The Bar with No Beer- Langkawi, Malaysia.


Looks amazing doesn’t it?   But then you can’t see the massive building sites in the background or the waste running into the sea from the river, or hear the noise of the cranes and trucks as they rumble along the main road and the many planes as they land and take off, or smell the sewage as you pick your way through roads littered with building materials.  Langkawi, once such a go to place in Malaysia is rapidly losing its appeal.

Overpriced accommodation, food and transport, an alarming increase in drug use and as a consequence theft from tourists, dirty sea water, expensive theme parks and trips, aggressive Macaque monkeys  and taxi drivers, jet skies and speed boats that make a point of targeting swimmers in the shallows – I  could go on but I think you are getting the picture.

There are some nice parts of course, a beach here, some mangroves there but to get to them – since there is no obvious public transport means hiring a car, bike or taking a taxi -not an option for budget travellers like us or people who can’t drive.    I am about 15 years too late to visit this place that once was a backpackers haven with small hostels, rice paddies and golden beaches with clear water.

Being a victim of a bag snatch has not improved my opinion.  The bike rider  knocked me to the ground and dragged me along the road before making off but then came back to give me a victory wiggle as he drove past again.  Reporting the theft was hard.  The  receptionist of my hotel cleaned me up then instead of calling the police and insisting they came out to the hotel stuck me in a taxi and told me there was a police station in Cenang.   Of course there was not and the taxi driver started drive to the port town  30 ringgit ride each way before we stopped  him and got out.

Luckily someone we had met earlier, who worked in a travel agent was nearby and I limped to the shop.   He insisted that the staff call the police out to the scene and at that point they turned out in force so I was able to make a report.   Very luckily – I only sustained cuts to my hands and arm,  some bumps and bruises and two days of stiffness.

After the incident i decided that i needed a restorative drink – for shock only – to calm the nerves.  We headed to a bar on the beach that loudly proclaimed on a board outside the sitting area it was  cocktail hour.  The list of tempting cocktails and types of beer was extensive.  Strangely for cocktail hour we were the only ones there but it was early and the waiter bounded up to us with enthusiasm eager to serve.  However,  when we ordered he shook his head and said that they didn’t have.  We picked again and again with the same response.  In the end we asked what that bar did stock – cans of Tiger beer was the answer – but he added, you can try upstairs they will have a full range of drinks.  We did and they were closed.    I went back to the hostel for  a well-known remedy for shock – tea.

As I said I was lucky that my injuries were minor.  It could have been a lot worse.  Searching the net later I had to laugh at some advice from a local on his website on how to minimise your chance of getting robbed.   Try to blend in he wrote.    Now I’m blond, white, female and non-muslin.  So here is some of my advice – always walk towards oncoming traffic so you can see them approach.  Use the paths wherever possible.  Only carry as much money as you need and wear it in a small pouch around your neck under your clothing.  If you have to take a bag sling it across your shoulders and hang it down on the side away from the traffic or wear a small backpack.  Don’t wear lots of jewellery or expensive clothing – it makes you a target.  Be vigilant and don’t let your guard down like I did.   Carry emergency medical supplies, an umbrella to wave around menacingly and a hip flask full of brandy as a fall back  measure.   Happy travelling.

10 thoughts on “The Bar with No Beer- Langkawi, Malaysia.

  1. I am so sorry that this happened to you; you’re an excellent writer, and as I read the first part of your post, I was expecting a funny punch line, not a story of disappointment and some trauma as well. “Dragged along the road” – you’re a fighter!!! Good for you! The hotel probably was scared to report it because of PR – goodness, tourists need to be warned, ‘Watch out for bike thieves..”

    Stories like yours help us all to remember, ‘Don’t let down your guard…’ something that’s easy to do when it seems safe…

    Thank you for sharing; I was expecting “A Horse with No Name” kind of sing-along-story…. I hope you find that comforting beer soon.

  2. Wow! Quite an experience! It’s good that you post these experiences as a warning to other travelers who certainly should know what to do so they don’t get preyed upon. A friend of mine was on a rickshaw in Thailand and using her phone quite publicly to make a video of her surroundings, instead of watching her surroundings! A man jumped onto the rickshaw and if her husband hadn’t reacted quickly to knock the guy off, she could have been badly hurt. That was the end of her videotaping out in the open!

    What surprised me most about your experience was the initial reaction of locals when you sought help. That was terrible! Anyway, you’ve put me off on visiting thst place! I hope you changed hotels right away! Perhaps your readers would like to know the name of that hotel in order to avoid it.

  3. I’m sorry to hear that you had a rough time of it on Langkawi. I was there almost 6 years ago to the day and am saddened to hear that its gone downhill – when I visited it was still really calm, with no construction and even pleasant monkeys!

    It’s that age old debate that while tourism can help a local economy, it can also turn an idyll into a nightmare. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks for sharing your very experience very candidly! While I had no plans to visit this part of the world in the recent future, this is the first time I have read anything other than glowing accounts of Langkawi. Hope the rest of your trip was an improvement on this.

I wold love to hear your thoughts on this post.

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