During our travels, a friend warned that Langkawi was `pretty, but boring as hell`. Likewise, the tour operator in KL advised we should only go to Langkawi for a day trip because there wasn’t much to see there. Both of these opinions were way off base, as we found out for ourselves.
Langkawi is a series of one hundred small islands (give or take a few, depending on the tide level), clustered together near the Malaysian-Thai border. The terrain is lush and mountainous, with beautiful beaches. You won’t see any high-rise hotels on Pulau Langkawi, the main island of the group; the government requires that hotels may not be taller than a coconut tree. As a result, the island’s businesses have remained in the hands of the locals, and few tourists venture out here. The result is a very quiet, laid-back atmosphere with friendly local folks.
We arrived at the Langkawi airport and immediately rented a proton wira car at RM100 for 3 days & droved to our 4- star Langkasuka Beach Resort. Our modus operandi is to travel without hotel reservations, allowing us maximum flexibility; we crossed our fingers that Langkasuka Beach Resort would have a vacancy because it sounded like a peaceful place. Luckily they had two vacant chalets set in a lush garden tastefully adorned with orchids, palms, statues, fountains and ponds. It was quite charming, to say the least. The beachfront was pristine and secluded.
One of the highlights of our visit to Langkawi was a breathtaking gondola ride up the mountainside. The Swiss-made gondola opened in 2002, each car seating up to six passengers. The first leg of the ride glides straight up the mountain for an awe-inspiring distance, while the second leg takes you from one mountaintop station to a second station. The top lookout point has a 360-degree panoramic view of the surrounding islands and sea. In addition, there is a steep trekking path between the two peaks for those who wish to explore the jungle on foot (which, of course, included us). The station at the base of the mountain sits next to an Oriental Village (read: shopping mall for tourists). Also nearby is a short and very, very steep trek to the Seven Pools - a legendary series of waterfalls where you can slide from one pool to the next on the smooth, slippery rocks. This was a refreshing dip for us after our grueling trek. Sitting under a pounding waterfall is pretty exhilarating!.
Another highlight of our trip was gourmet cuisine - at very reasonable prices, I might add. The first night we sat at a beachside table at the Lighthouse Restaurant and enjoyed a leisurely dinner as the sun sank down beyond the horizon. For dessert we shared peach gelati molded into the shape of a peach, covered with a delicate white chocolate shell (dyed peach, of course) and adorned with a real leaf. There was even a “peach pit” inside, made of a chocolate hazelnut truffle. The entertainment for the evening came when a herd of water buffalo ambled down the beach for their nightly stroll - definitely not something you would see in the City! Buffalos have traditionally been used to work the fields on the island, although modern machinery is starting to make them obsolete. Some of the residents still keep their herds of buffalo though, as a means of preserving cultural traditions. Apparently, the herds used to roam freely and cause all kinds of traffic jams by walking down the middle of the road in packs of thirty or more. Some restrictions have been put in place, but few farmers actually abide by them. As a result, you never know when you might be graced by the presence of a water buffalo sauntering down the sidewalk.
The second night in Langkawi we ate dinner at the Sun Village Seafood Restaurant. Once again, dinner & dessert was superb and dessert was very delicious. We had four orders of the traditional Malay dessert, sago. Sago comes from a tree, and is similar to tapioca pearls (about 1/8” in diameter). The emerald green jelly-like pearls were molded into three little mounds, and presented in a bowl of brown sugar and cream. We were instructed to stir everything up to sweeten the sago with the brown sugar, resulting in a unique flavor. This dessert is traditionally eaten during Ramadan. Sago is the staple of the Penan tribe’s diet; they are a nomadic tribe, known for their stealth and accuracy when hunting with blowdarts.
Our third and final night in Langkawi, we decided to be adventurous and drove to the opposite side of the island for dinner. We parked the car & embarked on a 15 minute walk through the mangrove jungle to reach the restaurant. This place was built with eco-tourism in mind; instead of knocking down trees, the building was constructed around them. The main dining room has trees coming up through the floor and reaching towards the towering skylight above. A wraparound deck allows diners to view the mangrove wildlife between courses.
We loved Langkawi, and will probably go back there someday - as long as it doesn't get too built-up and touristy! Maybe that\'s why people kept telling us not to go there...maybe they just secretly wanted the island to remain quiet. In that case, I don't blame them in the least.