Langkawi on wheels.
Helmet, check; sun cream, check; mobile phone, (just for emergencies of course), check. “We drive on the left-hand side here” informs our hotel representative, thank goodness, one less hazard to consider.
I press the start button and rev into action. Its 7.30 am and I’m sitting on a Suzuki 125 scooter and set to explore the roads of Langawki, an island sitting in the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Northwest Malaysia.
The sun is preparing to present itself. As it does, it carpets the roads in a jacquard pattern, interfering with my navigation. In this shade of light the shadows cast questions over objects lying ahead – is that a snake or a lizard in front or just weirdly shaped leaves – thankfully the latter. In the distance is a grouping of four legged animals – wolves I wonder, no dogs, but all the same, I drive past with an air of confidence hiding the fear of being chased at speed.
These thoughts are natural driving in a new country harbouring wildlife we don’t know and customs that are different to us. This is certainly not the AI. I represent the traffic on the road. From time to time, another scooter passes by, considerately, or a few cars saunter pass. This is my kind of motoring, the freedom to breathe in the fresh scents of wildflowers, turn my nose away from pungent smells and smile at unusual sights I pass. No Starbucks here, just the odd trellis table serving locals cut fruit in a transparent tied bag or a freshly cut coconut with a straw.
The roads are well maintained, just a few small potholes to watch for but the scenery that takes centre stage – it’s like driving through a National Geographic nature programme. Mountains draped with trees, shards of light streaming through, bouncing off the road to reveal a display of reflective images. Sharp bends double the vision of windy paths snaking through the hills against stunning backdrops.
Signs warn of wildlife crossing, rather than pedestrians. Above monkeys dart between branches and steal fallen fruit. The sounds of birds, possibly Hornbills, interrupt the silence while the stillness is like being transported onto an imaginary planet. Unfamiliar territory, its colours and callings offer this unique opportunity to experience the island so close and so personal
As the sun finds its natural position high in the sky, low hanging trees provide welcomed shade along the road corridors. Climbing high above the treetops, racing through tunnels and then gently descending, I am offered a gallery of views. The typical picture postcard image of palm trees, white beaches and the inviting blue sea repeatedly peep through as I meander closer to the island’s shoreline and back to my hotel.
Brakes, check; Bridget Jones hair, (temporary), I park, dismount and head for the sun lounger. Forget coaches, cars and taxis, travelling on two wheels truly portrays the true Langkawi with all its sights, scents and wildlife in residence.