LANGKAWI – A TROPICAL HOLIDAY GEM

LANGKAWI – A TROPICAL HOLIDAY GEM

I have finally made it back to one of my all time favourite countries – Malaysia! A year and a half after I first visited, I am so happy to be back. This time I am mainly hitting beach spots, and my first stop is the beautiful tropical island of Langkawi.

Langkawi has been on my mind for some time,  and when I realised I could slip in a sneaky solo holiday before heading off for a year I booked my ticket without a second thought.

Being my first solo holiday I was a touch nervous, but suddenly realised that on all my holidays – I am the crazy planner – so travelling alone has been a breeze.

Langkawi has typically been pegged as a resort island, however the tide is changing, with many different levels of accommodation popping up all over. These range right from basic guesthouses up to mid-range hotels perfect for travellers in search of a little more comfort.

I have listed my favourite locations, things to do and more importantly – eat – to kick off a trip to Langkawi! Happy holidaying.

Where to Go
Cenang Beach

This is the area that has the main tourist concentration in Langkawi. A huge slice of fine white sand and jade green water, this is a very nice beach. Don’t expect crystal clear waters because this is not that – however it is a huge pretty beach, so unlike many places in Thailand, it never feels crowded (and I was there in the high season!). This beach is not really suitable for snorkelling – try Koh Lipe for that.

Before going I had read about ‘water sports madness’ and I was pretty concerned about noisy tourists (aka d***heads on jet skis, as I like to call them) however it all seemed pretty tame to me. In fact I can safely say that the jetski use in Australia is much worse and far more obnoxious! I was able to relax under a sun lounger happily and wasn’t bothered by the water sports at all.

Comfortable sun loungers are available to rent for around 20 Malaysian ringgit per day ($5 USD/$6.50 AUD) which is a steal, considering there is not really any natural shade on the beach (super important for a redhead such as myself!)

There are bars and restaurants located on the beach, so food and drinks are never too far away if you are a stay-all-day type of beachgoer like me. I recommend locating yourself either in front of the Yellow Cafe (Southern end) or near the Meritus Pelangi Resort (Northern end).

I do wish I got to see the ‘old’ Cenang Beach as there was lots of construction sites blighting the beach while I was there. Speaking to locals they are also sad at what is happening development-wise which is a shame. Still I recommend a visit for sure.

Note: Please note, depending on wind and weather conditions, there can be jellyfish in the water in Langkawi. Take precautions by wearing a stinger suit (or lycra suit covering the body), or at the least having a generous amount of vinegar on hand especially if you have children. Jellyfish stings often occur in shallow water. Box jellyfish have been reported in the waters around South East Asia so make sure that you are prepared. Of course the actual chance of being stung is very low – but it’s best to be educated!

Things to Do

Okay I’ll be honest – I didn’t do a lot while I was in Langkawi. It’s a place where you can do as little or as much as you like – there are heaps of activities that you can participate in, those that I actually did I will go into a bit more detail about.

Rainforest Evening Walk, Junglewalla Tours

I am travelling by myself, so while I’d normally have a crack at doing some kind of nature walk with Jack, I thought that this time it might be best to join a group rather than getting lost in the jungle. Solo.  So I decided to go with Junglewalla tours, a company that I saw recommended as an alternative to other cheaper ‘cattle’ tour type companies. I was really concerned with the company I chose taking an environmental approach, so I chose Junglewalla on that premise.

It was quite an odd start to the Rainforest After Dark tour, with the guides getting in the van without a word and then only introducing themselves after about 10 minutes. Quite weird and awkward! Or maybe that’s just me. After that they warmed a little and our main guide had a lot of excellent information about the flora and fauna of Langkawi. We saw a few different types of monkeys, lots of birdlife, including Giant Hornbills, and even the weird looking flying Lemurs later on.

The tour was good and I was thrilled to see so much wildlife, but on reflection I think I chose the wrong tour – I was under the impression we would be hiking through rugged jungle terrain, however  in reality we stayed in a van for most of the time, hopping out to catch a closer look at the monkeys and birds. In retrospect I would take the Jungle Trekking tour instead, which involves more hiking.

Night Market (Various Locations) 

Langkawi plays host to a kind of travelling night market every night of the week – foodie heaven. I visited the Temonyong Night Market which pops us just near the main road of the beach area on Thursday nights. It’s located near the Northern end of Cenang Beach, just behind the main strip. On other nights the market pops up in various locations – for more info on those check here

Rush hour at the Langkawi night market!

The night market was crazy busy! I was not expecting so many people, especially considering it is such a tiny market. There was roughly about 30-40 small stalls, most selling amazing interesting foods but also some with cheap clothes and trinkets. Think $2 shop stuff – I wouldn’t really plan on doing your shopping here.

   

The food is the main drawcard at the market – and oh, the food! Everything is between 0.50-3 ringgit (0.13 USD/0.15 AUD – 0.75 USD/1 AUD) which means it is an amazing opportunity to sample lots of different types of traditional food, and drinks too.

I tried Satay Ayam (chicken), Char Kway Teow (hawker noodle dish), Chicken curry puffs and Creme Caramel Pandan cake. Altogether that was a grand total of 10 ringgit (2.50 USD/3.15 AUD). Insane. I couldn’t even finish everything! Stand outs were the curry puffs and the delicious cake – definitely try these if you make it there!

   

I used a Grab driver to get there and back, which I HIGHLY recommend . In fact I got a little addicted to them and ended up taking them ridiculously short distances! Woops. For a 1-2km journey you’re looking at around 2-4 ringgit (0.50 USD/0.65 AUD) which is just too good to pass up. There is more info about Grab below.

Skycar/Skybridge

Photo: Highest Bridges

One regret I had was not having enough time to do this! Although I’m sure it would have been crowded and touristy (not my style) the location looked stunning. Check out more info here.

Where to Eat

Beware the tourist traps that Langkawi holds – many of the restaurants are geared towards Western-tastes and claim to serve ‘traditional food’ that is actually awful flavourless crap. Such a shame because Malaysian food is wonderful, and a really good quality traditional restaurant could do good business here! Anyway, I will share a few of the places that I ate at that were decent.

Orkid Ria

Orkid Ria is perhaps one of the busiest restaurants on the Cenang Beach strip. The seafood is fresh and plentiful and comes served cooked to your liking. It’s not the cheapest seafood I’ve had but it’s certainly not expensive either. This restaurant gets very crowded from about 5pm onwards so be prepared for a little wait. Overall it’s a very efficient and organised system though, and you’ll be seated in order without having to elbow another tourist out of the way.

Big, tasty prawns. Yum!
Sorry guys, you’re cute but I’m hungry.
Fresh fish, cooked to your liking. With beer. Enough said?
Tomato Nasi Kandar

This little spot was conveniently located next to Fave Hotel which was fortuitous given that I was generally too lazy to walk back to the main strip after returning from the beach for the day! I sampled some of their Nasi Kandar dishes. Nasi Kandar is a type of lunchtime buffet that is popular in Malaysia and Tomato Nasi Kandar offers a range of dishes that are very inexpensive to try. The chicken rendang was good, and I was able to order a naan to go along with it. The roti canai paired with a sweet milky teh tarik what a perfect no-fuss breakfast.

Yellow Cafe 

I didn’t actually eat anything here, but I generally settled in from of this little cafe when hanging out on the beach so I could easily trot back and forth between my sun lounger and the bar. The cocktails here are great and the beer is reasonably priced for a beach front location. It’s the perfect place to chill and watch the sun go down, a must in Langkawi! The food I did spy when I was there looked yummy, although a little pricey. The staff are very friendly too.

Where to Stay
Fave Hotel, Cenang Beach
Pool area – clean and relaxing.

I stayed at Fave Hotel, part of a chain of mid-range hotels, which I rather liked. If you come not expecting luxury but rather simple comfort, I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I chose Fave Hotel because it had a pool, which was in a lovely setting backed by lush green hills. These also featured cows and roosters – cute. The rooms were functional and spacious, and the bed was actually heaven (especially compared to the rock I slept on in my next destination of Koh Lipe). It was also walking distance to Cenang Beach and the main street – although I often took a Grab car home – don’t judge me!

View from the pool. Peaceful.
Getting There and Around

Langkawi is super well serviced both internationally and domestically by Air Asia and other budget airlines. Check Skyscanner to find a great deal. I flew from Singapore to Langkawi for around $30 USD/$40 AUD in peak season.

To get around the island you have a few options. I would recommend on landing at the airport purchasing a Malaysian Simcard which you can then use to sign up to Grab or Uber (don’t forget to ask for your Malaysian phone number). I used a Grab car to get to my accommodation for 13 ringgit, a total bargain, plus as a female travelling alone, I felt safe in the fact I could screenshot the driver’s details and send them to Jack. Not once did I feel unsafe in a Grab though!

In Langkawi there is also the option to hire a scooter/motorbike or car. You need an international license for this. The rates are really very cheap, however I can’t give much more info on that as I Grab-bed everywhere!

From Langkawi you can do onward travel to Thailand via ferry which is what I did next. Check out Koh Lipe for more info on that.

 

I’m Stephanie and this year I’m taking a break from life in Australia. I’m traveling South, Central and North America, learning Spanish, eating tacos and seeking out amazing swimming spots. When I’m taking time out from that hectic schedule I like to write, read and relax – and pat cute street animals that I really shouldn’t. I probably wrote most of what you’re reading from my hammock and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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