Langkawi is an island off the North West coast of Malaysia, near the Thailand border. Langkawi is a tropical paradise – and with good reason.
The waters are clear, relatively pristine beaches and the islands jungle is still intact. The island has been duty free since the mid 1980’s – you can grab a great bargain here. Yet despite their immense drawing power, these islands, and the main island of Langkawi itself, have not been overdeveloped.
Langkawi is easily accessed from the air from various airports within South East Asia. I flew Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur were the flight only took 1 hour 20 minutes.
ℹ️ Travel: Langkawi is served by its local airport and is roughly 30 minutes drive from the Pantai Cenang region. There are numerous taxis and buses that serve the island internally.
ℹ️ Currency: The Malaysian Ringit (RM)
ℹ️ Credit Cards and Banks: ATMs are common place in almost every shopping street, with several ‘bureau de change’ around the city centre, with almost every retailer accepting Mastercard and Visa. There is no fear of an establishment declining card payments.
ℹ️ Accommodation: I stayed at the Sunset Beach Resort in Pentai Ceneng Beach less that 10 minutes walk from The Aquarium. Although accommodation was basic with a basic breakfast the individual Malaysian bungalows led onto a private beach. Rates are roughly £30 p/n.
ℹ️ Weather: There is no Hot and Cold season in Malaysia. Malaysia is hot, humid and often suffers from the mid-afternoon thunder shower due to the humidity. Quite often the showers relinquish as quick as they formed.
The beaches of Pentai Cenang, Pantai Tengah and Pentai Kok are the most popular beaches on Langkawi with a wide choice of accommodation, restaurants and eateries.
I stayed in Pentai Cenang, which is a 30 minute drive from Langkawi airport, and this seems to be the area of the island to be seen staying at. Pentai Cenang is an area where there is much to do – bars, restaurants, Aquarium, Duty Free stores fringe one side of the road. On the beach side are low rise hotels of good quality with most having their own part of the beach to use. Despite the abundance of places there is also an air of tranquillity about the area too.
Pentai Cenang is based on a cove and is separated by a jut of protruding cliff that meets the sea. One side of the cove is somewhat quieter whereas the other side lends more to the social beach scene with groups and families all sporting for a spot on the beach. Having said that there is plenty of space to find your speck on the sand.
The beach is beautiful and golden, especially when the rays of the setting sun kisses the sands to enhance the orange and red glow. Do not be surprised to find yourself sharing the waters edge with some of the local shore life either. The beach is populated by all kinds of different species of crabs – nothing mammoth in size, but plenty of them. It can be quite rewarding ‘crabbing’ along the water edge to investigate these creatures. I know I spent several hours chasing them!
I stayed at the ‘Sunset Beach’ resort in Pentai Cenang. Not a particularly big resort – perhaps 12 Malay style bungalows in total with their own terrace but these bungalows are peppered amongst beautiful landscaped gardens. The resort was void of a swimming pool but I only had to walk 100 yards to get to the beach.
Langkawi’s main town, Kuah, is located on the southeast corner of the island. Do not visit Kuah with the illusion that you are going to see clear white stretches of beach as far as the eye can see, you will be sadly mistaken. That was my error. Kuah is a town that sits on reclaimed land and the waterfront sadly looks like a mucky and murky strip. Ships are present in the distance and the looming mountains on the nearby islets are visible during the day but truthfully the Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah stretch is the place to go for clear and inviting views of the crystal clear ocean.
Kuah is not without its charms, however – the town has many excellent duty-free stores selling literally everything. Confectionery, tobacco and perfumes are easily found; the stores may not always be pretty, but they serve their purpose.
Kuah town is also residence to a huge Eagle statue that faces the harbour. This is a great place to take some photographs. There are a few restaurants and bars to spend some time watching the world pass by but to be honest I was not overly taken in by the town.
TELAGA TUJUH WATERFALL
If you have been splashing around the ocean, why not add some variety and lounge in some freshwater rock pools. Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells), located at the top of a waterfall inland from Pantai Kok, is a series of small pools connected by a thin trickle of mountain flow.
The smooth rut between pools is slick enough to slide down, especially towards the bottom; doing so is great fun. Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls is billed as the islands most wonderful natural attraction. Set on Langkawi’s western headlands, its name means Seven Wells Waterfalls, referring to a series of seven connected natural pools fed by seven separate waterfalls in Mount Mat Cincang.
You can get here by rented car, motorbike or taxi; drive to the end of the road, about 1km past Pantai Kok, then turn along with the road to the right until you reach the car park. From here it’s a steady 10-minute climb through the rainforest (stay to the right) to the wells at the top of the falls. You can make a 2.5 kilometre hike from here to the cable car station; this is a taxing route that requires sound shoes and a good level of physical fitness.
LANGKAWI CABLE CAR AND SKY BRIDGE
The Cable Car system is located at the Oriental Village, a themed shopping centre housed in roughly 25-30 individually designed buildings showcasing Malaysian and Oriental architecture. The attraction located on the southwest coast of Langkawi, is just a 30 minutes drive from Kuah town and Pentai Cenang.
The cable car experience is separated into ‘Stations’ along the route. Langkawi has one of the worlds longest and tallest cable car systems in the world that saddles the Machincang Mountains.
Cable Car Base Station
is conveniently located at the Oriental Village. This integration between the Oriental Village and the Gunung Machincang forest reserve complements each other to higher mutual benefit. From here, visitors will be taken up to the cool Machincang mountain range via the Langkawi Cable Car on new and modern gondolas giving the visitors panoramic views of the surroundings forests, the Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) waterfalls as well as the sea. This first ‘run’ to ‘Middle Station’ is not for the faint hearted. The gondolas glide at a very quick and steep accent. The journey from the Base Station to Middle Station will cover 1,700 metres in length and upon reaching the Middle Station at an elevation of 650m above sea level, you will be able to alight and walk up to the viewing platforms. The view of the rainforests below is stunning and the ride itself is an exhilarating experience. I was fortunate enough to catch glimpses of eagles, horn bills and assortment of birds and wild life along the route up.
An intermediate Cable Car station on the eastern ridges provides the much desired access to the eastern cliffs with its 3 vertical chimneys and the beautiful 360-degree views. For the first time, you will be able to observe at close range the unique rock formations geological features of the Machincang mountain range, which was formed 500 million years ago during the Cambrian period.
The panoramic view of the main island as well as the many surrounding islands from ‘middle’ station is incredible. After enjoying the view, you can then board back into the gondolas, which will take you a further 450 metres up to the ‘Top’ Station.
Top Station and Sky Bridge
A short walk up the stairs from the Top Station will take you to the two viewing platforms at the top of Gunung Machincang, the pinnacle of the adventure. You will be amazed at the unfolding dramatic views from the platforms providing spectacular 360-degree panoramic views of the Langkawi islands, Kedah and Southern Thailand as well as dramatic views of the deep chasms, overhangs cliff walls, isolated pinnacles and some caves.
You will be pleased to read there is a cafe at the Top Station offering refreshments. From Top Station there is a suspended bridge. The bridge is suspended from a 82m high single pylon and hangs at about 100m above ground. It swings out over the landscape to give a unique experience. The bridge measures 125m in length, the structure ranks among the world’s longest curve suspension bridge.
By far the best tour company is ‘Devs Adventure Tours’ for this trip. The tour company offers half day or full day tours eith er on a long boat or you can take a kayak; all accompanied by a guide. Click here for more information.
Kilim Nature Park; an escape to another world. Spread over an area of 100 sq km, the Kilim Nature Park features a beautiful mix of well-protected green mangrove forests, isolated white beaches and blue lagoons. As you cruise down the calm, winding river, you will observe the wonders of the park’s marine ecosystem, its flora and fauna and the natural inhabitants such as the over-hanging ‘Bogak Trees’, Brown Eagles, Tree Crabs, Monitor Lizards and Macaques.
Also enjoy the scenic and spectacular views of unique limestone rock formations emerging from the floor of the mangrove swamp and seabed. These fascinating geological wonders have been given various names such as the Temple Of Borobodur, the Elephant Stone and the Hanging Gardens. Explore the Gua Kelawar (Bat Cave) and seeped in fabled tales of mysteries and romance. Finally, enjoy watching the farming of fish in specialised farms in the open sea.
Spread across nearly six acres, Underwater World Langkawi is one of the islands best known attractions. Located at the southern end of Pantai Cenang, beside the Zon duty-free shopping centre, it is Malaysia’s largest aquarium. The huge white-washed structure houses more than 200 different species of marine and freshwater fish including harbour seals, rockhopper penguins, sharks, giant rays and the enormous Amazonian arapaima – the biggest freshwater fish in the world.
FOOD AND DRINK
I have to mention three of my favourite places to eat in Pentai Cenang Beach
restaurant is one of the more upscale restaurants in Langkawi and the culinary options here are decidedly Asian and Malay. The friendly staff and prompt service as well as the beautiful open-air courtyard make your meal a pleasant one; if you decide to dine here then try the fish cooked Nyonya style.
The Cliff Restaurant
is for fine dining with unbeatable views, The Cliff is certainly a winner. In total it can seat up to 220 people, with three sections – an indoor dining room, bar and al fresco garden. A polished outfit with decor that is classical and very elegant, its ambiance is casual and comfortable.
The kitchen puts out beautifully-executed, authentic Malay dishes that are rich in flavour and impress us with their simplicity. Standouts on this side of the menu include The Cliff’s traditional beef rendang – tender, succulent braised beef chunks, marinated with galangal, ginger, lemongrass, turmeric, chilli paste and kerisik leaves. There are also western meals available, with steaks and seafood featuring prominently.
situated beside Langkapuri Inn, is an interesting all-day dining option that transforms into a cosy bar after the sun sets over Pantai Cenang. I have to admit this is my favourite place to dine both in the afternoon over a burger and beer and of an evening over a steak.
Yello Cafe proudly marches to its own beat, the vibrant Yellow Cafe clearly stands out for its hip and unpretentious decor, with chairs, walls and even hammocks all in varying shades of yellow. The menu focuses on affordably-priced local and western fare such as salads, croque madame (grilled ham and cheese sandwich served with fried egg), chicken wings, satay sticks, steaks, pastas and pizzas.
Kalut Cafe and Bar
has to be one of the coolest beach bars in Cenang Beach. Its a place to chill out and totally relax. Enjoy the great view across the ocean, especially for sunset while sipping cocktails and enjoy the live music!
BEACH LIFE OF LANGKAWI
The beach of Pentai Cenang is alive with all species of beach crabs. I spent hours almost everyday trying to discover new friends especially amongst the rock pools. If you thoroughly enjoy what we used to call it as a child ‘crabbing’ then you will fall in love with identifying the shelled creatures.
If you are aiming to holiday in Malaysia then a stopover in Langkawi is a must. It’s much quieter than neighbouring Penang island therefore less spoilt by the tourism market. Langkawi offers beautiful sandy beaches and great towns to wine and dine.
The Malaysian people as always are welcoming and friendly and offer conversation and advice on where to visit. I have to admit this island is one of my favourite places in the world, and, although my last visit is now 3 years ago, I hold memories of my time there very fondly.