I finally left Thailand via ferry from the Tammalang Port at Satun and about an hour and a half later was greeted into the Northernmost island in the Andaman sea of Malaysia, called Langkawi. After clearing customs I grabbed a cab for the T-Star hotel in Cenang.
During the 40 minute cab ride my driver informed me of some interesting facts about the island. According to him, Langkawi was barely visible on the map of tourism and tourists until the 70’s when the Prime Minister declared the island Duty Free. Since then, Langkawi has skyrocketed as a hot spot for tourism (loads of tours from feeding eagles to snorkeling are available) and shopaholics looking for the best deals on booze, makeup, chocolate, perfumes, etc.
Another tidbit he shared with me was that the population on the island was about 85% muslim, 10% Indian and the rest a mix of Chinese, Expats, and Europeans. After having been in Thailand for so long with diversity in foods only being available in larger cities, Langkawi was a breath of fresh air on that front with a large variety of cuisine choices to choose from. Of course they also had traditional Malay foods, which consist of rice, fish, chicken and lots of vegetable varieties. The foods are generally a bit spicy (though not as spicy as Thailand) and their national meal is Nasi Lemak, which is a rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf 🙂
I went to Langkawi with one specific goal in mind: to check out the animal shelter on the island and see if they needed volunteers. T-Star, my chosen hotel for the week was an absolutely delightful place and only about a 45 minute walk to the shelter. Every day, at least twice a day troops of the macaque monkeys came through the hotel leaping from balcony to balcony in search of any sort of food. There were signs everywhere to beware of things left on the balcony as they may be snatched and for good reason because those little guys were fast in snatching things!!
The day after I arrived I started my wander toward the animal shelter to check it out. I was a bit confused about it at first because online they seemed somehow located at a hotel resort, which didn’t make a ton of sense until I got there and learned the story. The Bon Ton resort, located next to The Temple Tree hotel is owned and operated by an animal lover. The owner started both hotels and the restaurants attached to them and uses moneys from the hotel and restaurant to fund an animal shelter located just in front of the resorts. There, over 100 dogs and over 100 cats find shelter and a loving home.
I arrived a little after 10am and chatted with the volunteer coordinator, Dorothy, and began the next day doing half days at first (since I was walking 5 km there and 5 back daily). Morning activities consisted of taking over 50 dogs for walks around the hotel grounds with fellow volunteers, then picking up after them and finally serving them lunch, which consisted of rice cooked in beef broth with chunks of beef and a variety of vegetables, all prepared FRESH daily by the restaurant chef!!
So for the first week I walked to and from my hotel to help walk the doggies in the morning, then spent my afternoons trying out new restaurants in the area and walking along the Cenang beach. As my week started to come to an end, it turned out that one of the Nepalese workers for the shelter had to go back home, so I was asked if I wanted to stay in one of the volunteer rooms so I could help with full-day activities along with the other 2 full-time volunteers. I agreed and moved in to my new accommodations (complete with 2 yard dogs, John and Mummy) and began full day activities. Of course, though I’d only planned at first for a month there, it quickly turned into two:)