Saturday, July 28, 2018

5 Days 4 Nights in Langkawi - The Jewel of Kedah (plus a Day Trip to Alor Setar) @ Kedah [Malaysia]

Langkawi has been on my pending travel list for quite some time and i happily took advantage of Air Asia's year-end promotion in year 2017 to purchase two return tickets at just S$130.50 per person!

Now, the one thing i know about the jewel of Kedah is that it's a duty free zone with many people streaming in for tax-free alcohol, chocolates, branded dinnerware etc. Another notable fact is that Langkawi was the battleground for Dr Mahathir, now the world's oldest Prime Minister, in the recent Malaysia election.

Anyway, let's start with the summarized itinerary that was pulled from about 2,500 photographs and a few videos! Do click the hyperlinks for more details and extra photos! Yes, i am aware that i just posted day one of Phuket with four more outstanding days to go although the good news is that there would not be any more travel itinerary for the rest of the year while i concentrate on the backlog!

Singapore - Langkawi
[7.45 am] Arrival at Singapore's newest passenger terminal at Changi International Airport; Terminal 4! I know that there was an open house late last year but i didn't have time to check it out. Hence, it would be an eye-opener for me as Changi Airport never disappoints and has, in fact, been the annual champion holder of the world's best airport by skytrax since 2013!

Is there a better word than impressed as i was way impressed with Terminal 4?! From the rows of futuristic self service check in, automated luggage deposit, immigration clearance to the hypnotizing moving sculptures (known as petalclouds) and the heritage zone with Peranakan shopfronts, themed gallery and washrooms; the space might not be as huge as the other terminals but it sure did a great job in wowing visitors. 

[10.30 am] Getting ready to board the Air Asia Airbus A320-200 airplane which was scheduled to depart Changi International Airport at 10.55 am. It eventually lifted off half an hour later at 11.27 am.

[12.32 pm] Despite the delay in taking off, the plane touched down at Langkawi International Airport almost as scheduled at 12.25 pm; the actual landing was nine minutes late at 12.34 pm.

[1.08 pm] Even before i made the trip, my mind was already set to rent a car to travel around the island. However, i didn't make any pre-booking and was glad i didn't as the rates onsite were much cheaper with staff touting for business from the many car rental counters at the baggage collection belt area.

The listed rental rate for this Perodua Axia was RM 200.00 a day but it only cost us RM 60.00; a hefty 70% discount! To be fair, my visit to Langkawi was during the lull period and this could have explained the unbeatable deal we got from Miesya Mesra Travel & Tour.

[3.08 pm] Finally checked in to Cenang Plaza Beach Hotel; a 3-starred hotel along the famous (and touristy) Cenang beach. We were delayed in our check-in as we needed to pump petrol and had lunch at KFC (yes, first meal was at a fast food restaurant).

Our stay at Cenang Plaza Beach Hotel was documented in greater detail in my review here; in a nutshell, service was top-notch for a 3-star hotel, Wi-Fi was incredibly strong and it's located right across Cenang Mall.

[4.30 pm] Drove about 40 minutes to our first stop; Eagle Square in the district capital of Kuah. Known locally as Dataran Lang, it houses a gigantic statue of Langkawi's treasured icon; the eagle.

[5.23 pm] Many travel recommendations pointed towards a visit of the night markets and we made it a point to check out Temonyong Thursday Night Market! It's really not as huge as expected and given that we generally don't dare to eat street food (and more than half were food); we left after 15 minutes and proceeded to book an island hopping tour at Cenang Mall.

[6.12 pm] Cenang Beach was known for its sunset and we decided to splurge a bit at The Cliff restaurant that's next to the large Langkawi sign! Verdict; nice view, not so great food.

[7.53 pm] Many beach bars to choose from but we already had our alcohol fix at The Cliff; objective on day one was more to have a good rest as i didn't have sufficient sleep the night before and we had to take a morning ferry to Kuala Kedah (Peninsular Malaysia) the next day!

Langkawi - Alor Setar - Langkawi
[7.47 am] About to take the ferry bound for Kuala Kedah at Kuah Jetty. Thanks to the ride we made the day before to Eagle Square, we had a better grasp of the time taken from our hotel to the jetty and i woke up at 6.15 am to ensure we got to the jetty 30 minutes before the ferry departed at 8.00 am.

[10.23 am] It took the ferry almost two hours to reach Kuala Kedah jetty and i am so proud that my usual motion sickness didn't kick in! Anyway, it's standard practice nowadays to use the Grab app when overseas and we did just that to secure a RM 13.00 ride to the state capital of Kedah; Alor Setar!

Typical of Singaporeans, we had to get ourselves soaked in air-conditioning and there's no better place than Aman Central Shopping Mall; the largest shopping centre in the entire state of Kedah!

Main reason why we had to travel all the way to Alor Setar - Alex wanted to visit his auntie whom he had not met for more than six years! So nice of him right?! No awkwardness for me as I had the fortune of knowing this lovable auntie of his more than ten years ago.

[1.18 pm] After lunch at Nando's and coffee at XiXiang Kaya Kopitiam in the shopping centre, we proceeded to the auntie's house that's not too far away. It was a moment of nostalgia when i arrived as it felt just like the kampong house that was home before my family moved to public housing at Yishun New Town 30 over years ago.

There were a number of canines in the vicinity and this particular puppy (just a few months old) pulled our heartstrings. Cuteness overload; to the extent i was tempted to have another pet since the demise of Rubee seven years ago.

[2.00 pm] After saying our goodbyes to Alex's auntie, we went back to being tourists; checking out the 165.5-meter tall Menara Alor Setar (Alor Setar Tower)!

The iconic landmark in Alor Setar offered sweeping views of the city with a population of less than half a million, including the sprawling padi fields at the city's outskirts. In case you are unaware, Kedah is popularly known as the rice bowl of Malaysia since half of the country's rice produce came from this state.

[2.40 pm] With a little bit of time to go before our scheduled ferry departure at Kuala Kedah, we took to shopping at Aman Central Shopping Mall again! Just like in Kluang, most of my purchases came from BO; BO means Brand Outlets, not body odor. And it's to be assumed that i would definitely explore the supermarket (mydin) at the basement of the mall.

[5.26 pm] Keeping in mind the requirement to arrive 30 minutes before the ferry scheduled departure, we were already at the jetty since 4.30 pm for the 5.00 pm ferry. Endured a long wait but the fault was mine as there was a change in ferry timing sent to my private email and i wasn't aware as it was sent in the wee hours of 13 July.

Ferry departed only at 5.52 pm and i was thinking that it would likely be a late dinner for us that night. Maybe due to the delay, the ferry was obviously speeding across the sea and we actually arrived at Kuah Jetty much earlier than expected at 7.10 pm.

[7.17 pm] The amazing sunset at Kuah Jetty! On one hand, i was glad that we would not be having a late dinner. On the other hand, the speed that the ferry was travelling resulted in constant upheavals and rocking that triggered my 'on' switch for motion sickness! Thankfully, it wasn't bad and i managed to recover shortly after i stepped off the ferry.

[7.45 pm] Dinner at Teo Seafood Restaurant! It was recommended in a few blogs and while we didn't quite enjoy the food (except for the old school sweet and sour pork); we can't deny that the amount we forked out for the meal could never be had in Singapore.

[9.45 pm] Ending the night with a glass of kronenbourg le blanc draught from the Yellow Beach Cafe that's just a few minutes' walk from Cenang Plaza Beach Hotel.

[9.36 am] Arriving at the jetty for our island hopping tour! Since it's a tour, pickup was provided and our assigned timing was 9.15 am as the jetty was mere minutes by car from Cenang Beach. Good for me as i could wake up later, have a cup of coffee and read the digital newspaper from the Straits Times app.

[10.00 am] Langkawi is said to have 99 islands and the most famous one has to be this Pulau Dayang Bunting. Translated as the Island of Pregnant Maiden, you should be able to guess why from the picture above. Use some imagination and you would see the silhouette of a pregnant lady who is lying on her back.

[10.27 am] Climbing down the steep and narrow staircases at Pulau Dayang Bunting. There's a geoforest park (separately charged from the tour) where you can venture into the highlight of the island.

Dayang Bunting Lake - yes, literally the lake of the pregnant maiden. There's a legend to this freshwater lake; that women having difficulties in conceiving a child would have a higher chance once they dip themselves in the lake!

[11.30 am] Eagle feeding at Pulau Singa Besar although it was more the other boats feeding the predatory birds. Interesting indeed to see so many eagles congregating in one area!

[11.41 am] An hour was given for us to suntan on the beach of Pulau Beras Basah! Pity we were not into sunbathing and as the water wasn't clear enough for snorkeling; we spent most of our times taking pictures and being entertained by the troops of fearless monkeys on the island.

[1.37 pm] Tour officially ended at about 1.00 pm and we drove out shortly after changing our clothes in the hotel to have lunch at Langkawi's ranked number 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor! Sadly, what we had were disappointing and you may read more on my official review and post on the Korean restaurant here.

[3.13 pm] With plenty of time to kill before sunset, i got the agreement of my two travel partners to visit Seven Wells! I think they kind of regretted their decision as the climb to the attraction required almost 700 steps even though i thought it was absolutely worth the sweat!

Seven Wells refer to the seven pools naturally formed by water flowing down the mountain and aside from taking a dip in the refreshingly cold water, you can even slide down from one pool to another!

[4.45 pm] Alex was totally shagged out after Seven Wells and perked up only when he got to know that Seven Wells is right next to the Langkawi Cable Car (otherwise known as SkyCab)! He was so keen to take the glass bottom cable car (as he was at Taiwan's Maokong); our tickets (priced at RM 105 per adult) were fully sponsored by him.

Did we enjoy the ride? You bet! I have taken glass bottom cable cars in quite a number of places and never had i prayed as hard as i did at SkyCab! In addition to having the longest free span of 950 meters for a mono-cable car, it also claimed to have the steepest climb in the world at 42°! 

You may also access the 125-meter long Langkawi Sky Bridge from the top station. As the elevation we were on was higher and we didn't want to pay the entrance fee to further tire ourselves out, we were contented to just view the fish-shaped bridge from the observatory platform at the top station.

[7.10 pm] Our ticket also included admissions to SkyDome, SkyRex and 3D Art Langkawi; the former two should be removed permanently as they were simply a waste of time! We could have spent more time in the 3D Art Langkawi (similar concept to Trick Art Museum in Jeju) which was way more fascinating and engaging.

[9.00 pm] Late dinner at the 24-hour D Khas Cafe - the best dish we had in Langkawi was the grilled sea bass; so delicious that we ordered a second sea bass. Other than the sea bass, the rest fell short of our expectations.

[10.30 pm] Ended the night at Yellow Beach Cafe and goofing around with the Pitu app i have on my phone. Alex was down after just one shot of tequila; lousy drinker even though i had to admit that the shot glass was taller than the ones we have in Singapore.

[8.47 am] Breakfast was supposed to be at this Nasi Dagang Pak Malau which was said to command an exhilarating view of the padi fields and good food. Unfortunately, it was closed due to an eviction notice from the landowner and would be reopening in Kuah instead.

[9.40 am] Without a decent breakfast, we continued our journey to Kilim Geoforest Park where we boarded a private boat (for just the three of us) for a tour by Natasha Mangrove Nature Tour!

Steered by a young chap called Alif, the private tour was made up of eight stops and since we had full control of the time; it was extremely enjoyable despite the hot weather. First stop; bat cave!

Gua Cherita - the cave of legends which was full of mosquitoes! Maybe because most people would just go for the shorter tour which didn't have Gua Cherita, the place was deserted when we visited.

We skipped the private beaches as there's no intention to sunbath and requested Alif to bring us to Dangli Island for snorkeling instead! Water was too murky though and fish species was limited to the boring and abundant sergeant major fish. :(

Stopover at Tanjong Rhu Beach; one of the nicer looking beaches in Langkawi with powdery sand and less of a crowd compared to Cenang Beach

Second eagle feeding in our Langkawi trip; Alif purposely threw out some foul-smelling stuff to attract the eagles and it worked! Goondu me should have shot a video to share in this blog..... maybe i can check with Alex and see if he took any video.

Crocodile Cave - named not because it has crocodiles inside! According to our young guide, there's no wild crocodile in the geopark. Want to know the origin of its name? Click here! As the tide was too high, the boat couldn't be steered into the cave. 

Last stop of the private tour - visiting a floating fish farm where you can feed stingrays, touch a puffed up pufferfish and have seafood lunch. We didn't bother as prices weren't cheap and i had already planned lunch at another place. 

[1.28 pm] That designated lunch place was Scarborough Fish & Chips! Decent fish and chips but the biggest draw was its chillax atmosphere; that's until a large group of tourists with boisterous kids stormed in and tore apart the tranquility of the eatery! 

[3.00 pm] Shopping at the duty free outlets where you can get a large variety of chocolates at duty free pricing. I actually asked my younger sister to help me compare the prices in Singapore and most were priced quite similarly in our little red dot. It's another story for the alcohol though; imagine a bottle of Heineken that cost only RM 3.70 and Chang beer at a promotional an impossible RM 2.00 a bottle! That's like less than S$0.70!

[5.40 pm] At Langkawi International Airport - nope, we were not scheduled to take off until the next day but our travel mate, Andy, had to fly back to Singapore as he was working the following day!

[7.24 pm] After sending off Andy, Alex and i took a walk along the low-tide Cenang Beach and soaked in our last sunset at Langkawi. Strangely, we didn't spend much of our daytime at this beach even though it's just a stone throw away from our accommodation; Cenang Plaza Beach Hotel

I was tempted to have alcohol on our last night and had to suppress that craving as we had an early morning flight and i definitely wouldn't want a repeat of what happened in Bali the year before!

[9.12 pm] My tummy was nonetheless placated with the inputs of crepes and waffles at My French Factory! Opened in 2014 by French chefs, the sweet treats were absolutely worth the 4.6 rating on Google reviews, and the calories! 

[10.20 pm] Last minute shopping! Do be careful when you see good deals as some of the stuff could be expiring soon; e.g. the trio pack kit kat priced at an unbeatable RM 5.90 would be expiring in August 2018.

Langkawi - Singapore
[7.07 am] Woke up at 6.00 am for final packing! As my only luggage scale was spoilt and i am not good in estimating the weight, i was hoping we would not breach the limit (as we did in Taiwan). Picture taken before we reached the airport.

[7.18 am] Returned the vehicle back to the car rental company, checked in our luggage and cleared the immigration. We managed to stay within the baggage limit and had, in fact, 10 kilograms allowance! Darn, should have bought more chocolates.

[8.26 am] Time to board the plane! The departure hall of Langkawi International Airport was unexciting with just one convenience store manned by a single staff. I was going to buy some snacks but gave up after seeing the long queue waiting to be served.

[10.04 am] About to reach Singapore after departing from Langkawi International Airport at 8.56 am! Want to guess the place below us? It's quite near to Sungai Rengit which i covered quite a few years ago in my day trip to Pengerang

[10.15 am] Home sweet home! 

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