The idea to go to Pulau Langkawi, Malaysia came to us while hanging out with a couple of friends we met along our trip from Luang Prabang to Chiang Mai (hey Tyler & Amanda!). They told us that of all the islands they had been to on their current trip (including Ko Phi Phi, Phuket, and Ko Tao among others), Langkawi was by far the best. This sounded intriguing to us, but we wondered what all the fuss could be about. Well, after visiting Langkawi (and loving it), we thought we would share with you what all the fuss really is about.
Do you like cheap drinks?
Two words, my friends: DUTY FREE. Not just the airport or port onto the island… the whole freakin’ island is duty free! That means 500ml cans of beer at the corner store for 3 Ringgits ($1). We bought a 1L bottle of Gordon’s Gin for 30 Ringgits ($9.50 CAD). I don’t want to encourage you to go to Langkawi and have an inebriated pow-wow on the beach (see An Idiot Abroad), but if you want to enjoy cheap drinks while hanging out beachside, Langkawi is the place to be. I should also mention the duty free to all other products, meaning there’s no tax added to any products sold on the island, so feel free to splurge a little on yourself.
Speaking of the beach…
Do you like the beach?
For any beach minded stay on Langkawi, you simply must stay close to Cenang beach. The area is very tourist friendly and there is a large variety of accommodations, mostly ranging from the budget guesthouses to mid-range hotels. But we’re talking about beaches… or Cenang beach for that matter. Cenang beach is 2 km of stellar white sand and pristine turquoise water that is a joy to plunge into after baking in the sun. Despite being the preferred area for most beach-seeking tourists on the island, Cenang beach is big enough for everyone to have plenty of space, both in the water and on shore. There was never any sense of feeling crowded, and the slow gradual decline of the sand under the water meant everyone could enjoy relaxing in the water both near and far from shore. Cenang may not be the MOST beautiful beach in the world, but it may very well be one of the most enjoyable. (At least it was for me!)
Do you like to get off the beach and do stuff, possibly on a motorbike?
If you’ve read our Tips On Renting a Motorbike in Southeast Asia, you’ll understand how enjoying the open road can sometimes have some pitfalls along the way. For us, Langkawi was one of the first places we visited where a lot of the nonsense was done away with. Our guesthouse offered a very reasonable price of 25 Ringgits ($8) for 24 hours, and didn’t even bother asking for extra forms of collateral (i.e. our passports). We could tell they just wanted us to have a good time.
Riding around the island brought us to many of the other sights that are great for travelers looking for a break from the beach. There is a huge list of things to do on Langkawi, such as: visiting a crocodile farm, a snake sanctuary, an antique book library, Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls (aka Seven Wells), the Oriental Village (more like a tourist park than Oriental village though), taking a cable car up Gunung Mat, hiking in the rain forest, scuba diving, snorkeling, and many other sights to see as you circle the island. The main beauty of motorbiking Langkawi though, is simply enjoying the varying scenery (beaches, mountains, forests, etc.) along perfectly paved and well signed roads. I highly recommend doing a bike tour if you are up for it.
Do you like shop?
If you couple renting a motorbike with the fact that (let me say once again) the entire island is duty free, you will be able to enjoy a wonderful shopping experience in Langkawi. For those who have been traveling for a while in Southeast Asia, you can appreciate what it’s like to step back in an air-conditioned mall and get away from the touting and high-pressure sales you’ve come to know. There are many malls to choose from around the pier in Langkawi, and one that specializes in products that duty free shoppers have been known to get weak in the knees over the years (i.e. liquor, cologne, chocolates, cigarettes and designer goods).
In the end…
After spending months in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, Pulau Langkawi was a welcome time of relaxation and easygoing fun. Its natural beauty is plain to see, and despite having a modern feel to it, the island doesn’t suffer from feeling “too built up”. I honestly and whole heartedly recommend Langkawi to anyone traveling in the area, as it was perhaps one of my favourite places to stay during the entirety of our trip so far.
Pulau Langkawi is a Malaysian island among the Langkawi archipelago, off the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, just south of the border of Thailand. It has a population of 65,000 people, and has an annual temperature between 24 and 33 degrees Celsius. The dry season is from November to March. It is known as the Jewel of Kedah.