One Day in Langkawi
Updated: Jan 27
Since I wrote about Ko Samui's port last week, I became somewhat involved with revisiting old memories from my contract with AIDAbella. And because last weeks destination was also well received, I decided to stay in the general vicinity with my next blog.
So let us arrive at our destination: The port of Langkawi, on the island of Langkawi, a part of Malaysia situated on the western entrance to the Malacca Strait. Langkawi roughly translates to “Island of the eagles”, and it derides the central part of its fame from the pristine white beaches to be found all along the shore. And compared to the overflowing tourist hotspot of nearby Phuket, Langkawi's beaches are peaceful and quiet, which has led to this island slowly building its resume as a well-kept secret gem.
On this particular call, my colleague and I had a special task. We would start as a team of two, without any guests or constraints to explore the island and determine whether there could be any improvements made to our existing biking tours. Those exploration days are rare and far in between but are among the absolute best days you will ever have as a biking guide. They basically amount to a day off, except for the sometimes substantial physical effort necessary to explore as much as possible with your bike during the limited time the ship is in port. It requires a lot of preparation, as you shift through maps and brochures and travel-guides to find out the best possible route, but honestly to me, this preparation work is delightful. I like planning tours.
We had a rather large track mapped out, following the coastline around almost half the island and then cutting across its relatively flat and narrow middle. Judging from google maps, the entire construct has a remote hourglass shape, with both its top and bottom plastered with hills and very few possibilities to cross from shore to shore. We hoped to find an earlier connection, as our route would be a little bit too long to ride with passengers, but we would be disappointed quite painfully throughout our attempts.
As we started from our port, on one of the hottest days I had personally ever experienced, we first had to climb quite a hill to reach the main road circumnavigating the island. We followed along for a few kilometres until the road took a further turn inland. However, we continued close to the shore on much smaller roads, at first still paved but soon deteriorating to nothing more than a little path through the jungle. Along the fence of a plantation, we had the first major, but short climb. But we did not reach the top quite as soon as we had thought. My colleague had spotted some monkeys jumping from tree to tree, so we took a break and tried, in vain, to get a picture of them. They were too far away and too fast, but we have the memories while we have no photos. And that is as good as. After a few futile attempts at photography, we continued, with our path soon leading us out from the jungle again. From now we had a little gravel road, leading past some fishing villages, with simple dwellings and brightly painted boats.
It took only a little while until we connected back onto the main road, which now followed the coast again for quite some time. However, our eyes were not fixed on the sea to our right, but rather the mountains to our left, as well as our GPS-Devices. We were looking after all for a connector to the other side of the island. And finally, we found something that looked promising. A steep gravel road, leading up a hill that, on our GPS, looked like it might connect to a different route, leading to the other side of the island. So, we started our ascent. Our climb would also be a good description. The road was probably among the steepest that I ever had to cycle uphill on, and the gravel did not help to have the whole thing feeling more enjoyable.
It was quite a fight to reach the top of the hill, and up there on an empty gravel lot, we realised that our map had misled us and no connection existed. After a short exploration in the hopes of finding a path, we found something else. A steep slope made of larger boulders, and on the bottom of this slope, another gravel road. After a short discussion, we decided to climb down the hill without bikes, continue that road, and see where it would lead us. It was easier said than done. Despite their size, the boulders were surprisingly loosely stacked over each other. Instead of carrying our bikes, we used them as support, while slowly making our way downhill. Also, hidden between the stones grew thorny vines, which cut our legs in quite a few places. Not the most pleasant of experiences, but we were content with the knowledge that this steep and painful climb had not been in vain.
But we were content only for a few meters of our descent until the gravel road suddenly made a sharp turn, and we realised it would lead us back to the main road, where we had started the uphill. And all the climbing on and of the bike had been for nought. After arriving at the road, we decided to leave it with the experiments, and instead continue our pre-planned track. It was uphill and downhill from here on out, at least in terms of elevation. Our mood, however, got elevated way higher once we had reached the halfway point of our tour. There we stopped at a small supermarket to buy some ice-cold drinks.
Ice cold Coca Cola, out of a can, is one of the best experiences you can have after cycling for hours in hot weather. The high sugar content creates an almost high feeling in a body starved of nutrients, and the ice-cold temperature immediately slows down the pulse allowing for a relaxed feel. And for large parts of the world, this is indeed true. But not in Malaysia. Because here you can buy, almost everywhere, cans by a company called “Fruit Tree”. I especially can recommend the mango flavour which, next to the mango juice, also contains small chunks of actual fruit. This is by far the best beverage to drink after a hard day in the saddle. If you, dear reader, would research and implement a possibility to make available this drink in Europe, you would not only have my eternal gratitude but probably also most of my money.
After our short break, we continued onwards, now on very narrow and winding roads through fields and pastures until we reached the other side of the island and there connected back again onto the main road, now riding into the direction of our ship. We took only one more break at a café at the beach, to eat some food, have some more drinks and take a little relaxing swim in the sea. The white beaches of Langkawi are famed, and our spot was no exception. Also, at the same location, we met the other guides that hat been on a shorter tour with passengers that day and together we had some nice team-time, sunbathing and dozing in the heat.
From our beach, it was only a short connection back to our ship, and after we climbed the last hill of the day to reach the port all that was left for us was to store our bikes away, and see the island disappear behind the horizon in the light of the sinking sun. At the same time, we moved on to a new day with new adventures.