Langkawi, Malaysia: Phuket Without the Bros

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langkawi malaysia southeast asia beaches

When I was younger I took my first solo trip to the southern beaches of Thailand. I had a blast! Partying all night and sleeping on the beach every day was a great life. But I’m past that point in my life and it’s now sad to think that such natural beauty is wasted on those that are often too drunk to appreciate it.

In comes Langkawi: a collection of islands off the main peninsula of Malaysia and not too far from the islands of Thailand. It’s just as beautiful, but it remains peaceful and quiet. Tourism to the country and related development on the island only began in the late 1980s. It’s still a resort-style island with plenty of accommodation styles for all budgets, but the tourists definitely skew more family/honeymooner types rather than gap-year bros.

For 3 nights and 4 days I relaxed on the beaches, hiked the jungles, played with monkeys, and went parasailing. That’s not to say I didn’t spend any time at our hotel’s pool bar. It was too cheap to resist, but it was a lot nicer sipping on a pina colada with serene views rather than chugging a Thai “bucket.”

Where to Stay in Langkawi

Pantai Cenang is the most popular beach for tourists, but I much preferred where we stayed in Pantai Kok. Kok is much quieter, has prettier beaches, and is closer to the main attractions like the Sky Bridge. However, Cenang is great for budget guesthouses and adventure sports.

What To Do

The Sky Bridge/Cable Cars: The views are amazing and epic and the Sky Bridge is probably the island’s most famous attraction. That said, it’s attached to a tourist-trap theme park of sorts, full of gimmicky 3D attractions. We ended up doing plenty of them because we had to wait 2 hours until our “show time” for the cable car after buying our ticket. So keep in mind that this is an all-day event unless you find another excursion nearby.

Adventure/Watersports: The island is full of parasailing, ATVs, kiteboarding, jetskiing, and other fun activities. Sure, you can do them in most resort destinations, but I absolutely loved the parasailing views as the landscape here is stunning. Plus, you’ll find much cheaper rates than you would in most other places.

Tours/Treks: There are plenty of different tours available if you want to explore the local nature and wildlife. We did a jungle trek that was attached to a resort and I have to say I cannot recommend it. It just wasn’t worth the money as there was nothing we wouldn’t have seen on our own in terms of wildlife. However, if I could do it again I would have loved to take a sea safari or a boat tour that goes island hopping through Langkawi. There are also kayaking tours through the mangroves.

Explore: You’ll be amazed at how much wildlife you can see all around you without spending a dime. Our resort was full of monkeys (to the extent that we occasionally couldn’t eat outside)! We also were able to spot some unique birds and sea creatures along the beach.

What To Eat

Not Durian. Kidding. Sort of. You’ll see what I mean if you have the guts to try this odd, foul-smelling fruit that is loved by locals. Maybe it’s an acquired taste, but I have a feeling it won’t appeal to most Western palettes.

While Malaysian cuisine is great, the foodie scene here isn’t that impressive as it’s mostly geared towards tourists. If you do want a taste of the local cuisine, go for a basic squid dish as they’re caught fresh every night. You’ll be sure to see the green lights in the ocean from the boats looking to attract fresh squid.

Alternatively, if you find a local eatery, give traditional laksa a try!

Getting to Langkawi

Langkawi is easily accessible from Penang or the mainland by ferry. It also has a small airport with flights from Singapore and other cities in Malaysia.

Getting Around

You could rent a motorbike, but we had a hard time finding ones for a reasonable price (relative to the rest of Southeast Asia). We ultimately found that taxis were very well priced and Langkawi has fixed rates so you don’t have to worry about getting scammed.

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