Langkawi photo essay

Some pics to get you all excited

What we say: 3.5 stars

After four action-packed days in Langkawi on the northwest coast of Peninsular Malaysia I’ve had my assumptions about the island shattered — in a good way. I’d always written it off as a tourist trap, but what I found was far more interesting — and far less touristed — than I expected. Admittedly I visited across Ramadan, which is probably the slowest time of the year, but the island was far less developed than I expected.

Pantai Kok - I was the only person here - really.

Pantai Kok – I was the only person here – really.

Once settled, I grabbed a motorbike to vroom around the island and Pantai Kok was one of the first beaches I stopped at. I had the entire beach to myself, and, while the water was a little cloudy, there was plenty of shade and a couple of offshore yachts to gaze at. Could have been worse.

Yup, that's Thailand in the distance.

Yup, that’s Thailand in the distance.

This little beach is on the north coast heading towards the Datai, a fancy secluded resort. It was super low tide, so no swimming was to be had, but I’d imagine it would be a different story at high tide. Again I had this beach to myself. Plenty of shade and sand to build castles with.

Pantai Tengorak with a dose of Tarutao in the distance.

Pantai Tengorak with a dose of Tarutao in the distance.

Next stop was Pantai Tengorak, also on the north coast. This was one of my favourite beaches on the island — and I had to share it with an old lady who was sweeping up some leaves. Close to white sand, soft underfoot, secluded and lovely. Double thumbs up.

Armour-piercing spikes.

Armour-piercing spikes.

A short nature trail winds around the righthand headland at Pantai Tengorak and takes you around to some very boring old rocks, but before you get there it’s a pleasant walk through the woods. That is until you get a natural acupuncture treatment courtesy of the above branch.

I love cement factories.

I love cement factories.

Tanjung Rhu is a long white sand beach that has a couple of fancy hotels like the Four Seasons and a great fish and chip shop on it. We imagine the hotels don’t describe any of their rooms as being the “Cement Factory view villa”. The beach is quite scruffy away from the resorts with flotsam and what not, but the views are lovely.

Wet season almost.

Wet season almost.

I lucked out a bit on the views from the summit of Raya, the highest peak on the island — it’s rainy season now, after all — but what was more enjoyable was the ride up and back, winding up the forested peak.

Mangroves can be pretty too.

Mangroves can be pretty too.

I also managed to fit in a mangrove tour with local guide and bird-watching-maestro Wendy. This was one of the highlights of the time I had on Langkawi and if you’re looking for a premium private guide, I can’t recommend Wendy highly enough. (There’s a whole entry coming up on this trip, but if you want to contact Wendy, her email is naturalistwannabe@gmail.com).

Slow day on Pantai Tengah.

Slow day on Pantai Tengah.

Pantai Tengah is one of the two “popular” beaches on the island, but unlike nearby Pantai Cenang, it lacks the plentiful supply of beach bars and so has a quieter vibe to it. Jetskis and parasailing, though, are unfortunately still here too.

Sunset parasaling at Pantai Cenang.

Sunset parasaling at Pantai Cenang.

Cenang is the busier of the two beaches and has activities going on all day. Come the evening, the beach bars get going, and while it’s never too raucous a scene, it makes for a fun diversion for a night or ten.

Trees, trees and more trees.

Trees, trees and more trees.

Off the beach and up to the cable car, this was a spectacular trip though certainly not recommended if you’ve got a problem with heights. While the summit is stunning, the forest you pass over is equally so — I spotted one hornbill on the ride up, while others have reported spotting monkeys. If you have binoculars, bring them.

Cool off. Now.

Cool off. Now.

After all this running around, where better to cool off than in a secluded waterfall swimming hole. Again despite spending a few hours here I only saw three other groups of people.

So that’s a quick wrap on our take on Langkawi — we’ve a bunch more entries on the way, so stay tuned!

Last updated: 27th August, 2014

Last reviewed by:
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton and he spends most of his time in Bali, Indonesia.

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