Jess Buchan

Langkawi, or known to the locals as the ‘Jewel of Kedah’ is an archipelago made up of 99 islands off the Malaysian mainland and parallel to the Thai border. Named as a UNESCO Geopark site in 2007, Langkawi is home to sandy white beaches, wildlife and untouched jungles. Now a duty-free island, most tourists flock to Langkawi for cheap shopping, however there are still places that can make you feel like you’re living the proper island life.

There are several different ways to get to Langkawi, either by air or water and if you’re already in South East Asia it won’t break the budget to get there. I took the ferry from Penang, which took about three hours. Once you get past the shopping centres and busy main area of Kuah, you’ll find dense tropical forests and small villages by the water. Most people flock to the touristy area of Pantai Cenang, where most of the islands restaurants and hotels cluster. If you venture further afield you will find some idyllic, island hideaways. I stayed near Pantai Tengah, away from the crowds, where the beach is less crowded.

langkawi sunset

Sunset over Pantai Tengah

 

Palm trees line the streets and frangipanis fall onto the ground, colouring the bumpy, dirt road with splashes of pink and yellow. Scooters buzz past carrying anywhere from one to five people! Street food vendors squash themselves between sprawling resort complexes and duty-free shops selling everything and anything tempt you to spend big.

I spent my days embracing the warm sun, either working on my tan or exploring the island. One day some friends and I rented a car and drove up to the Seven Wells waterfalls where we spent the morning sliding down the well-worn rock formations and cooling down in the fresh water. We ate lunch at a roadside café where the coconuts were freshly opened in front of us. That afternoon we stumbled upon the best beach in Langkawi, Tanjung Rhu where the beach was deserted and small islands dotted the skyline.

langkawi beaches

There are plenty of beautiful beaches to discover in Langkawi!

 

Every night we found where the local food markets were on and stuffed ourselves silly with murtabak, char teow keow and grilled corn smothered in butter and salt. As Langkawi is a popular resort location, restaurants can be overpriced and Westernized, so seek out the night markets as they are definitely the best place to try local food on the cheap. After the night market, we usually headed back to the beach, the centre of Langkawi’s nightlife. As the island has a large Muslim population, there isn’t a raging party scene but some of the beach clubs set out beanbags on the sand and you can watch fire-twirlers do daring fire acts with the backdrop of the ocean.

local street food

Sample delicious street food such as this chicken murtabak.

 

On another day, friends and I went island hopping, starting at Pregnant Maiden Lake. This freshwater lake surrounded by mountains is a refreshing change from the salty sea water.  The name originated from the view from the boat platform where you can see the outline in the mountains of a pregnant lady lying down. From there we sailed to Pulau Beras Basah where we spent time swimming in the blue water and sun baking on the glowing white sand. We had the opportunity to snorkel but the laidback island vibe had overtaken and we were content being sprawled out in the sun. Our final spot was to watch the eagles feeding at Pulau Singa Besar. We stayed in the boat as the huge eagles dived for food. As the origin of the name Langkawi comes from the colloquial Malay term for ‘Island of the reddish brown eagle’ it was interesting to see these eagles in real life and how proud the locals are of them.

pregnant lady lake

If you look closely and use your imagination, you’ll see the outline of the pregnant lady at Pregnant Lady Lake!

 

Life in Langkawi proved to not just be all about big resorts and duty free shopping.  Despite my initial thoughts that it’s just a honeymoon destination or family holiday hotspot, I was pleasantly surprised. Langkawi has something for everyone and is definitely worth visiting if you’re heading to Malaysia.

Things to Know

  • There is plenty of accommodation in Langkawi, ranging from five star resorts to budget hostels. Some places won’t show up on booking websites so it’s best to either directly contact the places or book once you get on the island.
  • There are many activities to do on the island from parasailing, jet skiing and island tours. Book everything once you’re in Langkawi for the best price.
  • As Langkawi has a high population of Muslims, be respective of their culture. If you’re visiting during the month of Ramadan, be courteous of their traditions by avoiding eating in public areas and wear conservative clothes.

There’s not really any public transport in Langkawi but Grab and Uber are the cheapest way to get around. Or rent a scooter and explore yourself!

 

Jess Buchan is an Aussie travel blogger who has lived in Europe and loves to share her travel stories on her blog, Instagram @ablondeandherpassport and Twitter @ablondeandher.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.