Posts Tagged archipelago
Andaman daze … beached boats on Langkawi. Photo: Getty Images
Liz Porter chooses the Malaysian island for a swim-spa-slumber holiday.
My teenage daughter and I were desperate for an exotic break. We weren’t looking for an “eat, pray, love” quest to Bali. Or a place with bars so hip you might be in some barely-on-the-map Melbourne laneway. Part of the charm of being somewhere foreign is that they do things differently. We just wanted somewhere reliably hot and sunny for a spa, swim, room service, book-reading kind of holiday.
I remembered Langkawi from a visit to its main island of Pulau Langkawi in 1976, when there was no tourist development on this archipelago of 99 islands off the west coast of Malaysia and the only access was a 30-kilometre ferry trip from the little port town of Kuala Perlis.
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I could recall only the stock tropical-paradise images: palm trees lining long, sandy beaches; jungle; a scenic hilly interior. I remember wading in clear warm water – and someone suggesting that at certain low tides, one could walk to the next island.
Thirty-five years later, I had difficulty finding new and reliable information. the Lonely Planet guide to Malaysia devotes only three pages to Langkawi. but some recent visitors there had described it as “like Bali 30 years ago”. As someone lucky enough to first visit Bali when Sanur’s Bali Hyatt was the only major resort and Legian had no electricity, I liked that idea.
Trawling the internet, Ms 19 picked out a place on the beach at Langkawi’s Pantai Cenang but it was booked out. Bewildered by the array of accommodation available, I phoned a travel agent friend, who warned me that the island was a haven for honeymooners and so quiet that Ms 19 might want to escape to Penang where there are hip bars and, for me, colonial history to explore.
Nevertheless, we decide to stick with Langkawi and when we arrive I’m relieved to find it exactly as I expected. most of the once-empty beaches are now flanked by luxury spa resorts with infinity pools, beachside bars and yoga classes. and there are now backpacker hot spots, such as the town of Pantai Cenang, lined with restaurants and shops selling cheap clothes and second-hand books and looking very much like Kuta in the 1970s, but with a better road.
We arrive at the hotel my travel agent friend has recommended – the Sheraton Langkawi, set on 15 hectares of tropical gardens above a series of isolated beach coves and featuring Malaysian-style dark wood chalets, many with balconies overlooking the sea.
Within moments of checking in, we meet a family of dark-grey spectacled langurs (also known as dusky leaf monkeys or spectacled monkeys), named for the thick ring of white around their eyes. One is carrying a tiny orange baby – a special sight, we’re told, because an infant monkey’s fur holds this vibrant colour for only the first few months of its life. (Orange baby monkeys are such a big deal Taronga Zoo called a press conference in March to herald the birth of one in its primate enclosure.)
Being here involves all the fun of visiting an animal sanctuary without leaving the resort, which is also home to long-tailed macaques, opportunists who stage raids on sachets of sugar left unattended on room-service trolleys. on one occasion we have to close our balcony door on a macaque apparently keen to watch Desperate Housewives with us (or maybe he spotted our bananas and rambutans).
The breakfast buffet every morning is a multicultural experience – and not just because of a spread including roti canai and dhal, omelets and French pastries. My friend was right; at least a third of the guests are honeymooners but not Kylies and Jasons with braided hair and new tattoos. They’re Saudi Arabians; the grooms in fashionable boardshorts and T-shirts hold hands with their new brides in long black abayas. Some wear headscarves but many wear the niqab, leaving visible only their beautifully made-up eyes. they sit on the edge of the pool, robes dangling in the water, as their husbands swim.
We eat spicy noodles on the hotel’s beachside pool deck and listen to the waves of the Andaman Sea crashing beneath us. most guests swim in the pool but I swim daily in the warm green sea, in an area netted against the jellyfish that can appear in the November-March dry season.
Should I be ashamed to admit our only excursion is a snorkelling trip to the Pulau Payar Marine Park? We don’t join the highly acclaimed “wetlands” boat tour, or visit the nearby Seven Wells waterfalls or take the cable-car scenic trip – in our defence, the final two days are too overcast.
But we do take a nightly cab ride to the restaurants in the nearby Telaga Harbour precinct, home to a chic little upstairs “modern Malay” eatery called Privilege, which serves exquisitely plated laksas and curries and a dish called Liqueur, a Malaysian-accented creme brulee.
We also visit the extraordinary Ishan Spa, in a traditional old Malay house on a hill above Pantai Tengah beach. a three-hour spa session involves a scrub with coffee, a coating of yoghurt, a banana-leaf wrap, a coconut-oil head massage, a lime hair treatment, massage and facial.
We do embark on one intrepid activity, however. the hotel has many satellite TV stations but not the Australian one carrying AFL, so we set out to watch an AFL game. We take a half-hour cab ride into the main town of Kuah, where the Langkawi yacht club’s office manager had confirmed by email that she could show the game on the bar’s television. Evidently she’s one of the few locals who don’t know that the St Kilda versus West Coast Eagles game clashes with live coverage of Malaysia versus Liverpool in Kuala Lumpur. Undeterred, we head for Pantai Cenang, only to find that all the tourist bars are also tuned to the soccer.
Clearly this place isn’t anything like Bali. and, footy disappointment aside, we decide that’s a good thing.
Getting there Malaysia Airlines has a fare to Langkawi from Sydney and Melbourne for about $1088 low-season return, including tax. fly to Kuala Lumpur (about 8hr), then to Langkawi (55 min). the best time to visit is the dry season, from November to March. October is the wettest month.
Staying there Sheraton Langkawi has 238 rooms. the pick are the sea view rooms, costing $272 a night. see starwoodhotels.com.
Eating there Restaurants at the Perdana Quay at nearby Telaga Harbour (a $6 taxi ride away) include the modern Malay Privilege Restaurant and Bar. Try the five-spice duck breast, the gula melaka creme brulee or the smoked banana ice-cream. see privilegerestaurant.com.
Things to do Visit the Ishan Spa; a three-hour treatment costs $123.Visit the Seven Wells waterfall and the cable car near Telaga Harbour. Mangrove tours can be booked at resorts or in shops at beachside spots such as Pantai Cenang. Anyone who has been snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef will find the day snorkelling/dive trips to Pulau Payar overcrowded and perhaps too much like swimming in a giant fish pond, although they offer swimming with baby reef sharks and a cruise past outlying islands. Boats leave from the township of Kuah but avoid weekends if possible.
More information see tourism.gov.my
- DESTINATION AFLOATMAKING a DIFFERENCE
ON a secluded island in the South Pacific, a little Fijian boy is belting out the latest Justin Bieber hit.
"Baby, baby, baby," he croons, cocking his head dramatically and flashing a grin at the cruise ship passengers who have alighted from their transfer boat and wandered into his village.
The visitors are bemused by this unexpected display of pop culture on the tiny island of Wayasewa, cushioned within the deep turquoise waters of the Yasawa archipelago off the main Fijian island of Viti Levu.
But isolation is no barrier to progress for the Justin Bieber impersonator and his friends, all of whom are students at the island’s Namara Village School. Despite their reliance on an erratic generator and their severely limited access to fresh water, the 81 students here are already accomplished. they recite verses in perfect English, find visitors’ countries and home cities on a world map and tend their school’s facilities with unrestrained pride.
"at 3pm one of the kids will get the task of beating the lali [Fijian drum] and that’s the call to chores," says headmaster Jope Leano. Litter is disposed of, libraries are tidied, toilets are scrubbed. The scene is of particular significance for one visitor, the managing director of Captain Cook Cruises, Jackie Charlton.
For the past nine years Charlton’s Sydney-based company has partnered with schools from the villages included on its Fijian itineraries, either funding projects directly or entering into joint ventures with the locals. both models are supplemented with contributions from cruise passengers.
Hundreds of projects have been completed: the construction of libraries, dormitories and classrooms, the provision of water tanks, stationery, books and computers. And after all-too-frequent cyclones, damaged generators, buildings and water tanks have been repaired with materials brought in on Captain Cook’s ship, the MV Reef Endeavour.
"The reward of seeing the schools we have helped build and knowing the children now have the resources to do well is one of the benefits of becoming socially involved," Charlton says.
But community wellbeing is dependent on more than just schooling, and the company provides a conduit for passengers who wish to lend a hand to the people they encounter on their travels. Recently they contributed to Captain Cook’s fundraising drive for a boy who needed to travel to the US for surgery.
"we found that people wanted to do [something helpful],"Charlton says. "I think people have a more philanthropic outlook now. Mass media has helped with that"
Clearly, the media has also helped the children, drawing them into the global village and inspiring them to emulate more than just the lyrics of a Justin Bieber tune: after Year 8, eager students sit a test that determines whether they can go to high school on the mainland.
<a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/travel/more-than-just-fun-and-games-at-fijian-school/story-e6frg8rf-1226058165789tag:news.google.com,2005:cluster=http://www.theaustralian.com.au/travel/more-than-just-fun-and-games-at-fijian-school/story-e6frg8rf-1226058165789Fri, 20 May 2011 23:11:44 GMT 00:00″>More than just fun and games at Fijian school
Set out on one of our 10 favorite beach trips and encounter the perfect spots to warm up. the beaches come in all colors – white, pink, gold, and black – and are either beloved for their superb natural setting, smashing eye candy or unbeatable beachside activities. This winter, pick between beach trips to powdery Caribbean shores, heavenly Hawaiian islands, cosmopolitan Australia, spectacular Brazil or undeveloped Mexico. and, when you’re ready to plan your beach trip for summer, we’ve got you covered there too, with glamorous Mediterranean swaths in Greece and the South of France, and even a remote archipelago off the coast of Africa.
1. Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue, Seychelles The archipelago of the Seychelles, composed of more than 100 palm-tree-studded islands in the midst of the Indian Ocean, is a mostly undiscovered beach trip destination for American travelers, largely due to its distant location, some 1,000 miles off the eastern coast of Africa. Dedicated beachcombers who make the trek will, however, be rewarded with some of the most paradisiacal shores in the world, where beautiful secluded beaches and idyllic lagoons meet with unspoiled natural landscapes echoing with exotic bird songs. the tiny island of La Digue’s picture-perfect Anse Source d’Argent (French for “silver spring cove”) is one of the islands’ most popular beaches, featuring fine sands; towering, weathered granite boulders; and giant, arching palm trees. Swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving are ever-popular in these calm, reef-protected waters. a sprinkling of nearby luxurious resorts and spas also beckon, catering to the beach-lovers who make this ultimate pilgrimage. Note that high season runs May through September.
2. Grace Bay, Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Revered as one of the last frontiers of the Caribbean, Turks and Caicos is an oasis for those seeking to do little more than lounge on the beach, as there are few diversions other than surf, sun and sand. and when the sand in question is as superb as gorgeous Grace Bay, it’s no wonder the focus is on the beach. Edging 12 miles along the northern coast of Providenciales (the chain’s main island), the fine white sand here is easily one of the finest swaths of beach we’ve ever seen in the Caribbean. What’s more, the Atlantic waters it faces are calmed and protected by a natural 499-mile-long barrier reef, which gives the ocean a marvelous turquoise sheen. the fact that the beach also rarely gets crowded, even in high season, only adds to its appeal. Indeed, with this trifecta going for it, Grace Bay is one of the ultimate beach trips for R&R — the most strenuous thing you’ll do here is try to spot JoJo, the island’s resident dolphin, who likes to frolic in the distance.
3. Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil “Tall and tan and young and lovely.” so goes “The Girl from Ipanema,” the famous ode to the bathing beauties (or garotas) who lounge and strut on this stunning stretch of prime beach-trip sand in Rio de Janeiro. even four decades after the song’s debut, trendsetting bikinis still set the standard here (who can forget the oh-so memorable dental-floss version?) and the eye candy remains second to none. the 1.25-mile stretch of golden sand is no slouch either, as it’s edged by a groovy mosaic boardwalk and anchored by twin mountain peaks at its western end. on the sand itself in one of our top picks for beach trips, a mix of capoeira dancers, volleyball games, soccer and scantily clad “Cariocas” (locals) command attention. the surrounding neighborhood also brims with hip restaurants, clubs and shops; beach bums can take apres-sun strolls along Rua Vinícius de Moraes, a popular avenue offering a stylish spread of bars and eateries, including the most famous of all, the Bar Garota de Ipanema, where the eponymous song was penned.
4. Lanikai Beach, Oahu, Hawaii That Lanikai is considered the best swimming beach trip even by local Hawaiians should come as no surprise – after all, its name does mean “heavenly sea.” an offshore coral reef protects the deep turquoise lagoon, making the surf relatively mild and ideal for splashing around as well as for kayaking, sailing, canoeing and windsurfing. the half mile-long beach itself, on Oahu’s windward side, is also quite scenic and has served as a backdrop in countless fashion shoots: Imagine a wide swath dotted by tall swaying palms that cast shadows on the soft, sugary sand. plus, you’ll spot the twin islands and bird sanctuaries of Mokulua and Mokumanu in the distance – they’re accessible by kayak and boast prime sunrise views.
5. Manly Beach, Sydney When winter is just getting its frosty grip around much of the U.S., summer fun is only beginning Down Under. Lovers of both beautiful beach scenes and sophisticated city culture needn’t look further than the bustling metropolis of Sydney, where the best of both worlds combine. Enjoy all of the cultural goodies that Sydney has to offer and one of the world’s most alluring beach trips, Manly, just 7 miles north of Sydney Harbour. a scenic half-hour ferry ride connects Sydney’s Circular Quay with Manly’s main oceanfront, where rolling surf meets glorious golden-sand beaches and a verdant trim of pine trees. the lively cafe- and shop-lined strip of the Corso links the harbor side of Manly to its fabulous beach – where surfing competitions, beach volleyball, festivals and much more unfold every summer.
6. Paradise Beach, Mykonos, Greece If paradise means rambling golden sands met by the deep-blue Aegean, beach bars bumping with Euro tunes, bikini-clad bodies dancing on tables, topless girls sprawled on the sand and an overall hedonistic scene, Paradise Beach on the Greek isle of Mykonos is it. come summer, hordes of young travelers head out on beach trips here to revel in the sultry thrills and clandestine coves that only Paradise Beach can offer. Dotted with thatched umbrellas and lined with bars, shops and discos, visitors to these raucous sands enjoy the Mediterranean seascape, soak up some rays and, come late afternoon, join in a full-blown fiesta right there on the sand. the music slowly starts to escalate and doesn’t typically die down before dawn – just in time for sunrise and a morning nap on the sand in one of the world’s top destinations for beach trips.
7. Plage Malendure, Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe One of our favorite beach trips to black sands is found on the dazzling shores of Plage Malendure, at the base of steep jungle-covered mountains and the towering, still-active La Soufriere volcano on Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe. the result of a mid-’70s volcanic eruption, which saw molten lava leave pearly-black ash in its wake (that now sparkles under the sun), this glittering sandy cove is a primary access point to the large Jacques Cousteau Underwater Park, considered one of the Caribbean’s best dive sites. Snorkeling and diving exhibitions here visit an underwater world filled with abundant aquatic life and vivid coral and fauna. on land, a hike from the beach finds the Parc National Guadeloupe (www.guadeloupe-parcnational.fr), a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve that encircles the rumbling La Soufriére volcano, where an array of natural splendors, from lush rain forest and tall ferns to orchids and pineapples, are found.
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8. Plage de Tahiti, St. Tropez, France Sun-kissed St. Tropez, once a sleepy fishing village, has long been the most irresistible of French Riviera resort towns, attracting sunbathing beauties from Brigitte Bardot to Beyonce. This Mediterranean beach-trip mecca of summer beach lounging and late-night partying sees chic scenesters arrive in droves between June and September to stake claim to their own little sandy piece of the action. Plage de Tahiti, one of the northern beaches along the Baie de Pampelonne, is one of the best spots to bask on golden Mediterranean shores and soak up the carnival atmosphere created by flamboyant and fashionable beachcombers. Note that the prudish needn’t apply, as this haunt is notorious for itsy-bitty and teeny-weeny bathing gear. Aside from the sun-soaking and people-watching, this top destination for beach trips is also conveniently lined with cafes, restaurants and shops, to boot.
9. Trunk Bay, St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands St. John may be the smallest of the three U.S. Virgin Islands, but it is home to Trunk Bay – an extraordinary destination for beach trips that’s sure to leave the biggest impression of any on the trio of isles. one of the most photographed – and photogenic – beaches in the world, Trunk Bay is the crowning glory of sleepy St. John’s dozen-odd beaches, its attractive powdery sand offset by a verdant inland replete with seagrape and palm trees and a turquoise shoreline drenched in the tropical sun. Scenic sands aside, the waters here are also popular with beginning snorkelers, who delight in following the fun, self-guided underwater trail complete with signage identifying native aquatic life and corals; snorkeling equipment can be rented right on the beach. the only downside to this crowd-pleaser is that it can indeed get crowded, especially when cruise ships are in port – on those days, you’re best to come before noon or after 4 p.m.
10. Tulum Beach, Riviera Maya, Mexico The increasingly popular Mayan Riviera destination of Tulum, 80 miles southeast of Cancun, couldn’t be more unlike its northern resort sibling in terms of beach trips. with a beach presided over by Mexico’s only waterfront Mayan ruins, the unspoiled white sands that hug the Caribbean here offer visitors the chance to get in touch with their inner chi – not the excuse to party. Indeed, what few beachfront resorts exist here tend to host yoga centers, not all-inclusive nightclubs, along the sand. Meanwhile, on the beach below Tulum’s cliff-top castle, you can bask and swim where the Maya once came ashore, in superb waters protected by the world’s second-longest barrier reef, the great Maya Reef, which provides countless underwater pleasures among shallow coral reefs, coast-hugging sand banks and offshore atolls.
ShermansTravel is a guide to top travel deals and destinations. Sign up for Sherman’s top 25 e-newsletter which features the best travel dealsfrom hundreds of travel providers and is delivered to over 4 million subscribers, free, each week. ShermansTravel also publishes travel guides and hotel reviews to inspire, guide, and go.This story, Top 10 Beach Trips, originally appeared on ShermansTravel.com.