There was something strangely relaxing about the mosquitoes bouncing off my face with faint tic – tic sounds, as our motorbike spluttered between rice paddies on the Malaysian island of Langkawi. The rural scenery was beautiful, and at dusk, very quiet. The dessicated skins of snakes and frogs lay comically flattened on the road (the day’s roadkill victims), and buffalo wallowed out in the fields, flicking insects away with their ears in an absent stupor. Returning from Cenang to our bungalow in a nearby village, we navigated a narrow dirt road between the fields as night fell.
This was our first night on the island, a popular getaway for Kuala Lumpurians in Malaysia’s north west. And Langkawi’s status as an exotic weekend away was pretty clear on the flight in, which was packed with families; seat-kicking kids and fed up parents. The nice thing about Langkawi is that we slipped into island life immediately after arriving. Illa, our host, picked us up and gave us a crash tour of her favourite spots; the best stand to buy a laksa, her preferred doughnut shop, the local petrol station and mamak.
We ended the first day watching the sun setting across a buzzing Cenang beach. Sitting back from the sand at a beachside restaurant, we slurped hot noodle soups, ate chicken skewers covered in chunky satay sauce, and enjoyed fresh, sweet iced lemon tea. The scene on the beach was like a carnival – Malaysian holidaymakers splashed and swam in the sea (some fully clothed), kids built sandcastles, couples walked hand-in-hand along the sand, all to the droning soundtrack of squadrons of rental jetskis. The sun was setting in shades of oranges and purples. It was nice to just watch the scene unfold before our eyes. When the sun touched the sea and the heat of the day was gone, we decided to go back.
We were staying in the coolest guesthouse we’d ever rented. It was in a village, and surrounded on all sides by rice paddies. The best part of the cabin was the huge balcony, with hammocks and chairs and anti-mosquito coils giving off scented smoke from large, ceramic frog sculptures. A fridge was plugged in out on the deck, and a kettle for tea. The bungalow was all of a rich, dark timber, creaking underfoot, with a huge king sized bed occupying most of the space, and a low thatched roof. The balcony wrapped around the cabin, wide and spacious, with flimsy wooden shutters that rolled down to shut out the night. We could hear the sounds of chittering bats and of tropical rain pattering through the foliage outside, whilst local cats climbed around, hunting insects. A fan was whirring on the left. Cindy swayed back and forth in a soft hammock, preparing our next episode of The Walking Dead. I sank into a musty old armchair and took a bite of watermelon. Today was relax day. Tomorrow – adventure!