April, 2010

...now browsing by month


Tanjong Rhu, Langkawi’s northernmost Beach – Malaysia

Monday, April 5th, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind



Pantai Tanjong Rhu is the Malaysian name for one of Langkawi’s finest Beaches, Tanjong means cape and it is located on the northernmost tip of Langkawi, facing the southernmost Thai islands. Rhu means sea pine or casuarina. So the sea-pine-cape is, what your SIAMPEDIA Team tries to describe here, as it is one of the few beaches on our All-time personal Top-10 list in Southeast Asia.

There are only a few developments at Tanjong Rhu, a single De-Luxe beachresort, one or two souvenir stalls and a couple of restaurants near the tip of the cape. Other than this, it offers plenty of natural beach and a reasonably low number of visitors. Unlike Pantai Cenang, the developed beach on Langkawi in the west of the island. Tanjung Rho offers that type of cleanliness and tranquility, that we like so much and can hardly find further north.

A long, fine sand beach in inviting colors stretches here for many kilometers. Three islets in ocean kayak distance are a part of the 100 islands that belong to Langkawi. The Sultanate of Kedah’s territorial waters border the Thai Province of Satun, one can see Tarutao island on the northern horizon. Koh Tarutao is already in Thailand. Chartered boats can cover the distance in season, but the lack of immigration facilities may make cross-ocean travel for adventurous tourists a risky venture.

Snorkeling is rewarding in these waters, as there are several coral reefs within easy reach. Taxiboats ferry tourists to the islets or other great snorkel sites. Mighty casuarinas (sea pine trees) give their shadow near the tip of the cape and at stretches along the beach. Beach umbrellas are very few, do not expect a serviced touristic beach in Tanjung Rhu. Other than the in area in front of the 5-star resort, a visitor here brings his beach mat and accessories along. Somehow this appears to us, like the endless beaches of Phuket or Samui, way before the onslaught of mass tourism. For us it is like traveling back in time here.

Strong negotiating skills are required to deal with the Taxiboats here. It used to be easy and relatively cheap up to 5 years ago, but then the boat owners learned about the dream profits of their counterparts in Krabi, Phang Nga and on Phuket and prices escalated rapidly. Langkawi, being a duty free island in it’s entirety was a heaven for tourists. It still is, as Alcohol and Tobacco are nowhere cheaper in Southeast Asia, food is reasonable and tourist’s services and accommodations slowly creep up to Thailand’s levels. Kuah town is home to dozens of duty free shops with a world class selection!

The water is clean here and colors change, according to the sun from a deep turquoise to various shades of blue or green. Sales people bothering guests are unheard of here. Small developments in terms of ATV rentals or banana boat rides surfaced over the recent past, but still do not appear as crowded as elsewhere.

Langkawi can be reached by ferry from Satun’s Pak Bara pier, once daily from Penang or by frequent ferry from the towns Kuala Perlis or Kuala Kedah on the mainland. There is an international airport on the western side and private vehicles are shipped across every other day by cargo-barge. Rental cars and scooters are offered in Kuah town (2 km from the jetty) or in Pantai Cenang. Rental cars can be picked up at the airport also.

The spot at the northern end of the dead-end road from the Padang Lalang traffic roundabout is where most beach related businesses and restaurants are. Here it is also easy to find a shady spot to chill out. Total driving time with a rented moped or scooter from Kuah town is about 40 minutes, taxis need 30 minutes for the distance. Tanjung Rhu is equally far from Langkawi’s airport in distance.

A small hut here has an agency dealing with boat charter requests of tourists. Smart,  budget minded folks deal directly with the boat owners and book their eagle feeding cruises or snorkel trips at the fisherman’s pier a kilometer south of here at the small lagoon on the western side of the dead-end road. The famous Langkawi Geopark is also accessible from here, although you’re at the northern end of it and a bit to the west. The Geopark is full of bizarre rock formations, limestone caves and home to many sea eagles, which are fed by the boat owners and tour guides during cruises.

Tanjung Rhu offers no accommodation, but the one and only 140 room DeLuxe resort (250 US-$++ per night). Usually we stay at more modest Hotels in Kuah town or in Pantai Tengah or alternatively in Pantai Cenang. Take your pick of the plenty of options on rooms on Langkawi to suit your taste and budget, but make sure to witness this great location for some long lasting memories! We return here again, as developments are slow paced and the bulk of holiday seekers hasn’t discovered this paradise yet.

Southeast Asian Ostrich Farms – Perlis

Saturday, April 3rd, 2010

© 2010 Frank P. Schneidewind

Ostriches are curious, flightless birds with a height of well over 2 meters and can weigh up to 100 kilograms per bird. Southeast Asia has seen an introduction to commercial ostrich farming with Thailand and Malaysia playing minor roles in this agricultural industry. I have encountered numerous ostrich farms during my travel years, but rarely had the time to pay attention to these. When your SIAMPEDIA Team was enroute to Langkawi by private car, we had the chance to pause at an ostrich farm in Perlis, just 30 minutes south of the Thai border. The big birds were roaming free in an enclosed field – and we could inspect them from very close up.

The pair here was neither shy nor aggressive, rather friendly and social

Ostriches are farmed in pairs or trios with two females and one male. The female birds are slightly smaller. Formerly natives to the deserts of Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia as well, they were rotted out in the wild completely in the Middle East, only populations in Africa survived. Commercial farming for their feathers was a big trend in South Africa towards the end of the 19th century. Today’s farming is merely for their meat. The meat is another red meat, but has less fat and cholesterol than beef or chicken.

The Malaysian ostrich farms we encountered were businesses of an agricultural variety, no admissions were charged, no souvenir shops present – the Thai farms commonly charge a fee to visit and are run as half tourist attraction, half farm.

Their long and featherless necks are typical for this species, and so are their naked legs and feet with 2 toes. They can endure temperatures exceeding 50 degrees Celsius in the open and can cover enormous distances in the wild.  Strong legs with an 8 meter stride helped them doing this in their former native deserts of the Arabian peninsula and those few arid stretches of desert and semi-desert in Africa, where they survived in the wild. Their Latin name is “Strothia Camelus”, where the later part refers to a camel. The big eyes and eyelashes plus their endurance capability to survive with little water and nutrition are similarities within the two different species.

The leg tendons of an ostrich have replaced ruptured human tendons in the past and experiments are currently being done with their eyes, which have capabilities to see things in  up to 12 km distance!

Commercial farming of these big birds may hold a solution to feeding a growing world population. It has proven to be much more efficient to cattle- or pig-farming. Agricultural science stepped into the corral recently and it won’t be long until ostrich meat replaces beef and pork to a part in human consumption. I am no expert in this and may develop a more vegetarian approach to my personal diet, as I have a problem with commercial slaughterhouses myself. The more I learn about ostriches, the more I like these creatures.

The male bird here was really eyeballing me and made an almost human noise. He wanted food, I guess and I fed him some grass from outside his compound as that was already harvested by him and his partner down to the bare sand.

Whilst taking close-up shots of him, he was curious if Melona’s digicam was edible too.

That is how she caught this shot of his throat and tongue.

Ostrich farms are dotting the maps in Southeast Asia, if you travel around. Make sure to stop for a break if one is on your path. The experience is awesome! I will add to this, when I have the chance to spot an ostrich-farm that welcomes visitors and has birds roaming their ranges.