The Bengali Runaway: Cenang Beach
One of the locals approached me while I was lying in the sea and asked if I wanted to try paragliding. He had a good deal. We walked out of the sea and he drew a diagram on the sand, explaining how I would be taken to another island by boat and I would paraglide from the beach there. 'The wind is really good today so you'll have a great time. You'll be in the air 8-11 minutes.' It was half price so I accepted. His friend took me to another smaller island opposite and there I sat waiting twenty minutes for my turn. The beach boys sat around in shorts, smoking weed while their colleagues harnessed a customer and his child to the paraglide. I suddenly realised I wasn’t paying less; I was paying the standard price of a single person. They normally advertised the price of two people so it seemed like it was half price.
It was finally my turn and I ran across the sand until I was lifted into the air. Langkawi was heaven beneath my feet. Deep green trees and a glassy sea reflecting the perfect blue sky. And then we were coming down again. Four minutes I figured. That's how long the ride was. My landing was far from poised, I actually fell flat on my face and almost got dragged across the sand by the paraglide but no one seemed to care nor did they try and help me up. The beach boys had moved on to the next paying customer. Brilliant service. I went and sat back down on the log, disappointed with the time. I told one of the boys that it was short, I expected it to be double the time at least and he said the wind wasn't very good. So his colleague who had approached me had lied. I then asked when I could leave. His response was 'in a bit.' How informative! After waiting a further twenty minutes, I approached another beach boy, asking if I could leave as I had work in the evening. His response was 'wait, wait, wait' whilst he walked off. I was getting irritated by the minute. I felt cheated out of my money and now I was stranded on this island and was going to be late for work.
Just then, two boats full of Sudanese people arrived at the island. I counted eighteen heads. They were very lively and I could hear them laughing and bantering from where I stood. They took it in turns to paraglide, encouraging each other with whoops and claps, teasing and laughing when one of them landed on their face. This could have easily been my family had they been here. We would have had so much fun doing this together. After waiting another ten minutes or so, I approached another beach boy and asked when the boat was leaving for the main island. He said when everyone had had their turn. I couldn't believe it. There were too many people to get through; I was definitely going to be late for work. I didn't want the owners of Tubotel thinking I was taking advantage of them. I explained to him I had work at 6pm and needed to get back ASAP. He said okay and then walked away. I thought he was going to speak to his friend but he just stood around in the distance watching the sport. The customer service was atrocious.
By 6pm, everyone had finally had their go and the beach boys started piling everyone on to the boats. Somehow I ended up being the last one on. I was definitely going to be late, by half an hour I guessed. As if to make matters worse, the engine on our boat failed towards the end and we all had to jump out and wade our way across the sea to the sand. The guy who sold me the deal was waiting for me. 'How was it?' he asked. 'It was rubbish!' I said bluntly. 'I was in the air for less than 5 minutes and waited an hour to be taken back here. And the beach boys ignored my requests to take me back earlier. Now I'm going to be very late for work. I want a refund!'
He looked startled and started walking backwards, both hands in front as he said 'no, no, no...' I knew I'd never get a refund but just wanted to say it to emphasise how poor I thought the deal was. I also didn't have the time to argue. I turned on my heels and marched up the beach whilst sending an apologetic text to the madam.