From the food capital of Penang, we took a 3-hour ferry to the island of Langkawi, known to be the “Jewel of Kedah.” This tropical paradise island in northwest Malaysia greets every visitor with its untouched jungle, pristine beaches and warm waters. We came here to enjoy our last few days in Asian paradise.
Located right across the Thai border, Langkawi did remind us of some of the beaches in Thailand (especially Koh Lanta or Phuket) with a few twists. The population was Muslim instead of Buddhist; Thai food was replace with Malaysian food which Langkawi had an interesting combination of being both expensive and cheap at the same time. We struggled to find really affordable accommodation and food options as compared to the rest of Malaysia; however, being a duty free district since 1987, it had by far the cheapest alcohol in the entire country (almost reaching Vietnam price levels!).
We got ourselves a nice beachfront room with a wonderful balcony overlooking Cenang Beach, the most popular one in Langkawi. Cenang Beach, as most beaches out there, had an extremely laid back atmosphere that washed away any sense of rush or urgency – we could literally sit on our balcony for hours, watching the clouds move, the waves come and go and the sun setting or rising, without any guilt. It was like time stood still and the rest of the world didn’t matter. It was a perfect place to relax and we did it to the max.
On the sand, several locals followed their daily routines offering tours and watersports packages. The sand on the beach was so compacted that cars drove up and down carrying all sorts of equipment. In the water, tourists hopped on jet-skis (lots of them!) or banana boats that crowded the seas. The skies were dominated by parasails that took adventurers high up for a panoramic view of the entire beach.
While Cenang Beach was definitely busy, the long and wide sand strip provided enough space for everybody to claim their own space. We also happened to be in Langkawi during Malaysian Independence Day (Selamat Hari Merdeka!), which despite bringing hundreds of people to the island for the long weekend, didn’t seem to make it look any more crowded. The skies did light up with fireworks for the special occasion.
During our many strolls along the beach, we noticed some patterns in the sand that extended across the beach. Upon closer examination, we realized the patterns were made up of tiny little sand balls, always with a small hole next to it. Intrigued, we sat there and waited for a few minutes until something came out – a sand bubbler crab!
These tiny crabs stay inside their burrows during high tide, coming out during low tide to radially scour the sand for food. In the process, they leave inflated sand balls, creating what looks like a micro galaxy on the sand. It was fascinating to watch these tiny creatures working so hard on a such small scale, only to have everything washed away mere hours later.
Besides the sand bubbler crabs, the beach also had thousands of small sea shells washed ashore by the waves. While shell hunting, I spotted this one that had a dry hermit crab carcass inside. A lot of what we’ve described here may seem trivial and random, but we really took pleasure in the little things during our week in Langkawi.
One aspect of Langkawi we never got tired of was the sunsets. The one over Cenang Beach was reminiscent of those in Boracay, with stunning yellow and red tones in the sky and a nearly perfect reflection on the wet sand. We experimented with taking photos of ourselves in these photos and could often be found just sitting on the sand, watching the skies darken.
As day became night, we retreated from the beach back to our balcony, where we chilled and chatted leisurely. The calming sound of the waves was a constant hum in the background, at once soothing and humbling. We usually don’t bother paying extra for a beachfront room or one with a view, but after Langkawi, we’ve begun to see its inherent value. It was really relaxing and peaceful to just gaze out into the sea, as boring as it may sound. We did this for hours a day and it surprisingly never got old.
Our week in Langkawi was very low-key and uneventful, exactly what we wanted for our last beach experience in Asia. We wanted to visit the Langkawi Cable Car and Langkawi Sky Bridge, but the skies were always hazy and never cleared for a good view. It was really hard to say goodbye, especially knowing we were down to our final week in Asia.
For more pictures from Langkawi, please visit the gallery!