With Paksu waving goodbye, our boat driver, Abu, and his grandson Ani (age 5) sluggishly navigate our small boat down the Kilim River so we can inspect the mangrove sprawl, observe brown eagles, and pause as cheeky monkeys swim across thin backwater channels. At Mohammed;s request, Abu leads us into the open sea. Finally, around the tip of Langkawi, we set eyes n mainland Thailand.
I thank Mohammed for such a spectacular tour of Kilim. He gives me a polite bow. "My job is a trade-off," he says. "I am allowed to show and teach people about the natural environment that only exists in Langkawi. In return, I get to know a little bit about the world."
I want my last meal on Langkawi to be as local as possible. It is Ramadan, the holy month dedicated to fasting, prayer and introspection. Nearly 80 percent of Langkawi's residents are Muslim, and most of the island's local Malay restaurants are closed until sundown. Yet iftar, the meal eaten to break the fast on each night of Ramadan, is easily found at Bazaar Ramadan Kuah, a market dedicated to local cuisine. Entire families on motorbikes, elderly grandmothers and young men all flock to the smoke billowing out from under white spired tents.
Walking along the aisles of fan-blown, chargrilled chicken and fresh fruit, it doesn't take long to make a friend. I sit with Mahadzir, 47, who has served barbequed chicken at Bazaar Ramadan Kuah for six years now. When I ask about the Bazaar Ramadan, Mahadzir comes alive. "People are so happy during this month, and even happier to be at the bazaar. In an hour or so they will feast." Mahadzir flips a large chicken wing into the air and slyly catches it in a brown paper bag. "A Ramadan gift," he says as he hands it to me with a warming smile. Normally I would open the bag and immediately sample the gift. But eating the hawker fare on-site at any of the Bazaar Ramadan is strictly forbidden.
Strolling out of the market, my eyes are drawn to a local favorite dish; Nasi Ayam, Malaysia's version of chicken rice, is comprised of aromatic cooked rice, fried honey-glazed chicken and a zesty sauce (garlic, sugar, chilies, and lime). I purchase a portion and make my way out of the market.