We aimed very high the day that we departed Penang, in that we would be celebrating Ben’s birthday with him in Langkawi that evening. We left the guesthouse just before sunrise and were on the first ferry back to the mainland. Once in Butterworth Jude was struck down by some kind of stomach bug and after spending some time being intimate with a toilet we were back on the road. We had over 100km to cover and we were feeling optimistic. Even a mild drizzle could not dampen our spirits. Then the head wind began, and continued for the whole 100kms. By mid morning we were running on empty, so we pulled over for a tasty treat. The restaurant may have smelt like it was next to a sewage farm, but it served the best roti chanai and sweet tea I have ever tasted.
We pushed on through the Bujang Valley and sought out the archaeological museum I had read about in one of the tourist brochures. As with most brochures here, they tell you about the sight but fail to give any kind of address. Even the museums website did not have it listed. Luckily we stumbled across the sign to it and were rewarded with a 2km climb to reach it. We arrived there hot and wet, but were rewarded with great artifacts, chandis and information about the Hindu-Buddhist polity period from the 3rd-12th century. After our self-allocated hour was up and we had to hit the road to cover the last 45km to the port from where we would get the ferry to Langkawi. Enter stage left: a few steep hill climbs and a flat tyre to slow us down. We pulled into Kuala Kedah 30 minutes before our ferry departed, and enjoyed the hour and a half long journey to Langkawi.
As the sun was setting, our ferry slipped passed the many jungle covered limestone karst islands that make up the Langkawi archipelago. On landing, we watched with amusement as our fully laden bikes were lifted on to, and then wheeled down a piece of wood no wider than a fence paling. We briefly considered catching a maxi-taxi the 21km to our guesthouse on the other side of the island, but after a few dubious looks from taxi drivers we decided to ride. Fortunately most of the roads were well lit and there was a big shoulder along the side. We eventually had to turn on to more minor roads and about 2km before our destination tragedy struck. We were rounding a corner, in the pitch black, following the barely visible white of the painted curb, when my front wheel plunged into the open drain that had not been part of the road previously. I fell hard, landing on the same side that had been injured in the car crash two days earlier. Luckily only superficial injuries again, and in 5 minutes we had spotted ‘the pod’ on the main road and were heading to the guesthouse for a shower.
15 hours after setting off from the Penang guesthouse that morning, we were sitting in a restaurant celebrating Ben’s birthday with cold beers and great food. Ben spent his evening in heaven – drinking cold beers at a beachside bar surrounded by beautiful women (and Kit). After attempting a human pyramid, the night was topped off with a nudie swim. It was incredible, as it was difficult to tell where the stars ended and water began due to the phosphorescence in the water. It was like swimming with faeries. We fell into bed in the wee hours of the morning, happy to be in yet another tropical paradise with friends.
The following day we were exhausted and crawled out of our hidey-hole only for food and drinks. The rest of the day was spent watching Spooks and reading books. We were also excited as our friend Marita was joining us that evening and she will be travelling with us for a while (not on a bike – as yet). As dusk set in, her taxi pulled up and there was a lot of girly squealing as we hugged and caught up. After settling her into our room we hit the town and found a bustling Chinese restaurant where to share dinner and stories. It is a real delight to have a friend join us! It makes the time and the distance from home not seem as long, especially as it has now been 8 months since we cycled out of Thornbury.
As the new day dawned, Jude and I thanked each other for the best four years of our life – yes it’s our anniversary! After a love in, the three of us went for an early morning run along the beach. It was great to be running again and it was fun watching all the Asian tourists having fun on the beach. I think all the Westerners are still sleeping at this hour. Unfortunately after 8km barefoot, the sand gave me blisters on the ends of my toes – ouch.
To celebrate the day with us, the pod had organized a boat tour around the islands. We ogled at the luscious islands that dotted the azure blue waters – we are told that the archipelago is made up of 99 islands. Soon we were doing bombs and swimming in a fresh water inland lake on pregnant lady island. Then we scooted off to feed eagles chicken skin, odd but fun to watch as there were so many different varieties of raptors. The afternoon was finished off on a beautiful white sand beach, swimming and drinking a few cheeky beers. Kit became our captain on the way home and we raced a boat full of posing men on the way to port.
The evening was kicked off with a tower of beer at a beach side bar. After a few cheeky bevvies, Jude and I slipped away and had romantic dinner at a lovely Italian restaurant – pasta, pizza, crème brule and wine! We talked well into the night and strolled hand in hand along the beach. A candle lit paper lantern was released as we passed and we watched it float into the night sky. I really am the luckiest person.
More fun continued the next day with an afternoon at the Seven Wells. We piled out of the taxis and hiked up the hill, laughing at how we all don’t trust the monkeys. We spent the afternoon sliding from one rock pool to the next on natural slides. I must admit I did end up with a wedgie quite often and the rock surface sometimes gave my cheeks an exfoliation I wasn’t expecting. Ben was particularly adept at the sliding, going down on his stomach face first.
We then hiked to the bottom of the waterfall, and continued to slide from pool to pool. We watched with some horror and amusement as a group of male tourists from Penang continued to get drunk, despite already being on the point of vomiting everywhere. The paramedic in me cringed when they then had to climb up slippery rock faces to get out of the area. Darwinism at work I reminded myself. My amusement lifted when our Greek and Nordic gay gods (Dimitri and Carlson) put on a spectacular show of crawling and posing on a tree branch that crossed the river. After a few more slides it was time to head home, as there was a big party on in town that night.
The ladies decided to don their finest and even Jude and I were not excluded from the primping. Jude looked playful in a floral onesie and I pulled off elegant in a beautiful full-length gown. The elegance didn’t last long as Charlotte and Jess had taken advantage of the duty free booze shopping, and we drank goon from ceramic mugs. By the time we had a late dinner and walked along the beach the party was over. We finished off the goon by moonlight on the beach. The walk home saw me loose my temper for the first time in ages when a sleazy man child suggested that we were lesbians because we hadn’t had good sex, and that we should experience it with him. Idiot.
After another morning run we organised our departure from Langkawi. We were standing next to one of the many tourist-booking places when a woman on a motorbike rocked up. Our gaydar went off and we were offered the best deal on a boat journey. We couldn’t say no. Our gaydar was confirmed that evening when she talked about not having a girlfriend, only time for one-night stands. She was a pocket rocket of energy and a huge flirt, and offered to join us on our journey if one of us would share a bed with her. The rest of that day was spent at the beach just relaxing. We swam, read and kicked back on our banana lounges until the sun set. We gained a group mascot – Brian the sand cat, and were later a little disturbed as a young girl tormented him by throwing him around and almost slamming him into a wall. That evening was a quiet girly night, as half the pod had left to Railay for some serious rock-climbing.
The alarm rang early, and Jude and I were off to the port before sunrise. It is always lovely to ride at this time of day, as the air is fresh and the roads quiet. Once at the dock we watched the sunrise over the islands and then spent the next hour waiting for the tour people to turn up. As Koh Lipe is in Thailand, we were shuttled to immigration to have our passports departure stamped. Back at the dock our lovely lesbian friend was waiting for us with gifts of water and cakes. If she wasn’t already going on a holiday to meet a friend, I’m sure she would have joined us in a heartbeat. We waved her goodbye as the speedboat took off at a rate of knots. Bouncing on the waves was fun for the first 10 minutes, but as the hour wore on it became less fun and more painful. I actually thought the hull was going to crack as the boat came slamming down on wave after wave.
But we made it to Koh Lipe safely and the white sand beaches and relaxed atmosphere put us at ease in no time. Things were so relaxed that as we lay about in hammocks, the tour operator took our passports to immigration for us and our visas were approved without any official laying eyes on us. I think it has to be the most relaxed border crossing ever. Country number five here we are!
My love as always,