Looking for a place to go on a short family vacation in Asia is about predicting the rain. That’s how we ended up foregoing a trip near my mother’s hometown in Eastern Malaysia (on the Bornean peninsula) in favour of the little island of Langkawi on the western side of the country, just a short (and I mean 15 minutes of cruising time) flight from Penang.
Before this trip, my only memory of Langkawi is a matching pair of shirts/shorts that Joanne and I had as children. I really didn’t have many expectations; I was here for the family.
Langkawi, like much of Southeast Asia is a strange mashup of all kinds of things. History inflects, erodes, builds and tears down in messy and complex ways. I always know what I’m getting-ish: the stray cats, the lizard calls, sudden rain, giant worms, glorious sunlight, simmering heat, lush foliage, entitled tourists, the noise of the street market, the smell of coconut and durian, green chilli.
But then things surprise me, like how loud and insomnia-inducing the lizard calls are, the crushed scorpion on the roadside, the cuteness of the Malay-owned B&B vs. its fierce chicken colony, how dark the roads are, a stranger dropping a starfish into our hands, the density of the mangroves, the knot in my hair after the seaspray from the mangrove tour, the ginger flower the tour guide asked me to eat…
It was a lovely little trip. Slow in pace, warm and gentle. Lots of Dutch Blitz with the family. Only a few mosquito bites. The food was mediocre so we made up for it in our 20-hour Penang stopover and ate nonstop. In short, it was exactly the kind of trip my family goes on.