I was going through my site to reference something and discovered I didn’t write about our time on Langkawi! Not quite sure how I missed that, but I figured it needed to be rectified. Most visitors to Malaysia are familiar with Penang, but Langkawi has a much different feel and provides such a different experience.
The island is a short flight from Kuala Lumpur (KL) and Penang. There is ferry service from Penang, and you can also travel by ferry between Langkawi and Thailand’s Koh Lipe. So it’s a rather well-placed island really.
Surprisingly, much of the island is rather undeveloped, which is something I absolutely loved. Penang is a very happening island whereas Langkawi gives visitors a chance to experience rural Malaysian life. We did a house sit and spent a month on the island. I loved the simplicity and typical slow feel to life.
Once you leave the “big city” of Kuah, you encounter the island’s natural side. There are beautiful beaches, gorgeous mountain views, waterfalls, and rice paddies. It’s a great place for people who love the outdoors.
One of the other advantages of Langkawi is that it is loaded with duty-free shops with some rather great deals, especially if you like chocolate and/or liquor. If you’ve spent time in other areas of Malaysia, you know that booze can be a bit on the expensive side. You’ll enjoy the prices here much more.
While we were there, we rode the cable car a few times, and we never got tired of the amazing views. The Sky Bridge was closed, but I was more than happy to avoid that. For those of you who don’t have issues with heights and/or a healthy fear of falling, you’d probably love it. It looks like it would be a great experience for those without these fears.
The drive to the cable car area is quite fun, too, because you will usually see throngs of wild monkeys alongside the road. It’s fun to watch them play. The cable car is located next to one of the big waterfalls, so plan on spending some time around here.
In Pantai Cenang (pronounced as che-nang), you’ll find plenty of opportunities for things like parasailing, kite surfing, windsurfing, jet skis, etc. This is one of the big tourist areas, so you’ll also find lots of international restaurants.
If you’d like food recommendations, check out this post on my food site.
We visited Mahsuri’s tomb and left feeling rather disappointed. It’s an interesting legend from Langkawi’s past, but the whole attraction feels like a tourist trap. Entrance is 10 MYR (about $3 USD) for adults, so it won’t break the bank, but that 10 MYR could buy you some really good food or a nice adult beverage instead.
We avoided the Langkawi Wildlife Park because I saw too many reviews that referenced the small size of cages and animals being tied up for long periods of time.
A drive or walk to the top of Gunung Raya, Langkawi’s tallest peak, affords some fabulous views of the island that you don’t get from the cable car. It’s also cooler up there which is a nice break from the tropical heat.
Villages have their night markets during different days of the week, and each market is rather different from the other, so it was really enjoyable to visit various markets to get a better feel for typical local life. They can’t really compete with KL and Penang’s street food, but you wouldn’t really expect a small island to be any different.
Nature enthusiasts might also enjoy the geoforest parks, Pulau Payar Marine Park, the agrotechnology park and Eagle Square.
Being undeveloped also means a lack of public transportation. While there are plenty of taxis, you’ll get much more out of your visit by renting a car or scooter. It’s really easy to drive around the island, and traffic is really not an issue.
If you aren’t experienced driving in SE Asia, you might have a bit of a shock just because rules of the road are sometimes. . . flexible. Driving here requires more of your attention than in some other places outside Asia, but it’s really quite easy.
Keep an eye out for cows and goats crossing the roads. They have a tendency to show much disdain for human traffic laws.
There are some really great beaches on the island, and it’s obvious why Pantai Cenang has become one of the big tourist areas. In addition to swimming areas, though, there are some wonderful beaches to visit for other reasons.
Pantai Kok is a great place to enjoy a picnic while watching the sun set.
Pantai Pasir Hitam has a mix of black and normal sand which is kind of fun to see. There is a cool local legend about why the sand is black, and you can read about the legend while visiting the beach. If you want to avoid the tout gauntlet, look for the sign pointing to the beach located on the left side of the parking lot (as you face the buildings). There is a path that helps you avoid the vendors, even though they aren’t as aggressive as other places.
Pantai Tengah can also be a nice beach to visit if you want to avoid the potentially more crowded one at Cenang.
Places to stay
There are various types of lodging all over the island, from rustic guest houses to multiple-starred resorts. Even the small villages have at least guest homes and homestays, so don’t feel like you have to stay in the big tourist areas.
As we were housesitting, I didn’t have much experience with the various lodging offerings on the island. However, we did stay one night at Alia Residence Business Resort. I would definitely recommend it. They have a nice swimming pool, the air conditioning works quite well, the breakfast is pretty decent, service was fantastic, and the room was quite comfortable. Their WiFi was decent, too. I also liked that it is located in an area that doesn’t get a lot of Western tourists.
We really enjoyed staying on Langkawi. It was a really great break from the city life of KL, and it’s so easy to get to that I would encourage people to add it to your Malaysian itinerary.
Have you been to Langkawi? What’s your favorite area or site to visit?