Friday, August 25, 2006

A Legacy on the Legendary Island

Many of the new attractions, buildings and activities in Langkawi are the result of the efforts of the former Prime Minister to popularize the legendary island. These were his legacy to the island. He has had a very special interest in developing the island as a tourist attraction. And as always, he went to the ground during construction to make sure that what came up met his expectations, a very discerning man indeed. I know, as I had some experience with him, although not directly, when I was working with the national oil company.

Now, why did he concentrate in developing the island? was it to live up to the ending of the curse? Or was there another agenda? I wonder. I noticed that almost all the development, private or public, somehow has reference to him. Some holiday resorts and complexes would somehow or other have something devoted to him. Apple polishing? There is one complex, the Galeria Perdana, or literally Prime Gallery, that is totally devoted to him. It comprised of several large buildings. Ram and I spent a couple of hours and just got tired walking when viewing the exhibits inside the buildings. We had to sit down and rest our feet several times!! Exhibits include gifts from head of states, captains of industries, big and small, local and foreign, and others that were given to him during his tenure as Prime Minister of the country.

Whatever the reason was in developing the island it certainly brings in the tourist dollars. Even during the low peak period that we were there we saw many foreigners all over the island. One sad thing though was the fact that many of the outlets, the small ones, especially those in the touristy parts of the island were out to make quick gains. Ram learnt it the expensive way. She bought a ‘kaftan’ at one of the stalls by the touristy beach, for a price that she thought she got at a bargain after haggling but found out later that the same stuff was sold in a local town shopping complex tagged at a lower price!! Similarly food prices in the little restaurants in the tourist areas and stuff in the mini markets. They were a letdown……

Anyway, we enjoyed our stay in Langkawi and would not mind returning sometime in the future, in a low peak period of course……

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Legendary Island

For quite a while we were looking for a window in our calendar to spend a few days in Langkawi, the legendary island off the north coast of peninsular Malaysia. The opportunity came when Sita and Fahrul decided to take leave from work and return to Fahrul’s parent’s house in Kangar, Perlis. Ram and I had not visited Fahrul’s parents for almost two years now while in that same period they had visited us more than a couple of times. We thought that it would be nice if we can spend a day with them together with Sita, Fahrul, and little Najla.

So it was, after checking the dates and available Air Asia Langkawi package, we booked a four nights package at the Awana Porto Malai resort. As it was low peak, we had a good deal. The package costs us less than the cost if we had booked accommodation and traveled by road to Perlis separately, now that fuel price has gone up.

Traveling into and out of Langkawi was without any hassle. There was a 15 minutes delay though for the flight from KL to Langkawi but that was nothing to fret about. On arrival at the Langkawi airport and while waiting for our baggage, I visited the various booths of car rental providers, there were many, and got a deal for a small and compact car for RM160.00, good for the period of our stay. That tiny car was good enough for Ram and me to move around the island.

The last time we were in Langkawi was in early 90’s, and that’s more than ten years ago. A lot of changes have taken place and there are more things to see, places to go to and more shopping complexes to spend money in!! There were new roads built (I do not remember these roads) and roads being reconstructed and enlarged. Many new buildings, hotels and motels of various sizes and standards. Even the site of the legendary grave of Mahsuri has been converted into a complex now. Where the site then held only her grave and her old house, it has now been turned into a larger complex complete with typical houses of Mahsuri’s time (some eight generations ago), theatre and exhibition halls with displays of various items and stories related to the legend. One can get more details of the legend of Langkawi by visiting or browsing the web on langkawi or the Legend of Mahsuri. Is the legend of her dying curse that Langkawi will not see any development for seven generations true then? I wonder…..

Awana Porto Malai is a nice low rise hotel (three levels only) Spanish resort designed, located at the end of the popular tourist belt of Pantai Cenang. It has a marina where boats and ships dock, including the large Star Cruise liners. We were given a room facing the swimming pool and the garden (that’s what you get for going on a cheap package I guess) but it was nice nevertheless. Four days of watching children playing in the pool from our room/balcony was more fun I think than four days watching the sea with not much going on except small boats plying by now and then (It was low peak period, remember?). This marina was the marker point where the lone Malaysian, who circumnavigated the world, (west to east route and no one had tried this route before him) in a sailing boat started and ended. It has a bit of history and legend of its own!!

After checking into the hotel on arrival in mid-afternoon we took a drive around the south part of the island towards the town. Although there were many new buildings I can still remember the various kampongs and villages, the mosques along the way and even recognized some of the seafood outlets I visited the last time I was in Langkawi. We tried one of the seafood outlet located on the tourist belt but was very disappointed. The service and food was a lot wanting!! and pricy too. For that equivalent price we paid we got better service and food in our hotel!! The food outlets in the town of Kuah though were much better and cheaper in comparison.

On the second day we boarded a ferry to go across to Perlis to visit Fahrul’s parents. It took about an hour to go across by ferry. Previously the ferry services were provided by independent ferry service providers and we could choose which ferry to take. There are the large ones which would be more stable in the open sea and also small ones. Now however, these service providers have been grouped in a consortium, hence passengers do not get to choose the ferry. We got the small ferry on our way out to Perlis but the weather was fine and sunny, hence the ride was quite smooth. However, it was raining heavily and the sea was rough when we returned in the evening. Although we got a large ferry the ride was rather unstable and unsettling for both of us. Both of us ended having a slight headache at the end of the journey. We also noticed that they were more systematic in managing the operations of the ferry services. Seats were numbered and there were proper holding areas for passengers waiting to board. Quite an improvement, comfortable, clean and pleasing, although not yet the standard expected for a tourist destination……. perhaps the proper management are working towards more improvement and perhaps not waiting for another ten years to do so………….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Change of Habit

It has been about one month since my last posting. One of those who regularly visit reminded me of it when we met at a gathering of relatives last night. The times I had on the laptop over the period had been short and infrequent. I used to bring my laptop with me when I traveled but have not done so recently as I thought I would just travel light and leave the technological gadget at home. However, I am at home only for short periods of time hence the time spent on the laptop becomes infrequent too. This change in habit changed how I spend my days and blogging happened to be one habit that was affected…… hmmmm let me try to put that right and post my thoughts as often as I can from now on.

This change in habit (of not bringing my laptop) does have some benefits though. For one, I do not have to lug the roller bag, with laptop in it, all over the place, especially going up or down stairs, when I had to carry the stuff instead of rolling it. It can be heavy. Even if it is only one level of floor change, up or down a pavement for example, I still have to carry it. For another, I do not have to revolve my activities, when away from home, around the laptop. I still have my pda to record stuff. Of course the downside is that I have less time to spend on the laptop. I also recently discovered that I cannot synchronize my pda with my laptop. There must either be a bug in the laptop somewhere or my pda is not up to mark!! Thus whatever records I have in my pda will have to be manually transferred. That is just another technological bother I have to contend with!!

Anyway, with this change in habit, gain or no gain, something has to give and the first that gave way was blogging. I will just have to find ways to overcome it…… a lighter laptop perhaps or another pda…… hmmm just wishful thinking……….

MKI Ramblings Unlimited
Petaling Jaya