A LAZY WEEKEND IN LANGKAWI MALAYSIA – One thing I’ve learned in all my travels is that there is no such thing as Utopia.
Yes, I’ve searched high and low and yet despite my efforts there are always elements, in my mind, that could do with tweaking.
It’s funny sometimes when we complain about the little things and it was during my visit to Langkawi, Malaysia, while sitting on the beach early on the first morning, I thought maybe I should stop trying to ‘tweak’ things and just go with the flow.
That is the effect that Langkawi has on my people; they actually find contentment, which certainly is a rare and precious thing.
I arrived in Langkawi after a long day travelling in the late evening. I was exhausted and decided an early night was in order; it didn’t take long for slumber to take me in her arms and whisk me off to the land of dreams.
I arose early, dawn was just breaking and after a quick shower I headed out. Just 100 feet from my hotel room was the beach and as I sat there in the early rays of the sun, glancing towards the mountains in the distance and the surrounding islands I finally realized just how beautiful life was; it had taken me 47 years to find what I considered paradise.
Langkawi does have a couple of issues, but these are minor to say the least. You can’t buy a beer, or indeed any alcoholic drink, in a restaurant and there re almost no bars to be found.
Malaysia is of course a Muslim country and therefore alcohol is not permitted; although in all fairness the Malays do understand that western cultures are different and therefore as a tourist destination you can readily buy beer and alcohol from local stores.
Really, it’s not such a big deal and to be honest my visit wasn’t about a glitzy, alcohol fueled holiday bonanza but rather the pursuit of peace, quiet, natural beauty and above all relaxation; something Langkawi has in abundance.
The local Muslim Malays were charming, helpful, courteous and a delight to chat with – there just seemed to be an air of real friendliness; something that is so hard to find in the world.
The island of Langkawi is situated off the main coast of Malaysia, bordering on Thailand. Langkawi is nestled in an archipelago of 109 stunning islands and whilst it is quite a tourist haven, the Malay Government have been extremely careful to retain the islands natural feel by not allowing commercialism to run rampant; it is simply incredible.
I hired a small car and set off to explore. My first stop was the small marina where I learned that many seafarers stop to replenish their supplies and often take a few days to relax and bask in the hot tropical sun.
The marina was, as I was to discover, like most of the island; well organised, very beautiful and above all clean.
From the marina, looking up to the mountains I could see Langkawi’s cable car leading to its famous Sky Bridge and it was time to see if the stories were true that an almost floating bridge was constructed to allow the visitor to capture the true majesty of Langkawi and the surrounding islands.
The cable car leading up to the Sky Bridge is set within a small park that is just perfect for all the family, regardless of age. There are an abundance of small shops selling all manner of tourist paraphernalia but no touts; therefore you feel at ease from the pressures of the usual fare of tourist commercialism.
There’s even a small area where deer are kept and so tame are these that it is not difficult to pet them or photograph them up close.
The entire park is clean and extremely well organised and the pond area with Koi Carp of all sizes and colours is truly stunning.
The photographs of the Sky Bridge were ones that I borrowed as to my disappointment the Cable Car had been closed for schedule maintenance.
Whist disappointed that I wasn’t going to experience the Sky Bridge at first hand, it was nice to know that tourist safety was a priority; there are other countries where such a trait is questionable at best, notably Thailand where reports continue to plague the country’s tourist industry – but that’s another issue and one I will cover in my travels at a later date.
My next stop was to explore the Datai area and I was surprised to see just how little traffic there was on the roads – in fact I didn’t see another vehicle during the 15 minutes it took me to drive there.
The roads wind their way up through the mountains and the scenery is, as you would expect, tropical, lush and simply stunning.
There are signs everywhere warning you to drive slowly due to the wildlife, predominantly monkeys, and as I traveled around the island that day it was nice to see how everyone observed the speed limits – I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed driving so much; it was simply calm, organised and far from the road rage traffic jams I had left behind in the UK.
I’m a bit of a golf fan; OK I’ll admit it I’m a golf junkie and for me there is not much that compares to a nice round of golf on a beautifully sunny day.
As with any avid golfer I had already undertaken a little research before arriving at Langkawi and I was delighted to discover there are four golf courses on the island but the one most noted was the Datai Golf Club; which is where I was headed.
On arriving it was a complete and utter disappointment. Oh no, the golf course was stunning – I mean stunning – and the staff that I spoke too were completely wonderful.
The disappointment came in the realisation that I didn’t have time to play a round of golf… don’t worry after experiencing the beach, marina and park I knew Langkawi was a place that I would return; but next time as a tourist and not on assignment.
Just a stone’s throw from the Datai Golf Club was the breathtaking Datai Resort. Now the Datai Resort is a little pricey but for those of you, who like to live life to the full, surround yourself with only the best and be pampered from the first rays of the day to when the sun finally dips into the ocean in the tropical evening then the Datai Resort, Langkawi is ‘the’ place to stay.
The reception is just stunning with its two magnificent Chinese horses and a simply beautifully lily ponds. From the terrace you over-look the swimming pool and through the trees, a magnificent and completely stunning view of the ocean beyond.
Stay a while on the terrace with a cocktail or two, as I did, and you will soon see monkeys appear as they play on the roof-top of the pool house – yes, it’s simply a wonderful way to relax and let the stresses of modern day life simply fade into obscurity.
It was time to leave as I had a full day ahead and as I drove along the winding roads I quickly came across a troop of monkeys – driving slowly is essential and besides allows you to take in the glorious surroundings.
A word about monkeys… there’s lots of them and quiet a variety and I couldn’t resist getting a photograph.
The monkeys appear amiable enough but don’t make the mistake I made by trying to get too close – the fellow in the photograph below had me running after I got just a little too close for his (and as it turned out) my comfort. Next time I’ll remember to pack that long zoom lens.
The island of Langkawi is not exactly vast and it is easy to drive around the whole island in just a day, even taking in a few sites; but I should point out that whilst my assignment only allowed for just two days it would be easy to spend two weeks exploring all the nooks and crannies as there is really so much to see and do.
Beaches are in abundance. You can find beaches that are highly populated with tourists, such as Cenang Beach or drive 15 minutes to other almost deserted beaches, such as Pantai Kok.
For more details on beaches and attractions check out Langkawi-info.com as this will allow you to get a great overview on what Langkawi offers tourists.
My first day ended far too quickly and that evening I sat on a beach eating Lamb chops with a wonderful non-alcoholic fruit punch that was both delicious and refreshing.
One of the real bonuses of Langkawi is its ‘duty free’ status. Yes, there are no taxes and as such everything is extremely inexpensive; from food, drinks (yes even alcohol in the shops) to clothing and all manner of tourist attractions. It has to be one of the cheapest places I’ve been to and certainly there is no shortage of great restaurants and shops to please even the fussiest of tourists.
On my final day I decided the first port of call would be the inland water-ways and was I in for a treat.
As you park your car and walk along the gang-planks to where the tour boats are moored, the first thing that strikes you is just how crystal clear the waters are. As you look upstream the whole water-way appears to snake between the mountains and the lush tropical rain-forest – it is nothing less than a masterpiece that only Mother Nature could create and I have never, in all my years, known such inner peace.
My plan was to spend no more than an hour or two exploring this area and yet six hours later I realized that my time was running out and there were other things to see.
Within a five minute drive I found yet another beach; this time completely deserted. There was nothing I could do but sit with my camera and my thoughts of just how fortunate I was to have work that allowed me to experience such an incredible place; and I realized that I not only felt completely at ease but I felt like I was home and that Langkawi was a place I could so easily lay down my routes and whittle my days away fishing, golfing, driving and of course explore the other 109 islands in the archipelago.
My last stop was the main ferry station where travelers pour in from mainland Malaysia and from its neighbour Thailand.
You might think this a strange ending to my all too short visit but the photograph below is a landmark on Langkawi in which a giant sea eagle overlooks the harbor and keeps an eye on the island to ensure it is well protected from the ravishes of commercial tourism.
I spoke to a few locals and they pointed out that Langkawi had certainly developed over the last few years but the Government was careful in achieving a balance of people and nature – not something you witness in many destinations that have been taken over by the tourist dollar.
I can only hope that when I return, and yes, I most certainly will, that Langkawi remains a place where I can bare my soul and allow it to take in the tranquility so that once again it will be cleansed and I will benefit from the inner peace that so many of us desperately seek.
Langkawi… certainly one place on earth that should not be overlooked by anyone looking for that perfect, relaxing and soul cleansing holiday experience.