For the Indian travellers, South East Asia has always been a popular destination and as I was preparing my travel plans to Malaysia, I was informed that 5 in every 10 tourists in that region would be of Indian Origin. Our itinerary for Singapore and Malaysia was quite hectic as we had planned intense activities in both Singapore and Kuala Lumpur but we had kept our itinerary fairly laid back in Langkawi so that we could catch up on our rest and totally relax.
Langkawi as many of you may know is an archipelago of several smaller islands in the Andaman sea. It is popularly called the Jewel of Kedah by the Malaysians and is located closer to Thailand hence many would find many influence from the Thai cuisine and culture in the area.
How to Get There
There are several flights connecting Singapore and Kuala Lumpur with Langkawi which can be booked ahead of time. Flight duration is around 55 minutes and both Air Asia and Malindo Air have good connectivity with the island.
The airport at Langkawi reminds you of the airports in the Caribbean where one has to walk on the tarmac from the plane to the terminal.
Once you are out, you can hail a cab but make sure to fix the price first. Usually cabs charge between 35 to 40 Ringgits from the airport to the major areas. 1 Ringgit is approximately equal to 17 Indian Rupees.
Where to Stay
Being a popular tourist centre, Langkawi has enough stay options suiting all kind of budgets but what’s most important is that you choose your hotel depending the kind of vacation you desire. If you prefer the hustle and bustle of the city and want to indulge in shopping then perhaps the area of Kuah is more suitable for you and if you are a major beach bum and want to spend most of your time on the beach, then you may want to choose a hotel at Cenang beach. If you are, however, the relaxing kind and want serenity by to the beach then I would recommend you to choose the area near Tanjun Rhu Beach. It is very important to define your priorities as each of these locations are quite far from each other and may cost a bunch in transport itself.
We stayed in the area of Kuah at a resort called Bella Vista resorts. Though it looks pretty from the outside, it is under renovation and has issues with staff training and maintenance. On the bright side, it does have a spectacular view of the bay to wake up to and is very close to the Eagle Square and the jetty from where Island Hopping tours depart.
What to Do while in Langakawi
Well this is quite subjective as everyone has their own prerogative when it comes to vacation. I will try and chart out some of the most interesting things we did (and keeping in mind an itinerary fit for families with children).
Sky Cab & Sky View
We decided to dedicate our first day to the ride up to the Gunung Machinchang Mountain to sink in the myriad views of the island and headed for the Cable car (or the Sky Cab as it is popularly known). The cable car starts from the Oriental village at Teluk Burau where there are some interesting additional attractions which can be visited prior or post the climb to the top. As we were running short of time we decided to keep the other attractions for another day and went for the cable car directly. One can choose several packages where each package would define the level of comfort and the price would change accordingly as well. We chose the basic package which also includes a 3-D roller coaster ride before you head up the mountain.
Once you are up, you can gorge on the 360 degree view from the two viewpoints or choose to walk the sky bridge which one must buy tickets for. This sky walk is a bridge built atop the trees and the thrill of walking on a bridge where the floor is transparent and you can see the flora and fauna of this rainforest closely is appreciated by quite a few people. We however were quite content clicking our panoramic views from top of the view point.
One interesting thing I noticed during this visit was the lovers point where I saw people hanging small little colourful locks in one part of the view point with names of their beloved. In fact, one of the installations was even shaped as a heart and made for an excellent image against the setting sun.
3D Art Museum
Once you are done with the sky bridge and come down, do visit the 3D museum which is located within the same village and is worth a visit to every photographer’s delight. This visit will surely be relished by both adults and children alike.
Island Hopping is another activity which is a must do during your stay. You can avail this trip through many service providers and many will try and convince you to rent a private boat as it gives you certain private privileges (like hanging out for longer time in certain islands). The price for this is exactly double of what a shared boat would cost. We chose the shared option and found it to be equally as comfortable and inclusive as the private would have been. The hopping takes you to a private beach which is flocking with tourists but the views are spectacular.
Pulau Beras Basah
The first stop was at an island called Pulau Beras Basah or the Wet Rice Island as it is also known. This picture perfect island with clear turquoise blue water and white sand was flocking with tourists in one corner while the other corner towards the far end was empty with little or no tourists. We chose to hand out there and spend time walking along with water and taking pictures. The guide books say that one can rent out snorkeling equipments out there, but during our hour stay on the island we did not find any shop of any sort. We did thank god for having carried out own water bottles though.
Pulau Singa Besar
Though we did not literally stop on this island but we docked in shallow waters near the coast and gorged on some fantastic views of eagles of all shapes and sizes swooping around and feeding on the marine life out there. This eagle feeding point is quite a popular stop for bird lovers.
Dayang Bunting or the lake of the Pregnant Woman
This fresh water lake is surrounded by mountains and dense forest. On your way to this island you will pass a series of mountains which resemble like a pregnant woman lying on her back hence the name. Here, one can choose to swim, kayak or indulge in some leisure boating. Be aware that one must climb an extensive flight of stairs which are packed with monkeys on both sides. The monkeys tend to attack your bags in search of food, it is, therefore advisable to carry a piece of rock while climbing and scare them with it as you walk along.
Apart from the Island hopping tour, there are several other tours which include scuba diving and a trip to pirate and crocodile coves. The prices of these tours vary accordingly. Make sure to check and confirm the points that will be covered in your island hopping tour so that you can plan your day accordingly. Depending on the points, it can be quite tiring for kids and adults alike as the temperature tends to be hot and humid most part of the year.
Make sure to hit the Cenang beach around sunset time. I recommend that part of the day because during that time the colors in the sky are spectacular. Furthermore, the area around this beach becomes quite lively post the sunset with myriad restaurants and shacks offering live music, sheesha and island delights. This is a happening night spot with many clubs and lounges for the party goer as well.
Tanjung Rhu beach
If you enjoy solitude, I would suggest you to visit the Tanjung Rhu beach which is a quiet beach near the Four Seasons hotel. When we were there, we were the only people apart from two other tourists. The beauty of this beach is that apart from its soft sand there is a natural pier which goes all the way into the sea. One can in fact walk across this natural sandy path all the way to the small rocky island in the centre when the sea is not that choppy. Standing at the edge of this pathway, looking into the sea, I couldn’t help but wonder how tiny we are in the scheme of god and how beautiful is nature in all its myriad hues and colours.
The island has many offers for adventure sport lovers with offers on Para sailing, jet skiing, scuba diving and many other water sports. Most of these can be availed at popular beaches like Cenang beach and are quite commercial. Our objective however, was to have some relaxing time during this visit and the itinerary that we followed helped us to avail just that.
Where to eat.
The island has many options for people of all ethnicities to eat. From Amercian food to Indian, there are multiple options to choose from. If you don’t have any food restrictions, I would recommend you to choose one of the many local joints which pop up in different areas and try the local fares like the Nasi Lemak and Nasi Goreng along with some curries, most of the food is made fresh to order and can be paired with local beer or Thai tea.
To enjoy some authentic local fare, do visit the Wan Thai Langkawi Restaurant which is the favourite joint of the King of Malaysia when he comes visiting to the island. The prices are reasonable enough and the food as authentic as it could possibly be. The only downside here is that it is quite difficult for vegetarians to find anything to eat.
As I said, the island of Langkawi has something for all age group and if you plan the visit wisely, it can turn into not only a memorable but a very budget friendly vacation at that. Our 3 days stay for 4 people inclusive of hotel, excursions, food and travel cost us around Rs.38,000 which comes down to roughly Rs.3,200 per person per day or $50 per person per day without cutting back on any comfort or luxury.