When I first got the assignment several weeks ago, to go to Langkawi for a familirisation trip, I honestly didn't want to go.
Call it a habit, but usually, I go on working trips to come back to even more work piling up from the days I was absent from the office. So no matter what the junket is, I usually just say no. So far, I have turned down trips to the US, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Plus, I didn't need a break. My energy levels were fine. I learned to cope without going to Thailand, and just another trip - any trip other than going to Thailand - would have sapped more of my energy.
God knows, the last time I was on a trip, Yasmin Ahmad died. I couldn't even attend the funeral. I went on this one cause no one else was available.
However, the Langkawi trip was all right. I mean, it was hot as hell, and I didn't sleep the first day, as I did not want to miss the flight, but things were okay. Everywhere I went, there was laughter and fun. And I made friends, as well as potential writers.
On the second day, instead of a normal tour, the media people were divided into groups and asked to compete in a treasure hunt, Amazing Race style.
I was in a team with a guy with a bad leg, two of the oldest members of the trip and two 'lost' Singaporean girls. I was invited over to the manly men team. THe macho guys. But I said no, cause I knew I would bring up the rear at some point.
The first clue was a maths problem, and as I was smoking a cigarette, it got solved by other people. We rushed to a beach where the task was to use a slingshot and knock over five cans. I knocked down three, as I took over when I saw that most of the rest were used to automated stuff. You have to pull on a slingshot, not just release the rocks from the thing.
AFter that, one of us had to go and use a kayak to get to 10 buoys inscribed with answers to 10 questions. We were only handed the question list after our kayak was in the water.
We sent our most fit member - a PADI-certified Singaporean white girl (she's actually Italian). Unfortunately, she does not know any Bahasa Malaysia at all. Guess what the answers were in? Yep.
We had to rely on guesswork and her memory of certain words to finish the questions which sounded more like riddles concerning Langkawi.
In the end, it was all right. We were in second place, and even thugh I was conserving energy, I decided to jog all the way to the next stop, which was 500m away.
The third challenge was to do batik. I stayed back as two of the members did it. Got a towel, as I was already soaked in sweat by that time.
Then, it was a rush to one near a bar inside an old pirate ship, with a choice of three routes. One was longer, through a path. There was a shortcut either through some tall rocks, or up the steps to a hill and down again.
The guy with a bad leg couldn't go through the rocky path, and I didn't want to, so we went up the steps and down again, surprisingly ahead of people who chose the tall rocks.
I was there, and the task was to peel and open a coconut, and then to scrape the flesh using a traditional scraper. Kukur kelapa.
The SIngaporeans didn't know how to work the kukur ayam, so I took over and did what my mother used to do it. Unfortunately, I was not doing well when there was just a thin layer remaining.
I handed it off to the guy with a bad leg, who is Chinese but with a Malay godmother. He displayed some amazing skills and got it done in just two minutes.
By this time, we were in second place.
We had to drive to a part of Langkawi, just to throw a fishing net. The rules were: the net has to be thrown properly in a circular pattern, and each team must send one guy and one girl.
The older guy threw the net, and then it was the SIngaporean girl - the most vertically-challenged of our team. Fortunately, she was a quick study and only did one bad toss.
Then, it was off to a plaza of sorts, where we had to take photos with a snake. A python. I would have been afraid if it was a cobra. Pythons, anacondas and boa constrictors never scared me, cause they're slow and not poisonous. Really, you have to be really dumb and slow to get killed by a python. Which animals get killed by pythons anyway? Small cows. ANd goats. There you go.
We were just a minute or two behind the first-placed team. Something happened at this point. Instead of boarding their transport, the lead team decided to go there on foot.
We happily passed them by and reached the foot of the hill leading to the Telaga Tujuh or Seven Wells.
It was a steep, vertical, almost 60 degrees climb. The guy with the bad leg and I lagged behind to enjoy our cigarette as three of our fittest members streaked ahead. There was someone bringing the rear, but it wasn't me.
The first team, now in second place, rushed past us. We were like, okay.
When we reached the top to the waterfalls, we found out that the three members secured our team in first place. It was a half hour of staring at nothing before the other teams arrived.
Had lunch, and then it was free and easy. I had a shower, a nap, and then I decided to get some alone time by going to Pantai Chenang instead of staying around for lunch and join them for a shopping trip.
I discovered that Pantai Chenang is very similar to Patong Beach in Phuket, in terms of the quantity of massage parlours and shops. However, they lacked go go bars. You need go go bars. LADA should look into this. Go go bars will make Langkawi even more competitive.
ANyway, that night we celebrated by tossing people into the pool. One girl was having her birthday, and one guy was getting married. After a while, the number of dry people shrunk to four - me being one of them. I decided then to call it a night and watched TV in my room.
Earlier today, our flight got delayed, so the nice people from Mutiara Buray Bay Resort took us out for lunch on a floating restaurant. The food was just okay, but there was an opportunity to take pictures of eagles during the boat ride.
All in all, a fun trip. And I celebrated my homecoming, finally alone, in my apartment, with a few bottles opened. I am writing this because I will not write this or this way for my article. I don't usually condone writing in the first person.
Travel articles should be about the place and the attractions, not you. Unless you can make it sound interesting like some travel writers or writers who are highly-skilled in doing just that, the first person style just sucks.
All in all, I made some good friends, and had fun. I would recommend Langkawi for people who want Phuket, without the fucking. In general, the food is just so-so, but it's cheaper than Thailand. Malaysia has some great beaches and they're not as over-saturated or over-populated as in Thailand. I love Thailand, but not for the beaches.
Of course, a lot of things can be done to make Langkawi better. Now, about them go go bars...