The best thing about living in Southeast Asia is the ease of traveling to exotic and beautiful locations in the region. There are budget airlines where you can book right away and in a couple of hours you can escape the hustle and bustle of the city to a picturesque tropical beach.
An excellent place for a quick weekend getaway is Langkawi. Just an hour from Singapore spread across the Andaman Sea near Thailand border which translates to golden brown eagle, is an archipelago of 99 islands. It is a part of Malaysia and is often referred to as the Jewel of Kedah as it has always been associated with the kingdom of Kedah. The island is a prominent tourist destination with gorgeous serene beaches, isolated islands, massive forests, mangroves and geo parks.
Driving around the Island
There is no public transport in Langkawi so you have a choice of either renting a car or motorbike or take a taxi. As we want to explore and have an insouciant weekend in Langkawi, we rented a car for three days.
Our road trip around the island was awesome! We enjoyed the vibrant colours of the rain forest and the odd rice paddy by the roadside and the striking views along the way. Whilst driving, we roll the windows down to take advantage of the fresh air. Sometimes, we stop for a moment, take a break and just enjoy the scenic view. It was really fun! The roads were perfectly okay. It was a smooth joyride.
On our first day we drove to Gunung Raya Hill. A place to have a panoramic view of Langkawi. The drive is about 45 minutes from Kuah. At the hill top sits a resort that has been closed. However, the tower is still open. A small premium of RM10 is charged by the operator, D’Coconut Hill Resort, to access it. The tower is an 8-storey building. This is the highest peak of Langkawi Island – about 900 meters above sea level. To reach the top there is a lift which can take a maximum of 10 people at a time but we’re so lucky that nobody was there except us and the guard. As if we own the place!
We sat down atop of the tower while the yellow ball of fire changed to hues of orange, and then almost tangerine. It merged with the sky, like juice-mix dissolving in a glass of water. The clouds were cotton-candy, as though they blushed at the warm touch of the sun. Silhouettes of birds flew home across a sky that was now magenta; and palm trees swayed gently in the breeze and fresh air filled my lungs – I felt refreshed and exhilarated. The breath-taking scenery indeed captivated my soul.
Tip: The sunset view is great on a non cloudy day. It is actually a deserted resort and you need to drive through some hillside roads to reached the top of the hill. Not recommended for amateur drivers especially after sunset.
The following day we headed to Tanjung Rhu. They say, the best beaches in Langkawi are in the North. At the Northern tip of the island sits another fancy beach resort. What most tourists don’t know is that right next to the Tanjung Rhu Resort is a strip of public beach where you can lie on the beach or soak up in the sun. The burning sun roasted us like nuts in an oven.
Tip: If you come by scooter or car, don’t make the common mistake of stopping at the boring beach before the Four Seasons Resort. Keep driving, all the way to the end. You’ll come to a parking lot, as many mangrove tours leave from here. It’s actually a good idea to combine both.
Next stop was Pantai Cenang. Wow! The lapping waves entranced us. It is the longest, most famous and most crowded though. Especially during high tide, the beach looks more like a showroom of jet skis, motorboats and parasails.
Nevertheless, the beach we walked on was moon glow-gold. The sea looked dozy as it rested in the afternoon glow. The holiday makers we saw all had coconut-brown faces. As the sun scorched our bodies to a crisp, a funfair of barbecued aromas drifted towards us. The saline tang of the sea mingled with the cuisine, adding salt to its appeal. And so, we decided to obey our rumbling stomachs and eat.
Overall, it was fun as we met strangers here and had a few conversations.
Tip: Salesmen are friendly, not pushy. When asked: ‘Jet ski?’ – a friendly ‘No thanks’ or ‘Not Today’ does the job. Look out for jellyfish on the sand before taking a tip.
Sunset Dinner Cruise
We sailed on a beautiful yacht which took us on the Andaman Sea to catch the marvelous sunset. On board we had a delicious barbecue and a buffet dinner.
After 45 minutes, the yacht stopped and the captain said “the saltwater jacuzzi has now been opened for you guys!” Oh yes, I was expecting a real jacuzzi when I saw the staff on board putting out a net, there you can lie down or soak up and drink your favorite chilled beer or soda while the ship was sailing. Cool experience!
While sitting on a yacht everyone seems to have fun – chatting, taking photos and enjoying country music being played on. And there was I, just staring at the horizon. The sun was sinking fast now; the sky had turned to a clear, purple-tinged grey, but to the west there was a ruby-red glow. At once, the clouds rolled in – first red, then mauve, silver, blue-green, purple and black, as though all the colors in the world were being sucked into a vast melting pot.
We want privacy and solemn weekend yet carefree. Thus, we rented a private speed boat, managed our time and go wherever we wanted to go without following the crowd.
First stop was the Pulau Beras Basah. Most of the tourists were staying at the famous crowded beach of the said Island whereas we opted to stay at the secluded adjacent side where only me and husband were there. Our boatman left us for an hour to own the beach!
The smell of the salty sea tingled my nose as I breathed in a breath of fresh air. The waves were singing me a dulcet lullaby, making me reminisce my childhood and drawing me closer into them. The mesmeric beauty of its beat was heart-swelling. We realized then that the sea was its own master, kindling its own symphony.
Next stop was Pulau Singa Besar. We came to this island to watch a fantastic natural show – the Eagle Feeding. The name of the island means “Island of Big Lions”, although there are no lions here. The name was probably given for its shape. The water area here is surrounded by lush forests. We actually did not get off but remain seated in a boat while watching around 300 golden brown eagles swooping down from the sky and feeding on fish from the water area here. Amazingly beautiful!
And our final stop at the famous Pulau Dayang Bunting, known as Lake of the Pregnant Maiden.
An amazing thing about the lake is, although it lies very close to the sea and separated by only a thing strip of rocks, it is a fresh water lake. Once you reach the island, there is a narrow jetty and then a concrete narrow pathway that leads up to the hills through the forest. After about 10 minutes of climb along steps on the hill, there are about 100 steps that leads down to the beautiful lake on the other side of the hill. The lake has deep blue waters.
Legend: Local says that a man named Mat Teja met and fell in love with the princess Mambang Sari at the lake. They eventually married and the princess gave birth to a son. However their son did not live long and soon died. Having reconciled with their misfortune, they decided to lay their son in the water of the lake and allow him to rest in peace. The gracious princess also blessed all women having difficulty in conceiving a child. They would become fertile once they take a dip into the water of the lake.
Tip: Do not bring any items as monkeys will get attracted and chase after you. Don’t play with them as they may hurt you. And don’t dare feed them.
Living in Langkawi is cheap. Langkawi does not have tax on goods so we were pleasantly surprised by the price of beer compared to where we have been. Not just beer, whisky or wines but chocolates too!