I wanted to write a brief post about the four days I spent in Langkawi, Malaysia. Although the focus of our time on the island was mainly to enjoy life within the comfort of the Ritz-Carlton and the Andaman, I do think of Langkawi as a worthy tourist destination in its own right.
Known as the “Jewel of Kedah” in reference to the Malaysian state in which it lies, Langkawi is certainly a more easy-going and less tourist-saturated alternative to other South East Asian hotspots like Bali, Phuket, or Ko Samui, and is a place that I’d very much like to return to sometime sooner rather than later.
While Langkawi isn’t the biggest island in terms of area, the convenience of getting around can vary considerably based on where you’re staying. A centrally-located resort like the Ritz-Carlton is a good base to access most sites on the island, with Grab taxis and/or moped rentals being the most common methods of transport among tourists.
If you’re staying at the Andaman on the island’s remote northwestern coast, though, be aware that it can be a drive of upwards of 30 minutes in duration before you get anywhere. Indeed, we never did muster up any motivation to leave the resort during our time at the Andaman, hence why this post will be “brief”, covering the few key things we got around to seeing on the island and leaving the rest until next time.
Langkawi Sky Bridge
Langkawi’s star attraction is the 700-metre-high Sky Bridge, a curved walkway between two twin mountain peaks that provides unparalleled views of the entire island and the neighbouring islands within the state of Kedah, as well as the Thai islands of Ko Tarutao and Ko Adang immediately across the maritime border.
Advertised as “the longest free-span curved bridge in the world”, the bridge itself is also quite an architecturally impressive structure, with the entire deck supported by a series of cables attached to a single steel pylon soaring into the air. Viewing decks with glass floors on both sides of the Sky Bridge offering up another unique viewpoint of the Gunung Mat Chinchang mountain.
You take the Panorama SkyCab, a cable car, to get up to the Sky Bridge. The cable car itself also provides some killer views of the immediate area, with one particularly steep stretch making for an exhilarating ride up.
Once you’re at the top of the cable car, you can either walk a short length along the mountain steps to reach the Sky Bridge, or take the SkyGlide, a sloped elevator ride (technically an “inclinator”) that lasts for about two minutes at an additional cost. We didn’t think the SkyGlide was anything special, so preferred to hike to the Sky Bridge instead.
Note that the tickets for the SkyCab and the Sky Bridge (and SkyGlide) are sold separately. The SkyCab tickets, sold at the base of the mountain, can be purchased with a credit card, whereas the Sky Bridge tickets, sold at the summit, are cash-only. Make sure to bring some Malaysian ringgit with you, and don’t end up like us, having to hound a Chinese tourist to exchange some cash for a WeChat money transfer!
After you’ve soaked in the views from the mountaintop, you’ll find that your SkyCab ticket also includes access to a few secondary attractions on the ground. There’s SkyDome, a 3D interactive film experience that’s projected upon a 360˚ overhead screen; SkyRex, an immersive simulated dinosaur-themed “ride” similar to an IMAX movie experience; and 3D Art Langkawi, one of those galleries with 3D interactive paintings where you can take cheesy pictures. All a bit tourist-trappy, if I’m being honest, but decently fun nonetheless.
Seven Wells Waterfalls
Not far from the base of the Panorama SkyCab – a mere five-minute walk away – is the Seven Wells Waterfalls, one of Langkawi’s most popular natural spectacles. Also known by its local name, Telaga Tujuh, this waterfall is named after the seven large naturally-formed pools in its headwaters.
While the waterfall can be admired from its base at ground level, I’d highly recommend making the relatively short hike up to the seven wells themselves. Every waterfall in the world is different, and as someone who can never get enough of looking at them, the Seven Wells in Langkawi is one of the more unique waterfalls I’ve gazed upon.
Best of all, you can do more than gaze upon the Seven Wells: if you brought your swim gear, you’re more than welcome to take a dip in one of the wells themselves, just like many of the locals enjoy doing. You can even “become one with the waterfall” and slide down the sheer rock surfaces that connect the natural pools to each other – just don’t venture off the last of the seven wells!
If you aren’t feeling up for a swim, the rocks themselves are a great place to sit down and knock back a few beers as you take in the water of the seven wells in action all around you.
Pantai Cenang Beach
Pantai Cenang is the largest and most popular beach on Langkawi, and where most of the action on the island takes place. Like most other beach towns in South East Asia, you’ll find a good mix of shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars to occupy your attention here.
We enjoyed a few dishes of delicious, yet cheap Chinese-style seafood at the Orkid Ria restaurant, which was right up our alley given the significantly marked-up prices that the restaurants were charging back at the Ritz-Carlton. You can satisfy all your chilli crab cravings for about RM 50 ($18) per person, which is tough to beat for the quality of seafood you’re getting.
Of course, you can also go the authentic route and pick up a few plates of chicken satay from the street vendors to enjoy while relaxing on the expansive beachfront.
Pantai Cenang remains active even after the stunning sunset takes place over the Andaman Sea every night. The area is perhaps best known for its night markets, where you can get your fill of Malaysian delicacies, while most of Langkawi’s best bars and nightclubs are concentrated along this stretch of beach as well.
Whether you’re looking to spend your time on the island perfecting your suntan, loading up on street food, dancing the night away, or enjoying the vibes of a cozy bar or upscale lounge, you’re certain to find something at Pantai Cenang to suit your taste.
Langkawi treated me to an excellent time, and it’s a place I would certainly recommend if you’re looking for a South East Asia experience that moves at a slightly more relaxed pace compared to the more well-known destinations elsewhere in the region. And with no less than four reasonably-priced Marriott luxury resorts (the St. Regis and the Westin, in addition to the Ritz-Carlton and Andaman resorts I stayed at) along its coastline, it’s a fantastic choice if you’re looking to redeem hotel points for a memorable vacation as well.
Admittedly, our movements were relatively limited beyond the gates of our resorts, but that leaves us plenty of things to do for next time. In particular, I’d love to join a tour to explore Langkawi’s vast cave network, which is a great way to admire the island’s unique geological features. In a similar vein, I’d also love to check out the black sand beach on the northern coast, and perhaps embark on a hiking journey up to Gunung Raya, the tallest peak on the island.