I finally made it back to Langkawi. I really can’t believe I visited a city, saw nothing, left, and then came back. If you didn’t have a chance to read about My Biggest Secret, check it out because it sets up the rest of the stories from here on out. Plus, who doesn’t love reading other people’s secrets??
After racing through everything there is to do in Penang in less than 24 hours, I was back on the boat and headed to Langkawi.
The last I said, I had arrived in Langkawi in the early evening and collapsed onto my comfy semi-private dorm bed. My body melted into the mattress and I could barely move. Against my insane desire to turn on Netflix and waste the night away, I dragged my barely alive body out of bed and walked across the street to watch the sunset at the beach.
I wasn’t going to waste any time in Langkawi, not this time. I’ve got things to do and places to see.
Or so I thought…
My 3 days in Langkawi quickly turned into 10. Well, not so quickly. Every morning I’d wake up and realize I had done nothing the day before, so I’d need to extend my stay.
Today was going to be different. Today I’ll get out of the hostel. Today I’ll explore.
I said that to myself every day for almost two weeks. Some days I had the energy to explore (especially after meeting this awesome group of people), but other days I couldn’t be asked to leave my bed. Netflix and OnDemand TV had me hooked!
I was recovering from insane exhaustion so I told myself that it was okay to take it easy, but really, it was killing me.
I could go on and on and on about my days in Langkawi. Some are actually quite interesting, even when I did nothing at all. Like the time we found a giant water monitor lizard trapped in the hostel bathroom. Or the time(s) the amazing Indian restaurant next door hooked me up with free food. Or the time I asked a random person to jump on my back while I laid on the dirty pavement floor.
Or the time I first ventured out alone to explore the island and was chased down by the locals wanting pictures of me since I’m white and blonde and that seems to draw a lot of attention. I spent that afternoon playing in the waterfalls and getting to know the locals. I was the only tourist as far as the eye could see and everyone was eager to learn more about me, my travels, and how I ended up in a random waterfall surrounded by local Malays. It was awesome!
Or the time I was offered tons of free food at the night market just because I am white. I say white with the least-racist tone of course. While traveling, especially to countries where I obviously stand out, they don’t sugar coat who or what I am. They simply call me “white.” In some places I’ll hear “American” or “Westerner,” but the more and more I travel to remote destinations, I stand out as the white girl traveling alone. It’s an interesting feeling to be a minority and to be gawked at everywhere I go. Sometimes it’s creepy, but oftentimes, I feel so much love and compassion from others looking to teach me about their culture and learn more about mine.
Or the time I finally decided to meet people at the hostel and immediately divine intervention kicked in to bring us even closer together. After being photographed like a celebrity at the Durian Waterfall, I came back to the hostel in hopes of finding out where I could buy a GoPro (since all the people at the waterfalls were using them). When I arrived back at the hostel, I found two people who were looking for GoPros too! They had just come back from the camera store, and within 24 hours we were best friends and proud owners of 3 new cameras, at a group discount of course.
Or the time I learned what “Fancy Monday” was after meeting two travelers who decided to come up with a new meaning for Monday. Instead of dreading it (like they had done for years), “Fancy Monday” was when they indulged in delicious brunch and fancy foods all day. It was something to look forward to… and it happened every week!
Or the time there was a freak rainstorm while motorbiking up Gunung Raya mountain and 6 of us “broke in” to an abandoned hotel lobby and hoped not to get shot. That was the time we spent an hour sitting in a circle and talking about life. Actual life. Not the “where are you from” kind of stuff, but the “what do you really want to accomplish” kind of stuff. It was deep. This was the first time I ever admitted to anyone that I truly want to write… and publish books… and use my experiences to help others.
Or the time Ramadan started and I was flooded with a wealth of information about the culture, traditions, and its impact on every day living. Not only did I learn so much about the Muslim culture, the locals included me in so many traditions such as special night markets showcasing Ramadan-specific Malay foods and an Uber driver stopping to pray during the middle of my ride. He also educated me on the fasting culture which turned into an interesting conversation about puberty (I’ll spare you the graphic details). Too much info for an Uber ride, but interesting to say the least.
I really could go on and on. To met it’s the people who make a city, not the places.
Things to Do in Langkawi
While Langkawi isn’t the best “island” island (by far), it has been one of my favorites to visit. It reminded me so much of Koh Lanta, the island off the west coast of Thailand that I really didn’t want to visit (but fell in love with). It almost felt like deja vu.
I’m a sucker for a scooter ride and an epic adventure, and fortunately, Langkawi could provide both. Any place that allows me to motorbike around and explore on my own is a destination that holds a huge place in my heart.
If you’re headed to Langkawi, here are some of the things that I highly suggest:
- Rent a scooter: 25-30 rm per day ($5 – 7 USD)
- Beaches: Tengah, Cenang, Black Sand Beach, Tanjung Rhu (the prettiest beach)
- Waterfalls: Durian, 7 Wells, Temurun
- Viewpoints: Gunung Raya (scooter or hike), Cable Car + Sky Bridge
- Night Market(s): They move around the island every day so ask your hostel where it is when you’re there
- Island Hopping Half Day Tour: Pregnant Lady Lake, Eagle Feeding, Snorkeling (35 ringgit, $8 USD)
- Misc Places: Underwater World, 3D Museum, etc.
- Food: Yam Yam (expensive but fresh and perfect for brunch on Fancy Monday), Mangga 2 (cheap and local, choose Mangga 2 not Mangga 1), Nasi Tomato (cheap and local), Colonial India (moderate and delicious)
My Quick Recommendation
If you want a little privacy yet also a social setting, stay at Zackry Guest House. The dorms are 35 rm ($8) and like little cubbies with an end table, light, outlet, towel rack, and locker for each person. The private rooms start at 45 rm ($10) and they are a great alternative to spread out all your stuff and relax in the freezing cold air con. Zackry Guest House has self-service laundry on site and a kitchen too. They sell foods to cook such as pasta, etc. and have great vending machines with breakfast foods, snacks, and even beer too! The island is duty-free so the beers are cheap at 2 rm ($0.50) per can.
Zackry Guest House is across from Tengah Beach and down the road from the main tourist area, Cenang Beach. Both Tengah and Cenang beaches are just okay in my opinion. They get the job done for tanning, but nothing compared to the beaches throughout SE Asia. If you’re looking for a pretty beach on Langkawi, head to Tanjung Rhu Beach near the resorts. It’s easy to find on Maps.Me (free cell phone app) and a relaxing 30 minute drive on the scooter.
When you head to Tanjung Rhu, you can stop off at the Durian Waterfalls and Black Sand Beach along the way. On the way back, you can swing by Gunung Raya and bike up to the top of the mountain to see an awesome view of the island. If you’re headed to Gunung Raya, be sure to fill up your gas (and bring snacks) before ascending the mountain, as there are no stations on the way up and we almost ran out! Biking Gungung Raya is really fun with friends so be social at the hostel and get a biker gang to go!
Black Sand Beach
The next day you can head to the 2 other waterfalls and the Cable Car / Sky Bridge. On your way, you’ll pass through a beautiful wildlife preservation area which makes the scooter ride so enjoyable. Head straight for Temurun Falls, my favorite. Make sure you walk all the way to the top to see the best waterfall and one of the most impressive I’ve seen in a while. It’s a quick and easy walk (less than 10 minutes). Also, be careful because monkeys are everywhere so leave your snacks in the bike and don’t tease the monkeys. After Temurun, bike back through the preserve to 7 Wells waterfall. This is a little more touristic and costs 1 rm to park your bike. You’ll then have to walk up 600+ stairs to get to the wells and observation deck at the top. I personally liked Temurun much better but head to both and make the decision for yourself. After 7 Wells, head back towards town and you’ll pass the Cable Car and Sky Bridge (the longest in the world). Tickets are a package price and around 50 rm ($12) to access the cable car, sky bridge, and 3D art museum. It’s a fun day with friends and beautiful views of the island.
Road to waterfalls and wildlife preserve
600 Steps to 7 Wells Waterfall
Start your mornings at Yam Yam, a 1 minute walk from the hostel and end your evenings at the night markets opening at 7:30pm. Other awesome restaurants near the hostel include Mangga 2 (not 1) and Nasi Tomato. There’s also a great fruit market (open late) on the one-way road towards Cenang Beach. You’ll know what I mean when you get there. Just look on the corner and drive down the wrong way. Oops!
As for night life, I didn’t go out while in Langkawi so I can’t help with that, but if you did, comment below and help us out!