I love fair trade. I love supporting artisans and artists. This kind of stuff was really big in Indonesia and it turns out there’s quite a bit of it on Langkawi too.
My wonderful husband knows that I love these things, so when he read that Langkawi has a Culture Craft Complex, he made sure to take me there. It’s a pretty cool place!
The complex has everything. Wood carving, pottery, glass blowing, textiles, clothing, jewelry… You name it, they make it!
I was particularly impressed by their paintings. We saw some of the artists working on them while we were there. Such colorful and vibrant artistic style!
There is also an educational aspect to the complex. There are several displays set up that teach you about Malaysia’s art and culture. Some displays focus on wedding attire across the various cultures found in Malaysia, and others focused on the history of Aboriginal art.
There’s also a “stingless bee farm” at the craft complex, and soap is made from the wax of these bees.
They offer glass blowing demonstrations at the craft complex too, but we happened to visit on the one day of the week they didn’t have a show.
You could easily spend hours at the craft complex, if you have some free time and a husband who doesn’t mind being dragged around to look at scarf after scarf.
We made it through in about an hour, but I think 30 minutes more would have been nice. The complex is free by the way, you only pay for what you buy… And with so many beautiful choices, you’re bound to leave with something!
One of the reasons we’ve enjoyed our stay in Langkawi so much has been because of its food scene. We’ve had very few disappointing meals. Whether you’re looking for something local or foreign, there are an endless number of restaurants to choose from.
Malaysian food is flavourful, colourful and diverse. Roti Canai is like a sort of Indian pancake that can be served with chocolate, fruit or curry sauce (kind of like an Asian Crepe). Nasi Lemak, Malaysia’s national dish, is made of rice soaked in coconut milk, served with dried fish, peanuts and chili sauce. Satay is a kind of bbq served with a peanut sauce. These are all traditional foods you can find in Malaysia, and they are all delicious.
Mostly we’ve been going to small, family run places, but there are some chains too. The House of Lamb is run by local Muslim Malays and specializes in BBQ lamb and chicken skewers. They have a couple of locations on the island. We’re definitely going to be going back!
There are plenty of other Asian restaurants on the island, although we haven’t actually visited many of them because most Asian food is available in Suzhou. Chinese restaurants are probably the most common Asian restaurant in Langkawi, which makes sense given that in a normal year, there are tons of Chinese tourists visiting during Spring Festival. Of course, this year has been different.
There are plenty of Indian, Korean, Thai and Japanese restaurants on the island too, so there definitely isn’t a lack of choice!!
If Malaysian food is too spicy for you, or if you’re looking for something familiar, there are a few good Western options on Lankawi island as well. There are at least 2 restaurants serving crepes and both are run by French expats. There’s plenty of Italian food on the island as well, and you can even find several Mexican restaurants in Langkawi!
If you’re in the mood for something out of the way and a bit more upscale, Mangoes is also a great option! It’s run by an Australian lady and you can get a great burger or even roasts and Chicken Cordon Bleu there! Good, homemade style Western food!
Middle Eastern Food
So far, my favourite meals on the island have been at middle Eastern restaurants. Most of the ones we’ve seen have offered a mixture of middle Eastern dishes and my favorite restaurant has been Hadramawt.
Their lamb mendy and falafels are some of the best I’ve ever had. This restaurant is so good, in fact, that we’ve been there twice in 10 days.
There are other restaurants as well that serve very tasty middle Eastern food. The Syrian restaurant we tried on one of our first nights here had some great combo plates.
We’ve still got some time left on this beautiful little island. We’re looking forward to all the other restaurants we’ll try!
In the hot Malaysian heat, some days you just want to be indoors where it’s cool. That’s how we found our way down to Laman Padi this week.
There’s quite a lot to see there, actually. They have rice paddies in various stages of growth so you can see the process of growing this grain.
There is also a museum that teaches about the tools that are used, and tools that used to be used for farming rice. The museum is nice and cool and full of neat things to see.
Mostly, the Laman Padi was nice because it was quiet, there was lots of indoor space, so we could stay cool, and there was a surprising amount of wildlife there.
With an extra week away from China, we’ve been careful to budget our money a bit better. Laman Padi is free and if you’re there and keen, staff will show you around and explain things. Dave and I chose to do the tour solo though. After living in China for nearly 6 years (7 for me!), We know a lot about rice already.
I’ve got some fun posts about monkeys and Langkawi’s food scene coming up!! Check back soon!!!
Gunung Raya is the tallest peak on Langkawi island. We discovered it while driving around and exploring the island by motorbike. With beautiful views and a scenic ride up the mountain, it was a nice way to spend an hour and a half.
It takes about 30 minutes to reach the peak by motorbike. There is a nice lookout there and you get a really nice view of the island, the ocean and even Thailand in the distance. There’s some information on the myths surrounding this part of the island, as well as information about the area’s geological history.
Unfortunately, whole area is pretty run down. The signs explaining the area’s geography are sun bleached, and a lot of it was actually quite difficult to read. It’s like the tourism bureau just forgot about this place…
There used to be a hotel up at the peak where people could stay. They also had restaurants in the hotel and a lookout tower to see the whole island from up high. Now it’s all abandoned and kind of spooky.
All in all, I’d recommend the trip up to the summit if you have a motorbike. The views are pretty and you’ll likely see some wildlife (birds and monkeys are everywhere on this island). Don’t expect anything extravagant, but if you’re looking for something free that involves some stellar views, this is a great way to spend some time!
Although our mornings have been pretty lax, and we’ve been getting plenty of pool time, we’ve been trying to be more active in the evenings. Each night we try to take a walk somewhere nice. We ended up in Kuah, at a lovely little park on our 3rd night on Langkawi.
It’s a really nice place to go for a walk, especially at sun set. It’s right along the coast, so as the sun goes down, you get a spectacular view.
The park isn’t super well maintained anymore but I’m sure it was beautiful in it’s time. It was set up in 1989 for a Commonwealth meeting. The park’s name CHOGM) actually stands for “Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting”.
You won’t find washrooms or food stands anywhere but entrance is free and you can go in any time. There are benches set up throughout the park and a nice pathway along the man made beach.
A little peace and beauty can go a long way when things are as crazy as they have been.
One of the cool things about traveling is that you get to see all the different varieties and flavors each country has. A good example of that is India’s Maharaja Mac. They don’t eat beef in India so McDonalds had to come up with an alternative to the Big Mac. This chicken burger was the solution.
South East Asia has all sorts of flavors that Canada doesn’t… And sometimes I don’t understand why we haven’t brought these flavors out west! The cookies and cream dairy milk found in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines is one of many examples.
In Singapore they also have salted caramel Magnum bars, which are to die for!!
There are some strange variations too. Salted egg yolk is a really common flavour in this part of the world. You can get salted egg yolk calamari, crab and even potato chips!
There are other strange flavors of chips too!
Popcorn is also a lot more variable than you’d imagine. I’m a fan of good old fashioned butter and salt, but in Asia, they have all sorts of sweet popcorn.
Even quick meals are more diverse in Malaysia! Back home we have Mr. Noodles and Kraft Dinner but they go beyond that here:
Of course, I can’t forget about candy! We make a point of bringing back strange candies for our nieces and nephews every year. They seem to enjoy trying new stuff!
Every once in a while I find “normal” stuff from back home too. China doesn’t have a lot of imported foods so when I find sour cream and onion chips, I get excited!!!
Airports are a bit scary at the moment. They’re where you are most likely to run into someone with Coronovirus, and airplanes circulate the same air throughout the flight, and you notice everyone that is coughing, sneezing or sniffling as you get into the plane. You’re breathing their sniffles for the flight. Fun fact.
We left the jungle early to make sure we’d make it to the airport in time, so I decided to do a bit of walking around to try and find some back up masks and extra hand sanitizer (we are meeting up with a friend in Lankowi who needs them too because she, like so many others, hasn’t been able to locate any). Unfortunately all I saw was this:
Shelves were completely empty of anything that disinfects…
I did manage to find some vitamin C and some hand wipes in the end, but I think I basically bought the last hand wipes in the entire airport.
Back in China, the government has began fining anyone who is trying to overcharge for these basic essentials during this outbreak. One man in Beijing is being fined 3 million RMB for this crime.
Once in Lankawi, we found a big bottle of hand sanitizer for both us and my friend. We also stocked up on arrival masks in a small town outside KL (where people aren’t as worried and the masks are easier to find).
Over all, even with The Who declaring a global state of emergency (several hours after saying it WASN’T a global emergency….) I’m still not in panic mode.
Still, things are still uncertain for us on this side of the world. When we left China, we had no idea that we might not be coming back as planned. We packed what we needed for our 19 days of travel, and we packed light. We have 3 cats at home who are being cared for, but it’s scary knowing that our cat sitter could be banned from entering the complex at any point. As it is, many apartment complexes won’t allow anyone in until they have been tested for fevers. That’s the lengths cities are going to to try and prevent this virus from spreading further.
So, we’ll continue with the “wait and see” approach and hope that it’ll all turn out fine. At least we got ahold of some masks, sanitizer and vitamin C.
We spent a lot of time there rapid shooting, cruising around and getting back and forth from the national Park. We even ate on the river! The Tembeling River was a big part of our stay in Kuala Tahan. It was the best place to cool down and a beautiful place to spend some time.
Our river boat cruise was quite nice. It gave us a chance to take some nice pictures of the river and we also saw some wild life, including a monitor lizard and monkeys. The lizard got away before we could get photos but the monkeys stuck around for a while!
There is also a beach area where you can go swimming in the river. It’s about a 20 minute walk through the national Park to get there, but it’s all on a boardwalk path and is a lovely way to spend 20 minutes!
One of the best feelings in the world is to jump into some cool water after a sweaty hike, so when we arrived at the beach for the first time, we jumped right in!
Before we knew it, a family of about 30 long tailed Macaques were swinging from the branches nearby. We watched them for about an hour. It was beautiful peaceful and lovely just watching them play. Unfortunately, we didn’t bring our camera during that particular trip so I don’t have photos of them, but I do have a video from my phone. You can see a monkey jumping from one tree to the next.
We actually decided to go back to this beach on our last day in the jungle but we were less fortunate on that trip. The heavy rainfall resulted in an unreasonable number of leeches on the forest floor. They’re different from leeches in Manitoba, which tend to be fatter and mostly live in water.
The river was lovely nonetheless. I would caution anyone from going down that way after a lot of rain though, unless you don’t mind these creepy crawlers latching on!!
Here are some more lovely river videos to erase the vision of leeches from your mind!
It really was a gorgeous place to spend some time!
Malaysia is home to many endemic species and some of the oldest rainforests on Earth. We knew that when we actually decided to travel here (we’ve passed through in the past), at least some of our time would be spent hiking through national parks. After all, who can resist walking through greenery this beautiful?
On our second day in Taman Negara National Park, we saw plenty of wildlife. We had planned to do the Canopy Walk that day, but we got a lot of rain the night before, which had flooded the trails and left debris everywhere so the walk way was closed.
We also took a jungle walk that evening. With a guide and some flashlights, we head off into the rainforest after dark, looking for nocturnal species and sleeping jungle friends.
I’ll admit, I was nervous before going into this because I knew that there would be a lot of spiders to see. Still, I rarely let stuff like that stop me from having fun. But there are seriously soooo many spiders in the jungle, guys. Big ones too!
Spiders weren’t the only thing to see though. We saw 2 different kinds of snakes (both sleeping) and also a snake skin that had been left behind by its shedding host.
We also saw scorpions! They were only visible under black light, but the guide knew where they were because they usually hang out in the same holes.
We also saw various moths and sleeping birds on this walking tour. We saw several stick insects and a millipede too! But the coolest thing we saw was a slow loris!
Slow Lorises are nocturnal animals that live on fruit and leaves. They’re one of the only venimous mammals on Earth and their venom is actually strong enough to kill a human. Still, there is a demand for them in illegal black markets because people like to try and keep them as pets. You’ve probably seen cute videos online of Lorises raising their arms to be tickled. It’s not cute: it’s one of the ways they try to defend themselves. They’re terrified.
I really enjoyed our walk through the jungle at night! I hope to never see another huntsman spider, but I’d risk it if there was a chance to see another Loris!!
Travel days can be a bit of a bummer, but when your travel day involves going deep into a 130 million year old rain forest, things get a lot more interesting!
We began in Kuala Lampur. The bus company we booked, Han Tours, was located right next to a Travel Lodge, so we booked a night there and were waiting outside for our bus at 8:00am.
Unfortunately, our bus wasn’t a bus. It was a mini van, which is much less comfortable and much more crowded. When you travel through Asia, you learn that ‘bus’ can mean a lot of different things. I’ve been in nice buses, small buses, mini van buses, buses with standing room, buses with live chickens in them, buses driven by maniacs. This wasn’t the worst bus we’ve seen.
It ended up being another passenger who made this trip unbearable, and not the lack of leg room. He caughed and sneezed without covering his mouth the whole 3 hour trip. Coronovirus has me acutely aware of coughers and sneezers at the moment and, unfortunately, we couldn’t find masks in KL, so I felt extremely exposes in that enclosed space. I used a lot of hand sanitizer, and gave a lot of dirty looks on our journey to the jungle.
3 hours later, I was thrilled to get off that bus and away from “Sir Sneezes A Lot”. Kuala Tembeling was nice. We had lots of time to kill while we waited for the boat to pick us up. It’s faster to take a bus from KT to the little jungle town where we were staying, but who can resist a boat ride through the jungle!!
If you’re planning to take this route to the jungle, be warned: the the boats are pretty small and there isn’t much room for luggage. It’s pretty handy that you can pay your National park fee in that little town though, and you can also have some lunch while you’re there. Sadly, the cater to “Western tastes”, meaning the food is lacking in flavour and mostly just deep fried and salty.
Once the boat arrived, it wasn’t long before we were on our way. It was quite a long ride; 3 hours. We were pretty uncomfortable by the end of it, shifting our weight around to get feeling back in our numb bums, but I’d recommend the trip anyway. It was gorgeous.
One other thing worth mentioning to anyone who’s considering taking this trip: bring sun screen! The boat is covered overhead, but as the sun starts moving down in the sky, you’ll get a sun burn if you’re on the left side of the boat. My arms are now 2 different shades of tan as a result.
It was a beautiful trip to a beautiful town. We’ve loved our stay here so far and I have plenty to write about it! Check back soon!