Has Langkawi become an annual pilgrimage destination for me? It seems that way since the past few years, I have never failed to visit the isle of legends at least once a year!
But who can blame me. After all, I think it’s one of the destinations in Malaysia that is perfect for any occasion or anyone. I’ve been to Langkawi for work and for leisure; been there as a single woman and as a married couple (for my honeymoon, in fact), and have also enjoyed it as a mom with extended family in tow!
Each visit has been different, yet all were equally wonderful. Besides Penang, Langkawi is the only other island in Malaysia that has well-developed infrastructure with good road systems, a thriving town, yacht/harbour facilities, plenty of accommodation to suit various budgets, etc. By comparison, other islands on Malaysia are small and maintain the “secluded island” feeling that some holiday-makers equally treasure.
I believe Langkawi’s attraction is in the fact that it offers such diversity. On one hand, you have the beautiful beaches, the exciting beach-front scene, the scenic river cruise, the thick jungles, the majestic mountains; on the other hand, you have the quiet kampong/village scenes, the buffaloes and cows roaming the pasture, the paddy fields, the rustic ambience.
My most recent visit to Langkawi was right after the Hari Raya Aidil Fitri holidays, which meant that everything was more or less on “low season” prices. Yay! for me because this time around, there were nine of us in the group, comprising two adults, four teens, two “tweens,” and one toddler.
Our choice of accommodation was the Sunset Beach Resort at Pantai Tengah, adjacent to the ever famous Pantai Cenang. The location was perfect because everything – restaurants, convenience stores, some attractions, beach, night entertainment, souvenir shops, automated teller machines, duty free shops -- was within walking distance.
Although not super luxurious, Sunset Beach Resort was beautifully-landscaped, and their rooms were simple and clean with a touch of the owner’s personal taste in South-East Asian décor. It has its own private beach (although at the time of travel, the waves at Pantai Tengah were really huge and intimidating) and a breakfast-only café. The down sides to the resort were the mosquitoes and lack of swimming pool (for the children’s benefit). So make sure to slather on lots of mosquito repellant and forget fantasies of pool-side lounging!
With such a diverse age group to please during this trip, I was rather nervous about the programme I had thought up. Fortunately, everyone was kept happy with the various things to do in Langkawi.
The tweens loved the fact that the Pantai Tengah-Pantai Cenang main road was one long stretch of shopping. With a little pocket money, they were on their way to purchase duty-free chocolates, hand-made jewellery, t-shirts, beach sarongs, etc.
The older children enjoyed the night-time action and indulged in listening to live music and playing pool as they took in the sunset and night breezes. There are lots of restaurants lining the beach-front and it’s just a matter of personal choice where you want to park yourselves for the night. Pantai Cenang at sunset is awesome because there’s lots of activities going on – paragliding, beach football, jet-skiing – plus the beautiful evening sky is a real treat! You can also make arrangements with the beach-side restaurants to do a private bbq for your party; be prepared to pay anything from a very basic spread of RM15 per person to RM40 for a more extravagant spread.
Our days were filled with picnics by the beach at Pantai Pasir Tengkorak (less touristy, but no less beautiful than Pantai Cenang) and the beautiful Tanjung Rhu beach, feasting at the roadside kampong restaurants (where you get a full, authentic kampong meal for a fraction of the price at more commercial areas of the island), and cruises down the Kilim River.
That last bit was the highlight of the trip because we chartered a whole boat to ourselves at Tanjung Rhu and began the almost surreal journey along an area of Langkawi that’s reported to be about 500 million years old – it put a whole new twist to the expression “down memory lane”!
The cruise took us along the mangrove shoreline, right through caves and caverns, and past huge limestone formations through which the river cut through. As we cruised by these beautiful walls of rock, I couldn’t help but recall Frodo’s (Lord of the Rings) journey down the Great River. Okay, maybe it wasn’t as cinematic, but the Kilim River was a pretty awesome sight in its own right.
We saw a huge group of brahminy kites and sea eagles at one point flying overhead (apparently they were being “lured” to the area with promise of food by some of the boat operators – a practice that some eco-warriors frown at) swooping down for their lunch. It was quite a majestic sight.
We also made a stop at a fish farm where they made a whole show out of feeding the spitting fish and some large varieties of fish including stingrays and barracudas. I was amazed at the spitting fish – they actually shoot water at you from under the surface of their enclosed “pond” and with great accuracy, too! So watch out, lest they target you as their lunchtime grub! The whole fish farm experience was a like a mini marine circus being put on show for tourists, and something I think kids will find rather entertaining.
As a family holiday destination, Langkawi is a good choice. We chose to spend our days lazing around by the beach and enjoying the natural landscapes that Langkawi had to offer. But if you are really into the whole touristy tour thing, then there’s plenty more to see (and many websites are dedicated to listing the many attractions ranging from the hot water pools, to the legendary Mahsuri tomb, to the Underwater World and bird and crocodile parks). But if you want something a little different, here’s my list of some of the things not to miss:
- 1. The cable car ride up to the Machincang Mountain -- breath-taking trip to a point about 708 metres above sea level, where you get commanding views of the rainforests, the sea, and southern Thailand.
- Friendly Farms (http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/12/27/nation/2898286&sec=nation) – a local deli/farm/cheese producer run by a Malaysian-Italian couple where, if you’re lucky and they haven’t run out of their highly-demanded stock, you can get fresh mozzarella, ricotta and goat cheese. Also worth a visit is the Buffalo Park (http://buffaloparklangkawi.com/) next door where you can also purchase fresh ice-cream, yoghurt and milk produced locally, besides seeing some local and imported beasts nuzzling up-close!
- Go for a Herb Walk with Dr. Ghani at his home and garden filled with various species of medicinal local plants whose collection is considered to be impressive with the inclusion of some 15 species of basil, more than 50 varieties of fragrant plants, 18 types of pepper plants, and a collection of plants known for their healing properties for common male and female health problems. ( http://herbwalk-langkawi.com/index.html)
- Since Langkawi is made up of some 99 islands, it’s a great idea to jump on a boat and do some island hopping. A nice spot for a family picnic and swimming is the Beras Basah island. For a real treat, you can charter a private yacht and sail the beautiful waters around the island or squeeze in a romantic sunset cruise.