I always find, more than anything, it’s the people that make a destination. Whether it be finding your soulmate or just a friendly exchange with a stranger, the interactions I have with people on my travels are what really stick with me.
Sure Langkawi, Malaysia has beautiful beaches, great food and a lot of adventure, but it was a few people I met there that made it hard to leave the island and made me want to explore Malaysia further. One night on the island will pretty much explain why.
During our second visit to Babylon Bar, one of the bartenders told Ric that the bar would be closed the following day, but he was more than welcome to join the staff, their families and friends at One Love, another reggae bar with close ties to Babylon to celebrate Eid.
Eid is a four-day Muslim festival that honors Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his first son Ishmael on God’s command. Most of the Malaysian population is Islamic, so this is a major holiday in the country.
One Love is located in Pantai Tengah, about a 30-minute walk from where we were staying in Pantai Cenang. Ric and I know very little about the holiday or the religion, so of course we were excited to learn, not to mention the bartender told Ric there would be free food at the party.
We were the first to arrive at about 6 p.m., but it was happy hour so we didn’t care. It felt like I blinked and the bar went from empty to packed. The place was filled with locals and foreigners from all over the world. There were children running around, food being shared and reggae music being played all night long. It felt as though we had walked into a family party and were completely welcomed and embraced by everyone.
At one point we just started chatting to a local about the food at the party, which of course was heavenly. He asked if we tried the Satay. Before we could even say no, he was back from the barbecue station with ten sticks of perfectly cooked chicken. Someone even gave us a lift home as soon as they saw us leaving the party.
This is one of the best stories I have about the kindness of strangers when traveling.
Obviously, our last night on the island would have to be spent at Babylon Bar, where the Eid celebration continued with a free barbecue for patrons. They served us goat and potato salad and Ric and I ordered wedges, samosas and spring rolls. Then we ate dinner on mats in the sand as we watched our last sunset from Langkawi.
I cannot say one bad thing about this beach bar. The food is fantastic and cheap (RM7-14), their happy hour specials are the best in Pantai Cenang (RM4 cans of beer and RM7 glasses of wine), the staff is so friendly and the location can’t be beat.
If you visit Langkawi, make sure to visit Babylon Bar.
We had such a great experience on Langkawi, we had to see more of Malaysia. Luckily, our canceled flight from Auckland to Bangkok, all the way at the start of this trip, made it possible for us to do so.
The plan from Langkawi was to make our way back to Bangkok, overland as that was all our budget could afford us. But we really wanted to visit Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. So we looked at flights and the cost of a bus from Langkawi to Kuala Lumpur (KL) and remembered the vouchers Jet Star gave us as an apology for canceling our flight with them. I’ve never had a canceled flight work out so well for me.
With the help of two $AUD100 vouchers from Jet Star, we could afford to visit KL and fly back to Bangkok. Allowing us to explore more of Malaysia and avoid 14 hours on a bus, which is how long it would take to go from Satun, where the ferry lets off from Langkawi in Thailand, to Bangkok.
That’s what we thought at least.
Ric, myself and what seemed like all of Malaysia left the north of the country on the Sunday after Eid for KL. We booked our transportation through an agent in Pantai Cenang and paid RM106 for a taxi from our hotel to the ferry terminal, the ferry crossing and what was suppose to be a six-hour bus ride to KL.
I’ve never seen traffic like that in my life. What was suppose to be a six-hour drive took 13 hours. We arrived in KL at 1 a.m. exhausted and angry (traffic will do that to you anywhere). Luckily, I used some AMEX points and splurged on a five-star hotel. So not only did we already have a place to stay, but it was also a luxurious one.
We stayed at Sunway Putra Hotel for three nights. Our bed was comfortable, the hotel had a pool and the concierge was helpful. Plus it’s pretty affordable. If we had paid for it, a standard room at the hotel would have cost $US45. The hotel is a bit older, but still a treat for budget travelers.
The hotel is located right next to PWTC metro station, making it really easy to get around the city. Public Transportation around KL is very cheap. I think the most we paid one way was RM2 to Buta Caves. Taxis are expensive, so I definitely advise using public transportation and there really is no reason not to as it’s well organized and easy to use.
Some highlights of our trip to KL were trying different street vendors in Little India, finding the perfect place for dinner at Bukit Bintang, shopping on Petaling Street, visiting Batu Cave and of course seeing the Petronas Towers. The towers were very impressive. I recommend seeing them at day and night.
We spent two full days touring the city. I think three would have been perfect, but we had to get back to Bangkok for our flight to NYC, which I wasn’t even sure was going to happen.
While we were in KL, my home state of NJ and several other states in the northeast were being hit by Hurricane Sandy. Growing up, there were always threats of serious storms in my area but I never really experienced anything too bad. So when I first heard about Sandy, I underestimated it. Watching CNN from a hotel in KL I found that Mother Nature should never be taken lightly.
It was awful to watch the coverage, because I saw the places I know and love best be destroyed, but mainly because I had no idea if that destruction was affecting the people I know and love best. CNN would report that a dam in NJ broke, but not where in NJ until after a commercial break. And there was no way to tell if it was a dam near where my father lives in NJ, because his neighborhood lost electricity and it was 5 a.m. so anyone who would have internet wouldn’t be online.
When I finally got in touch with my Dad, I found out everything was fine where he lives, but so much of the area was destroyed, including several parts of New York City, where Ric and I are meant to be flying into three days after the storm.
Next stop: America?