Happy Thanksgiving to all!
After five weeks through some of the most dangerous and least visited places on Earth I found myself back on the Malaysian Peninsula as my last stop. Malaysia is one of my favorite countries in Asia, except of course for their stupid tourism slogan, “Malaysia, Truly Asia”. I have been to much of the country but was lacking the two main islands of Malaysia, Langkawi and Penang. I must say that it was the perfect way to end a five week trip with some quality time on the beach at one of my new favorite islands to visit. Langkawi is spectacular in many ways but first and foremost, it is just plain gorgeous.
Langkawi is reachable either by air or ferry. I came from Penang on the brutally long and crowded fast ferry from Penang. It was only a couple of bucks so seemed to make sense. After arrival at a typically Asian busy port town with tons of shopping and fast food places, I made my way across the whole island to the Andaman Resort which is at the northwestern part of the island.
It is a spectacular setting for a great hotel on a beautiful beach dotted with palms and other greens, surrounded by mountains and with rock islands in the distance. The hotel itself is a new Starwood Luxury Collection hotel that was converted earlier this year. It is about 15 years old and shares a beach with the gorgeous Datai Hotel and just down the way from other resorts like the Four Seasons, etc. I was lucky enough to receive a sweet platinum upgrade to a room with a spectacular view of sunset and the bay (above). It made for ultra relaxation and great pictures. The only problem was that you had to keep the balcony door locked at all times because monkeys are known to enter the rooms!
There were monkeys and other wildlife everywhere which made for a cool and noisy stay. There were a ton of bird life and apparently wild pigs as well, although I didn’t see any. The pool (below) is pretty good and was populated by a ton of Russians and Brits. The Russians have been the group I have seen the most tourists of recently in much of the Asian portion of my trip. This was pretty surprising to me but apparently they are running charters from Siberian cities to resort islands in Asia-Hainan Island was very similar. With Russians come tons of tiny little Speedos on big men and women named Svetlana who dye their hair purple and cut it really short. You can’t miss them and it can be highly entertaining to role play what they are talking about to yourself!
The beach water was like a bath and very nice to go in and take in the scenery. I am not sure what else to say but the aesthetics of the resort were spectacular and the setting was unbeatable. I did have some problems with the prices and the food though. For a high end expensive hotel, the quality of food was crap. The pool side food, you know pizza, burgers and other snacks were crappy and the dinner and breakfast buffets were OK at best. I normally don’t eat in hotels anyway but for some sushi at the Japanese restaurant my first night it cost me like $50…that buries New York prices but didn’t have nearly the quality. This inspired me to head out to the towns though to try some of the islands favorite spots.
Lonely Planet highly recommended a place that served pizzas and other western specialties called Red Tomato. So I was happy to have some after tiring of soups and curry dishes. The pizza was Ok (very good for Asia) and the specialty Mexican pasta they did was actually phenom. The strange thing was the German owned restaurant was essentially serviced by all transvestites. Yes really.
Not that there’s anything wrong with transvestites but it struck me as odd and they were all transed out to the max in their interactions with the tables and also each other. I was told that Malaysia, like Thailand, had a lot of Trans gender people and whatnot. Again, always kind of catches you by surprise, especially when they start flirting or whatever you call it with you. Some of you may recall the horror I dealt with in Tonga with the creepy trannies working at my hotel earlier this summer when they kept propositioning me for massages and other things I’d rather not mention!
After this I headed over to Debbie’s Irish bar (above) where Debbie, who only has one arm and is certainly not Irish, serves ice cold Tiger pints while English soccer reigns on the televisions. It was quite a British affair as you’d imagine but Brits are always great to drink with…and watch soccer.
So that’s it for the lush and gorgeous resort island of Langkawi. It is a wonderful place and a place I really hope to go back to someday. I will probably stay at the other end of the island that is closer to town next time avoid expensive taxi’s but if you do stay at the Andaman (Lobby above) or Datai, rent a car or scooter, you’ll save a bunch of cash. But be careful because it rains everyday out of nowhere so you may get wet.
I flew to Penang from Bangkok and was in search of great food which is what the island is known for. Everyone I spoke to about Penang raved about the food and said the rest of the island is take it or leave it. Fair enough I thought and headed to the Yeng Keng Hotel right in the heart of the capital city, Georgetown. A great little spot with excellent breakfast and amazing, friendly and thoughtful staff was right around the corner from Red Garden, the famous food conglomerate (below).
I say conglomerate because it is essentially a collection of food stalls from throughout Asia, offering the best of each country’s cuisine. I was in heaven and crushed some crispy duck, laksa, gyoza and tons of noodles. I also had some things I didn’t like, nor can I pronounce, but everything was so cheap, you could afford to try everything. Carlsberg and Anchor beers flowed like water as I drank with some crazy Dutch guys who were on holiday a day away from heading to Ko Phangan for the full moon party. (By the way, the bathrooms are labeled with neon sketches just in case you are not sure what to do in the bathroom, haha…below) As I reminisced about some of the best times of my life in Ko Phangan, I was giving some advice and enjoying hearing about their lives as cops back in Amsterdam. Who knew they had cops in Amsterdam?!
Penang was cool, I didn’t have a ton of time there as the flights weren’t at great times for me but I would go back. I probably would check out some of the resort beaches next time although compared to Langkawi, they cannot possibly compete I’d imagine.
I spent the final night of my trip in Singapore in order to catch my nightmarish flight home early the next morning. I spent it having a S$30 Singapore Sling, which is gratuitous on all Singapore holidays, at the famous Raffles Hotel which was easily the most overrated experience and drink I have ever had-although there are free peanuts and you are encouraged to throw shells on the floor. I couldn’t believe the extortionate prices and that I agreed to pay. Then again the whole place was packed with tourists throwing money at these awful drinks. It is supposed to be one of those things you have to do in Singapore but I would never do it again. Plus the drink is small and tasted like the crap they give you for free at one of those trashy all inclusive in the Dominican Republic or Jamaica that you tire of after two of them.
Afterwards I headed out to Sentosa Island to see what the hell all the fuss is about over what they’ve done there. I must say that Sentosa, which is essentially a resort island right off of Singapore mainland, is the epitome of everything I love to hate. It is just like the new Middle East and Asian developments with mega high end malls, chain restaurants and hotels. It has a Universal Studios and a huge casino that was a huge deal when it opened.
I went inside, it was really cool inside but they didn’t have poker which was surprising and annoying so I didn’t play at all. Blackjack and craps aren’t fun to play unless you’re playing with your friends. Sentosa aka Singaporean Disneyland is only worth a quick trip by monorail as you will be grossed out by the outlandishness of the place and you will think you’re in the ridiculously overdone malls Dubai or Universal meets bad Vegas.
Back in Singapore I headed to my hotel, had some good street noodles, a Tiger and headed to bed. I am now back in New York after a great day and night in Los Angeles for a meeting and a great time with friends at the Belmont on La Cienega. It is my buddy Josh’s favorite place and a place I have been many times in LA. I am heading to Connecticut for Thanksgiving today and then Florida and Washington soon thereafter to visit friends and family.
Anyway, Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and thanks for all the emails, comments and Facebook messages. I am going to look to do more with my Facebook fan page and get some more pictures up soon. I am also thinking about where to go next, what to do for New Years and it looks like I will hopefully be spending a lot of time working on the television thing!