As mentioned before, because of the lightning strike, Langkawi was an unexpected addition to the cruise itinerary. I remember when the captain first announced that we would be going to Langkawi, I was instantly puzzled and asked, “What’s that?” I had never heard of the island before and had no idea what there was to see and do there.
Given how last-minute everything was, we decided to just minimize stress and book a tour with the ship, like we had done for every other port on this cruise so far. This is our first cruise in Asia and I’m finding that for many of the cruises, in order to reduce hassle, it’s easier to book a tour just because everything that you want to see is usually so far away from the port that the ship is docked out. For example, with Bali, many of the sights were an hour to two-hour drive from the port. The same is true for some ports in Thailand, Vietnam, etc. So if you want to avoid the stress of having all those things booked on your own, I’d recommend tours.
Our first stop on the tour was the Skycab, the world’s longest free span mono-cable car. It is also known as the world’s steepest cable car ride and takes you up 708m above sea level to Langkawi’s second-highest peak. You get access to a Middle Station (650m above sea level) and then a top station. On the way up, you have the option to stop at the middle station to take some pictures. This is recommended because, on the way back down the mountain, you don’t have the option again to stop partway.
The observatory at the top gave a great view of the hillside, the other Langkawi islands, and a bit of Southern Thailand. It was INCREDIBLY windy up there though, so much so that the wind in my ears was deafening and made my every step seem very unstable and unrooted. The wind was so bad that they had to close their famous Skybridge, which is a curved pedestrian bridge built atop the mountain at a height of 700m above sea level. Normally, you’re able to buy tickets at an extra cost for it so that you can walk on it and see more of the scenery in a more thrilling way, as part of it does swing out over the landscape.
There were many love locks attached to the metal fences up at the top station. Love locked permanently, with their keys thrown into the abyss of the mountain.
What I remember most clearly was my hair blowing absolutely everywhere, and the wind muffling everything I was saying. It was hard to enjoy the moment at the top with how powerful the wind was but again, you cannot control everything. It was all part of the experience.
Our second stop after that was a local culture and crafts complex. I find that a lot of the tours that Princess Cruises offers often have a local market or local craft shop added to the itinerary. It’s not always the most exciting but it does offer a chance to buy some local souvenirs and gifts for friends back home. This craft complex was more unique than the others too because it housed a wedding museum where we had a glimpse into the traditional wedding attire for a multitude of cultures.
Our last stop of the day was a rice paddy. We pulled up to the paddy at noon and the first thing I remember stepping out of the bus was how hot the day had gotten; it certainly felt much hotter than it had when we were standing at the top of the windy mountain this morning. Now, standing under the beating sun, it felt like my skin was going to melt off any second. I couldn’t imagine what it felt like to be a rice paddy farmer, slaving away under this very same beating sun for 12 or more hours in a day. Growing up, my father used to always quote a Chinese proverb that essentially carries the message of not wasting a single grain of rice during a meal because it represents the hard labour and sweat of a rice farmer. Now, thinking of that and standing under the sun watching some people harvest rice, it really put everything into perspective.
As part of our little stroll around the rice paddy, we got to watch a few people go about their work in the fields and we were taught what the process for harvesting rice is like. They also gave us a little “coconut” demonstration in that they cracked a few coconuts for the group and people tried drinking the fresh coconut water. They also shaved the coconuts and used the shavings to show us how to make coconut milk.
After a brief half-day tour of Langkawi, the tour guide led us back to the ship. I knew that this was just a snippet of Langkawi – we didn’t even get to see any of the beaches that the islands of Langkawi are so praised for – but to me, it did not really matter. I was happy enough to see all that we did, simply because even just two days before, I hadn’t known that this little slice of the world existed.
And our final port of call would be Kuala Lumpur, which we were going to the next day. That was the odd part of this cruise itinerary: it was a 10-day cruise and yet, only stopped at 4 ports because it had a lot of sea days. Normally, I would’ve been dreading for it all to end; I would have wanted to see more of Southeast Asia and I would’ve felt cheated at having come all this way to only go to 4 places. But this was just the start of the 4-month journey to come, and there was still so much travel and so much living to look forward to.