Paddy fields flanked by curved peak mountains that are surrounded by the bluest of waters, Langkawi is the island that grows but never quite reaches to a busy commercial level. Its offerings and facilities are improved but its charm never diminishes. This quaint seaside town continues to naturally captivate despite receiving a luxury overhaul.
This northern island of West Malaysia returned to my periphery after many encounters with European tourists that gushed over the appeal and serenity of this coastal gem. I remembered Langkawi as a childhood playground thanks to my grandparent’s affinity for its beaches and island hospitality. 16 years since I visited, I have heard stories of Langkawi’s glorious New Years celebration and a recent revamp to turn this lazy seaside town into a luxury escape.
Introduction To Luxury
It began when Datai Beach began to gain traction as the getaway hideout for celebrities that crave for some privacy. Then wealthy golfers started flying in when The Els Club Teluk Datai received a complete fancy overhaul that nabbed them the ‘World’s Best New Golf Course’ at the inaugural World Golf Awards. Before you know it, the Four Seasons, St. Regis and the latest Ritz Carlton opened its doors on the shores of Langkawi.
Driving around Langkawi (it’s the best way to get around) you will notice several marinas and ports like the one near the main town of Kuah or the secluded marina near Kok Beach are parked with immaculate yachts of all sizes. If one does not own a yacht (at least not yet), the cruises at Langkawi are a favourite activity among locals and tourists.
I disembarked on a lovely catamaran manned with an amicable staff serving delectable grilled dishes and a continuous flow of alcohol to catch the mesmerising Langkawi sunset.
The Crystal Yacht Holiday company offers such sunset cruise package on top of others like their geopark day cruise. This roughly 3-hour sail offers activities like a ‘floating jacuzzi where one can sit on a net at the back of the vessel and feel the water from the propellers emulate a jacuzzi setting.
Waterfalls are a majestic part of Mother Nature and Langkawi is no short of it. Though some are harder to reach than others, I tested out my body for a 30-minute hike up to the legendary Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls or Seven Wells Waterfall. The name refers to the seven pools that are formed from seven different waterfalls of Mount Mat Cincang.
It is roughly a 35-minute drive on the snaking road up Mount Mat Cincang from Cenang Beach to the carpark of Telaga Tujuh. Food stalls and convenient stores near the carpark will help prepare for your ascend up the 700 steps to reach the top. But do not fret as the cooling cascading water and breathtaking view will make it all worthwhile.
Crystal Yacht Cruise
Price starts at RM280 | +604 955 6545
Alternative ActivityFrom the sea to the skies, helicopters tours are the best way to view the beauty of the island. Elevate yourself with tours from proprietors like Bin Ali Holidays that offer helicopter rides up and down the Cenang coastline.
Price starts from RM299 | Contact +6019-492 1927
More Activities in Langkawi
Ziplining Tour: Umgawa Zipline Eco Adventure
An activity that blends the adrenaline of ziplining with the love of breathtaking views, go deep into the jungles to see its greenery from every height.
Price starts at RM499
Mangrove Tour: River Cruise Mangrove
Head to the jetty at the far end of Tanjung Rhu where the sea and river collide. There are a variety of stalls selling 2-5 hour mangrove boat tours around the Kilim Geopark.
Price starts from RM350 | Contact +6012 464 7183
Where you stay really depends on what you are looking for as Langkawi comes in a range of options scattered in key locations on the island.
Main town Kuah is home to St Regis with views overlooking the harbour. Cenang Beach on the Western shores is the heart of the tourist action with homestays and mid-range accommodations aplenty next to 5-Star havens like Meritus Pelangi Resort were the hospitality is top notch. The north side is home to the secluded cape of Tanjung Rhu near small mountainous islands and a stretch of beach with accommodations like Tanjung Rhu Resort.
I prefer the less crowded beaches so Tanjung Rhu was a natural choice. Hot off the heels of a major renovation, I opted to stay at the newly refurbished Tanjung Rhu Resort after hearing whispers of a pool so decadent. The first impression on the rooms sees me in awe of their huge bathroom attached to a vanity room with floor to ceiling mirrors. As a woman who enjoys her makeup, this was a nice touch that I had not seen in other resorts.
And the pool? Well, it did not disappoint. The adult pool called The Sands is designed to maximize the view of the beach with tile work that mirrors the shades of blue of the sea. I definitely received the privacy and seclusion that I yearned in this resort.
Food For Thought
The land by the ocean offers seafood and restaurants aplenty from local fare to international cuisine. To taste how the locals nosh on seafood, the shops along Cenang Beach and Tanjung Rhu will satisfy you.
Janggus Restaurant, Cenang Beach
A popular place that serves your ocean fares fresh after weighing your seafood options. Try out the cooking style of the locals, cooked by actual locals like sweet sour fish or deep fried squid for a taste of Langkawi.
The Cliff, Cenang Beach
An upscale option is The Cliff at the end of Cenang Beach. It offers closer view of the waters and sunset because of its location. Reservations are encouraged and the price is a bit expensive, but that sunset sells it.
The Smiling Buffalo, Kuala Cenang
This cafe is set in a setting of traditional Malay houses with an arched stone entryway. The menu serves fresh brunch delectables with an island spin like their mango waffles drizzled with palm sugar and coconut milk.
Scarborough Fish & Chips, Tanjung Rhu
Fish and chips made from a variety of fish types from dory to barramundi are served hot by the beach at Scarborough alongside a selection of cocktails. The seating extends all the way to the beach so brownies points to the view.
Myths of Langkawi
The Legend Of Mahsuri
The famous fable of Langkawi is of a maiden named Mahsuri. While her husband was away at war, the village chief’s wife accused her of adultery due to jealousy. Mahsuri was sentenced to death by stabbing but bled white coloured blood that is believed to signify her innocence. Before her dying breath, she cursed the island of Langkawi for 7 generations.
Visit her tomb at Mawat village on the island.
Dayang Bunting Lake
The freshwater Dayang Bunting Lake is on Dayang Bunting Island. Legend has it that a prince of the land fell in love with a celestial princess named Mambang Sari. They were blessed with a child but the baby died after 7 days and a grieving Mambang Sari buried her child in the lake. There is a myth that couples that want to get pregnant, can swim in the lake for luck.
Visit the lake, 15 minutes by boat from Langkawi Island.
Getting Around Langkawi
Car Rental: GoCar
Nowadays, cars can be rented out simply by using an app on your smartphone. GoCar rents out Nissan Almera cars in the island of Langkawi where users only need to register with their driver’s license. The cars are parked in designated areas and renters will be given easy to understand instructions on where it is parked and how to unlock it via the app.
Price starts at RM14.90 per hour or RM99 per day
Words & Photos by Aishah Azali