108 days travelling and I was feeling incredibly frustrated.
7th January – 10th January 2019 (Langkawi, Malaysia)
It took us a while to find a title for this post that didn’t feel like it was just click bait – something I absolutely despise. Without beating around the bush, we didn’t have a fantastic experience in Langkawi and I felt it’s only fair I document our experiences truthfully. Having said that, it was exactly what we both needed. Let’s back things up a little before we dive into what happened and how we now feel about travelling going forward.
We skipped the morning ferry and instead opted for the afternoon one, scheduled to depart George Town around 2pm. The idea was to have some more time to explore, although the reality was closer to us wanting to hunt down more eateries. We both prefer to get up early, which didn’t appear to work in our favour in Malaysia. It seemed as though a lot of places have rather bizarre opening times and often don’t open until either late morning or the afternoon. This shot down my wife’s plan to grab some more delicious churros from Alley Cafe, just a stones throw away from our hotel.
We found ourselves eating at Urban Daybreak again and then retreating back to our hotel to relax under the air conditioning whilst we packed our bags. After picking up some snacks we ordered our first Grab (Asias answer to Uber) and couldn’t understand why we hadn’t been using it sooner. It was a lot easier, not to mention cheaper, than negotiating with terrorists (sorry, I mean reputable and fair taxi drivers). The driver was great, I’d actually put in the wrong destination and he picked up on it quickly and dropped us off on the right side of the port. I was surprised it didn’t end up costing us any more, as he had to go around the one way system again. Just glad we didn’t have to lug our bags around for ages.
The ferry terminal wasn’t half bad, although that may have been because I had such low expectations. I thought I’d be a right charmer and surprise the wife by buying her a drink, only to come back with a horrific strawberry flavoured Fanta – even I had trouble getting it down. Maybe next time I’ll pay attention to what I’m buying. What really surprised me was that the ferry we eventually embarked had all of its windows blacked out, so you couldn’t see outside. I’m not sure if it helps with sea sickness or possibly keeps the boat cooler, but it made for a rather bizarre experience.
To top it off, all our bags were packed in like sardines, much like their owners. They did however play the Incredibles 2 on a small TV, but the volume was so low you could barely hear it and it was positioned so poorly behind some pillars. Otherwise it was a pretty smooth and uneventful 3 hour journey. Once we arrived in Langkawi, we had a pretty long wait until we could eventually get to our bags. Serves us right for being so keen and jumping on the boat first – I’m not sure we will ever learn. Once we got outside we were met with the most aggressive taxi drivers we’ve encountered on our whole trip. “No” didn’t seem to be an acceptable answer to them – thankfully our Grab was only a minute away and we made a beeline for his car as soon as we saw it. 30 minutes later we were pulling into our accommodation on the North of the island. It was remarkable how little traffic there was.
Our Airbnb was in an incredibly remote and beautiful part of the island. It was great to have a little self contained studio and our hosts were really lovely. Unfortunately, that’s where the good ended for us. We weren’t fully covered to rent scooters, or a car for that matter, and there were only two restaurants within walking distance (that were ‘hygienic’ enough, using that term loosely, and not ridiculously expensive) – which were both closed at lunch time, with only one open for breakfast. We had make the rookie mistake of not properly researching the area when we booked it, so the situation was our own doing really. Public transport was almost none existent, although they did have Grab. We figured we would avoid that to keep costs down and save our money for Kuala Lumpur – our next stop.
There was a nearby supermarket that didn’t seem to have fixed opening times (we walked down three times without any luck – twice in one day) and being coeliac meant I struggled to find food that I was a) able to cook with what we had on hand at the studio and b) could actually eat. This often meant I was left pretty hungry at lunch and we all can imagine how well that went down. On the plus side, the local seafront restaurant served up the cheapest and best Malaysian food I’ve had to date in the most amazing setting. Sadly the restaurant in the compound was pretty expensive, as it served western food, and often took well over an hour to get our food out (even when it was only us – once it was simply cut up fruit which we waited an hour and a half for).
We are very privileged to be able to do what we are doing and we certainly don’t take it for granted. It’s an amazing opportunity to travel, especially long term, and there are so many positive experiences we have had along the way. That said, it can also be incredibly tough. You are away from friends and family for a long period of time, you spend a lot of it out of your comfort zone and, like everything else in life, it has its ups and downs. Long term travel isn’t like a holiday and it can sometimes be easy to forget that. Whilst you get to have amazing experiences, you also have days where everything goes horrifically wrong, when you are sick and miss home comforts, stress about money and being able afford things, and just want a pillow that doesn’t give you a sore neck (that last one was added by my wife).
Every so often it can get a little overwhelming and it can leave you questioning what you are doing. That’s exactly what happened to me. I was frustrated by things being closed at odd hours, not being able to find safe food to eat and making poor accommodation choices. Thankfully, we have documented this journey and we were able to reflect on all the wonderful things we have been able to do and see to date, which really helped pull me out of the rut. At one point I was quite close to packing it in and heading home. Meeting and talking to other travellers along the way also helped, as everyone we spoke to had found themselves hitting this ‘dip’ at one point or another during their travels. We hadn’t even expected to experience this until it had happened to us, which is why we thought it was important to mention not only the highs we have had during our travels, but also the low points.
The poor location choice turned out to be a blessing in disguise. There is at least another 3 months of travelling ahead of us and we had barely planned any of it. We knew that we would also have very limited down time to be able to plan on that scale once we’d left Malaysia, so this minor hiccup meant we had the opportunity to sort everything out. I think my eyes were close to bleeding by the end of it from staring at the screen for endless hours every day, but we now have the most incredible 3 months ahead of us and we couldn’t be more excited. We finished Langkawi off by taking a nice romantic walk one morning up towards Tanjung Rhu Beach, mainly to spy on the people staying at the fancy Four Seasons nearby – oh, how the other half live.
We may have also had a ‘slight’ ant infestation. I had noticed that there were a few of them crawling up the wall and, for reasons unknown to even myself, I decided to splash them them whilst in the shower to see if they’d move along. Next thing I knew the bathroom was over run with hundreds of ants and I had to make a quick exit. Serves me bloody right for playing with water.
Until next time.
P.S. We will need to go back to Langkawi at some point to really do it justice – on reflection it’s such a beautiful place and we didn’t get to appreciate it.