CNY 2020 – Day 19 – Langkawi Cultural Craft Complex

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.

I got myself a new shaker egg to use at the next Sundaze gig

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!

There are all sorts of artisans featured here

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.

They also have some displays showing how sugar cane juice was processed back in the day

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.

The woodwork was what impressed Dave the most

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!

They do a really good job with their displays too!

CNY 2020 – Day 18 – Langkawi’s Food Scene

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.

Local Food

A tasty grilled Malay fish

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.

Nasi Lemak: I’m in love with this dish!
Roti Canai. Soooo good! The ones with banana are my favorite
Nasi Goreng Pattaya is another delicious way rice is served in Malaysia. They wrap your fried rice in a thin egg omelette and then add sweet chili sauce
Nasi Goreng with chicken. Fried chicken is also a staple on the island. I’ve probably eaten a bit too much of this over the last few weeks

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!

Lamb chops, lamb skewers, chicken skewers, Lamb Shank, corn, salad, potatoes and rice. A perfect combo for two!

Asian Food

Salted Duck Yolk Calamari

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.

Everyone is staying home because….

There are plenty of Indian, Korean, Thai and Japanese restaurants on the island too, so there definitely isn’t a lack of choice!!

Western Food

Crepes: Life

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!

The Crepes at “My French Factory” are sublime!

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!

Dave enjoyed an enormous burger
I had the chicken cordon blue. The lighting wasn’t great, but the ambience in the restaurant was so nice. We had a view of the ocean and because we were off the main strip, it was nice and quiet.

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.

Lamb Mendy is slowcooked in a way that makes the meat more tender than I really thought possible
Falafel & hummus

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.

An assortment of all my favourite middle Eastern appies! Yasmin restaurant was a delight.

We’ve still got some time left on this beautiful little island. We’re looking forward to all the other restaurants we’ll try!

CNY 2020 – Day 17 – Laman Padi

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.

This is what time looks like shortly before it’s ready for harvest

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.

You can see that the rice in the back is older than the rice in the foreground. Rice is actually a kind of grass and it becomes more yellow as it gets closer to harvest time
Rice needs lots of water to grow. Often, rice is grown on the side of hills and mountains and Farmers create little walls to trap water as it rolls down
The rice on the left is very young. Notice that it’s growing in a field with several inches of water in it

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.

A quaint little museum
Tools that were historically used in rice farming
Drying rice in the sun. Of course now, they have more efficient methods

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.

Egrets are often found in rice paddies
Water buffalo are still used in farming in some places and are also a common site in rice paddies
I’m not sure what kind of bird this is. Perhaps another kind of egret?
They had scarecrows to try and keep the birds away. I think the birds were onto them because they didn’t seem to care a whole lot

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.

Nice place got a rest!

I’ve got some fun posts about monkeys and Langkawi’s food scene coming up!! Check back soon!!!

CNY 2020 – Day 16 – Gunung Raya

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.

The open road

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.

This is the real reason to go up to the peak. Such a beautiful place to see the sun set!!

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…

The signs are badly sun bleached and need replacing
I couldn’t even read all of the English parts

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.

When we first drove up, I thought it was a prison.
I’m surprised no one tried to turn it into a tourist cafe or something.
I’m sure it was a beautiful hotel in its day
I’m impressed that the place hasn’t been totally vandalized at least! Just general weathering and decay.

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!

The view from right in front of the lookout tower

CNY 2020 – Day 15 – CHOGM Park

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.

Beautiful clear skies

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.

Lots of trees too!

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”.

Even though it isn’t super well maintained anymore, it’s still a nice place to go for a walk

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.

Nice little pathway
A relaxed cat, enjoying the sunset

Day 14 – Same Same, but Different

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.

Dave tried it and liked it a lot!  It was too spicy for me!
Subway in Singapore also had variations in their local menu!

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.

Sooo tasty!!!

In Singapore they also have salted caramel Magnum bars, which are to die for!!

My first treat in Singapore!

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!

I’ve heard they’re pretty good!  We tried the salted egg yolk calamari and that was REALLY good!

There are other strange flavors of chips too!

Also…chips made of chicken and fish skin
Chili crab is basically Singapore’s National dish. It doesn’t surprise me that they have these as chips!

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.

This one actually sounds pretty good

Even quick meals are more diverse in Malaysia! Back home we have Mr. Noodles and Kraft Dinner but they go beyond that here:

This is brilliant!
They even come in a bowl, unlike the packaged food I’ve seen in North America (which were convenient for hiking and camping but not if you’re hungry and on the go)

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!

Dunno if I’ve ever seen anything like this in Canada!
Hazel nut and green tea kit cats…

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!!!

I’d settle for Lay’s if I had to but…..
They even have Ruffles!!!
I’ve never seen anything like this in China. They have their own version of jerky, which is also quite tasty…. It’s just different

Traveling is fun! Who knows what we’ll see next!

CNY 2020 – Day 12 – Airports & Coronovirus

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.

Fun with surgical masks!
Did he just sneeze???
Why didn’t he cover his mouth!!!!!????

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:

I saw this everywhere…..

Shelves were completely empty of anything that disinfects…

These were 4 different types of sanitizer. All gone.
Dettol wipes: sold out
Hand sanitizer: sold out
Everything else was in stock, but anything involving sanitization is gone

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.

We have plenty of this stuff back in Suzhou too.

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.

The guy in Beijing isn’t the only one to try this either….

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).

500ml should last us a while.

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.

Statistics like this keep me calm

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.

This sign was posted outside a friend’s apartment complex. Basically if you don’t live in that complex, you’re not allowed in.

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.

CNY 2020 – Day 11 – Down by the River

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.

There was a lot of sedament in the river after our big rain storm but the water was pretty clean.
If you want to take a river cruise, you can talk to the same guy who takes people across the river to the national Park (the fee to get across the river is 1rm. The fee for a ‘boat Cruise’ is 10rm)
A boat just like the one we were in
The river is also where you can find some of the town’s restaurants, in floating buildings.
The Tembeling River acts as a border between the town and the National Park (Taman Negara). This is a shot of the town from the national park’s entrance.

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!

These are long tailed Macaques
They live in big family groups so if you see one, there are probably 20 others nearby
This one was hanging out on some electrical wires

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!

Such a nice setting!

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.

They came in from the right side and moved down, jumping from tree to tree lazily. We saw mommas with babies clinging to their bellies and bigger males too

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.

Dave had one latch on really badly and his foot didn’t stop bleeding for ages. Worst of all, the scent of the blood must have attracted other leeches because by the time we made it back out of the jungle, he had at least 10 more try to latch on!!
I only had 2 or 3 luckily. I kept checking between my toes 😂

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!!

Dave made a video of this one trying to make it back to us

Here are some more lovely river videos to erase the vision of leeches from your mind!

The name of the beach
Nice little areas where you can relax

It really was a gorgeous place to spend some time!

CNY 2020 – Day 10 – Welcome to the Jungle!

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?

The National Park where we were staying had nice boardwalks we could walk along. They are mostly well maintained and much safer (and easier for people nursing foot injuries, like me!)

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 decided to take a walk anyway, in an area that hadn’t been as affected by the rain.

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.

We saw sleeping lizards right away.

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!

Oh yeah…. And when I say “sooo many”, I mean they’re all over the jungle floor. They’re easy to spot because their eyes and spots on their legs light up under a flashlight. Stuff of nightmares, right there!

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.

This guy was sleeping high up in the trees. Dave spotted him.

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.

These aren’t as poisonous as the ones in the desert but they’ll still do a number on you.

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!

He’s upside down in the tree. We watched him move slowly down for some leaves, and then he moved back up into the tree when he’d eaten the ones he was interested in.

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.

This is what they look like. They move very slowly (you might have guessed that) and they’re a type of primate. Very interesting animals.

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!!

CNY 2020 – Day 8 – Getting to the Jungle

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!

It was quite the long trip across the country. There are several ways to get there. We decided on a bus and a boat.

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 also wasn’t the best

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.

Me: the whole way there (in my mind)

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!!

The type of boat we took to Kuala Tehan

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.

I also made friends while we waited for our boat

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.

It was nice to get some fresh air after being in the bus. The bald guy near the front is the germ-spreader. I made sure to stay as far away from him as possible 😂

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.

Binoculars might be a good idea too. You might be able to spot some wild life. We did see some very beautiful birds.

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!

The riverfront in Kuala Tahan. There are several floating restaurants down there. They all have Western and Malaysian choices
The little street near our hotel. The town is very remote and quite rural. I’m a little surprised we have working data, but wifi is scarce here
The view from our hotel room