Weekend Escape to Langkawi

Figure 1:  A stunning sun setting over the waters, docked boats & catamaran, fronting the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, Kuah. To the left is Pulau Tuba, the happy island village.

Turquoise blue waters, fine sandy beaches, swaying coconut trees,  relentless waves, stunning sunsets and sunrise, scooter rides in bermuda shorts with wind blowing in your hair, cruising down empty roads surrounded by endless green prominence, night markets, hawker food at almost any time of the day or night and a laid-back atmosphere of peace ..………Langkawi is truly a gem of an island.

 

Langkawi is a cluster of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea.  It is located in the state of Kedah, in the north west of Peninsular Malaysia. Langkawi is one of the four populated islands of the 99 islands (besides Pulau Tuba, Pulau Dayang Bunting and Pulau Rebak).  There are daily ferries from both Kuala Perlis and Kuala Kedah on the mainland to Langkawi’s Kuah jetty.  Daily local flights bring visitors from the mainland to the island while international flights land daily at the Langkawi International Airport in Padang Matsirat.  2018 brought 3.63 million visitors, an increase in the number of foreign tourists, even though a slight dip in the number of local visitors.  Langkawi island is definitely on any traveler’s wish list.

 

Visitors come from countries like neighbouring Thailand, Singapore, India, Korea, Australia, Europe and the Middle East. It is perhaps more popular than the Terengganu islands such as Redang on the east coast for several reasons. Langkawi is bigger than Redang, with more variety in terms of resorts (ranging from backpacker to super luxury) and many more sightseeing potential (Tripadvisor.com). Ultimately the choice depends on what kind of holiday a visitor is looking for: a luxury yacht experience or a five-star hotel pampering or a wholesome laid-back local experience….all on Langkawi Island.

 

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the island of Langkawi for a weekend break.  Since one of our travel members was crazy about boats, we decided to try the Langkawi Yacht Club (Fig 1) in Kuah, a 3-star, 44-room hotel.  It is located in the south-east corner of Langkawi, just a five-minute walk to the Jetty where duty-free shops, banks, post-office, restaurants and scooter rentals are located; and a 10 minute-walk to the Dataran Helang.

 

Most patrons of the Club are understandably boat, catamaran or yacht owners, many are Caucasian.  The Langkawi Yacht Club (Fig 1) has an award-winning 250-berths marina able to accommodate mega-yachts up to 90 meters long. For those interested in luxury yacht and sporty luxury experience in sea travel, there are a number of companies with headquarters in Langkawi which offer a variety of cruises around the island for a skippered or bare boat charter. There are options for holding weddings or exclusive meetings (hgroupmarine.com; dreamyachtcharter.com; or the langkawiyachtclub.com) or private dinners or to disconnect completely, travelling at a pace set by the winds.  Of course some prefer the traditional, no frills, more affordable boat charter.

Figure 2: Night life at the Yacht Club in Kuah. There are restaurants and pubs at Jake’s at the Fisherman’s Wharf complex.

Facilities at the Club are limited to a swimming pool and a coffee house serving Asian and Western breakfast but there are restaurants and a bar located next door to the Club (Fig 2).  Renting a car or a scooter is probably the best way to see the town of Kuah but certain sights are best seen from a boat (Fig 3).  There are many boat tours and cruises around Langkawi.  And tour operators are more than willing to pick-up and drop-off visitors from their hotels.

 

One of the most popular tours in Langkawi is probably the Fauna and Flora Eco Mangrove Boat Cruise of Kilim Geoforest Park, one of the 3 top UNESCO sites in Langkawi.  The mangrove forests of Langkawi is home to an incredible variety of wildlife.  It is a four (4) hour tour around the mangroves, in an open boat, costing close to RM200 per person (faunafloraeco.com). It was one of the best mangrove tours I ever experienced.

 

Figure 3 : A boat taking a sharp turn on the blue waters of Kampong Killim, at high speeds causing a white water splash. 

The tour is a trip into the diversified mangroves on the north-eastern part of Langkawi.  The nature guide is licensed and very knowledgeable, giving a very thorough run of the entire trip especially the wildlife in the Kilim forest. If you are lucky, you get to sit next to the boatman who would gladly give you his life story and his boating experience in his thick local accent, while skilfully steering the boat around the turquoise blue waters at speeds that kicked up a water splash.  The water splash will deposit tiny salt crystals on your forehead.

 

The tour covers visits to the floating fish farm where visitors have the option of a local lunch, eagle-watching, bat cave (Fig 4), crocodile cave (Fig 5 & Fig 6) , monkey watching (Fig 7), beach stop on Tanjung Rhu, ending in a simple lunch.

Figure 4: The bat cave tour starts here

 

Figure 7 below shows the crab-eating monkey species which not only can swim but can dive too.

 

Figure 5: A tour boat leaving the entrance to the Crocodile Cave off the Kilim River. Since it was low tide, it was possible to easily enter the cave. 

There is an alternative to taking the boat in Kilim.  If you have a strong back, and feel a need to physically challenge yourself while enjoying the sights, try kayaking around the Kilim mangrove river. There are many  guided kayak tour if you feel less confident to kayak alone.

 

Figure 6: Another tour boat passing through the cliffs in Bohor Merah on the Kilim River

By the time you return to the Yacht Club in the late afternoon, you are probably too exhausted to go far for dinner. But around the Club, at the Fisherman’s Wharf complex, there are restaurants like Jake’s for a good steak and an all-night chat.  Charlie’s Bar & Grills is another interesting place to dine.  The bar was named “Charlie” after the founder of the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club, the late Tunku Tan Sri Abdullah who was fondly known as “Charlie” among his friends.

Figure 7: Who says monkeys can’t swim. This crab-eating monkey was bravely swimming alongside our cruise boat in Kilim River in Bohor Merah, Langkawi.

 

 

 

But if you fancy dinner in a posh restaurant in a five-star luxury hotel, you need to drive past the Langkawi Yacht Club, all the way down the almost deserted road called Jalan Teluk Datai towards the Datai Bay, where a one-night stay at The Datai in Padang Matsirat costs about RM3,400 or RM4,700 at the Ritz-Carlton.  And where the security is so tight that the guard would grill your curiosity to death before ever allowing you to have a look-around.

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