Sunday, 26 January 2014

Relaxing with the In-Laws in Langkawi

December in Singapore is typically wet...very wet.  In fact, Sophia and Cooper's comment, "you never know when it's going to rain" really doesn't apply this time of year, because you do know.  It's ALWAYS about to rain in Singapore in December.  So, with Jennifer's parents in town during the wettest time of year, we decided to schedule a short trip to somewhere a little different and where we knew we'd find more sun.  After all, we figured Kathy and Grant would enjoy some sun and sand after traveling nearly 10,000 miles and leaving behind one of the coldest, snowiest winters in years!

Our destination for this quick trip was Langkawi, Malaysia.  Officially, Langkawi is a collection of over 100 small islands in the Andaman Sea, about 15 or so miles off the coast of mainland Malaysia, and directly on the border with Thailand.  Our visit was to Pulau Langkawi, the largest of the islands and the most popular resort destination. 

We selected the Berjaya Resort, largely based on TripAdvisor reviews and a desire to experience the "over-water" villas.  The villa layout was reminiscent of the Maldives, and at this point we know that we are out of time and will not make it there.  So it checked lots of boxes!  The resort was very large and spread out, which for some TripAdvisor reviewers was an issue.   While we have typically opted for the smaller, more personal hotels during our trips throughout Asia, we found Berjaya to be very comfortable, and several employees provided a very personal touch that made our stay wonderful. Apparently, size really doesn't matter.

Our villas were located side by side, perched over the Andaman sea and offered amazing sunset views every evening.  The rooms were large and included a king size bed, sofa, large bathroom, and good size patio overlooking the sea.  While the resort was large, a quick call to the front desk sent a shuttle our way, which would take us anywhere we wanted to go within the resort - and on most occasions, that was the beach, the pool, and the beach restaurant. 

The beach and pool were both very nice.  The pool had a swim-up bar, waterfall, plenty of lounge chairs and friendly wait staff happy to bring you another cold drink.  The view was really amazing, with heavy vegetation and palm trees framing the pool area and the 2,300 foot high peaks of Mount Chinchang jutting up in the background.  

The beach was likewise beautiful.  The water wasn't as crystal clear as we experienced on Malaysia's east coast (read - Batu Batu posts), but it was very clean and refreshing in the afternoon sun.  We have read about jelly fish issues in the Langkawi sea, but we did not personally experience this.  Plenty of lounge chairs were available along the beach, as well as seating by the unassuming, casual beach bar.  Kayaks, paddle boats, jet skis and other water sports were available along the beach (no charge), and a favorite for the kids, a batik craft area was just a few feet away allowing them to create some great souvenir artwork.  (Jennifer's note:  What?  Favorite for the kids?  My mom and I LOVED painting our masterpieces!)

The resort also has a short mangrove walking path, if you want to get up an personal with some of the wildlife.  Just be careful what you wish for.  Sophia and I came across a few hornbills as well as a monitor lizard that must have been at least 6 feet long.  And even if you aren't walking off the beaten path, the area around the resort is home to Macaques and Dusky Leaf Monkeys.  The latter paid us a visit in the trees by the pool on one afternoon, but weren't really much of a bother.

While we spent much of our stay at the resort, relaxing and enjoying the sun, we did venture out on two excursions during our brief stay.  For the first, we took the short, three minute shuttle ride (ten minute walk) from the Berjaya Resort to the Oriental Village.  The village offers more than 50 shops, restaurants, and activities to chose from, but we had just one in mind...the Langkawi Cable Car.  The Cable Car is the hub of the Oriental Village, and takes passengers on a crazy ride to the peak of Mt. Chinchang and the Langkawi Skybridge.  
Though the skybridge itself is closed for renovations, the cable car ride and view from the three observation decks ABOVE the skybridge are still amazing. Besides, it removed the possibility that I might be too afraid to walk out on the 400 foot long, curved bridge that's precariously balanced across the mountain peaks.  The thing just doesn't look safe!

The views were really amazing, and the kids loved watching the clouds blow through the mountain passes below us.  Cooper insisted it was the coolest thing he's ever done...which he says about almost everything.  You've gotta love how "in the moment" that kid is!  Sophia loved it as well, after she got over her initial fear of the very steep cable car ride to the peak.

Two recommendations - First, the lines for the cable car can get very long with multiple hour wait times...look for the daily promotion and pay the extra money to go to the front of the line.  We were at the peak in 5 minutes vs. waiting 3 hours!  Second, take a postcard and stamp with you.  There is a post office box at the peak of the mountain.  I'm sure you or your kids have a friend who would think it's pretty cool to get a post card from one of the highest peaks in Malaysia)

Our second excursion in Langkawi was much closer to sea level.  In fact, it was exactly at sea level. As one of the world's most active fisherman, it was no surprise that Grant wanted to try his luck fishing the waters of the Andaman Sea, and so we booked a half day trip through the hotel activity desk, and headed just off the coast for Barracuda and a variety of other fish.

Sophia, Cooper, Jennifer, Grant and I headed out on the morning trip, but unfortunately, my luck on fishing trips (or lack thereof) followed me and we didn't fare too well.  We completely struck out with the Barracuda, but Grant and Jennifer managed to catch a few Kerupa and Sophia and I both caught tiny reef fish.  Cooper managed only to catch a good tan, but he was as happy as could be checking in the sights.  Though we didn't catch much, it was a really enjoyable day on the water.

On our final evening in Langkawi, we headed back to the Oriental Village for dinner and to do a little shopping.  Unfortunately, most of the shops were closing up early (Sunday evening) when we finished dinner, so shopping was limited.  But Sophia found a souvenir elephant to add to her collection from our journeys throughout Asia, and Cooper managed to find a toy guitar.  The kid likes what he likes.

While Langkawi was far less "culturally stimulating" than much of our recent travel, it was truly enjoyable.  The beach and pool offered a great alternative to wet and rainy Singapore and our visit just a few days before Christmas was a very relaxing one.  Now, with only a couple months left before we leave Singapore and return to reality in the US, we have officially started the countdown.  Our "bucket list" is long, so you can expect to hear from us again soon!

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