Shells and Kayaks: Missives from Malaysia no. 4


Shell Paradise
It’s winter and cold outside. So I’ve got one more post about Malaysia you can warm yourself over. I know it’s been two months since the trip, but this is a way for me to get back into writing regularly for the blog, by thawing my creativity out of a premature hibernation.

The beaches of Langkawi aren’t crystal clear, but they do have a pleasing milky emerald about them, and there were no suddenly chilly currents sneaking under you like you might find in the Pacific. Also the sands were only occasionally the prized fine powdery white. They were meticulously kept this way in front of our hotel, but when we ventured to other beaches, they were covered with shells in various states. It was shell paradise.


Our hotel was on its own little island a 15 minute speedboat ride away from the main island. By the second day, we got bored of our perfect beach and wanted to see what else was on the island. When I went on a morning stroll I glimpsed a long stretch of beach far from the hotel, so we went on an exploratory hike through a thick jungle, past curious monkeys and wary hornbills onto an “abandoned” beach. There was no one there, only stretches of coral and shell. I spent the afternoon kicking back on the beach while T hunted for beautiful and unusual shells.


We went back every day thereafter.

After a couple mornings of drinking coffee gazing into the distance across the waters, a small island intrigued me more and more. It seemed to have little cozy beaches and I was aching for a little adventure. So we borrowed a kayak from the hotel and started paddling out there. I have a little experience kayaking but T had never paddled anything before. Halfway there, she figured it out and was soon intuitively directing our little watercraft to the island.


The waters were remarkably calm but boats passing far off in the distance created waves that rocked us at seemingly dangerous angles. But we got there safely. The water was actually warmer there and we also enjoyed the teeming life in the tide pools. There’s something cool about being on an island all to yourself (as far as we knew anyway), having gotten there through your own muscle power.


But we never really felt we were on a deserted island because of the trash that had washed ashore and settled onto the edge of the jungle. There were lots of empty water bottles, plastic buckets and fishing nets.
This isn’t surprising since Langkawi is situated on the edge of the Straits of Malacca, which has the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Everything that goes between East Asia and the US West Coast to Europe and vice versa goes through there. But that’s nothing new, the Straits have been used by Arab traders, Chinese merchants, and European imperialists for millennia.
Still, from where we were, despite the garbage, we felt far from the detritus of civilization.


2 thoughts on “Shells and Kayaks: Missives from Malaysia no. 4”

  1. What an experience to be on that island alone with your beloved. And what beautiful seashells she was able to find! There’s such a variety in their design.

    It’s too bad about the trash but everything else sounds like it must have been wonderful.

    1. I guess you can’t truly escape human detritus anywhere you go nowadays. Your forests, even outer space and Antarctica. There’s even a patch of the pacific the size of Texas with nothing but trash covering its surface. One of the underrated crisis of our times.

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