For the casual traveller to Langkawi during Ramadan, daily life continues much as usual and the month-long ritual has minimal impact on non-Muslim visitors. Ramadan on Langkawi in 2014 begins at sunrise on June 28 or 29 and ends at sunset July 27, with the two-day celebration of Hari Raya running July 28 and 29. (Actual start dates become official depending on location and the sighting of the new moon by that particular area’s religious leaders.)
So what can you expect during Ramadan on Langkawi? We’ve covered travelling during Ramadan in Southeast generally, and on Langkawi, while there may be some minor inconveniences, the plusses well outweigh the minuses. Most restaurants and shops will be open as usual, with the exception of many of the Malay restaurants, which will be either closed entirely across the festival or only open at sunset, extending their normal hours of operation into the wee hours of the morning. Despite the odd hours, visitors can expect to have the opportunity to eat more tasty Malaysian treats than are usually available, because food is the party favour of the month and a daily feast ensues from sunset to often times sunrise.
Roadside hawkers of all shapes and sizes set up shop during Ramadan, with one of the more popular items for sale being colourful mixtures of sugar cane (tabu) juice, the break fast (berbuka puasa) beverage of choice. Spot a field of sugar cane and you can expect to find purveyors busy chopping and juicing hours before sunset in anticipation of the evening rush.
While Langkawi has a night market seven days a week, during Ramadan two much larger and festive ones set up for the month, one in Kuah and the other near the international airport. There you will find anything and everything for sale, from fireworks to ayam bakar (barbecue chicken).
Many restaurants will run buffet specials throughout the month at very affordable prices, while hotels and guesthouses on Langkawi may also have discounted rates. Be warned though that places fill up over the two-day Hari Raya celebration, so book well in advance if you’ll be on the island then — check Agoda for discounted online rates for Langkawi.
One of the slight downsides to Ramadan is that hotel and service staff may not be as enthusiastic about customer service as usual. Fasting for many means no water nor food and weeks of that can take a toll on even the most stalwart of employees. A little patience and a smile will be appreciated.
And do note that during Ramadan and Hari Raya the ferries and mainland bus services usually have some changes to their normal schedules.
A visit to Langkawi and other parts of Malaysia during Ramadan can be an interesting cultural experience for those unfamiliar with this celebration of Muslim culture. Ramadan brings out the spirit of giving and many Muslims in Langkawi hold “open house” throughout the month, where friends as well as travellers may be invited to join in the celebrations.
By Vanessa Workman
Last updated on 1st September, 2014.