20th and 21st January 2018
My first two days in Malaysia were spent working on my laptop in The Crowded House hostel, and out exploring the island of Langkawi. The Crowded House was a cozy, sociable place, built far off the main road, in a quiet corner of southwest Langkawi. The hostel consisted of fifteen or so rooms, and one common area near the entrance, which all the guests naturally gravitated towards. The only seating in the common area were cushions around a low table, making it almost impossible not to strike up conversations, as we relaxed in the evenings. For the first time in a month, I slept in a dorm with air-conditioning.
Tommy’s hostel ran on a trust-based system. As we took beers from the fridge by the reception desk, we’d record the purchase in a notebook, to pay later. Whenever Tommy ordered a food delivery from a nearby restaurant, we’d each take what we’d requested, then leave the cash under an ashtray on the table once we were finished eating.
Langkawi was a fairly wealthy island, with solid, spacious roads and quite a few luxurious shopping centres. For the first time since Georgia, I could drink the tap water. The island was duty-free, for some political reason, meaning that alcohol and cigarettes were far less expensive than on the mainland, with regular goods being a bit cheaper too. This seemed to draw in a lot of domestic tourists, hopping on the hour-long ferry across to spend their cash.
I rented a 100cc scooter during my time on the island, allowing me to slowly but steadily explore the place. On my third day in The Crowded House, I drove to the Seven Wells Waterfall, a set of seven pools dotted along a slow-moving river high in the island’s mountains, where bathers could slide from one natural basin to another, over the smooth rock of the riverbed.
After the Seven Wells, I took the SkyCab gondola up to the 650m peak of Machinchang Mountain, from where I would have been able to see the entire island, were it not for the thick cloud cover which had rolled in during my ascent.
The SkyCab ride was irritatingly commercialised. I wasn’t able to buy a cable car ticket without purchasing the ‘Basic Combo Package’, which included entrance to a 3D art museum, a planetarium, and some kind of interactive dinosaur exhibition, none of which I was particularly interest in. Then, at three different points on my way to the mountaintop, I was forced into queues for mini-photoshoots in front of green screens, so that a range of souvenir photos would be available to me on my descent.
On the evening of my third day, as I sat in the common area drinking a beer from the fridge, I got talking to Mohammad, a young Egyptian working as a chef on the island. Mohammad, despite having never been to Europe, spoke English with a noticeably Irish accent. He told me he’d learned much of the language from an Irish girlfriend, back in his years working in Dubai.
Mohammad was smoking a joint, not his first of the day. I couldn’t fully follow all of what he was saying, since he seemed to forget what he had and hadn’t already told me. What I could gather, was that he was inviting me on some kind of multi-day adventure, involving a beach, a tent, and a few other friends from the hostel.
“We’ll be leaving here at eight-thirty tomorrow morning,” he said in his slight Dublin accent. “You’re welcome to join, if you’d like.”
I’d planned to spend the next day as I’d spent the previous two: relaxing, writing, exploring the island by moped. I was thinking of a tactful way to turn down his offer, when I decided that my blog could wait.
“Yeah, sounds good,” I said. “I’ll join.”
Mohammad finished his joint, I finished my beer, and we both went back to our respective dorms, to set our alarms for 8am, and get a good sleep before whatever may be happening tomorrow.