Starring a one armed plant pot and a Saudi Arabian in a Hawaiian suit
From Phi Phi we got the ferry back to Krabi and said teary farewells as my parents set off for the airport and I checked into my considerably less comfortable accommodation. Krabi is actually a refreshing change from the islands as the night market and all it sells are primarily aimed at the locals.
The next morning I was picked up horrifically early from the guesthouse and we set off on the usual business of driving endlessly round various guesthouses to pick up the rest of the passengers, even pulling over on the highway to collect another person who was deposited by the side of the road.
At 12:30 we suddenly arrived at a ferry terminal which was a happy surprise as I had been expecting to be going on the bus the whole way. The next ferry was at 13:30. Excellent. But alas no. As it was a holiday the next ferry was cancelled and we needed to hang around till 4pm. The money exchange place was also closed (holiday) but a nice American couple eventually told me I could change my cash at a shop which I dutifully did.
At 3:40pm we all queued up to go through immigration (which had just opened). At this point I realised that I had over stayed my visa by a day. Apparently when you come into Thailand overland they only give you a two week visa – who knew? Not me – I hadn’t even bothered to check. Two weeks? Seriously? I had to go into a little room with a stern faced woman and fill in three separate forms before she demanded payment of a fine in baht. I had no baht. Would she accept Malaysian Ringgit? US Dollars? Euros? Credit Card? No. I rushed back out into the terminal but the place I had changed money was now closed (holiday). Eventually I found another shop that would do it for a filthy rate. Back in the office I paid my fine and got on the ferry with minutes to spare.
We got to Langkawi an hour or so late and disembarked to find the taxi office closed (holiday) and had to pretty much fight each other to get some wheels. Unfortunately the American couple were heading to a posh resort so I had to cab it alone to Pantai Cenang – the main backpacker beach. I was duly deposited at the Lonely Planet Number 1 top pick hostel only to be waved away while still making my way down the drive, “full, full” shouted the receptionist (holiday). I went next door. The man sighed. No they were full too, but he would call around. While I waited four more groups of people trailed in having had no luck up and down the street. The man rang his friend and got me a room at what sounded like a rather high price but, with this kind of queue forming, I was having it. So I checked in at ‘Daddy’s Guesthouse’ where the décor is quite something to behold. There was a Christmas tree on the table, bed linen best described as eclectic and windows that had been spraypainted black with the curtains nailed to the frames. Outside my room there was a plant pot with an arm in it. I asked the way to main road and was directed down a path at the back of the building through knee high grass with frogs jumping out of the way and past a washing line with a decaying mattress propped on the top.
The main thing I needed was cash and food so I set off in search of an ATM. This turned out to be quite a mission as there is only one ATM in Pantai Cenang and it is in the aquarium at the very far end of the stip. About half way there it started to rain in a very tropical manner. I sat down in a concrete stairwell with some ants and mosquitos to wait it out for the expected 15 minutes these things usually last. An hour AND 15 minutes later it started to show signs of letting up so I risked a dash to a shop to get a plastic bag to put my phone and camera into and then proceeded to the ATM. I was on my way back when it started up again. I brought an umbrella. My umbrella is silver and lined with pink tartan. It is too large to fit in any bag I own. It matched the room at Daddy’s so perfectly I almost left it behind.
By this point it was too late to get dinner so I scrapped that plan and focused on finding beer. You can get cans of coffee, cans of milk, cans of yoghurt but do you think I could find a can of beer? Eventually I staggered into a fruit shop and there, finally, were some cans of beer. So pineapple and beer for dinner. I was not feeling like Langkawi was my kind of place.
The next morning it was still a bit drizzley so I decided to go and see Langkawi’s one and only must see attraction – a cable car up a mountain with a huge viewing platform on the top. It’s a pricey taxi ride out there and then an expensive ticket to get up, but it is the NUMBER ONE attraction and it had cleared up considerably, so up I went. The minute I got to the top, the mist rolled in and the view disappeared. Oh well, I thought, I’ll wait this out. An hour and half later, several chapters through the next book, I finally gave up, had a stroll along the metal bridge in the clouds and then went back down.
At the bottom a German guy leaned out of a cab window and said did I want to share their taxi. Obviously. Chat, chat, chat all the way back. The girl sitting next to him was giving me filthy looks. As we all said goodbye he mentioned that they usually go to a bar called ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’ in the evenings and see me there. “Great,” I said, “see you there.” “Perhaps,” said the woman.
After a stroll along the beach, a good deal of time spent on the internet booking all my accommodation for the next few weeks and some dinner, I was down at Beach Blanket Babylon sipping a very nice cocktail. Needless to say the Germans did not put in an appearance but I got chatting to Canadian John an ice hockey player who travels with no more than two tshirts and a pair of shorts and hasn’t been home for over two years. The reggae band got going - singing all the usual classics but inserting ‘Langkawi’ in at all sorts of strange points so you go sentences like “Get up, Stand up, Stand up for Langkawi’. We were shortly joined by a Saudi called Saleh who John had met on a previous night out and who was dressed from head to toe in an Hawaiian blue floral print. I felt like I could get to like Langkawi.
The next day I went on a ‘Three Island, Eagle Feeding’ trip. The pier was literally choked with boats full of tourists. First stop – Pregnant Lady Island. This has to do with the shape of the island. “I don’t see it?” I said to the guy next to me and suddenly found myself in the slightly awkward position of sitting next to someone in a crowded boat saying "And those are her breasts..." As you disembark you are immediately accosted by a troupe of monkeys who snatch from your hand anything that might be edible including soft drink cans. The screeching of the ladies shattered the peace somewhat. In the centre of the island is a fresh water lake that all the Malay and visiting middle eastern families leap into wearing life jackets. Second stop – eagle watching. The boat crew threw chicken skin and they dived conveniently close for photographs. Final stop a nice little beach island for swimming. When about a third of the people on the beach are swimming in their burkas it is surprisingly difficult to feel comfortable stripping down to a bikini. When we got back to the pier they handed us little plastic plates with our photographs printed on them. I was scowling in mine otherwise I definitely would have bought it.
I got back to discover my phone had been stolen. The transfer I had booked to the ferry didn’t turn up and we landed up all squashed into a mini bus that was driven ridiculously fast. When we got there the driver insisted I hadn’t paid for my ferry ticket, I waved the receipt, shouted a lot and eventually snatched my ticket out of his paw in a fit of pique I’m in no way proud of.
I found I really couldn’t like Langkawi after all and got on the ferry to Penang.