A Tale of Two Islands

Souvik & I have the same birthday, and we like to celebrate it in style. Last year, I was in Malaysia for a training program, so Souvik decided to join me there for the birthday weekend.

We went to Langkawi – that world-renowned tourist hotspot – and spent a glorious weekend there. We stayed in the Temple Tree resort, which has to be among the most exotic places we’ve lived in, ever, and checked off all the touristy boxes on the list – island hopping, jet skiing, cable car ride, eagle watching, even managed a helicopter ride for spectacular aerial views.

‘Langkawi’ means reddish-brown eagle, and there were plenty to spot, sadly thanks to various groups going out to the water to feed them.

Consequently, nothing less than an exotic island would do for this ‘milestone’ birthday. Bali was rejected for being ‘over-travelled’. And then we found Cubadak, a tiny island off the west coast of Sumatera. It was everything that Langkawi was not. One simple resort – Cubadak Paradiso – with not even a sign. A quick flight to Padang, then just follow the people who hand you over from the car to the boat to the cottage. No air-conditioning, no room service or even menu cards, hardly any phone signals. No roads, no vehicles on land. Just a calm blue ocean, a few basic boats, and living with the tides. We managed to forgo wi-fi for 3 days, and didn’t regret it once.

And yes, we went diving and swimming and snorkelling and eating and reading and meeting new people. Wonder or wonders, we even met some friends from Jakarta there! A different picture of sunrise and sunset every day. Waded in knee-deep water for miles into the ocean. Not much that the camera could capture, but it was more about touching all the different senses. The day we left Cubadak early morning before sunrise, millions of stars glittered in the sky like divine blessings from up above.

I grew a year older from one island to the other. Learnt new skills. Read more books. Made new friends. Visited old ones. And found that the urge to travel is stronger than ever.

It’s been a wonderful life already.

Weekly Photo Challenge: My 2012 in Pictures

First, the settling into the new house, and all those home improvement projects.

And some significant family events.

Mia came home in March and celebrated her first birthday in December.

Mia in action

Mia in action

My niece, Ira, made her presence felt with her non-stop activity and, in Reva’s words, comic relief.

Never-sit-still Ira

Never-sit-still Ira

Kelu came home 14/15 years ago, and refused to leave. This November, he ran off to the hills and never came back. Missing you, Kelubhau!

Kelu

Kelu

For me, it was the year of the water sports.

And finally, all that delicious travel!

Malaysia

Canada

USA

and, of course, Indonesia!

Truly Asia!

This month I spent 2 whole weeks in Kuala Lumpur. Normally, travel is a source of great excitement for me, and this time was no different – zero time lag in downloading the KL Lonely Planet guide, but I was prepared to be disappointed with the ‘normalcy’ of a big urban city. And yes, I DID expect to spot the Petronas Towers looming large on the horizon wherever I looked.

Then came the big letdown. We weren’t staying anywhere near downtown KL, just a far-off suburb, and had a very short ride to the office every single day. Subang Jaya would have to be the most boring suburb in the world, with nothing, absolutely nothing to redeem its ordinariness. The training program itself was predictable – a lot of rehash of old stuff, and a few new products. It all came back to me quickly – indifferent food, lots of coffee and cocoa temptations, heavy drowsiness as soon as the PPTs begin – as if I’d never been away. After 2 years of ‘break’, it was torture to follow a routine and get to office every morning. To add to that, the hotel room was chilled, even after switching off the air conditioner, and there were minimal opportunities to inhale fresh air. Grumble grumble!

I did meet some interesting people in the group, one of whom was as eager to hit the hotspots as me, so we teamed up to explore KL at every chance we got. So we walked around Dataran Merdeka, taking many pictures of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building and its lurid lighting, ogled at the Petronas Towers from every angle and found our way to Zouk KL looking for some good music. The weather wasn’t too kind to us – every time we hopped into a taxi it would pour, and ruin many sightseeing ops. But we persisted, and were well rewarded with some interesting sights.

I hadn’t expected to, but I admired the Petronas Towers all lit up at night. It’s rare that a modern structure gives me such joy, but they were truly grand by night. I just dislike those mass-produced pewter and other replicas they make as souvenirs of Malaysia. We spent a good hour people watching and photographing the towers, and later that week I even dragged myself to the KL tower to get a top view!

On the one day that we were let off early, ostensibly to prepare for the final exam, I chose to walk all over Chinatown, and then some. The walk was invigorating, but about the sights all I can say is, I’ve seen better.

Was I getting too jaded for travel? Thankfully not; I learnt soon enough, it was just that KL was boring (sorry, all KL-lovers!), and I happened to like Langkawi well enough 😉