Langkawi, officially known as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah (Malay: Langkawi Permata Kedah) is an archipelago of 99 islands (an extra 5 temporary islands are revealed at low tide) in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia.
The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. In 2008, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah consented to the change of name to Langkawi Permata Kedah in conjunction with his Golden Jubilee Celebration. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi with a population of some 65,000, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Langkawi is also an administrative district with the town of Kuah as the capital and largest town. Langkawi is a duty-free island.
Understand : The name “Langkawi” has two possible origins. First, it is believed to be related to the kingdom of Langkasuka, itself a version of the Malay negari alang-kah suka (“the land of all one’s wishes”), centered in modern-day Kedah. The historical record is sparse, but a Chinese Liang Dynasty record (c. 500 AD) refers to the kingdom of “Langgasu” as being founded in the 1st century AD. Second, it could be a combination of the Malay words ‘helang’, meaning “eagle” and ‘kawi’, meaning “reddish-brown” or “strong”, in old Malay. Langkawi eventually came under the influence of the Sultanate of Kedah, but Kedah was conquered in 1821 by Siam and Langkawi along with it. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred power to the British, which held the state until independence, except for a brief period of Thai rule under the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. Thai influences remain visible in the culture and food of Langkawi.
Langkawi remained a sleepy backwater until 1987, when the island was granted tax-free status with the intention of promoting tourism and improving the lives of the islanders. The following boom was spectacular and now Langkawi figures on most every European travel agency’s radar. This spectacular boom was also due to the fact that Mahsuri’s curse was lifted with the birth of her 7th generation descendant. Sheltered by the mountainous backbone of Peninsular Malaysia, Langkawi escapes the northeastern winter monsoon entirely and enjoys sunny skies in winter when the eastern provinces are flooded. Coupled with natural white sand beaches, lush jungle foliage and craggy mountain peaks – but hampered by inaccessibility – the island was at one time touted as “Malaysia’s best-kept secret”. The 10,000 hectares of Langkawi and its 99 islands were declared a geopark by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2007.
Access : Coordinates: 6.35, 99.8 / By plane : Langkawi International Airport (LGK IATA) is located at Padang Matsirat, on the northwestern part of the island. Over a million passengers pass through annually. The following airlines offer service to/from Langkawi: Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Firefly, Silk Air and Rayani Air. Direct flights are available to Langkawi from Penang, Singapore, Johor Bahru, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Bharu.
By boat : Langkawi Ferry operates fast air-con boats from Kuala Perlis (RM18, 75 min), Kuala Kedah (RM23, 105 min), Penang (RM60, 165 min) (the ferry is freezing cold, so bring warm clothes), and Satun (RM30 or THB300, 75 min), (Satun ferry to Langkawi: last boat departs Satun at 16:00.
Tropical Charters operates ferries from Kuah Jetty to Koh Lipe twice per day during the high season (October-late April) at 09:30 and 14:30 from Langkawi and 11:00 and 16:00 from Koh Lipe. During the low season, from late April to late May, the company only has morning trips. From late May, the ferry stops running until October. Price is RM118 one way (RM100 if you book online), including the longtail boat transfer and Thai custom fee. Check in is at the inner entrance of the Jetty Point Food Court. Registration closes 30 minutes before departure. The trip takes 90 minutes. Arrival in Lipe is at the Bundhaya Resort.
Telaga Harbour operates speedboats from Ko Lipe, Thailand twice per day during the high season, at 09:30 and 14:30 (RM128 1-way, RM248 return, 75min). These boats dock at the south end of Pattaya Beach. Bookings can be made online.
Attractions : Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls aka Seven Wells (Gunung Mat Cincang, Northwest corner of the island, 45 km from Kuah, walking distance from Oriental village and cable car (10 min) . This waterfall is named after the seven natural pools along its path. Legend has it that fairies used to come down to the pools to bathe and frolic. There are 2 viewing areas at Telaga Tujuh. The lower area is at the base of the waterfall and the higher area is where the 7 pools are. You can bathe in the pools and even slide down the slick rock between them. Be warned, to get to the 7 pools, you have to climb 638 steps which can get quite slippery when wet. As with most Malaysian tourist sites, the toilet facilities are not maintained and rubbish is strewn everywhere.
There is also a jungle trekking course available at the site which will lead you through a trail of about 2,500 m, up 2 mountains. This trail is achievable with slippers, but it is best to wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots as some segments of the trail are nearly vertical. These trails are not recommended for family trips.
2 Gunung Raya (take the snaking paved road through the jungle). The tallest mountain on the island, at 881 m. Spectacular views from the lookout point on the top. There is a resort hotel serving meals and indifferent coffee at the summit. There is a lookout tower which one may climb for RM10. There is also a possibility to climb the mountain which requires good health as there are 4287 steps in the stairs.
3 Crocodile Adventureland, Jalan Datai, Mk. Ayer Hangat (on the way to Teluk Datai). Daily, 09:00-18:00, show time: daily at 11:15 & 14:45, hourly feedings. Over 1,000 crocodiles and alligators. Witness a boxing match of man vs crocodile, or take a ride in a rickshaw drawn by a crocodile. This “attraction” is not for everyone as the crocodiles are inbred and deformed. Adult RM25, child RM18 (below 12 yrs), Malaysian: RM18/12. edit
4 Laman Padi Rice Garden (northern end of Pantai Cenang, opposite Casa Del Mar Hotel), ? +60 4 955 4312. Daily 10:00-18:00. Rice fields and nice landscaping. Museum in English details process of cultivating rice. Free.
5 Taman Lagenda (Legenda Park) (400 metres from Kuah Jetty beside the CHOGM Park and Al-Hana Mosque.). Daily 08:00-23:00 daily. Beautiful garden located on 50 acres (20 hectares), designed based on Langkawi heritage. Adults: RM5, Children: RM2.50.
6 Underwater World (Pantai Cenang), ? +60 4 9556100. M-F 09:30-18:30; Sa Su 09:30-20:30. An indoor aquarium. Try to catch the feeding times (see website for details). RM38 for adults and RM28 for children.
7 Eagle Square. The square, featuring a giant eagle statue, is beautifully landscaped with scenic ponds, bridges and coverd terraces, and is especially beautiful when illuminated at night
8 Oriental Village. Asian-themed village featuring restaurants, an exotic snake charmer, jugglers, silat displays, traditional music, kite flying demonstrations, palmistry, portrait painting. A miserable elephant is forced to offer rides to tourists. In the future, a tiger may be added into the collection of their non-native wildlife. Rent a segway to scoot around Oriental Village.
9 Galeria Perdana . Tu-Su 10:00-17:00. Museum featuring gifts Malaysia has received from foreign countries.
10 Wild Life Park (Taman Hidupan Liar), Jalan Ayer Hangat , Daily 08:30-18:00. A zoo with many wild animals. RM16–39
Activities : Cable Car Ride & Sky Bridge (in Oriental village, close to Pantai Kok) Daily 09:30-19:00. Ride the cable car to the top of Gunung Mat chinchang and walk across the 700-m high Sky Bridge for a spectacular view of the islands and Thailand. Includes a very steep section which is spectacular both going up and coming down. Doesn’t operate in bad weather. Also it doesn’t run during the regular maintenance days, check before you go. Officially you are not allowed to take food and drink on the cable car, but they seem not to be checking backpacks (when unlucky and all your water is taken by the security, you can buy one at the top). If they are not operating, or you are really into hiking, you can trek partway up the mountain through the jungle. To do this, from the parking lot at Telagah Tujuh Waterfalls go left just before the road goes really uphill and then turn left again at the water reservoir. The trek is very steep most of the way and in a pretty bad condition because the contractors laying down the piping for cables littered garbage all the way to the top. Only attempt this if you are fit and have good hiking boots. Temperatures at the top of the mountain are 4-5?C lower than at sea level RM30 Adult, RM20 child (cable car RM45 and bridge RM15 for adult foreigners as of May 2016). Langkawi Sky Bridge on Wikipedia Langkawi Sky Bridge.
2 Rent a scooter. Maybe the best way to discover the island. Plenty of rental shops along Jalan Pantai Cenang.
3 Go-Karting, Lot67, Jl Pantai Cenang . Morac International Karting features a 1,000-m track. RM35 for 10 min in Swiss Hutless Kart or RM100 for 15 min in faster YamahaKart.
4 Langkawi Cineplex, A-14-15 Pokok Asam, Kuah 10th floor of Langkawi Parade Shopping Complex (Level 10, Langkawi Parade Megamall). Only movie theatre in Langkawi. Current Hollywood and local films. RM11.
5 Golf (Northern part of the island). There is a world-class, 18-hole golf course located near the Datai resort. RM400 for 18 holes or RM300 for 9 holes.
Yoga Now, 15 Lorong Keramat, Pantai Cenang (Follow the signboards for Yoga Now on the road behind Rasa Restaurant – 10-min walk from the beach.) Daily yoga classes 09:00-11:00 & 16:00-18:00. Traditional Hatha Yoga classes in English (also French, Dutch and Chinese). Run by an Irish/Malaysian couple. Yoga retreats and workshops are also available. RM50 for a 2-hr drop-in class, RM400 for a 10-class pass.
Jungle trekking. Follow any of the numerous jungle trek routes available throughout Langkawi. The vegetation is not dense. It will be a memorable experience
Beaches : 6 Pantai Cenang. The most popular beach in Langkawi, features fine powdery sand and many beachfront restaurants and bars. Located at the south-western tip of the island, 2 km long. Pantai Cenang.
7 Pantai Tengah. Located just south of and contiguously with Pantai Cenang. 1 km long. Means ‘Middle Beach’. Peaceful and tranquil alternative to the hustle and bustle of Pantai Cenang. All inclusive resorts popular with families.
8 Pantai Kok. Isolated, relatively undisturbed stretch of beach in the western part of Langkawi Island, 12 km north of Pantai Cenang. Telaga Harbour, and the cable-car ride to the peak of Mat Cincang Mountain and the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls are located here.
9 Tanjung Rhu. Northernmost tip of the island. Centuries-old limestone caves, mangroves, waterways, limestone crags and sandy beaches make it a nature lover’s paradise. This beach is made up of 2 long stretches that include Tanjong Rhu Resort and Four Seasons, half of the Tanjung Rhu beach belongs to these resorts, guards don’t allow you trespass the limits of their beach.
10 Datai Bay Beach. The most expensive resorts are located here.
11 Burau Bay. Beach lined with rocky outcrops located at the West Coast of Langkawi. Nearby Burau island is also a roosting place for migratory birds.
12 Pantai Pasir Hitam (Black Sand Beach). The sand is mixed in white and black shades, due to rich tin and iron ore deposits.
13 Pasir Tengkorak (Skull Beach). Very beautiful small beach in the north of the island