I’m the Cleaner (my wardrobe is now colour coordinated), the List Maker, the Watcher (I watched all of Castle, Star Trek, White Collar and Downton Abbey all over again), the Perpetuator, the Sidetracker AND the Snacker. I really must post my new chocolate lava cake recipe here!! Anyway, getting back on track, dreary foggy winter is almost over and it is time for a beach vacation! If you’re looking for turquoise water, white sand beaches (and one black sand beach), islands, lush rainforest and waterfalls, the Langkawi Archipelago is the perfect place to visit. It was declared as Southeast Asia’s first World Geopark. In addition is boasts of an overabundance of duty free chocolate, liquor and perfume.
Getting There: Named after the reddish eagle that inhabits it (Helang: eagle and kawi: reddish), the Langkawi Archipelago is in the Andaman Sea, about 30 km off the coast of Malaysia. It has about 104 islands, only a few of which are inhabited. There is an airport on Pulau Langkawi (the largest island) to you can fly in from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang etc. Air Asia and Fireflyz operate flights to Langkawi. There is also a jetty which connects Langkawi to important destinations like Penang and Kuala Kedah. I would recommend flying in though, the view of the archipelago as the flight lands is pretty spectacular.
Must-Dos: 1. Island Hopping: There are many island hopping tours in Langkawi. However, these can be rather crowded so if you’re in a small group or with your family, I would recommend hiring a boat for a day. It cost us about 300 Malaysian Ringits (in 2010) and we went around the islands at our own pace. We visited many of the popularly frequented islands including the Island of the Pregnant Maiden which is famous for the fresh water lake in its middle. The lake was formed when an enormous limestone cave collapsed and is believed to have mystical powers. There are, however, many thieving monkeys on the islands. Anyone who has read my post on Mussourie would realise that I seem to encounter them rather frequently. One clung on to my mom’s bag and, unnoticed by her, extracted a towel; another one unzipped a bag and stole some food. Beware!
2. Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls (Seven Wells Waterfalls): The waterfalls are beautiful but it is the uphill hike, through the rainforest to the source, that I remember most fondly. The hike is excellent exercise and the Seven Wells pools at the source of waterfall are great for a refreshing dip. Just remember that the edges are kind of slippery and it is much easier to get in than to get out. Try not to get stuck.
3. Tanjung Rhu Beach: The best way to encounter this is by cycling around the island. There is a lighthouse perched atop a hill which is incredibly quaint.
4. The Mangroves: Langkawi has some pretty spectacular wetlands. Going around the mangroves, limestone caves and the many secluded coves gives you a chance to see a completely different side of the island. Teeming with wildlife, these places allow you to glimpse the majestic eagles, fiddler crabs, monitor lizards and many, many bats.
5. Atma Alam Batik Art Village: Langkawi has some lovely hand painted batik. If you love art, handicrafts, colours and fabric, you shouldn’t miss this place.
6. Bird Watching on Gunung Raya: At 881 meters, this is Langkawi’s highest peak which you can reach by trekking through the jungle. From here, you can observe Thailand as well as quite few species of migrant birds.
7. Pulau Payar Marine Park: An excellent place to snorkel and observe coral reefs, colourful fish and mostly harmless reef sharks!
Other Memories: I particularly remember my visit to Underwater World, mostly because I’d never seen a sting ray before. I also remember, not quite as fondly, a herd of extremely violent deer that I was allowed to feed. I also have wonderful memories of an Indian restaurant in Langkawi. It was run by a bunch of Sri Lankans called the British Raj. I love eating local food when I travel but the occasional home-like meal is always welcome on extended trips (I had already been in Malaysia for a month). If, despite the abundance of great Malay seafood, you are unable to quell Indian-food-cravings, go have lunch at the British Raj.
Where to Stay: There are plenty of resorts with private beaches. We stayed at Langkasuka Beach Resort which was quite nice.