Langkawi is actually a string of over a hundred islands not too far off the North-West coast of Malaysia. We only visited the largest of them, Langkawi itself, but with long, sandy beaches,
jungle coated mountains and a rich variety of wildlife, it had everything I'd hoped for in a tropical paradise without the fringing of lobster sunbathers.
Although the coastline is stunning, we spent the majority of our time exploring the island's green interior.
I've been trying to think of how to explain our excursion to Laman Padi. Though there is a restaurant there, we were more interested in learning a little about the traditional techniques involved in rice growing and natural medicines.
The man who showed us around seemed incredibly knowledgeable and gave us a whirlwind of different plants to smell while he explained what they were used for. After a thorough tour of the fields and gardens, he went on to show us how to break and scrape out coconuts, begin to make a banana leaf roof and even play a local game involving marbles.
With coconut flowers clipped onto our ears, we were shown some local birds (including an "Asian size" heron!) and then asked if we would like to plant some rice.
That's how we ended up shin deep in muddy swamp water, pulling up lumps of sprouting rice and taking it in turns to wear his traditional woven hat.
Washing off the mud beside the resident water buffalo, we were (rather violently) smothered in aloe vera and coconut pulp.
Here's what to do with these two of my favourite natural products...
Uses for aloe vera:
- Although the skin is repulsive, the insides are filled with vitamins. Drinking the refreshing juice and pulp is particularly good when mixed with mango.
- For soothing all minor burns including sunburn, rashes and other skin irritation.
- As a mild antibacterial on minor wounds and grazes.
- As a moisturising face wash or to help remove make-up.
- Even as an anti-fungal to treat you rotting traveller feet. :)
Uses for coconut:
- It's a good source of potassium. Eat the flesh, drink the water, make it into milk, eat it in sweets, flavour your drinks with it, make an icecream...
- Use the flesh as a gentle exfoliator.
- Oil- for cooking, all-over moisturiser, lip salve, even mascara to some extent. You might be able to use it as a hair mask if you have dry hair, but don't think it would work with mine somehow.
Up into the mountains.
In an effort to save pennies, Ailsa and I hired some bikes to reach the promised panoramic views of Langkawi 25km away. Although it sounds simple enough, consider the last time you rode a bike without suspension, padding or gears... I'm still not sure my bum has recovered.
Tropical birds, aggressive little monkeys and even an eagle or two lined the edges of the road as we struggled up the hills.
I can't decide whether the Langkawi Sky Bridge could be counted as green. It's a bit of a monstrosity and don't know how it was built, but it does at least provide a simple economic reason for
maintaining the island's natural beauty.
The cable car takes people up to the highest point of Gunung Mat Chinchang, where you can wander around and admire the broccoli forests at your leisure.
- The cable car was around £5.
- Laman Padi seems to be free, though it is probably polite to eat in their restaurant.
- If you must you can fly, but we got the ferry from Satun in Thailand. Other ferries operate four routes from Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis, Penang.
- Malaysia is primarily a relatively conservative Muslim country, especially in smaller towns and villages. Dress appropriately and keep beach clothes for the beach. Don't flash your boobs or you might end up like that stupid Southampton graduate.
Please let me know if this information has changed in the comments below.
Other places in the world to find your green fingers...
- Falling down the rabbit hole- life in the woods at Espiral de Luz, Samaipata, Bolivia.
- El Vergel permaculture farm, camping and accommodation, Sorata, Bolivia.
- El Jardin eco-campsite and accommodation, Samaipata, Bolivia. (for inspiration)
A little of Malaysia...
Just a couple more amazing places in South East Asia...
- Floating down the Mekong to Luang Prabang, Laos.
- Architectural details in decay at the Forbidden Purple City, Huế.