My main reasons for going to Langkawi we’re because it was simple and logical. I was in Koh Lanta and needed to cross the Malaysian border. Langkawi made sense and seemed like a popular destination. However I was a bit skeptical about staying on another resort style island. Would I get ‘beached out?’
However, Langkawi totally exceeded my expectations. I definitely think the hostel I stayed in helped. Cenang Beach is the main hotspot to stay on in Langkawi, and the main road, next to the beach, is filled with restaurants, souvenir shops, and minimarts. Soluna Guesthouse, my accommodation of choice, was down a side street just a few minutes walk from all of the amenities and the beach, yet it felt like it was in the countryside. Set back from the street, this cute set up is nestled in surrounding fields where cows and water buffaloes graze. Here, I met so many fantastic people, had the opportunity to chill out, and only paid about £3 a night, for simple comfort. It was like a home away from home.
Langkawi itself, I discovered, was great for shopping and a cheeky tipple, because a lot of the island is duty free. Near the mall in Cenang, you can purchase duty free alcohol and chocolate. But a real draw for me was the big duty free sports shop, where I picked up some super cheap Nike trainers and a sports bra.
Langkawi made for a super relaxing place to be. Cenang beach isn’t the best beach ever, but it’s still a good place to soak up some rays. There’s plenty more to do in Langkawi than sunbathe and shop however. The island is pretty big, yet easy to drive around. There are plenty of waterfalls and other tourist attractions, including a huge cablecar which takes you high up a mountain and gives incredible 360 views of the entire island and beyond. In fact, seeing as much of Langkawis set up revolves around entertaining tourists, particularly in Cenang, it’s hard to get bored.
On a Thursday night, there is also a night market in Cenang. It’s not a huge market and may not boast the same variety of food as Penang, but it is still a decent and cheap place to pick up plenty of local food, even though as a veggie I struggled. I munched on Popiah (Similar to a spring roll but filled with potato), sweet pineapple cakes, fresh mango and noodles. There was lots of options for meat eaters however, especially those with a love of chicken!
Langkawi is definitely worth visiting. It’s cheap, fun and chilled, with a friendly and open vibe and something for everyone.
Now, you might be wondering about why I mentioned some sort of change in the title of this post. It was less of a change, and more of a recognition concerning my health.
When travelling, it is extremely hard to stay healthy or to have any sort of routine. Especially when you don’t get to stay in one place for long or are travelling to parts of the world that are so unfamiliar to what you know within your life experiences. My hat goes off to anyone that can attain a healthy life while travelling from the start. For the first two months of my trip, I could not stay healthy. This isn’t always a bad thing and I didn’t beat myself up for it. I gained a few pounds and for the first time in my life, I didn’t hate myself for that, which is an awesome, liberating feeling. I drank beer, I enjoyed my meals, I ate ice cream, and that’s all ok. Sometimes a little bit of indulgence is just what the soul needs. I don’t regret any of this, but I did struggle to find any balance. When you first start travelling it is so hard to find your feet, absorbing everything that is new. But after two months, all of a sudden, you realise you want a change.
I do miss the way I would exercise at home, whereas here I struggle to, and I miss a balanced diet, but I recognise that it’s ok and soon I’ll be in Australia in one place where I can get my mojo back. But what I really recognised in Langkawi was something else: I was drinking too much.
Now this is not in a sort of alcoholic way. I know because my Dad was an alcoholic and I know the signs of alcohol addiction. It is more in a: it is basically impossible to travel South East Asia as a young 20-Something without drinking large quantities of alcohol. Everywhere you go, there are young people who want to party. Some places are definite party places, like Koh Phi Phi, but there are also the places where people will find a way to party anyway.
Like I said above, Langkawi is great if you want a drink because it’s so damn cheap. My second night there, we played Ring of Fire, then went out. I drank almost a whole (small) bottle of Gordon’s Gin, mixed with lemonade. While a couple of my other friends recognised they had had a few and didn’t want to feel shit the next day, I stayed out with the guys. Lo and behold, the next day I felt awful. Not only does alcohol make you feel sick, but it’s all the mixing with sugar. I haven’t had alcohol with energy drinks for years for this exact reason, but now I realise sugary pop drinks do it too. I had heart palpitations. I felt like if I moved an inch from where I was sat I would be sick. And I wasn’t at home with the comfort of my bed, my boyfriend and a Harry Potter DVD. I was in the hot, sticky heat in a countryside guesthouse in Langkawi. Why had I made myself feel this way? Why do I always make myself feel this way? And was it worth it?
Sometimes, we have such great nights that the headache the next day is a small price to pay, but that night I know I could have had the exact same quality night without the booze. It was a relatively quiet night filled more with chatting than dancing. Drinking so much was not neccassary.
I know it’s totally normal for people with huge hangovers to suddenly proclaim: I am never drinking ever again, EVER! Knowingly not meaning it then getting back on it the next weekend. But this was different. I wanted to feel different in my body. I wanted to feel healthy, sexy and in control.
I am in no way giving up alcohol. I love drinking a casual beer or wine of an evening. I love cider on a crisp summer afternoon. I love having cocktails with my girlfriends. And I love going to clubs and dancing and I know I couldn’t do that sober. But I am making a resolution to simply drink a lot less than I usually do. To not be on a mission to get drunk. To enjoy the feeling of being clear headed and feeling good the next day. And if I do drink, to try to go for healthier choices, to not mix my spirits with drinks so concentrated with sugar and caffeine.
I feel good with this decision because I feel like it’s a step in the right direction. I feel like it’s a step towards a healthier ‘me’. I am not a fresher at uni anymore, yet travel is often like that. Drinking games and a weird peer pressure to drink. Sometimes drinking games, with the right people, can be fun, but I do feel like I’m outgrowing it. And I definitely don’t want someone telling me to drink. That’s fucked up.
One other thing: when I was in Koh Phi Phi, there were loads of ‘reps’ there. The people that probably did a season in magaluf a few years ago. I saw girls handing out shots to people who had done the limbo. And guess what? They didn’t look young, fun, energetic and sexy like commercials try to make party girls look. They looked haggard, aged before their time, wasted, and to be 100% real… They looked fucking knackered. Their bodies and their faces screamed out for sleep, health, and the vitality they were lacking. It’s ok that over the past couple of months I’ve drank a few too many Tigers and gained a few (temporary) pounds. But I don’t want to be like those Phi Phi shot girls. I want to live my twenties feeling young and vibrant. Alcohol only does that for a few hours. But a healthy lifestyle can do that for forever.