Langkawi

Langkawi or Pangkor Island?

Nippah Bay

one of the beaches on Pangkor Island

If you are in Penang, Langkawi is kind of north, and Pangkor Island kind of south.  So as far as the weather goes – rainy season or not – they have the same pattern.

In theory Langkawi is quicker to get to, but in practice they seem to take a similar time to reach.

If you were to choose one to visit, which would it be? So here are what I consider the good and bad points of both.

  • Langkawi is more accessible, being able to travel there by direct ferry, car /  bus + ferry, or short flight from Penang.
  • Langkawi is more international so caters to a broader range of tastes – for food, spas etc.
  • Langkawi can be visited on the way to Thailand – e.g. Ko Lipe.
  • Langkawi has a marina
  • Langkawi has much more things to do than Pangkor
  • Langkawi has a bigger range of accommodation from homestays to very expensive resorts
  • And, of course, Langkawi is duty-free. Alcohol and even car rental is cheaper.

As for the bad points:

  • Excepting for the impact of duty-free goods, Langkawi is generally more expensive.
  • And, apart from expensive resorts, there are no bars or restaurants on the beach – with the exception of Scarborough Fish and Chips.
  • There can be jellyfish in the sea

As for Pangkor:

  • Pangkor Island is more relaxed
  • It is easier to find food when you want it
  • Pangkor is small and very easy to get around – by taxi, hire car, motorbike or bicycle
  • The ferry from Lumut on the mainland is cheap – RM10 return
  • The ferry is quite frequent
  • There are restaurants and bars on the beach
  • These restaurants and bars are reasonably priced
  • The beaches are nicer and I haven’t seen any jellyfish

As for the bad points:

  • Transport there is only by car / bus then ferry.  Berjaya Air used to fly there from KL  – but I am not sure if they still do.
  • Often Malay restaurants don’t sell beer – but they sometimes suggest you buy it at the convenience store and bring it to the restaurant
  • Being quite a Malay island girls might feel uncomfortable in a bikini on the beach – so will either go to a more secluded spot or stay with a few other girls in bikinis
  • There is not so much to do
  • The standard of accommodation is generally not high

You can have an enjoyable holiday on either – or if you have time – both.

 

 

 

 

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unfinished blogs – no. 17 – The best of Peninsular Malaysia in one trip

I’ve been writing this blog for three years this month, and have accumulated many partially written blogs that remain unpublished. I may as well just publish them as is, and if I ever feel inspired to finish any, do so later.

I really should finish this particular blog sometime.

October 22nd, 2014

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Include round Malaysia trip last October, plus KL, Pankor Is, Penang, Langkawi, Perhentian

It’s easy enough to do a circle of Malaysia by car, but if you don’t go out to some islands you miss the best parts, which means you will have to either access the ports by public transportation, leave your rental car unused for your time on the island or in some cases fly there.

If you take your own car, then you have to return to it – you can’t leave it and catch a train further, without returning to pick up your car.  So mixed mode is difficult.

Mixed mode: KUL – LGW- PEN by plane, car via Kuala Besar & to Perhentian, other islands? http://www.pulaidesaru.com/ – s-e nr Singapore

By car

By train

By plane

 

My favourite trips in Malaysia (from Penang)

Sitting here right now gazing out at the grey skies and the drizzle, I am thinking of my favourite trips in Malaysia. And of what I have yet to do and see. I won’t bother with more photos as there are plenty in the links. After six years here this is what I think.

the beach

the beach

By far and away my favourite place is the Perhentian Islands.  The beaches are lovely, the sunsets can be stunning, and the snorkelling great.

Then comes Sabah – particularly a jungle tour to cruise the river and see proboscis monkeys.

After this, Langkawi, which we have visited many times.

Next would be a couple of nights in Malacca.  I don’t think there is so much to do or see, but the very centre is nice, and staying near the river is pleasant.

Then, a train trip – the quality of the rolling stock and service is very low, but it’s still fun, especially if it is the first time.  It could be the jungle line up to Khota Bharu from Gemas by day, or simply Penang to KL.

The next would probably be a few nights in KL – staying in a first class hotel.  First Class hotels in KL used to be very good value, but perhaps less so now.  Still, as long as you don’t really intend to get around by car much, as the traffic is terrible, based in a nice hotel near the monorail allows you see to a few fun things and eat some nice food.

Then the Bird Park in Butterworthor in KL, which is bigger but I don’t like as much – to see hornbills.

I also quite like a couple of nights in Ipoh. There are a few things to see nearby,

And an early start from Ipoh to Pangkor Island allows you to spend the day there without spending a night – seeing as the hotels there are pretty bad.

Then there is Penang itself – Little India in George Town, Penang Hill – walking up is better than the funicular if you have the energy and start at dawn – before the heat, Spice Gardens…

A nice drive is also from Penang over to Kota Baru. I’ve done this by car and by bus.

And what I have yet to do – while I have circled Malaysia by train I haven’t by car – I want to see more of the east coast beaches.  Then there are a few east coast islands to see – Tioman Island etc.

What I had expected to be able to do, and can’t is to spend time in the jungle and to camp. Mosquitoes and other biting insects are the main problem, with heat and humidity secondary.  Locals think you are crazy if you want to camp, and they are right.  It is unlikely you’ll get malaria or dengue, but the more mosquito bites you get, the greater the chance.  So stay in hotels, wear long sleeves and trousers at dawn/dusk and where mosquitoes are – but generally, stay away from places where mosquitoes are.

I’ll report back when there is something to add to the list.

 

Our trip to Langkawi mid-2014

Over  the years we have flown to Langkawi, and driven to Kuala Perlis and then caught the ferry to Langkawi.  For our fourth trip there we decided to try the bus.  I have already blogged about the bus / ferry trip for this holiday, so I will take it from our disembarkation at the ferry terminal in Langkawi.

DAY 1

We arrived around 1.15PM, ignored most of the touts for rental cars and all of them for accommodation, but one tout seemed OK, so we went with him to his nearby office and rented a car from him.  This was a small orange Perodua Viva automatic – Mrs Tropical Expat’s requirement.  It was RM10 extra for the automatic, so it cost RM60 per day – 24 hours. The car was a bit battered but seemed OK for Langkawi. As usual I took multiple photos to attest to the dents already on the car.

Perodua Viva

Viv the Perodua Viva – it looked OK, but turned out not to be

We struck out for the roughly half hour drive to Cenang, stopping off firstly to buy petrol as rental cars are always empty, and then stopping on the way again to see the Big Sea Cucumber Oil Bottle, and indeed buy some product.

big bottle

big bottle

And we checked in to the NR Motel on the Pantai Tengah Road, actually staying in the same room we did last time.

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It seemed a good idea to drive into Cenang and buy the beer supply for the stay, and a few snacks from one of the duty-free stores.  At that time of day Cenang was quiet and parking was easy.  After the early start we didn’t really bother doing anything more, and just had a nap and read for the afternoon.

the range of beers at a local duty-free shop

the range of beers at a local duty-free shop – prices from RM1.80 up

The car wouldn’t start later, so someone from the rental company came and jiggled one of the fuses under the bonnet to get it to start. Later, when driving, we discovered the horn didn’t work, either. Neither did the cigarette lighter – which meant no GPS. In the evening we ate at the Little Mexican Restaurant in Cenang – see my blog on eating in Langkawi.

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I was so full thereafter, and tired, so that was really it for the day.

DAY 2

We decided to swap cars as we didn’t think it was safe not to have a working horn.  While the next car was being cleaned we walked into the nearby park and looked at the big eagle.

Lankawi's symbol

Lankawi’s symbol

When we returned to the car rental office we picked up Sam the Nissan Sentra. Again the cigarette lighter didn’t work – no power for the GPS still. Have to rely on an inadequate map.

Sam the Sentra

Sam the Sentra

we drove up to the government agricultural farm. It only took about 10 minutes drive.

Government research fruit farm

Government research fruit farm

They insisted we pay the much higher tourist price to enter rather than the local price.  I am not impressed. When we’d been here a couple of years ago we enjoyed the visit.

tour bus that drives around the farm

tour bus that drives around the farm

Last time a guide rode with us on a small bus (pictured) and explained the farm to us.

dragon fruit trees

dragon fruit trees

We stopped a few times and the guide talked about the project and the trees.

fruit buffet

fruit buffet

Halfway around there was a fruit buffet.  And then we continued back with the guide still informing us. At the shop they sold seeds so that you could grow things at home.

view of some of the farm from a towert that only I climbed

view of some of the farm from a tower that only I climbed

This time there was a guide who sat with the driver and only guided us onto and off the bus, but otherwise told us nothing.  And back at the entrance the shops no longer sold seeds – perhaps you can buy them at their KL HQ, we were told. This place is such a disappointment now – RM50 for both of us is a lot to pay for some commonly available fruit, and there were no durian or mangosteen although they are in season.  Their statue shows a big durian and a big mangosteen, too.

The statue shows durian and mangosteen - but even though they are in season they weren't served.

The statue shows durian and mangosteen – but even though they are in season they weren’t served.

We won’t return here.

Tanjung Rhu beach

Tanjung Rhu beach

We continued up the road to Tanjung Rhu beach – about 15 minutes drive from the fruit farm.  It turned out that the cloudy sky was an advantage as we didn’t get sunburn. But as there was no sun we also spent most of the time in the water.  It was funny watching the tourists from China who’d arrived on a bus – they had no swimming costumes and just paddled in the water a little and took hundreds of photos.

time for fish and chips

time for fish and chips

After swimming and sunbathing it was time for Scarborough Fish ‘n Chips.

nice setting on the beach

nice setting on the beach

There is a shower, and then we lunched.  This is also reviewed here.

 

Galeria Perdana

Galeria Perdana

From Scarborough Fish ‘n Chips it is about a 10 minute drive to Galeria Perdana, a museum where a previous Prime Minister displays many of the gifts he was given.  I believe he was the one who made Langkawi duty-free – and removed this status from Penang.

local price - which they won't charge you

local price – which they won’t charge you

Again they charged us double the local price – the sign in Bahasa says that adults are RM5, but the sign in English says Adults are RM10.  However, I note there is a senior price.

Jake Blues was there?

Jake Blues was there?

 

my favourite were the cars

my favourite were the cars

I enjoyed this museum the first time, but this time it was exactly the same, so a quick visit was enough, and not so exciting.

night market - which starts late afternoon

night market – which starts late afternoon

It was now about 6PM, so we headed over to the night market that is not so far from Cenang and our accommodation.  This was about a 30 minute drive, or would have been if we had a better map.  We bought durian, mangosteens, bananas and cooked chicken.  All delicious.

Well, back to our accommodation to eat.  That was enough for the day.

DAY 3

For our last day we headed to the west.

It's nice to see the animals in Langkawi

It’s nice to see the animals in Langkawi

Past the airport turnoff is a bridge I like.

I like bridges - this one heading west

I like bridges – this one heading west

We bought some more petrol.

Petronas petrol station - with a mosque-like dome

Petronas petrol station – with a mosque-like dome

And then we went into the Berjaya resort.

the road into the Berjaya Resort

the road into the Berjaya Resort

Berjaya resort is nice, and the price of a coffee or beer is reasonable, considering.

useful advice

useful advice

Today the weather was perfect.

the beach at the resort

the beach at the resort

river that flows out at the centre of the beach

river that joins the ocean at the centre of the beach

Next stop was Oriental village – a couple of minutes drive back east.

Entrance to Oriental Village

Entrance to Oriental Village

There is a duty-free shop there – good for a cold beer.

duty-free

duty-free

lake at the village

lake at the village

In the evening we went to Pantai Tengah, very near where we were staying, to watch the sunset and paragliding.

quite a few paragliders

quite a few paragliders

you seem to put on a harness, and are accompanied by an expert

you seem to put on a harness, and are accompanied by an expert

one flight around the bay lasts about five minutes

one flight around the bay lasts about five minutes

sunset was more or less the end of the paragliding

sunset was more or less the end of the paragliding

Day 4

Before returning the car we thought we’d drive to the top of Mount Raya.  It’s only about 15 minutes drive to the turnoff to the mountain road, but it seems to take forever to reach the top. We got to about 6KM from the top, but calculated that we didn’t have the time to get to the top and make it to the ferry in time, so we had to turn back.

We returned the car to their office, they returned our deposit, and they dropped us at the ferry – very close, but we had our luggage.

We made it to the ferry about five minutes before departure, and the ferry departed five minutes late.  Even so, we wouldn’t have made the ferry if we’d gone to the summit of Mount Raya.

the ferry

the ferry

Our bus was leaving Kuala Perlis at 3PM, so we had about 45 minutes to find somewhere with air-conditioning while waiting. KFC seemed best.

 

 

 

Langkawi 2014 and the Paleo diet – part II – OR – Economical eating in Langkawi

And how did it work out?  Not as planned.

The two restaurants I was looking forward to patronising, on the Pantai Tengah road, closed a few months ago: the Lebanese (Mona) and the Mexican restaurants. Although they appeared still to be open when I checked on the Internet.  Mona will open in another location in a few months, I heard. But very disappointing.

So, the meals we had:

Day 1 dinner: Mexican Restaurant on Pantai Cenang.

Day 2 breakfast: Leftover dinner from the night before. Coffee

Day 2 lunch: Fish and chips at Scarborough Fish ‘n Chips

Day 2 dinner: Fruit and chicken from the night market and chicken and crisps we’d brought with us

Day 3 breakfast: Fruit and chicken from the night market and some coffee

Day 3 lunch: Not so hungry. So, chocolate.

Day 3 dinner: Chicken Kebab from the Istanbul restaurant

Day 4 breakfast: Leftover food we still had and fruit from a local shop

Day 4 lunch: KFC – (it was very hot and it seemed the coolest place in Kuala Perlis while waiting for the bus)

The Mexican restaurant was nice, but expensive. One dish shared between two would have been sufficient.

on the road through Cenang

on the road through Cenang

Happy Hour is good

Happy Hour is good

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This was good, but cost over RM30

Scarborough Fish ‘n Chips was good as ever – I have previously written about it.

good for lunch

good for lunch

right next to the beach

right next to the beach

food menu

food menu

drinks menu

drinks menu

Serving was plentiful and it tasted good

Serving was plentiful and it tasted good

There is a night market every night in some part of Langkawi.  They are marked on the tourist map.  These are useful for getting food to eat there, or take away. And it’s cheap there.  Go there earlyish and leave before dark as you don’t really want to be driving in the dark due to roaming black buffaloes.

durians

durians

mangosteens and rambutans

mangosteens and rambutans

A piece of chicken (Ayam) for RM2 - and it was delicious

A piece of chicken (Ayam) for RM2 – and it was delicious

Istanbul Restaurant was overpriced and the food average.

pricey, poor choice, small volume and average quality.  Cost RM19 for a small chicken Kebab.  In Berlin for the same price you get a kebab you can save half of for breakfast.

pricey, poor choice, small volume and average quality. Cost RM19 for a small chicken Kebab. In Berlin for the same price you get a kebab you can save half of for breakfast.

My latest formula for successful and economical eating in Langkawi.

  • Rent transport – preferably a car. You’ll need it to get to markets and around in general.
  • Stay somewhere that has a fridge to keep food and your beer cold. And a kettle so you can make coffee. Take coffee.
  • Visit a duty-free store and stock up on beer / wine / spirits – whatever it is you drink – soon after you arrive.  You really only find these stores in Kuah Town, Cenang and Oriental Village.
  • When you go out take some drinks with you in the car as you normally won’t find alcoholic beverages outside of these places
  • Check blogs for other people’s ideas on restaurants.
  • Go to markets to eat and / or to take away the fruit and food you want.
  • Keep an eye out for restaurants that might be of interest to you.
  • Take advantage of Happy Hour
  • Order a smaller number of dish(es) and share – or take away leftovers, as…
  • Breakfast offerings are poor unless you stay in an expensive hotel which provides breakfast, so you want to have bought something in preparation
  • Eat at least one meal at Scarborough Fish ‘n Chips – after a swim at Tanjung Rhu beach is ideal, as you can shower at Scarborough before your lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

A trip from Penang to Langkawi by bus and ferry – mid-2014

“The reviews of the ferry ride from Penang to Langkawi were that if the weather was calm it was OK, but if rough, people were sick, and the cabin is enclosed, so it becomes a very unpleasant crossing.  See my blog on travel options for more details.” … as I’ve written before.

We decided for this trip to catch the bus to see if this was easier and / or cheaper than driving and paying for parking at the port.  The last trip in December 2012 was during school holidays, and prices in Langkawi were much higher, so this trip started after school had returned. And we thought it was nicer to catch the ferry from George Town and then bus from Butterworth,  rather than the more straightforward Sungai Nibong start.  Starting at Sungai Nibong means one less transfer, but paying a bit more for the taxi.  And the bus will start at Sungai Nibong anyway, then stop at Butterworth. I just enjoy the ferry ride to Butterworth more, though.

Booking bus tickets for Plusliner, Butterworth to Kuala Perlis, on the web was unsuccessful as the web site didn’t work, so we had to go to the bus terminal at Sungai Nibong to purchase them, and we did this about 10 days in advance.  Not that we thought it was really necessary to book, but we were going to Queensbay Mall anyway, and the bus terminal is nearby. You can easily park there, and we were charged RM1 for a short time.

bus ticket

bus ticket

One way costs for one person:

RM20 for taxi to George Town ferry terminal – or if you like RM10 each as there were two of us

RM0 for ferry (returning to George Town it costs RM1.20)

RM16.50 for bus ticket from Butterworth to Kuala Perlis

RM18 for ferry from Kuala Perlis to Langkawi

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RM54.50

 

Schedule:

07.50 – taxi to George Town

08.15ish – ferry to Butterworth

9.00 – bus departs for Kuala Perlis

11.25 – bus arrives in Kuala Perlis

12.00 – ferry departs for Langkawi

13.15 – ferry arrives at Kuah Town ferry terminal, Langkawi

Times are approximate, as most transport left a few minutes late.

 

The trip:

So, a 10 minute taxi ride got us to the ferry terminal in George Town a little after 8AM, and the sign said four ferries were running per hour. The next ferry departed at 8.18 and arrived at 8.36.

ferry waiting room

ferry waiting room

boarding the ferry to Butterworth

boarding the ferry to Butterworth

underway

underway

four ferries running

four ferries running

seating area on ferry

seating area on ferry

another blue ferry, but with a different car/passenger configuration

another blue ferry, but with a different car/passenger configuration

arriving at Butterworth

arriving at Butterworth

It’s only a few minutes walk to the bus terminal, with ramps for trolley bags for all slopes  except for one short flight of stairs.

Butterworth bus terminal

Butterworth bus terminal

our bus

our bus

Our 9AM bus arrived at 9.01.  It was up to the passengers to load their own luggage in the hold. The driver only opened the hold doors if you asked. And actually the bus was full, we were told.  So it was fortunate we had previously purchased tickets.

inside the bus

inside the bus

The bus condition was reasonable, and the inside clean. As you can see it was a two plus two seat configuration.  There was no entertainment system.

bus route

bus route

The bus departed around 9.10 and in a minute or so it was on the motorway and enjoying a clear run north.

clear road north

clear road north

now there is a double train track laid north

now there is a double train track laid north

We arrived at the bus terminal at Alor Setar at 10.30, and departed about five minutes later. I got out to stretch my legs, but mostly through passengers stayed on board.

at the Alor Setar bus terminal

at the Alor Setar bus terminal

police stopping lorries

police stopping lorries

ordinary roads from now to our destination

ordinary roads from now to our destination

so 40 Kilometres to go

so 40 Kilometres to go

nice scenery on the way

nice scenery on the way

a tree nursery?

a tree nursery?

nice scenery on the way

nice scenery on the way

nice scenery on the way

nice scenery on the way

houses on the river with bougenvillea growing

houses on the river with Bougainvillea growing

nice scenery on the way

nice scenery on the way

the sea at last

the sea at last

almost there

almost there

We arrived at Kuala Perlis bus terminal at 11.25. It’s a few minutes flat walk to the ferry terminal. At this terminal there are bus ticket windows for various routes, and a desultory shop.

we've arrived

we’ve arrived

Kuala Perlis bus terminal

Kuala Perlis bus terminal

Kuala Perlis bus terminal

Kuala Perlis bus terminal

walkway to ferry terminal

covered walkway to ferry terminal

shops near ferry terminal

shops near ferry terminal

 ferry terminal

ferry terminal

 ferry terminal

ferry terminal ticket window – you can’t buy tickets in advance, so you buy on arrival

RM18, then

RM18, then

don't trust this

I think the left column is departure times from Langkawi, and the right column departure times from Kuala Perlis

ferry ticket

ferry ticket

waiting room

waiting room

the ferry

the ferry

our departure is 12.00

our departure is 12.00

Luggage is stored unattended near the entrance doors of the ferry on the lower deck. The toilets aboard were Western style, clean and not smelly – far better than the usual Malaysian standard.

luggage storage

luggage storage

seating onboard - it was fairly empty, so we sat where we liked

seating onboard – it was fairly empty, so we sat where we liked

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ferry terminal taken from the departing ferry

It was a smooth trip apart from about three minutes of rocking around 30 minutes into the trip – perhaps hitting a current.

approaching Kuah Ferry Terminal on Langkawi

approaching Kuah Ferry Terminal on Langkawi

We departed at 12.05 and arrived about 13.15.

arrival at Langkawi

arrival at Langkawi

arrival at Langkawi

arrival at Langkawi

on the jetty

on the jetty

just follow this corridor out

just follow this corridor out

Just follow the exit signs and you are soon outside. Across a pedestrian crossing you will find the tourist office, travel offices, and car rental agencies, all in one oval building. It is easy to get yourself organised. There are also touts for car rental and hotels. Sometimes we use them as they are OK.

We didn’t try very hard to get a low price, but it was out of holiday season, and a small manual rental car  was RM50 per day (of 24 hours), a small automatic RM60.  We paid in cash for the full three days, and additionally  RM100 cash deposit and had no problem getting it refunded on return of the car.

All in all, a good trip, with everything going smoothly.