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Langkawi: The Good, the Bad and the Smelly (and a wee bit of Singapore)

Langkawi: The Good, the Bad and the Smelly (and a wee bit of Singapore)

May 26th, 2010, 05:24 PM
  #1  
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Langkawi: The Good, the Bad and the Smelly (and a wee bit of Singapore)

A few weeks ago my spouse and I unexpectedly found ourselves on the island of Langkawi; the result of a last minute change in venue for a work conference that had originally been scheduled for Phuket.

There was literally no time to do any research. We quickly cancelled and rescheduled our flights and added a weekend in Singapore, which allowed us to bid adieu to my brother, who was visiting us from the United States.

We spent a leisurely ~32 hours in Singapore, eating, visiting the brand new Marina Sands Casino, eating, poking through an art gallery, eating, people watching, eating, walking through Bugis market, and well, eating. After some gazillion trips to Singapore we also finally made it to that most touristy of places for that most touristy of drinks – the infamous Singapore Sling in the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel. Was it good? Absolutely! Was it worth the price of SGD $25 each? Probably not, but I’d wanted to do this for years, so we went for it.

But this report isn’t about Singapore, it’s about Langkawi…

Our Singapore hotel (The Bayview) generously gave us a late check out of 2 pm, and although our flight wasn’t until 6:45 pm we headed to Changi Airport, figuring we could cool our heels in the Star Alliance Gold lounge. Wrong! We discovered while checking in that while Silk Air is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Air, we’d not be earning any frequent flyer miles and there'd be no lounge access for the likes of us. So we hung out in Terminal Three for four hours…we watched (and helped feed) the Koi fish, visited the Butterfly Garden (loved it) and caught up on our reading. If you have to spend time in an airport, Changi is the one. In retrospect, we should have gotten a massage too, but that didn’t occur to us at the time.

Our one hour flight was practically empty and the food was decidedly un-Singapore Air-like (rather scary in fact), but so it goes (who needs food on a one hour flight anyway?).

At the Langkawi Airport we were met by our driver (pre-arranged) and transported to the Westin Langkawi Resort and Spa, where we’d spend the next six nights.

http://www.starwoodhotels.com/westin...propertyID=283

I’ve posted a detailed review of the Westin Langkawi on Trip Advisor if anyone is interested.

http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserR...awi_Kedah.html

Suffice to say, we were upgraded to the Royal Suite, which was dated, but rather nice…especially the incredible views from our massive balcony, which overlooked the grounds and the rock pool. It was also by far the largest hotel room we’d ever occupied. I suspect the upgrade was a function of my spouse’s role in the conference, as was the complimentary internet service. Our rate included the Westin’s buffet breakfast, which was fantastic.

Let me interject here that we’re not really ‘resort people’…never have been, probably never will be. We’re just not into lounging by the pool, baking in the sun or being held captive. We appreciate the concept; it’s just not our thing. In fact, neither one of us so much as stuck a toe in any of the Westin’s three (or was it four?) swimming pools during our entire stay. We were told by other conference members that the pools were like bath water anyway; apparently none of them had chillers. No worries, we were completely content to gaze over the pools and the lush grounds to the Andaman Sea.

Let me also mention here that we both dislike humidity immensely, and although we’ve suffered through some extremely humid climates in our lifetime, we found Langkawi the most miserably humid place we've ever been.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 05:37 PM
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did that resort used to be a sheraton? there were 2 sheratons when we were there some years ago--one in town and one out of town.... i suspect you were out of town and that is where we were also... nice rooms as i remember..
rhkkmk is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 05:47 PM
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rhkkmk -

Yes, it was previously a Sheraton - it became the Westin in 2006. It's located in Kedah, Kuah - out of town.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 06:27 PM
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We arrived hot, tired and hungry, so we had a light dinner at Taste, the same Westin restaurant that hosts their glorious breakfast buffet. I opted for the tomato basil soup (RM 28, tiny bowl but good) and Bill had the semi-dried tomato carpaccio and fresh mozzarella salad (RM 35 – really good). We shared a slice of dark chocolate cheesecake with poached pear and white chocolate (RM 38 - excellent). Once I learned I could have room service for the same cost as dining in the restaurant, this particular salad and cheesecake became my meal of choice for the next four nights.

With the exception of a few hours on the first day, Bill was consumed with the conference, so I was on my own to explore. We met up every evening at Breeze, the hotel’s lounge, for a complimentary alfresco house cocktail, which was invariably served in a martini glass and had a corresponding name, such as ‘Screwtini’.

The lounge offers 20% off cocktails between 5:30-7:30 pm, so we slowly worked our way through some of their offerings, including Singapore Slings and Mai Tais. The drinks were boozy, the canapés were odd and the views were fantastic, but that aforementioned humidity made it a struggle for us to sit outdoors.

Rather than bore you with a day-by-day blow of how I amused myself while my hard working spouse was embroiled in his conference, here’s a summary:

1) I thoroughly explored the resort - gorgeous grounds, a nice beach, fab looking pools, a recreation facility that no one seemed to use, and of course the jewel of the Westin, the Heavenly SPA, where we both thoroughly enjoyed an 80 minute Thai massage. Bill enjoyed his so much that he insisted on an encore.

2) Duty Free shopping at Langkawi Fair Mall – I walked to the mall (about 1 km from the hotel), dodging ferocious looking monkeys in route (those teeth are intimidating). The mall boasts a massive grocery/everything store and an impressive duty free shop, with low priced alcohol and chocolates from around the world. It was all the more enticing having lived in Perth, Australia for two years where such goods seem obscenely expensive to us Yanks. RM 35 for a decent bottle of Australian red wine, RM 4 for a Belgian beer, RM 19 for a 400 gram package of After Eight mints (a personal favorite), etc…what a deal.

The mall also carries inexpensive clothing, handicrafts, etc. Oh yes, and they have a corn vendor, where you can purchase big cups full of corn or corn smoothies. I never will understand the SE Asian fascination with corn…for those unwilling, unable (or too hot) to walk to the mall, taxis can be had for RM 8 each way, and the hotel offers a free shuttle, but at odd times.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 26th, 2010, 07:21 PM
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3) One day I took the Mangrove and Cave Tour, which I arranged through the hotel (RM 170). I was collected at the hotel and transported some 35 minutes north to Tanjung Rhu Beach. One look at the boat I was about to board and I immediately questioned my sanity. It looked a bit un-seaworthy, and as there was no mention of life vests, I suspect there weren’t any (don’t tell my mother). In addition to gliding through the mangroves, the 4+ hour tour included visiting an eagle feeding site…the boat operators tossed chicken into the water and the eagles dove for it…our tour guide referred to it as KFC…I hope he was joking.

The tour also included a visit to an overcrowded and somewhat freaky bat cave, and feeding wild monkeys at a site littered with peanut wrappers. We disembarked at a makeshift jetty where some enterprising local had netted various sea creatures for the entertainment of the tourists. The fish, crabs and rays were trapped in tiny enclosures and the tourists were encouraged to feed and handle them. One guide actually stuck his entire hand into the mouth of a ray. I wanted no part of this; I felt guilty just being there. As we left the jetty I noticed our boat (and dozens of others) coughing up black plumes of smoke. They call this eco tourism?

For me, the best part of the Mangrove and Cave tour was the people I met; an interesting couple from Norway and a lovely young Swiss woman who was working at the Westin as an intern. We had a nice visit over the shrimp and Nasi Goreng lunch that was included in the tour. I also enjoyed the coastal scenery on the return to Tanjung Rhu Beach, but other than that, well, let’s just say that it was an eye opener.
Melnq8 is offline  
May 27th, 2010, 06:00 PM
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4) I poked around Jetty Point, the entry/departure point for ferries coming to/from Langkawi. In addition to yet another duty free mall and some fast food outlets, Jetty Point is mere steps from Eagle Square, home to Langkawi’s landmark, a massive 12 meter tall statue of an eagle. Hot and sweaty, but being a glutton for punishment, I kept walking towards Kuah Town, strolling past Legend Park, an assortment of free roaming poultry, and a shocking amount of litter. It was here that I first noticed the underlying smell of rot and sewage that rose from every drainage ditch I passed. The ditches were full of standing water, moss, and assorted trash and didn’t seem to be draining much of anything. I walked as far as the Langkawi mosque before giving in to my discomfort. I backtracked to the Langkawi Fair Mall and waited for what seemed like forever for the Westin shuttle, before finally opting to take a taxi back to the hotel to cool off with an ice cold gin and tonic.

I was beginning to look like a pimply teenager…with wrinkles…at one point I counted 21 mosquito bites…it seemed we were getting munched on during the night in our hotel room; the bites were mostly around our heads and necks. I consulted with the hotel staff and they sent up some electric mozzie repelling devices which seemed to slow the buggers down, but only slightly. Bill mentioned that the conference members were looking decidedly more moth eaten as the week progressed, so we weren’t the only ones donating blood.
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May 27th, 2010, 07:12 PM
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5) Following an 80 minute Thai massage that made me feel like warm butter, I hired a taxi to take me to Pantai Cenang, apparently the tourist center of Langkawi. It’s on the opposite side of the island, about a 30 minute drive, RM 28 each way.

http://www.langkawi-info.com/pantai-cenang/

I walked around for a bit, eyeballing the endless shops and restaurants, doing my best to avoid that rotting sewage smell which rose from every vent I passed, actually making me gag at one point. I explored the rice museum (Laman Padi), and treated myself to lunch at Pelangi Beach and Spa Resort (decent pasta and a fantastic Mai Tai....and cheaper than the Westin).

http://www.langkawi-beaches.com/lama...-langkawi.html

I worked my way to Underwater World via the beach, noticing that while the beaches around the resorts are lovely, the beaches beyond the resorts are not. It was if there was an invisible line drawn in the sand…one minute the beach was looked after and well maintained, the next it was dirty and trash strewn, with local residents driving on it atop their motorcycles. There was a distinct line where trash had washed ashore. It was a bit disconcerting, and I failed to see the allure of Pantai Cenang. I paid .30 to use a loo reminiscent of Indonesia, caught at taxi at the queue near Underwater World and headed back to my Westin oasis. I’d seen enough.
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May 27th, 2010, 07:54 PM
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I had a few meals at Charlie’s Bar, located in the Yacht Club about a 10 minute walk from the Westin. The food and drinks were good, the prices favorable, but like many places on Langkawi, it’s open air, so dining there was uncomfortably warm and humid.

Impressions:

The Westin is a nice property, but the rooms and public areas need an overhaul. The service is friendly, yet random and erratic. We had no complaints whatsoever in the food department. In fact, our jeans are still groaning. As for the massages…well, let’s just say I could get used to those.

Neither one of us cared for Langkawi though. It should come as no surprise that we disliked the climate immensely. Any place we need to shower three times a day just isn’t for us. Langkawi reminded us a little too much of Indonesia (where we lived for four years). The litter, the blaring music in public areas, the overwhelming pungent odors, the disregard for the environment….I’m glad I had the opportunity to go, but one visit was plenty for me.
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May 27th, 2010, 09:07 PM
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We left the way we had come, being driven to the Langkawi Airport, where we sat in the Westin lounge for a bit prior to our Silk Air flight to Singapore.

Back at Changi, we indulged in one last massage and rain shower at the Ambassador Transit Lounge, and ate entirely too many scones with vanilla cream in the SATS lounge (where we were welcomed with open arms this time around).

Our Singapore Air flight was mercifully smooth and uneventful, and we made it back to Perth safe and sound, albeit a bit fatter.

Photos here:

http://www.worldisround.com/articles/359455/index.html
Melnq8 is offline  
May 29th, 2010, 07:13 PM
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we find one key to bugs is to leave lights off in the room while out in the evening and to enter and exit quickly and keep the a/c very cool... it works..

we enjoyed our stay there many years ago
rhkkmk is offline  
May 29th, 2010, 09:10 PM
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Believe me, we tried, but our room AC merely scoffed at us. We notified the hotel staff more than once that we were uncomfortably warm, but they didn't (or weren't able to) do much about it.
Melnq8 is offline  
Jul 6th, 2010, 05:49 PM
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Another good and helpful report. We are looking at returning to Malaysia Jan/Feb and we are just now starting our research. We are also not resort people so Langkawi is not high on our list but I was curious. I'm not going to worry much about not going to Langkawi now.
travel4flowers is offline  
Oct 8th, 2011, 08:17 PM
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Hi there- Another Yank in Perth We moved here about 1.5 years ago. I just posted about looking into a beachy, relaxing getaway for about 5 nights next spring. I know everyone here always suggests Bali and we've never been so looking into it, but it also seems like everyone gets sick after going to Bali Sounds like you have traveled extensively throughout SE Asia so any recommendations would be great. We do like a nice resort, though also like to explore the local area. Don't need anything too fancy, just clean and comfortable and access to a nice beach and pool. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
ardie514 is offline  
Oct 8th, 2011, 08:49 PM
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Hi ardie514-

I'm afraid I'm not going to be much help. Despite having lived in Indonesia and Perth for several years, we've never gone to Bali as it just doesn't interest us.

When I think beachy, relaxing getaway, I think Maldives.

I also think of all the fabulous beaches right here in Western Australia. Esperance is gorgeous, have you been there? It's eight hours drive from Perth and home to the prettiest beaches I've seen anywhere. It's not tropical though, which I suspect is what you're looking for.

You'll have more luck asking Fodor's resident Asia experts, you're in good hands.
Melnq8 is offline  
Oct 9th, 2011, 03:33 PM
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Thanks for the report. I visited Langkawi about 10 years ago and you've reminded me why I'm not in a hurry to go back.
Femi is offline  

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