Life In Langkawi

What is a typical day here like in Rebak Marina? There are only two types of days: stay on the boat and work days or go into town and buy food days. Town means Kuah, which is the settlement on Langkawi island. Remember, we are on Rebak island just off Langkawi. The day before we go we have to phone Faisal, the rental car dude. For the princely sum of 30 Ringgit (eight bucks) we can rent a beater all day.

But you have to call early or you won’t get one. The day we want to go shopping we take the marina ferry, a small affair that may carry up to 20 people, powered by two outboards. Actually, the word “ferry” may be too grand. If the weather is bad you bounce around like crazy and get soaked. The ferry leaves at 9:15 AM and we get to Langasuka on Langkawi by 9:30, where Faisal meets us with the beater and 1/2 cup of gas.

Then we drive to the first gas station about two miles away. Ten Ringgit seems to be enough gas for the day’s activities. There is only one type of gas, regular, offered at the state run Petronas Station. Fine with us.

A drive of 25 minutes through the bucolic jungle countryside to gets us to Kuah. Like most SE Asian small towns, Kuah is full of all kinds of small shops. Most have descriptive names like “Chop Hock Trading” or “Fat Ho Trading.” Of course you don’t know what they sell until you park and get out to go take a look.

Chop Hock and Fat Ho could both be one room dry goods stores that sell pretty much the same stuff except Chop Hock just got a shipment of new buckets while Fat Ho may have a deal on rice. Basically the savvy shopper has to be “in the know.” You waste a lot of time here just trying to get something simple things like decent paper towels (impossible) or aspirin (no Excedrin to be had).

Our exciting day out invariably includes a trip to Derek’s favorite store, “Multiquip Trading.” This place is great. It is like a hardware store that sells power tools. Ariel tries to keep me from giving them all our money. Shopper’s tip: we get better discounts there than anyone because of our Chinese connection. They are Chao Zhou people, just like Ariel, and I always speak to them in Mandarin. Charm counts.

Anyway, cash is extracted from an ATM and it’s off to the races. There is a weak excuse of a department store, Samudra, where we can get some food items and some kitchen stuff, maybe a dishtowel, whooowee! Then we drive to another shopping area near the Bayview Hotel (cleanest bathrooms in town) and go from shop to shop getting odds and sods. About this time it is lunch.

The Bayview has a great buffet but at 50 Ringitt for two is a bit spendy. We sometimes cop out and go to MacDonald’s for the air conditioning – don’t forget this is the tropics and it gets stinking hot. Recently, we have been going to a collection of “Hawker’s Stalls,” or food stalls, under one roof. It is all Chinese and no Malays will be found there because they sell pork. And it is great. We sin a little by getting a plate of rice and the
forbidden pork, maybe wash it down with a fresh coconut, cost for two: four bucks.

Then we begin the trip back to the ferry terminal. We have many stops to go before we get there though. Vegetables can only be found at select locations (all Chinese run) where you walk straight into a huge deep freeze that makes you gasp and testicles retract (males only). Ariel doesn’t like the cold but I love it for about 60 seconds.

We scramble around like angry bees trying to stuff as many vegetables into little plastic bags as we can before succumbing to hypothermia. Open the door and it’s summer-
time in the tropics again! There is one of these places where you can, nudge, nudge, wink, wink buy PORK! The first time they wouldn’t admit to having it.

But I kept after them in Mandarin and sure enough boss, how much you want? After that it’s a quick stop at the fruit stand. Depending on the season you can buy fresh durian, rambutans, mangoes or mangosteens, all kinds of weird and wacky stuff that Ariel loves and Derek too. (Except for the Durian, a wicked cross from deep within the evil labs of some Swiss scientist combining the genes and enzymes of dog kidneys, onions and old custard).

After the whistle stop at the fruit stand we drive to our second favorite store, “Soon Huat.” This is a huge warehouse that has shelves of food goods. They are very nice people (Chinese again) and we get along well. By now the rental car is full of multicolored plastic bags and we try and stuff them into backpacks and other luggage to make it easier to carry.

Our last stop is “McPhees,” a small wholesaler with
specialty goods from Australia.It is run by Aussies who are here to cater to the hotels. They have the world’s best yoghurt. Finally, it is already 4 PM and time to catch the ferry back home. We dash down the rough road to the terminal and unload bags and bags of stuff into the boat. By the time we get back to Tehani and unload it is almost five o’clock and we are WIPED OUT. We prefer staying on the boat.