Saturday, January 9, 2010

Our Langkawi Trip: a guide for families with toddlers

My husband, Salma and I just came back from a 3D2N vacation in Langkawi, and I must say it went better than we expected. I booked one of those "Go Holiday" packages from Air Asia and I think we really got our money's worth. The return flight was only 15 minutes delayed, (as opposed being hours and hours late as AirAsia flights can sometimes can -- people say anyway --), but the departing flight was on time so that was okay.

We stayed in the Superior Sea View room with king size bed at the Awana Porto Malai. The room is pretty spacious for the price, and the king size bed is suitable for new families with one baby or toddler. I was pretty pleased with the service (albeit a little slow, but still good) as the management changed our room within a few hours (we managed to take a nap in between, too) when our first room's air conditioning was broken (the room had a ceiling fan, so it was okay). Our first room was lovely though, on the 3rd floor with a high ceiling and pristinely white bedsheets, but our second room, located on the 2nd floor, was pretty much of the same quality but with a slightly different layout (and different bedsheets - floral haha). But most importantly, the view was the same. If you stay at Awana Porto Malai, be sure to get rooms with the sea view because the sight is just spectacular. Especially in the morning when the surrounding islands are covered with mist and in the evening when you can feel the cool sea breeze. It is really worth it.

Awana Porto Malai does not have a beach, it is by the jetty. But the hotel makes up for it by having a great kiddie pool. Haha. For families with young children, the kiddie pool is important. Because your young kid(s) cannot swim in the ocean by themselves anyway, but they can swim in the kiddie pool. The kids pool at Awana Porto Malai is really nice in my opinion. It was Salma's first time swimming in a pool and she had lots of fun. They actually have 2 adjoining kiddie pools, separated by a wall. One pool has a unified depth of about 0.90m (waist deep for an adult with my height), and the other has a gradual slope from 0m to 0.45m, which Salma spent the most time in. She was most comfortable in the latter pool because it allowed her to sit in the water in the shallow parts and even in the deepest part the water only came up to somewhere near her chest. The shallow pool also has a water slide (wide enough for adults, too) and these mushroom waterfall thingies. All in all, the kiddie pool was nice enough for even adults to enjoy. Because it's no fun swimming with your kid in a lousy pool, you know. The adults pool was nice too, but would have been better if it was bigger. So if you are going somewhere with just your spouse, Awana Porto Malai may not be the best choice for you.

To my surprise, my baby girl (now a toddler girl) is really brave and has a penchant for adventure! She really loves trying out new things. We bought her this float thing with the leg holes that she can sit down in (it looks like a patrol car and comes with a steering wheel -- bought at Giant) but after awhile, she really wanted to get rid of the float and just be in the water. She really wasn't afraid to be in the water at all, not even in the deeper kids pool (where her feet can't touch the bottom). I was really proud of her and was even impressed with her first time skills (like putting her legs up and trying to float without me asking her to). She liked to go on the water slide, too. And for a baby her age, I think that's pretty brave.

On the second day, we went exploring around the whole Langkawi island. Yup, we rented a car. For 3 days a brand new automatic proton saga (saga baru) cost us RM200. A more compact car, like a kancil, would be cheaper, but we had a huge suitcase and a stroller, so we took that one. Still value for money I think for 3 days use. And if you have a baby, the best thing to do is to rent a car when you go to Langkawi, because I think it's more convenient to travel with all your baby gear in a rental as compared to taking a cab. Plus, you can drive around at your leisure.

The first beach that we came upon after driving around for about an hour around the island, was the best beach there - Tanjung Rhu. It is a lot nicer than Pantai Chenang, which I think is too touristy and the sand is not as clean as Tanjung Rhu's. We stopped by another beach, and it wasn't as nice either, but I forgot the name of it. The beach at Tanjung Rhu is clean, and is pretty isolated. You can walk a bit after the parking (where they have food and souvenir stalls, and also those boat tour stalls) to find a place where it will be only you and your family swimming there for at least 100m or more. If you want to get away from the crowds, this is the place to go. We bought Salma one of those sand castle buckets and shovels, so she spent her time playing with the sand. She ate the sand too, but we reprimanded her for that. I think she just wanted to see what it tasted like. Mummy and daddy played sandcastle with her, too, but we spent a good bit of time swimming in the shallow sea. I think sitting and walking is more like it. But the sea was shallow there, and it was fun to bring Salma into the water. She was not afraid of the sea or the force of the current! I was so proud of her. She loved it and didn't wanna leave. If we had more time, I think we would have let her played for longer, but we went there in the morning and it was already 2 pm and we needed to find some lunch, so we left.

We visited several seafood restaurants, and still, to my opinion, we didn't manage to find a restaurant that cooked excellently. There was no doubt that the seafood was fresh, just wished the chef was better. There was one Thai restaurant that we went to in Kuah, (I forgot the name, but it's quite big) that gave Salma a baby plate and baby fork and spoon, which I thought was good. Haha. No one had ever done that before. It's easier to feed your kid with those things. And it beats bringing your own plastic plate and spoons so you don't have to wash them.

Now that we are back in KL, I think we didn't spend enough time on vacation. It would have been nice to have more time to do island hopping, but maybe it's good that we put it off since Salma is still young. She may not enjoy it as much.

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