Ancient natural wonders, rustic landscapes plus a sprinkling of hip hideaways make Langkawi ideal for a runaway vacation.
WHERE SOUTHEAST ASIA BEGAN
Langkawi, a UNESCO-certified Geopark, is the birthplace of Southeast Asia. The island’s Machinchang Range was the first piece of the region that rose from the seabed during the Cambrian Era over half a billion years ago. Its northeastern corner, the Kilim Geoforest, is home to a rich ecosystem anchored by mangroves and their unique inhabitants. Dev’s Adventure runs nature-friendly tours with guides who are well-versed with the area’s environmental heritage.
99 ISLANDS AND COUNTING
Most don’t realise Langkawi is an archipelago comprising 99 islands, with the namesake being its largest. To get the most out of your visit, make it a point to leave its shores. Jump on one of the many island-hopping tours available, charter a small boat for a trip around the archipelago or splurge on a cruise aboard a yacht. With only four islands currently inhabited, chances of finding a deserted beach are close to guaranteed.
MYTHS AND LEGENDS
Langkawi is full of stories that reflect the island’s colourful history and close relationship with the Kingdom of Siam. Visit Mahsuri’s Tomb and catch a show at her museum by local performers who tell the tale of the wronged wife and her curse. Swim in the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden, whose waters have reputed powers for enhancing a woman’s fertility. Learn about the famous battle between brothers that resulted in the Machinchang mountain range, where Langkawi’s famed cable car now resides.
Despite its touristy reputation, Langkawi’s landscape still comprises large swathes of paddy fields and forest. Keeping one’s eyes peeled can reward you with incidental sightings of macaques, dusky leaf monkeys, monitor lizards and a fantastic array of wild birds including the iconic hornbill. But feeding any wild animal is a strict no-no, to avoid upsetting the island’s delicate ecosystem.
STREET FOOD SAVVY
Cheap eats are best found at the many Malay nasi campur (rice with dishes) outlets during lunch. Don’t forget to order the ikan bakar (grilled fish). Laksa lovers will find a variety of food trucks to choose from on the coastal ring road that surrounds the airport. In the evenings, the travelling night market has plenty to offer – check with your local hosts for its location on the day you are going.
SUN, SEA & SURF
Pantai Cenang remains the most popular beach, lined with restaurants, bars and shops. A quieter alternative, Pantai Tengah, is just a few hundred metres away, where the surf is a little stronger especially at the advent of the southwest monsoon. Another local favourite is Pantai Pasir Tengkorak – a small, protected beach to the north of the island, where monkeys still rule (so hang on to your belongings!). Sunscreen and mosquito repellent are musts when out and about.
Independent boutique hotels are a better bet for those keen to get an inside track on the island lifestyle. Temple Tree features restored antique houses for that old-world charm. Get a taste of jungle living in Ambong-Ambong’s unique villas, or stay in La Pari-Pari, where the rustic ambience is complemented by just the right dose of urban style.