of the skeletal remains of people’s half-finished business dreams, abandoned and now being overtaken by the leafy vines and creepers.
But there are still big hotels being built even now and some of Dr Mahuthir’s vision has been very successful.

Near Telaga Harbour is a prospering hotel/shop development called the ‘Oriental Village’.

It’s a busy tourist centre, but that is mainly as it is the lower station of the ‘Langkawi Cable Car’, a gondola cableway of world standing. It rises from near sea-level to around 800 metres

and has the distinction of the world’s longest unsupported cable span at more than 900m…
-to us, that’s a very dubious distinction…

On one of our last days of this stay in Langkawi and having heard endless glowing reports of the gondola ride we thought we should confront our natural disinclinations and do it…
We went soon after morning opening time in order to get the best view from the top, but to our disappointment (delight?) found the ride to be closed due to high winds on the mountain… We didn’t wait for it to open later when the wind had died, well after all, we had tried!

A little further up the road from the Oriental Village is Telaga Tujuh, ‘Seven Wells’, a series of pools linked by waterfalls high on the hillside.

The water is clean and fresh, the pools although too small for swimming are excellent for cooling off and there are natural waterslides worn through the rocks between.

From there is a track through the jungle to Mt Cing Cang. It’s not used all that much as it’s rough and very steep, for several hundreds of metres there are ropes strung between the trees alongside, they are neccessary!

From the top however at about 750 metres altitude the view is tremendous

and the gondolas are just there, a few hill-tops away

Having now found that climb, there is certainly no need anymore to sweat nervously on the gondola ride!

Dr Mahuthir considered Langkawi his personal project promoting tourism and one of his better ideas has been the building of the Galeria Perdana. It is a museum containing all? many? of the presents he was given during his 22 years as Prime Minister and is an excellent collection of an amazing variety of special ‘things’ from many countries.It ranges from the finest crystal, gold and silver jewellery, golden samovars and woven fabrics

to bicycles, cars, off-road vehicles and ceremonial horse-drawn carts;

it fills several floors in several buildings

The exhibits are of interest, but there is a lot of sameness unless you have a fascination with fine things, but the architecture of the museum makes the visit well worth while.

Built as a series of pavilions, with plain walls and flooring of stone or plush but plain carpets, the ceilings are a feature

In the centre of each gallery is a stained glass turret

the light and colours changing constantly with the moving sunshine,

best viewed lying on the centre of the floor beneath, left clear, I’m sure for that purpose!

We still haven’t seen all there is to see in Langkawi, but we know we’ll be back. We have moved on to Phuket as we wanted to make the most of the northeast monsoon breezes, but for various reasons we expect to be back in Langkawi within a month or so.

There are good anchorages to visit about the island, some of which are not accessible by road, and there are many small outer islands worth more attention than we have given them yet, so they are for next time…


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