The changing tide burbles along the hulls, birds chirp in the trees all around and the murmurs of an awakening fishing village – hidden in the dense jungle upstream – drift across the water. As the first longtail clatters its way out to sea, the river slowly comes to life.
We are anchored a mile or so up the Kilim river with our friends, Paul and Gerry, who share our love of discovering, preparing and eating food. We have spoken about a sailing trip for years, and have finally managed to get our busy lives to coincide.
Late morning, we take the dinghy up a tributary of the main river to explore and enjoy a delicious lunch at the Hole in the Wall Restaurant and Fish Farm. Just for a change of pace it pours with rain in the afternoon and we hunker down with our books and coffee.
and then it shines ……..
Arriving at the base in Telaga , we are assailed by the exotic names reminiscent of a Boys Own story:
Pulau Langkawi, Jewel of the Kedah lies off Penang in the Strait of Malacca in the Andaman Sea.
Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands and according to one theory, means island of the reddish-brown eagle. The Malay word for eagle is helang (shortened to lang), and kawi is a red stone used as a chalk to mark goods. (Wikipedia). These eagles are quite the tourist attraction. Guides throw fish into known spots and eagles dive around creating great photo opportunities.
We were very fortunate that the Harmony 38 monohull that we had booked was in for repair and we were upgraded to a Lagoon 38 catamaran, “Star Fruit”. It was spacious and in good condition. The serving hatch between the galley and cockpit was an especially nice feature. Even nicer was having an entire hull to yourselves.
We did raise our eyebrows when we were presented with a plastic bag full of oil filters as the starboard engine only ran smoothly if the oil filter was replaced every day or so. It was a small price to pay though.
Kuah - Capital of Langkawi
Kuah is a shopping mecca with several large malls with restaurants. (Nikki had to buy a pair of designer sunglasses, as she had dropped hers in the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden on Dayang Bunting). We chose though, to eat in small backstreet in-between the multicoloured colonial buildings, watching life go by .
Akmal puttered up to us as we bobbed at anchor in the bay off Tanjung Rhu. “Why you here. Why you not inside?”
The simple answer was that I was too cautious. I had read that you could anchor inside Tanjung Rhu, but the charts showed a very shallow entrance past the sand bar and, although we had a catamaran, I still felt uncomfortable. “I take you” he said summarily, leaping aboard.
With a sheer cliff on one side and a visible sand spit on the other we thread our way through the narrow channel. We suck in our stomachs every time our depth meter approaches zero (which is often) or there is a slight checked motion as we touch sand. We would not have been able to do this without Akmal.
We come into a beautiful basin, totally protected, and drop anchor.
Expecting to be asked for a fee or to be sold some guided tour, we were ashamed when Akmal jumped back onto his dinghy, gave a cheery wave, and said “You enjoy”.
Well we did…
Firstly, lunch at one of the local floating restaurants…….
Simple, with the ubiquitous plastic chairs and table cloths which characterise the type of eating establishment we seek out in the East – authentic, atmospheric, friendly, tasty and well priced.
We sip our Singapore Slings on the deck of the luxurious Tanjung Rhu resort against a glorious pink sunset backdrop with Pulau Chabang a small limestone karst seen in so many iconic pictures of Langkawi. Can life get any better? We aren’t sure, so we order another round of our Malaysian go-to drink.
Photo: Paul Mullon
Photo: Paul Mullon
It is dark when we leave and the light from the gibbous moon is not enough to light the way. There is a lot of giggling as each of us, adamant that we alone know the route, run the dinghy aground. We eventually make it back to the yacht much later than the distance would suggest.
There is nothing quite like the first, quiet cup of coffee of the day. The aroma and warmth banishing the night, leaving you alive to the possibilities of the day ahead. The early morning mist dissipates revealing the occasional lone fisherman patiently pulling in his nets with a paltry catch.
Sadly, our 7 day charter is almost over. We wait for high tide and retrace the route we came in on. This a special place and we are sorry to leave, but happy to end our Langkawi trip on a high.
Thank you Akmal.
Footnote: The plastic bottle floating in the background of the idyllic scene above, is one of thousands, together with other plastic debris, pushed by tide and current into masses on the eastern side of Langkawi.
We were not that aware of the extent of the global plastic problem at the time. This is just a small example of the plastic scourge the world is now having to face.
Photo: Paul Mullon