Elizabeth the Island Enthusiast

a celebration of unconventional adventures

Tag: Malaysia Travel

The Most Treacherous Ferry Ride Ever (Not)

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about inter-island ferry rides.

In particular, the ferry ride between Penang and Langkawi Island, Malaysia.

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After spending a week on Malaysia’s Langkawi Island, I decided I’d travel via ferry over to the island of Penang. I’m completely aware that yes, arguably taking a plane would have been faster and not that much more expensive, but I’ve taken a lot of planes recently, and I was in the mood for a nautical adventure.

When disclosing my sea-travel plans over dinner one night to others at the hostel in Langkawi, however, I received an array of daunting responses – apparently this ferry ride was THE worst transport experience EVER:

People just puking everywhere; well over half the boat was puking, I’d say. It was like a rollercoaster in slow motion. If you do go, make sure you sit in the back of the boat, otherwise you’ll vomit for SURE, even with medication for motion sickness… Really, it’s probably best you just look into taking a flight.

This sounded worse than the treacherous and draining overnight 24-hour ferry trek between Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, Fiji, which I’d purposely avoided during my time there.

One girl ranted for a solid five minutes about reportedly getting bedbugs after taking this ferry ride.

“Really?” I asked, “did they get into your luggage, or where?”

“No, I found one in my bra,” she responded, clearly distressed. “But it definitely came from that boat!”

“Lucky bedbug,” sneered one of the girl’s male friends seated at the table with us.

“Ughhhh oh my god, shut uppp!!

*For the record – this was the same girl with the questionable story about a crocodile sighting earlier that same day, so in either case I figured I’d take whatever she said with a grain of salt…

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Maybe I just got really lucky. Perhaps they had taken the ferry ride in the midst of a violent storm. Or, maybe the route from Penang to Langkawi endures significantly more turbulence than the route from Langkawi to Penang.

I don’t know.

I went into the journey expecting the absolute worst: sickness and filth everywhere; incessant vomiting; nothing but flea-ridden old mattresses to sit on; the dank essence of human anguish and despair lingering in the musty, unventilated air…

At check-in, I was given a slip of paper with my seat number – #41 – oh they give you an assigned seat? That’s nice. I prayed it was towards the back.

Instead, seat #41 was actually near the very front of the boat. This made me a smidge nervous. At least it was a window seat. It’ll be okay, this is why I didn’t eat much lunch today…

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As soon the boat began to depart from the jetty, I couldn’t help but notice half the passengers begin to switch seats – in particular those situated near the front, migrating way towards the back. The cautious American couple previously seated in front of me, neck pillows in tow, seemed the most urgent.

Uh oh, perhaps they heard the same stories…

Suddenly the boat lurched forward, sending the bow upwards and then down with an adrenaline-surging WOOSH. My heart and stomach leaped into my chest for a millisecond. I held onto my seat for dear life. I would have closed my eyes, if it weren’t for the spectacular views out the window…

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But then there was nothing. I’d been told this ferry felt like a haphazardous speed boat.

Is this the correct vessel?

I looked outside. Smooth, smooth seas, as far as the eye could see…

Maybe we just haven’t gotten far enough out yet, I thought to myself. The massive, vomit-inducing waves were in more remote areas, surely.

Still nothing.

“The Jungle Book” DVD began to play on a large flat screen TV up front. Some of the passengers lay down on entire rows to themselves and fell asleep.

A faint rumbling sound caught my attention. Oh no…

Alas, nope, no one was retching. Just somebody snoring in back, likely lulled into a deep, deep slumber by the boat’s gentle side-to-side rocking motion, which I’d barely noticed up until that point.

Was this seriously the same boat ride?

SlumberingFerryPassengers

Between the movie and the excellent exterior scenery, my entertainment involved observing the drowsy man in the seat in front of me, who nodded off and on, snapping awake every few minutes after slumping down too far to the side. A reddish-brown insect causally climbed up over his shoulder onto the headrest in front of me.

Oh dear, I thought, is that the bedbug? From what I knew about bedbugs, this creature appeared a bit too big, but I felt disconcerted anyways. Until it flew away.

Bedbugs don’t fly, do they?

I’m still not entirely certain what that thing was, but due to my lack of bites, I’m going to trust it was not in fact a bedbug… Thank freaking goodness.

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Apparently there was a party in the water at the George Town, Penang jetty... Balloons everywhere!

Apparently there was a party in the water at the George Town, Penang jetty… Balloons everywhere!

So yeah, by the end of three lackadaisical hours and two DVDs, I was ready to be off the boat. But overall? I thought it was a genuinely pleasant journey.

Would it likely have been much worse filled to capacity in hurricane-like conditions? No doubt.

Again, I’m pretty sure I got EXTREMELY lucky. But hey, no complaints here!

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Langkawi Adventures: Attacked at ‘Bunny Zone’

Sometimes, you meet an awesome new friend on an airplane.

I was fortunate enough to meet such a friend on my flight to Langkawi Island, Malaysia: Alberto from Barcelona, who served as an excellent adventure partner for exploring the island and all its wonders (apologies again, Alberto, for the child kicking your seat the entire trip…).

The night before embarking on our first island expedition, some British girls from Alberto’s hostel enlightened us over dinner about an apparent crocodile sighting earlier that day near the Seven Wells waterfalls, exclaiming “its tail was larger than this table, we swear!!

After viewing their photo of said “crocodile,” I can safely conclude it was, in fact, likely a moderately-sized Malaysian monitor lizard.

I’d just been to Australia Zoo and seen Bindi Irwin’s crocodile show less than two weeks before, so I felt fairly skeptical of this story from the start. But, considering this poor girl had rushed herself to a medical clinic earlier that day to get antibiotics for a potentially fatal mosquito bite, I didn’t bother informing her otherwise.

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I’ve always been trepidatious about traveling via motorbike, but Alberto seemed seasoned enough as a driver, and I will rarely say no to any offer to thoroughly explore an island. So, I hopped on board, trusting Alberto with my life and sincerely hoping I wouldn’t fall off.

Ultimately, I decided after surviving the third torrential flash rainstorm within thirty minutes, that things would turn out just fine – even despite the hordes of ferocious monkeys and “baby crocodiles” spotted both alive and flattened along the side of the road.

When this monkey yawned, it had enormous fangs...

When this monkey yawned, it had enormous fangs…

One violent mini-rainstorm forced us to take cover under a shed adjacent to what appeared to be an exotic, secluded island community, not even initially realizing this was actually Oriental Village, boasting a variety of famed Langkawi Island tourist attractions such as SkyCab, SkyRex and Imaginarium, a “visual treat from start to finish” as touted by the Panorama Langkawi website.

Not exactly knowing what existed beyond the parking lot, thank heavens Alberto and I decided to wander inside once the rain stopped – as soon as we crossed over the ‘bridge of prosperity’ through what I’m guessing was the ‘river of whimsy,’ we found ourselves in some sort of kitschy amusement park, teeming with ads inviting us to “take a ride inside your mind and travel to the ends of your imagination” with “virtual and augmented reality”!

Oh my.

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SkyCab, Langkawi’s own mountain gondola, loudly hummed in the background, adding an oddly disorienting ski resort-esque element to the already overstimulating environment as it ascended up the side of the peak into a looming cloud of mist.

If it hadn’t been for the copious flash monsoons that day, taking the SkyCab ride might have been a fun idea, as I’m sure the views from the top are incredible. But, no way were we going to pay 45 RM per person for scenic glimpses of a dark raincloud. Plus, after surveying the ticketing options at the “kiosk of happiness” (as I think it was aptly called), we learned there was no option to buy a ride for the SkyCab alone – no, the least expensive option also included a semi-mandatory stop at the SkyRex simulator, where guests were strongly encouraged to “Experience The Tense And Excitement Of The Real Life Adventure”.

This just did not seem necessary. No, not in the slightest.

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We wandered around a bit more, debating whether or not to move onto the next point of interest, before noticing an intriguing sign: “BUNNY ZONE”

It was just what the sign described – a sizable fenced-off zone teeming with bunnies, tentatively interacting with visitors chasing them down for a selfie.

Just before walking off laughing, in particular from the creepily illustrated bunny-handling instructions, we noticed a very important phrase: free entrance.

Well then in that case, we obviously had to check this out!

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In short, wandering Bunny Zone felt like entering a bizarre Easter extravaganza, complete with ample lovely pastel-colored flowers everywhere (albeit according to Alberto, the Easter Bunny thing isn’t at all prevalent in Spain, or probably elsewhere but the United States).

Some bunnies were enormous; large enough I’d refer to them as ‘rabbits’ rather than ‘bunnies’. The littlest baby bunnies remained in happily their cages next to their overflowing bowls of kibble. One bunny lay seemingly lifeless in the sun off to the side, flopped over in a disconcerting state of unconsciousness (rest assured – we made sure it was in fact breathing).

I couldn’t help but notice the majority of the bunnies appeared related to one another.

BunnyZoneSkyCabInsideBunnyZoneAlbertoAndBunnyMoreBunnyZoneChilledOutBunniesHelloLangkawiBunnies

The bunnies would approach, tentatively, if you knelt down with a hand extended, perhaps sniffing for food, before hopping off to gnaw on a flower stalk, or to sniff other hands. They seemed to take a liking to Alberto much more than me.

This especially proved to be the case when I extended my hand toward what we determined was the cutest, most cuddly bunny in the whole park: a fuzzy white albino snuggled up under a blossoming tree, which didn’t hesitate advancing – but rather than giving me a quick nuzzle as expected, however, the creature BIT my middle finger before prancing off.

OW! What the… What the hell!?? What do I do!? Should I get antibiotics? Do I go get a rabies shot? Does that thing have rabies? How can you tell?? Think I can just get by with a good douse of neosporin? What the damn hell…!?

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Langkawi is home to deadly crocodiles, monkeys with fangs, mighty eagles, bats, cockroaches, and a host of other welt-inducing creepy-crawlies, but what attacked me?

A darling little bunny.
Figures.

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**For the record, my middle finger survived the bunny bite and is doing quite well – I appreciate all the kind words and concerns.

10 ‘Truly Essential’ Travel Essentials

I’ve been adrift almost 3 solid months now (WEIRD!), and at this point I’m starting to realize what ‘travel essentials’ are actually, well, essential.

Not long ago I wrote a somewhat sarcastic post about some of my lesser-practical ‘essential’ items (including but not limited to my large TempurPedic pillow and constantly-exploding oversized jugs of Aveda shampoo) I’m happily dragging along with me.

While yes, that pillow has caused me a few issues in terms of my luggage weight and the shampoo bottles keep exploding in flight, arguably I *could* do without them (granted the one night I decided to try a hotel pillow I awoke the next day with awful neck cramps… I digress).

Here are ten things I’ve personally found truly essential, and probably won’t travel without again:

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1. FLIGHT 001 4-in-1 Adapter. This little device is fabulous – it’s small, portable, and color-coded to make it simple for easily confused people (like me) to figure out what power adapter is required for what region. So far, this adapter has worked brilliantly with everything I’ve needed to charge – I also have a slightly more cumbersome adapter that doubles as a power converter, but really haven’t needed the conversion function.

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2. Apricot and Argan Oils. I know these aren’t at all necessary for everyone, but as someone who often deals with very dry skin and hair, I’m VERY happy to have these with me!

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3. Coconut Water Face Spray. Works great as a toner; works great if my face feels parched and merely needs a hydrating ‘pick-me-up’. Again, not necessary for everyone, but I certainly appreciate it!

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4. Facial Cleansing Wipes. I enjoy having a clean face (don’t we all), and there are plenty of occasions I don’t have time to properly wash my face (such as when I’m running out the door at 4:00 am to catch an early-morning flight). Cetaphil is the only brand I’ve found that makes facial cleansing wipes that actually make my face feel genuinely clean and refreshed… Still prefer a good wash with my Clarisonic facial brush, but that can be difficult in a hurry!

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5. Macadamia Oil Cream. To be honest, I just found this macadamia cream on sale in the check-out line at a Target store while trying to find some new lotion on my first day back in Australia, but I LOVE IT! Smells awesome, makes my skin incredibly soft, and the tub-like container conveniently doesn’t explode in my checked suitcase…

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6. ALL Doctor Prescription Notes of Every Kind. This one is probably obvious, but I keep the original doctors’ notes and all documentation for every single medical prescription on me at ALL times, including optical prescriptions…

This was particularly handy when I decided to buy a new pair of eyeglasses my first day in Malaysia (to finally replace my old pair that’d been very broken for over a year…). I didn’t even have to bother with an eye exam – I had all the documents they needed regarding my vision on me, so my new glasses were ready within 20 minutes after purchasing the frames (and for the record, the price of my new frames PLUS the lenses cost less in Malaysia than the lousy rebate from my old vision insurance company, not to mention a fraction of the total cost back home… and in my opinion, the product I got here is significantly better quality)!

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7. Wireless Headphones. Seriously, the wireless part is awesome… Nobody likes getting tangled up in cords and wires, especially when long hair is involved. But, when these headphones do inevitably run out of batteries, they come with a regular connecter cord (or whatever the proper name of that thing is…). Plus, the rose gold hue matches half my stuff!

8. Mini Portable Speaker. Again, the wireless part is awesome, but the sound quality on this one is surprisingly good too… I always love being able to play the music of my choice out loud in my hotel room (or wherever I’m staying), and this little mini blue speaker is small enough I can take it anywhere!

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9. The ‘Rolls Royce’ of Eye Masks. I bought mine a few years ago at the airport right before a long-haul flight to Scandinavia, and it basically feels like a wonderful PILLOW on my face… All I remember is choosing to invest in the slightly nicer eye mask (versus one of those standard, er, flat ones) and I’m so glad I did – it blocks out virtually all light, meaning I can have sleep-worthy darkness no matter the time of day, and create a sense of privacy no matter the sleeping circumstance! To me, that’s priceless.

10. Multiple Notebooks, Journals, & Planners. Considering I’m a writer, this is hopefully self-explanatory… I take tons of notes on my iPhone too, but honestly it’s so much nicer being able to physically write down my random thoughts and ideas, as opposed to thumbing away on my partially-cracked touch screen while fighting an endless, infuriating silent battle with auto-correct…

Additionally, I’ve gotten in the habit of documenting my travel itinerary plans in numerous locations and forms – let’s just say it pays off to have hand-written hotel addresses and directions when the airport doesn’t have free wifi to access all the necessary info in my gmail account!

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