By Graham K. Rogers
As soon as breakfast arrived, I made the camera ready and waited, between bites of fruit and sips of coffee for the hornbills. I heard them once or twice: a sort of gossiping between the birds, but with different tones to the small mynah birds common in Thailand. There were no hornbills, but several other species flew past, including several eagles, high in the sky.
I must be honest, sitting below these hills, with that beautiful green cover, made it hard for me to start the day.
Once I had finished writing about events the day before, I showered, packed the cameras and other gear, then walked to the car. Heavens it was hot inside. It took me quite a while to make it cool enough just to sit in and for an hour or more, it was still hot. The strong sun was not helping of course.
Like yesterday, I took the road towards the marina but did not need any fuel. There were no snakes today, but two groups of green monkeys caused the traffic to slow down making sure they were safe.
Using the 113 again, I spotted the left turn marked for Datai in plenty of time and drove slowly up this beautiful road (161). Like many of the roads I have been on in Langkawi, it passes between forested hills, sometimes with the sea on one side. This particular road deserved to be taken at full chat on a large motorbike.
Coming round one corner I saw a speed limit of 50 Kph imposed. I was not in a hurry, so slowed (of course), but then saw a section of road with bright yellow stripes across it and a limit now marked as 15 Kph. Around the corner were several speed bumps and then a sign for "Golf Buggy Crossing". There were two of these and then the road went past the clubhouse: The ELS Club (6.426263N 99.683967 E). Ah, the arrogance of wealth; particularly the golfers.
Further on, the road got worse. Or better depending on how you view twisty roads and steep inclines as a driver or rider. The automatic kick-down left me wanting power - not always the right gear for the situation - so I used the box manually; but 2nd gear (out of 3) was too low in some cases (although proved useful when overtaking on the main road later).
I passed two resorts. The last was The Datai, before the road ended in front of two huge gates. This is a beautiful area, but much of it is not really available, unless you are exclusive. As I sat writing notes in the car, a golf buggy going to The Datai passed and the western occupant gave me a condescending look. I smiled back.
On the return leg, I stopped a couple of times. The road was fun, apart from that part through the ELS golf course section. I was looking for a couple of places marked on the tourist map I had (to complement this, I had also used Apple maps on the Mac before leaving, to see the road layouts): Pantai Pebble; and Pasit Tengkorak Beach.
The sea was visible to my left. I passed through what seemed to be a tunnel, although when I looked more closely, this too is man-made, unlike the long tunnel on the main road from the south of Thailand to Kuala Lumpur. On the right was the Langkawi Waterfall, with empty parking to my right.
I stopped the car under a tree (6.434742 N 99.708595 E) and walked back, along the road. Near the tunnel, where I took some photographs, a firetruck, with blue light on, passed me heading out. I had seen nothing coming along. Perhaps the chef at the golf club had been over-enthusiastic with a crêpe suzette.
I was tempted to look at the falls, until I saw a plinth in Malay and English that explained that this was a project by former PM Matahir and this were the highest Man-made waterfall in Malaysia (at 66.92 m). I took a path down to the sea and realised that I had found Pantai Pebble, which was a little more accurate than Black Sand Beach the day before. It was only small, but the sea looked inviting. Sadly, the short path down to the beach and the surrounding area were strewn with litter.
I soon found Pasit Tengkorak Beach (6.429722 N 99.72702 E) which was quiet: just a few locals having lunch. We exchanged greetings. At the entrance to the parking area there was an official sign indicating that the gates were to remain open 24 hours a day. I wondered why there were gates if they were to be always open; or did someone - there was a driveway up a hill - try to limit access?
The sand on the beach was clean, but there had been some wood washed up. On one stick I saw a host of mussels. They had attached themselves to the stick that had the appearance of something solid and were joy-riding rather than staying in a bed. One or two of the shells were opening and I could see part of the creature inside.
I went back to the car, wrote in my notebook and considered where I should go next. I thought about a waterfall, but was in heavy traffic when I saw the turn-off to the right, so ended up going into Kuah Town. This is clean and bright, albeit small. There was a lot of traffic and, being new to the area, was aware of making mistakes. Malays are somewhat more tolerant than Thai drivers.
I did not stop in the town as it was so busy, and headed off in the direction of the airport, from where I could easily find my way back. I did stop at a viewing point overlooking the airport where I took a couple of shots, then instead of going directly to the hotel, drive out to Cenang again. When I arrived, I wondered why I had bothered, so turned round and went back.
At the hotel, I handed back the keys and unloaded some of the items I had been carrying before making my way to the beach. I sat by the swimming pool for a while and took a couple of photographs with the Hasselblad film camera. When some of the people had gone, the pool was quiet and a troop of monkeys appeared on the hotel balcony.
They made their way down the steps. These were not the green monkeys I had seen earlier, but black. Two of the females were carrying young which were not black but a lighter orange-brown, perhaps to spot easily if they are lost.
Having experienced some of the green monkeys in Thailand, I did not want to approach these until I was sure, so at first took some shots from a distance. I asked one of the staff at the pool bout risk, who said, "No, no problem. These are like our friends" and then added comments about the problems with green monkeys.
As one came across the concrete and grabbed a nut on the ground, he added that these only eat vegetation. An internet search tells me that these are Leaf Monkeys. The particular type is the Dusky Langur. It is also known as the Spectacled Leaf Monkey.
In some ways that was a fitting end to this trip. I did sit in the hotel lounge for a while and had something to eat, but the advertised internet was clearly not working, although I did have a Wi-Fi signal. Tomorrow I will head back to Bangkok and teach in Wednesday. With a layover of a few hours in Kuala Lumpur, at least I know I will be able to use internet in the terminal.
Graham K. Rogers teaches at the Faculty of Engineering, Mahidol University in Thailand where he is also Assistant Dean. He wrote in the Bangkok Post, Database supplement on IT subjects. For the last seven years of Database he wrote a column on Apple and Macs. He is now continuing that in the Bangkok Post supplement, Life.