While a lot is being talked about the charisma of Kuala Lampur, Malaysia is displaying another jewel from its crown to the world – Langkawi. An island, it is emerging as the next big getaway spot for honeymooners and corporates.
As part of its various initiatives to engage with the Indian market, it recently hosted a three day media FAM trip from India under the patronage of the Malaysian Tourism Board. Organized by Malaysian Airlines and managed by TRAC representations, the tour was full of stimulating surprises and soothing experiences, acquainting India well with the richness of its Southeast Asian neighbour.
Anu Bararia chronicles her experiences.
A place not more than 30 km off the mainland coast of north-western Malaysia waits to greet more tourists especially from India. A small lush island nestled in the sapphire sea of the Andaman, radiating with its sun-kissed white sand beaches studded with some breath-taking hotels and resorts nestled in nature’s lap, is emerging as a tranquil getaway for lovers, honeymooners, friends, family and even corporates.
Brimming with options well-suited for a weeklong holiday, the island, fondly called the Jewel of Kedah and home to the reddish brown eagle, is Langkawi. An archipelago of 105 islands, part of the state of Kedah, dramatically close to the Thai border – say, just 1 km at closest point – it is truly a Bandaraya Pelancongan or City of Tourism.
Rich in scenic beauty, sight-seeing options, street food, adventure sports, shopping outlets, nightlife, luxury, hospitality and fables, Langkawi is positioning itself as a premier tourist destination with facilities not only for generous budgets but even those on budgets.
A five hour flight from India via Kuala Lampur International Airport, Langkawi is a 500 million year old rainforest island with various tourism attractions nuzzling under a sprightly weather that remains roughly the same throughout the year.
Close to the airport are some nice hotels, resorts, restaurants and shopping streets running parallel to the splendid sea that assure you of a comfortable stay.
While those on a budget can look for reasonably cheap stay at Pantai Cenang or Kuah having all the obvious touristy takeaways, luxury travellers can splurge on some impressive options.
Our top pick is the Berjaya Langkawi Resorts for the leisure and MICE segments.
Located in Burau Bay, 15 minutes away from the airport, the 5-star resort has delightful Malaysian-style individual chalets and suites – seaview and rainforest - sprawled over 70 acres of land amidst the lush tropical rainforest. The resort offers delectable food ranging from Thai to Cantonese, Western to Oriental, and even Indian!
The Indian cuisines at its Beach Restaurant are absolutely wonderful and remind of mom-made food back home. The resort also offers recreational activities like jet skiing, snorkelling and scuba diving at its private beach. It also offers mangrove tours, round island tours and fishing trips.
Among our other picks are Sheraton Langkawi Beach Resort in Pantai Kok and The Meritus Pelangi Hotel in Pantai Cenang. Both these hotels offer facilities well-suited for leisure and MICE segments.
Anyway, MICE travellers will find more suitable options on the upscale side. Thailand still enjoys a position over Malaysia in attracting this segment with cheaper options. Yet, it is said, quality-wise Malaysia is notches higher. So, plan as per your need and budget.
To satiate the appetite, Langkawi has abundant options to please you with.
Malaysian food is largely Thai in nature due to close geographical proximity and past invasions. It is predominantly coastal non-vegetarian - seafood. However, there are decent vegetarian alternatives as well. Within any given cost category or kind of cuisine, the food is quiet reasonably priced.
Budget travellers can waltz around Kuah for the cheapest meal options and Chinese restaurants at astonishingly low rates, and beer costing as low as RM 2.50, or even move to Pantai Cenang to find a multitude of Malay restaurants, pubs and bars.
Very fortunately, one can also discover a handful of decent Indian joints in these places!
Hi-end travellers, on the other hand, won’t be disappointed either. They have some swanky restaurants in luxury resorts to binge on. Not only do they offer amazing food but various dining outlets to pick from.
We would recommend the dining options at Berjaya and Meritus Pelangi for good food and scenic beachside view.
Foodies must also explore places like Perdana Quay – known as the most elegant dining district of Langkawi with a huge variety of great food accompanied with marvellous scenery.
Sight-seeing and fun activities
The entire stay at the island is a fun activity and experience unto itself. However, there are good sight-seeing options to enjoy.
The local guidebooks would tell you about numerous sight-seeing options in Langkawi. We are presenting a much selected list with only the most indispensible places.
The number one on our list is Langkawi Cable Car with the Sky Bridge at the Burau Bay Pantai Kok Beach. The close to thirty minute ride offers a spectacular view of the entire archipelago with its virgin rainforest alongwith cascading waterfalls and magnificent sea. And if you manage to climb up its long flight of stairs, the view from the Sky Bridge is absolutely overwhelming.
The station is worth an hour long stay for appreciating the panoramic canvas of natural beauty and clicking pictures to take back home. Those who feel hungry post the cable car ride don’t have to worry either. The place has some good quick snack outlets – in and around.
A visit to Langkawi also obviates the need to visit the Eagle Square (Dataran Lang). It is the landmark spot of the island located in Kuah and is marked by the giant red eagle statue permanently suspended in mid-flight. The place has a mini park filled with picturesque ponds, bridges, fountains, covered terraces, restaurants and barrel vaults made of bricks. The square is a nice place to watch ferries ply across the harbour and be visited early in the morning or late in the evening when the sun is at its least intense or when rains do not play a spoil sport.
Being the land of tell-tales and fables, Langkawi merits an all round island tour zigzagging through the most popular public beaches of Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah to the scenic picnic spot of Pantai Kok; further to Tanjung Yu Beach – with a row of bargain clothing stores; circling round the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden past the various geoparks, temples, mosques, museums, parks, springs, sanctuaries and tombs. A learned guide would enhance your touring experience with interesting mythical stories.
Religious ones can also visit the Hindu Temple at Pokok Asam in Kuah town while touring around the area for other major attractions. The temple has nice Indian architecture with fine details and has a small Hindi heartland residing around this Southern part of Langkawi.
And while we are on it, don’t forget to cruise over the sea on fine boats and yachts to get the true feel of the clearest waters on earth. Some boat tours offer options like swimming and snorkelling; but food may be a problem. You would be advised to eat a hearty meal before you get on board else you stay hungry for upto 4 hours on the boat.
Honeymooners or Corporates can book their very own private yachts for a day or half or overnight with good onboard wine and dine options. A day long private yacht cruise can cost upto RM 3000 for a standard yacht to a ‘king’s ransom’ for big luxury yachts.
Adventure lovers must also experience the thrill of jet skiing in the grand Andaman Sea or go for underwater diving to experience the colourful marine life. There are various water-sports operators around Pantai Cenang to book your package and have you enjoy the island to its underwater core.
A duty-free island, Langkawi is no short of a paradise for shopaholics and souvenir-seekers. It is famous for four hot-selling, heavily discounted, items that are chocolates, tobacco products, alcoholic beverages and CARS. Even clothes and souvenirs at local markets of say, Cenang are very low-priced. You can bargain and manage amazing discounts easily.
Kuah is however known to be the cheapest shopping post in the whole of Langkawi. It is highly recommended to begin your shopping escapade from Kuah only; else you might end up spending over 20 per cent more elsewhere. It holds true even if you shop at malls.
The biggest shopping mall at the Island is Langkawi Fair in Kuah where one can find the afore-mentioned luxury duty-free goods, except cars, at stupefying discounts.
The island is brimming with nightlife. From night markets to sunset sports to dance and music, it has it all.
Some say, in Langkawi, the day begins after 6. There is just no dearth of bars, pubs and clubs that offer energetic music with good snacks and hard drinks.
A must visit one for this purpose is the Pantai Cenang beach - the liveliest and most sociable place on the whole island.
We also recommend you to drop in at the Eagle Rock Café in Tanjung Malai residing at a holiday resort overlooking the shores of the south-western tip of Langkawi. Locals call it the Hard Rock Café of Langkawi and in some way you won’t mind believing it also. The café is sparked with live rock performances, euphoric atmosphere, din and dancing and, is definitely worth a visit for nocturnals.
So finally planning a trip?
Make note of few hot-tips:
Langkawi is a land of peaceful sojourns, nature’s serene vastness, small surprises and wonderful human hospitality. Having a lot to offer out of unexpected places, it is a perfect place away from home. Nestled in the soothing embrace of nature, it offers the right blend of peace and pageantry.
If you plan a trip to Malaysia, or elsewhere in Southeast Asia, do consider Langkawi now.
[Photo Credits: Anu Bararia]