Saturday, April 12, 2008

Travel Report: A Trip To An Island Paradise Near Langkawi (Pt.1)





Nearby the island of Langkawi, in Thai territory, is an island I can only call Paradise. If Belinda Carlisle sang "Heaven Is A Place On Earth", this phrase would aptly describe this place. Despite having no cars, no 5-star resorts, no fancy restaurants, no shopping arcades, and no gargantuan statues of eagles spreading their wings, this place beats Langkawi anytime. No, its not Pulau Payar.

Throughout this article, I will not refer to this paradise by its true name. Instead, this
island shall be referred to by the imaginary name of "Koh Krana". The island actually exists, just the name in this article is made-up, to protect it from an increasing horde of tourists like you and me. It is up to you to utilize the power of the Internets to find out what and where this island really is... (hint, its near Langkawi...). By the end of this article you might even have guessed its real name. Who knows?

Welcome to "Koh Krana"....


Fellow blogger 'Magpie' has been here before, where he stayed at the really nice "Castaway Resort". But for me, I'm only half his age, and unlike him... do not have any political connections with Najib Tun Razak, and hence, not as rich (although chalets at the Castaway are only RM250 per night). So I settled for less than luxurious dwellings on the north of the island.

The only way to Koh Krana from Malaysian soil is through Langkawi. And since both the ferry
and speedboat leaves early in the morning, you'll have to stay overnight in Langkawi. At least you'll get the chance to buy some cheap tax-free liquor to take with you to Thailand. Since you're gonna be in an island resort, I recommend Bacardi.

Those familiar with Southern Thailand can drive up all the way to Pak Bara and take the ferry from there. But your car may no longer be there when you get back...



=================

Day 1

Since I arrived from Penang late Thursday morning, I had no choice but to spend a night on Langkawi and catch my speedboat from the Telaga Harbor Marina the next day. Well, better make the most of it, so I booked a taxi to Pantai Cenang, where all the hotels by the beach were and where all the fun is at. My previous trip to Langkawi was 8 years ago... I wondered what had changed since then...

Cenang Beach at sunset...



Now this was during Muhammad's birthday, a long holiday weekend where Langkawi would be packed with weekend tourists. As I had not booked my accomodations on this island, I went from hotel to motel alongside Cenang Beach asking if they had vacancy, only to be told they were full-up. Those that had rooms were too expensive for my budget. My luck changed at the exoticly-sounding "Rasa Eksotika", which certainly lived up to its name. For RM70 per night, you get a room nicely decorated with Oriental & Indonesian curios hung from the walls, draped across the sofas, or spread out on the floor. Also included; air-conditioning, television, and a minibar. A very good deal indeed.

As I had only budgeted for Langkawi as a stopover, I didn't do much except hang around the
bars, drink RM2 beers and finish this excellent book, which I'll talk about later. Anyway, I've been told by the locals that many of the tourist attractions such as the hot springs on the island had been overdeveloped like what they did to Ulu Legong, and the coral reefs off Datai Beach had died out.

Fire dancers on Cenang Beach, near the Babylon rasta bar...


If there's something to be said about Langkawi, is that there seems to be a lot of pseudo-Rastafarian Malays on this island. :p In fact, I spent the evening at one of the many many reggae bars alongside Pantai Cenang where I chatted the night away with two local Rastas, and several backpackers. Perhaps the Rastas' have a secret community hidden in the forested hills of the island... growing ganja and singing Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" by the fireside? They'll be throwing a Moonlight Party on one of the islands' off Pantai Cenang on Saturday, but I wouldn't be able to join them as I'd be in Koh Krana around then.



=================

Day 2

One of the many luxury yatches moored at Telaga...


Early next morning, I took the cab to Telaga Harbor, along Pantai Kok. This beach had budget hotels and chalets years ago... until the local tourism authority decided to kick them out and build several luxury resorts in their place. Also included in the construction was the Telaga Harbor Marina, now managed by the famous/infamous Dato' Azhar Mansor.

Azhar Mansor's sailboat, which he used to sail
round the world.
Now on permanent display...




In exchange for some bread for breakfast, I donated RM12 into Dr.Mahathir's war chest to fight Badawi:

I'm sure you know who owns this bakery...


Below where I sat, boats gently bobbed about in the morning sun. On the deck of a luxury yatch, was a hot Malay chick... up early, and yakking in a very Mat Salleh accent into her cellphone, as her servants scrubbed the deck around her.

Just before leaving to board my speedboat, I caught a glimpse of Azhar Mansor through an open office door. At his desk... tapping away at a laptop. Probably another business deal with some yachtsman from abroad...


And then, its off to Koh Krana...



(to be continued...)

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