White sandy beaches, untouched jungles, stunning waterfalls and tax-free shopping…
Have I sold you yet?
Welcome to Langkawi, a small island off the Malaysian mainland and parallel to the Thai border. The beaches that surround the island range from crowded to deserted but never lack beauty. The streets are lined with palm trees and pink and yellow frangipanis flowers colour the dusty roads. Scooters buzz around, carrying up to four people on them as they weave in and out of traffic. Street vendors station themselves between sprawling resort complexes, almost to remind the tourists that they were here first. The sunsets are the best I’ve seen in Malaysia, with pinks and oranges lighting up the sky as a finale to the day. While Langkawi is slowly becoming a tourist hotspot, but there are places you can go to escape and feel the island vibes. Let me show you where…
- 7 Wells Waterfall
Okay, so this one is a popular destination buuuuuut only if you go in the middle of the day. If you leave early enough, the only people you’ll see are a couple of locals having a dip. A group of us from the hostel I was staying at (Zachary’s Guesthouse – awesome, just awesome! Click here to check them out and get $25 back if you book!) rented a car for the day – super cheap, only about AUD$30 – and buzzed around the island. We were only planning to look at the waterfall and ended up staying for a couple of hours! You can slide down the rocks that have worn over time and one of the pools gives you an epic look out to the mountains below!
The waterfalls are close to the Skywalk which I also recommend going either early or later in the day. Tourist buses fill up the car park from about 10 am and you’ll have to file through the Skywalk with all the tour groups. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ that!
- Night Markets
In Langkawi, the prices reflect the crowds. As it’s a popular resort destination, most restaurants are priced to Western standards which can be brutal on a backpack budget. Have no fear, however, there are nightly markets scattered around the island that is not only cheap but absolutely delicious. During my week in Langkawi, I made friends with one man selling roti canai and murtabak. His roti was so delicious we hunted him down every night just to have more!
- Tanjung Rhu
Langkawi’s best-kept secret. This beautiful beach takes awhile to get to but is totally worth the trip! The secluded beach is a refreshing change from the busy main area of Cenang and you’ll really feel like you’re hanging out on your own island. If you get peckish, there’s a really good fish and chip restaurant about 1km down the beach. Scarborough Fish & Chips is a bit expensive for the backpacker budget but the food will make you feel like you’re home!
- Gunung Raya
Hire a scooter for the day (make sure you have good travel insurance like Covermore Travel Insurance!) and buzz up to the highest point on the island. We actually came here by accident. Our Google Maps was supposed to take us to a waterfall and we ended up looking out over Langkawi! The air was much cooler up high and it was a welcome change! We only passed a handful of cars along the way and the foggy view below us make it kind of eerie but worth it! We even saw some Dusky Leaf monkeys, which was a nice change from the grumpy looking macaque!
- Pantai Tengah
Instead of joining the crowds of tourists at busy Pantai Cenang for sunset, pop a couple of beaches over to Pantai Tengah where there are hardly any crowds and hawkers. Pick up a beer along the way and settle down in the sand for an epic sunset!
Honestly, the best way to explore Langkawi is to hire a scooter and buzz about yourself. There’s plenty to see and do, you just have to go out and find it! The roads are quiet enough to ride along if you’re a little hesitant about driving in traffic. If you are looking to rent a scooter, look outside Pantai Cenang, they tend to be more expensive because it’s the tourist hotspot.