Our arrival into Malaysia from Thailand completed the trio of border crossings- over land, air and sea! We’re getting so good at it we actually left Thailand with not a single Thai baht in our pockets, the lovely lady at the port letting us off for being 1 baht short for our plates of curry, 2 pence saved. Having picked up our crisp and colourful new currency, Malaysian ringitt, we jumped into a taxi and headed for the town of Kuah.
The first thing we noticed upon embarking on Malaysian soil was the proliferation of English characters making navigating far simpler, contrasting with Sanskrit which western minds are programmed to find completely un-comprehendable. After 2 months I managed to pick up the word for Bangkok and that was as far as I got. The predominance of Indian restaraunts set our mouths watering but instead we opted for Malaysian street food and enjoyed a tangy sweet and sour chicken.
Langkawi being a duty free island is dotted with shops crammed full of bargain alcohol, cigarettes, clothes, and luggage with entire department stores filled with discount goods. It all proved a bit too much for me and I ended up buying a box of the greatest confectionary known to man.. Guylian chocolate sea shells, for just £2! If chocolate doesn’t take your fancy then you could pick up a litre bottle of southern comfort for just £9, not having the space for that volume of goodness I stelled for a bargain mini bottle of Jonnie Walkers. Worn out we sat down to see the rest of the night out with a cold one in the knowledge it may be our last chance to get a cheap beer before heading to the more alcohol conservative mainland.
Both coming from the world of architecture the main draw, in fact the only real reason for our visit to the island of Langkawi was to visit the 400m long sky bridge constructed hundreds of feet above the forest canopy in the west of the Island. To get there we rented a bike and were appalled at having to pay a whopping £8 for the pleasure, it seems the days of getting a nice 250cc machine for $5 and fuel for pittance are firmly behind us as we enter into a new more prosperous Asia. It wasn’t just the wheels either, accommodation here is noticeably more expensive than the rest of the peninsula but as long as we stick to the street, food remains cheap – our meal the previous night set us back £2.
We had our first big lizard encounter that morning as we walked through a park and were confronted by a 2 metre long monster slithering out of the drainage channel, looking as though it would give eating us a go if it hadn’t found enough fish for breakfast. They really are incredible animals and utterly terrifying if you have the slightest fear of reptiles. He quickly scarpered showing a deceptive turn of speed as I approached for a closer inspection.
After getting round the now foreign feeling of filling up petrol ourselves (as opposed to having the tank filled for you as its done in the rest of Asia) we arrived to Langkawi oriental village where the sky bridge is accessed by the worlds steepest cable car, soaring up and over the jungle clad peaks way above our heads. The place was a bit Disney, packed full of Malaysian families wearing matching superman T-shirts. We had to wait a couple of hours for our number to be called and before ascending were shown into what I thought at first was a planetarium but turned out to be a roller coaster simulator, enjoyable as it was, if not a little strange it turned out to be more nauseating than the real thing. Reminding me of when a company came into our office at work to showcase their 3D reality glasses allowing clients to roam around a 3D model, resulting in half the office on the brink of vomiting for the rest of the day. Unfortunately by the time we actually managed to get up to the bridge the elements had stepped in and reduced visibility to just a couple of metres, removing our opportunity to see the curved bridge in its full glory, instead creating the eery illusion of the bridge evaporating away into nothingness. For the brief few seconds the clouds departed we were left standing above the canopy looking at the bridge curve away from us at both sides and taking in the verdant jungle stretching out below us. Just as quickly as it appeared the jungle was snatched away from view by the enveloping mist and we decided we decided to descend back down to sea level.
We left slightly disappointed our sky bridge experience was so severely limited but feeling lucky to have stood upon such a beautiful and complex piece of engineering. Arriving back into town we could no longer resist the pull of Indian cuisine and settled down for a meal of dosa’s and thali washed down with the first chai masala since India.
Next up we travel to the mainland and into the interior of Malaysia to the Cameron highlands, trekking and tea of the english variety awaits.