The final stop of our two-leg trip around Malaysia is to be the Andaman Sea island of Pulau Langkawi.
Langkawi sits off the very top of the Peninsular Malaysia and acts as a crossing point into Southern Thailand via the port town of Satun.
It is also a duty-free island, meaning not only is the alcohol cheaper here than elsewhere in the country, but also that Toblerone is cheaper here than it is in Europe even though it has been shipped tens of thousands of miles from Switzerland in, I guess, a state of constant refrigeration.
Riddle me that?
The mercury is soaring when we arrive at the resort of Pantai Cenang, so leaving “The Boy” and the 0.5 in a café, I set off to find accommodation and finally source some in the form of a motel chalet one row back from the beachfront.
With accommodation on Langkawi seemingly priced to skim off any surplus savings from their duty-free policy, I set upon haggling the room rate down by 40%.
Happy with my endeavours, I urged the Malay woman on reception to make sure the room was thoroughly cleaned on the basis that my wife is so pernickety when it comes to cleanliness that a lone pubic hair in an otherwise spotless shower cubicle would NEVER escape her beady eyes.
We lunched on (relatively) overpriced food nearby, and then moved our bags to the room at around about 2pm to be greeted by the smell of freshly sprayed air freshener and the sight of a perfectly folded set of linen on the bed.
So far, so good.
Being first into the room and from experience, being highly suspicious of any mid-range accommodation being targeted at a primarily domestic market, I make a beeline for the sheets and pull them back to inspect their freshness.
Did they really believe that folding the sheets neatly would trick her into thinking they had been changed?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a bloke. Therefore I act in a blokeish way, in the sense that I don’t inspect the minutiae on things like this.
The thing is, when there are large, obvious stains on the top sheet and a significant amount of hair of varying length on both pillows and under sheets, then even I’m going to be rather annoyed.
I mean, its not as if they weren’t warned.
It’s these simple things that the Malays consistently get wrong when it comes to the hospitality trade. These and planned maintenance, which very much like India tends to be universally omitted from the lexicon.
In comparison, the Aussie influence in Bali was obvious. The little touches of quality like a fruity, chunky jam with your toast, the attention to details such as a roll of toilet paper (for us heathens who still insist in wiping sheets of paper on their ‘arris holes) upon arrival or the fact that a two year old structure wouldn’t already display the early signs of a ceiling collapse.
Things we sometimes take for granted in the west, but many other place struggle with. It is these little differences that can help make or break a stay.
On our first afternoon on the island the heat of mid-afternoon turned into a fierce thunderstorm whose bolts of lightning boomed incredibly loudly as it passed overhead. The rain which the storm brought was torrential, an hour-long deluge to match anything I witnessed in Mumbai.
I’m glad to report that the ceiling held.
From then on, the weather was great and we got some quality time on the beach, mostly parked under a palm tree to shade us from the ferocity of the sun, but also in the shallow waters that would have been ideal for kids were it not for the large number of motorboats and jet skis that zoomed far too close to shore.
Despite it’s wide beach and fabulous sunsets, I would never advise staying in Pantai Cenang as it is an accident waiting to happen.
There is no demarcated area for swimmers nor therefore for motor craft operations. Instead what exists is a dangerous mix of (unlicensed?) young show offs handling potentially lethal craft in shallows busy with swimmers.
My rant is as a result of nearly being decapitated by a banana boat whose nonchalant speedboat driver saw no danger in zooming past me whilst I was head in the water, mid front crawl.
Having been very tolerant on the trip so far, this was one that wasn’t getting away.
Abruptly depositing his riders with a sharp turn of the boat, my nemesis shot off up the beach to seek more punters.
Striding out of the water like a slightly flabby Daniel Craig body-double, but with otherwise perfect Hollywood poise, I ran up the beach to confront the guy and to ask him a few searching questions about his understanding of the laws of physics with particular regard to the topics of force and momentum.
After giving him a GCSE level lesson we moved onto his history class where he learnt a great deal about the biography of the late folk-pop singer Kirsty MacColl vis-à-vis the use of speedboats in areas where they are likely to drive into the head of a swimmer.
With him shaken but not stirred, I’d just about made my point when several of the Pantai Cenang beach-bum cohort came to his aide. I thought it best to back off and leave gracefully without resorting to the use of either my licence to kill, or my medical insurance.
The sad thing is, I know that by the time you read this the idiot will be doing exactly the same thing along with tens of other irresponsible young men along this otherwise perfectly nice stretch of beach.
God, I’m getting old.
So onwards to Thailand, and floods permitting an in depth tour of it’s multifarious charms…