Not a few years ago, Langkawi Island was imbued with the reputation of true luxury. Elegant hotels, with elegant prices to match was the standard, but as we drove away from the airport, into the main road of Censing, businesses have sprouted up. McDonald’s as a franchise arrived not more than three years ago and Subway is here, baking bread everyday. There are a few smaller hotels dotting the roadside. This is what welcomed us, and this is Langkawi, on the cusp of renewal, a new blossoming into a much larger destination than it already is.
As an island, they will tell you Langkawi is actually made up of 99 islands, but in reality, there are 104 when it’s low tide. It is accessed via water and air but the plane is the most common means into the island. On our visit, we got to see the Royal Yacht Club and what the waterborne and the super-rich use to sail in. Clearly there is a higher living standard here, mostly because of its duty free status. There are talks that soon, (GST) good and services tax will be re-applied, but for now, the island can enjoy its tax free haven status.
This was not our first encounter with Langkawi. When we were once asked by someone where our favorite Malaysian beach was, and we said Langkawi, this was followed by a look bordering on disbelief. When we told them where we stayed that time, the look turned to outright incredulity. But it was surprising to note that in 2016, 3.64 million visitors went through here, and the four million mark is on its way if this year’s beginning is any indication.
Our first full day was intended as an excursion into the different nooks and crannies that make up the 99 islands. The Mega Water Sports facility is located right along Pantai Chenang next to the Orkid Ria Seafood restaurant. We opted to take the Jet Ski Tour. They pioneered this tour one and a half years ago and it continues to be the final word on jet ski tours around the island. We took the Dayang Bunting island tour and suited up. A briefing was given about hand signals, to know how to start the jet ski, when to go, when to stop and when to go flat out.
We take in several sights along this tour until we reached Dayan Bunting (Pregnant Island).
Its profile looks like that of a pregnant maiden lying on her back. From the shore, we climb onto the floating pier and trek the 300 meters up and down along a densely forested hillside, monkeys keeping pace, walking along the steel bannisters guiding us. It opens up into a jetty with an assortment of kayaks, cycle rafts and life jackets. It was a long trudge back to the pier as we idled out of the cove and back out to open sea.
It’s an image cut right out of National Geographic as we approached a jetty jutting out 100 meters into the ocean. Overhead eagles glide in gracious circles over the other jet skis and boats anchored in the cove. This was once a zoo which housed an assortment of animals, sadly destroyed by the tsunami in 2004. The pier was left as a testament to its fury.
Echo and Rock Islands
Many of the islands are so named after what can be seen there. In a clear cove surrounded by mangroves, our guide lets out a whoop and off in the distance, the sound whoops right back at us. We take turns – like fools I might add – letting out our own sounds and the island obliges us with an echo.
On another, sheer vertical cliffs conceal long bamboo stakes, at least 20-foot long that we are told are used for climbing into the crevices to obtain the valued swallow’s nests, made from the saliva of the native swallow. The last stop is the leaning tower, a piece of rock rising 50 feet up and seems to have split from its main island.
After a water-slapping and adrenaline-inducing race along the open sea, we arrived at an island that seemingly appeared from out of nowhere. It’s Diamond Island and it’s our rest stop. A quick glance at our watches tells us we’ve been out for the better part of our second hour, and it’s a most welcome respite, to get back on a white sandy beach.
Mega Water Sports Sdn Bhd
Address: Pantai Cenang, Jalan Pantai Cenang, 07000 Mukim Kedawang, Kedah,
Open · 8:30AM–6:30PM
A premier watersports adventure
We recommend Naam World Travel & Tours if you want to explore more islands. Island no. 101 is a man made island converted to a pleasure island for beach and water fun.
The island is ringed on one side with a flat, sandy white beach facing Kok Beach, which is the jump off point. It’s a five-minute boat ride. Curved decks provide seating for a family of up to 12, or maybe even a party for 30. The island has mature pine trees that provide a natural shade in the seating areas. Families can come and spend the day without any worries for safety. A 70-meter zipline from the east corner on to a cushioned deck provides additional amusement.
The Blue Dolphin
The Blue Dolphin sits majestically at Berth No. 1. This 68-meter yacht has the Naam logo emblazoned on its bow. You board by climbing up a stainless steel stair to the stern’s deck. A bar here, a sink there and tucked away forward are the kitchens. The captain’s deck is a short stairway up.
There has to be a limit to the cuisine one can serve on a yacht this size, but thankfully, the dinner is well thought out with a full range of entrees, and beers and wine. Fish fillets in crisp breading, chicken sausages with a warm potato salad, pasta Bolognese, chicken satay in peanut sauce, and the list goes on.
Address: Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, Jalan Dato Syed Omar, 07000 Kuah, Kedah
Past the skis and into the forest
Langkawi as a UNESCO Geopark, boasting of a forest going back 150 million years, surrealistically surrounded by a spectacular cable car that takes you almost a kilometer up to a kkywalk.
The cable car system was built in 2012 and is continuously running upward until 6:30 p.m. and down by 9 p.m. There is an assortment of cable cars to choose from, from basic to luxury, to the glass bottom type which we, rightly or wrongly, decided to take.
As you walk across the skyway, there are clear plexiglass tiles to give you a sneak preview of what’s down below. It’s a sheer drop, hard to estimate, but we know we’re about a kilometer up and the only thing holding the S-shaped bridge is a single tower, planted on a solid bedrock below, rising about 20 meters from the bridge where cables cling to the top, spread like a spider web along the ridges of the bridge.
The Langkawi Cable Car, also known as Langkawi SkyCab, is one of the major attractions that put Langkawi on the map and is a thrill you just can’t miss.
Address: Jalan Telaga Tujuh, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
Open · 9:30AM–7PM
The best way to get to Langkawi
Book a flight via Malaysia Airlines. It’s with a characteristic efficiency that you’ll be checked through from your origin direct to Langkawi. The fine selection of meals onboard will be a perfect companion to the French white wine that the stewards offer. The entertainment onboard can be a luxurious diversion. Or you if you prefer, sit back and relax while you enjoy your view of the Andaman Sea.