A few weeks we came back from Langkawi. Yesterday, my daughter asked to go back to Malaysia. “What did you like most?” we asked her. “The beaches”, she said.
The beaches of Langkawi were really stunning. And there were a lot of them. You could have your own, if you could get to it.
Is Langkawi worth visiting?
Yes, absolutely. The beaches are stunning and the rock formations spectacular. And the nature is beautiful if less accessible than you may expect. For one, even though there are alligators in the canals in the middle of the city, it is not so easy to get to the nature. You need to have some kind of transportation to get to places that are not builr up or cultivated. For another, it is hot. Even a short walk will leave you covered in sweat and mosquito bites. You want to spend most of the time in airconditioned rooms, the sea, or the pool.
What is the weather like?
Langkawi is hot. Kuala Lumpur is even hotter because Langkawi has a nice sea breeze, but when we were there (the first week in september), Tokyo was consistently hotter than Malaysia. And the rainy season had started. It did not rain every day, but close. And when it rained, it poured. We are talking buckets poured from the sky, not individual drops. When the sun shines, it is unrelenting, and will give you a tan in minutes. Red, if you are not careful. And did I mention how hot it was? Wonderful vacation weather, and it does not rain the part of the year that we were not there.
Where did we stay?
We stayed in the city of Kuah, in a hotel on the waterfront called Bella Vista Waterfront. And it was literally on the waterfront, with amazing harbor views. Not the fanciest hotel but definitely more upscale than many places in the neighborhood. Although the waterfront was becoming a hot spot for entertainment and relaxation. Not that Kuah is a city big enough to be busy. The Cenang waterfront felt much more like a busy city, and it was attached to a great beach. It is not hard to imagine Pantai Cenang becoming a Malaysian version of Waikiki in a few years. The advantage of staying in a city is the access to restaurants, and since they have not yet priced in tourism, you get much more in Kuah than you would in Pantai Cenang. At least at Wonderland, the seafood restaurant we ended up going to several times. Both for the food and the service, and the fact that our kids could watch the alligators in the canal.
Where did we shop?
Langkawi is a tax-free destination. Even if the population mostly are Moslem there are plenty of wine and spirit shops, and the only thing that was hard to find was pork. But we do not usually buy that for souvenirs. Instead, we bought lots of chocolate, mostly to give away. And some durian sweets and cookies. There are.literally hundreds of shops all across the island and they are all dirt cheap with our measuring sticks. We shopped a little bit everywhere.
How did we get there?
We flew Malaysian Airlines from Narita, for two reasons: They have the reverse schedule from Air Asia, and they fly A380. If you do not know why that matters, the A380 is the most comfortable airplane for long trips. You do not notice it has two floors while you are sitting inside, but they have really put in a lot of work into the lighting and air conditioning on board.
One general piece of advice: Do not give your kids too much snacks, because if they are motion sensitive that can produce disastrous results. The Malaysia Airlines handled our daughter throwing up very professionally. And makesure they do not have too much to drink, because that can produce disastrous results if they do not make it to the bathroom in time.
Malaysia Airlines do have full service on board, by the way. Even though they only charge like a low-cost carrier.
What should you eat?
When you are in Langkawi, you must try the seafood. The islands sit in a piece of unpolluted ocean, and with so many magnificent beaches and rocky places it would be strange if the crabs and shellfish were not good. And the fish are simply amazing. Pair that with a fertile agriculture where fruits, vegetables and spices literally grow around every corner, and it is hard for a chef to fail. A good one can reproduce Paradise in your mouth.
Malaysia of course sits in the tropics and fruit and fresh juice are amazing treats. Malaysian cooking otherwise tend towards either Chinese or Indonesian, but Malaysia is home to Malacca, home of Nonya cuisine which otherwise has been popularized by Singapore.
One other thing: Not all restaurants are great. Like in the rest of Southeast Asia, it is cheaper to go out and eat than to cook at home. But “home cooking” is not by any stretch a culinary experience, unless you like instant noodles and deep-fried things of uncertain origin.
How did we get around?
There is public transport on Langkawi, but it does not seem to run very often and I could never find any time tables. Maybe they exist. But there is no need to look for them, since renting a car was so cheap and easy. And gasoline was even cheaper, even though we were not even close to emptying the tank even after a full week of driving around the island.
What is there to do for toddlers?
Tons of things! This morning my daughter told us that she wanted to go back to Malaysia. When we asked her what she liked most, she said “the beaches”. The beaches were indeed amazing. Exactly as in a tourist brochure. But the kids also loved the hotel pool and the hotel pool bar attendants. And if hanging in the pool bar is not for you, then the rope way is probably something you would love. And the Oriental Village attractions were not uninteresting either. What child can resist a petting zoo? But we also loved the island hopping tour, although I came to realize you should rent your own boat for a day. Or two.
Do we recommend a Langkawi vacation?
Yes! It was one of our best vacations ever. Even with the weather, or perhaps because of it. There was so much to do and see, and people were very friendly and easy to communicate with. We will definitely be back. When the water park is open.
Did you like this? It was the second installment in our series about Langkawi. You can read the first installment about our Langkawi trip here. And if you are curious about this blog in general, take a look at my 100th blog post.
I am Wisterian Watertree, recently moved from Bangkok to Tokyo, with a brief visit to Honolulu on the way. I write about travel, especially with our three beautiful kids (two girls and one boy, soon turning six - yes. they are triplets). Travel is education and fun rolled into one, and if you are like me, that is something you want to give to your kids. If you want more tips and want to find out when I will publish something, get it from my email list. If you want to be personal, drop me a note on firstname.lastname@example.org, or if you want general tips, follow me on Twitter @wisterianw.