Caves, Falls, and Plankton..Oh My!

Ok, so how far in the cave do you go? How long do you need to crawl? Is it really worth it?

These are the questions I drill my son with as we head off for an adventure on the island of Langkawi. We have been here a month and explored a lot of the area, but the caves that my oldest visited in the first week here, I have yet to go see. I love caves, I love how triumphant I feel after I tackle them but truth be told they are FAR outside my comfort zone. So I procrastinate a bit but eventually go…today was eventually!

As we near the entrance to the cave my stomach starts to flip flop and even though I know I can trust what my son tells me some part in my imagination paints a frightening picture. I breathe and let it pass. We also came with my 5 year old who is highly capable and hardly ever afraid of anything. I decide I need to be tough for him and keep my worries to myself. Or is that me I am trying to protect?

Down an obscure road we go until it dumps us out on a beautiful Buddhist temple to one side and a small Hindu temple to the other. “Towards Hindu”, my eldest says and we turn right. My 5 year old races out of the car and I take a few more deep breathes before rounding the corner to see what type of entrance we are looking at. I quickly discover a beautiful Hindu statue guarding the entrance. The only person around is a lone swami sitting in front of a TV across the field. He waves and I figure it must be OK if we are not receiving any dire warnings. THAT crevice??
At the statue my youngest is crouched down in meditation, whispering up to me questioning if he is doing it right, adorable I think, Dylan and I giggle and on we go. I notice 2 glaring realities as we enter the small untended opening meant to be the official start. One is that I already hear the screeches of bats (have I mentioned I do not like bats…at all!), and the second is that what my son said was a small stream is now a muddy, slippery, mess due to the lack of rain lately. Since taking photos is a must for me, I immediately wonder how I will keep my brand new DSLR safe, clean, and dry. Ughh I think, no complaining, forge on.

Uh huh..through that way

We crawl, slip, back slide, belly slither, and squeeze, past massive frogs, disturbed bats and huge stalagmites hoping to avoid them all. I whine a bit, possibly curse at my babies to move faster, and only suffer maybe 1-2 minor panic attacks but we make it. The cave opens up to reveal beautiful shimmering crystals, sinkholes, stunning corals from a time long ago, and a diverse array of stalagmites and tites..I never can remember which is which but they were stunning.

Dylan inspires me and teaches us the whole way through. He tells us all about different mosses, corals, rock formations, and so much more I can’t even remember. He also supported me through cheers of, “you’re doing great mom” during my worst moments of panic, and helped his little brother by holding his hand, showing him the way, teaching him, and lifting and holding him whenever he needed without complaint. He is such a great person down to his core I oftentimes look at him and his actions and wonder how I got so lucky to be his mother.

We survived the caves and miraculously the bats never did attack me although I am still sure they were considering it at length. I then decided that after washing off a bit we just had to go over to the Buddhist temple. I mean we have only seen and photographed slightly over 298.6 temples in the past year so why not do just one more. Luckily the kids were not impressed and decided to eat snacks in the car while I traipsed through the grounds. I noticed some sleeping dogs at the entrance but they didn’t even stir as I walked in so I figured they were harmless…I’ll get back to that theory and how it panned out in a moment.

The temple was beautiful although under a fair amount of construction so I only stayed a few minutes. I snapped photos of the beautiful golden Buddha against the backdrop of limestone cliffs, spoke a few moments to the resident monk, and then went back to the car. I noticed the dogs were now awake and I considered it may be an issue but quickly dismissed it as dogs seem to be quite friendly in Asia. That is until the barking started. I moved a bit faster towards the car as I felt uneasy and that’s when I noticed the 2nd and 3rd dog approaching snarling and barking all the way. I turned to run but saw immediately that it brought them closer so decided to stand my ground. I told Dylan to beep the horn which did no good at all and at this point a 4th dog is cornering me. A few expletives and a near collapse into succumbing to the fact that I was about to be eaten by a rabid pack of dogs right in front of my children and I finally remembered what my husband always says about this exact situation…

“You are top of the food chain, larger than them and more powerful. You just need to stand your ground, not panic, and let them know you are in charge”. Well I never believed this especially when faced with many dogs but when the choice is becoming dog chow or giving it a try I decided to go for it. I growl/yelled very deeply to “GO AWAY”, and they immediately put their tails between their legs and bailed out of there. I couldn’t believe it, who knew my husband could be right about such things? Dylan and I sat in the car for 5 minutes letting the adrenaline subside. In all honesty my legs were shaking for a good 30 minutes although that could have been the climbing in the cave..yes let’s say that was it!

On our way home we decided to check out a waterfall that we previously deemed a total fail and see about a different path we had heard about. Sure enough we turned left upon entering the book village and proceeded up a long and narrow road cut right through the jungle. As we moved upwards we couldn’t help but be grateful that this was all the less walking upwards we would have to do. To our surprise the small car park brought us right to the falls. The falls were beautiful, not grand but rather a cascading area of natural pools and rock slides. The water was freezing and amazingly refreshing after our long hike. I swam in my clothes scrubbing all the mud off of me and my youngest. Monkeys and monitor lizards lazed along the shores while we swam and relaxed on the rocks. It was the perfect outing after getting filthy in that cave!

To round out our day Dylan and I went back to the beach for one of my bucket list items. A few days ago we heard from a local friend, that during crescent moon bioluminescent plankton swim on the shores of a particular beach. We had no idea where we were in the moon cycle so we sort of wrote it off since we are leaving in a few days, even though it was something I have wanted to see for years. Fast forward to today and just as we were leaving for work Dylan pointed it out….a crescent moon! I was thrilled and vowed to make the 40 minute drive over to that beach when we were finished at the internet cafĂ©.

At 10 we were on the road. Lit towns slowly faded into darker and darker jungle with not a sole in sight. We couldn’t help but think we would feel more comfortable with others around but we went on anyway. As we exited the car, which I parked forward facing for a quicker exit, a huge hermit crab was right outside the door. Luckily there were lights down by the beach but we came prepared anyway with headlamps and flashlights. As we approached the water we felt a bit disappointed because the calm water we were hoping to swim in was rough enough to make us not really want to go in. We watched for a minute and as we were about to leave feeling rather deflated we saw them. We first spotted them on the white wash of the waves and then even more as we waded in and splashed around.

All we could capture but they were glowing out there!
I was picturing loads of them, glowing and brightening the entire area. I think it is that way in some spots and maybe even at this beach later on or when the sea is a bit calmer. It was slightly disappointing and I think it will remain on my bucket list for the moment but I was grateful we decided to head down. Even though we didn’t see the entire ocean come alive with bioluminescence it was still really cool and something neither of us had seen before. And as a bonus we survived the remote location ( no snakes, bad guys, or rabid monkeys like our imaginations conjured up on the ride over) and didn’t even have to race out of there…but I was prepared just in case.

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  1. Wow scary dogs, great story. Onwards in search of planktonoh! :)