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Kilim Geoforest Park
Photo: Tourism Malaysia

Beginner’s guide to Langkawi

The Jewel of Kedah is all about traditional folklore, beaches, luxe resorts, chilled out bars, local food and a UNESCO geopark

Written by
Celestine Foo
&
Time Out KL editors
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Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands on Malaysia’s west coast off the state of Kedah and near Thailand. One of the unique things about Langkawi is the proliferation of local legends and myths from the tale of Mahsuri who was falsely accused of adultery and who cursed the island for seven generations, to how a beautiful fairy who lost her baby laid it to rest in the lake and since then it’s believed the waters of the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden posses magical powers.

Today, Langkawi is an easy island getaway, easily accessible and worth at least a weekend of your time.

Where to eat
Set by the beach, Thirstday Bar & Restaurant (1225 Jalan Pantai Cenang. +604 952 3059/fb.com/ cglohmiow) is run by two brothers and all about good food and chill island vibes. Some of the food comes from the renowned seafood restaurant, Orkid Ria, which is owned by their father so be sure to order the butter or steamed garlic lobster while enjoying the view of the beach. Prices here are slightly higher than other bars and restaurants nearby, but are justified by the quality, ambience and service.

Meanwhile, Mangoes (Kuala Teriang. fb.com/MangoesRestaurant) is a bit of an island institution and is where to come for a hearty, delicious meal. Its cosy setting is bit like wandering into a friend’s eclectic living room and deciding to stay for meal. Meat lovers will be delighted to know they serve great steak, with cuts that are approved by the owner himself. For those who fancy brunch, Mangoes’ Legendary Sunday brunch is not to be missed. Save space for the sweet treats, ranging from Rum Mango Crêpes to the decadent Bailey’s Cheesecake.

The Fat Frog (99 East Estate, Jalan Padang Matsirat. +604 955 1153/fb.com/thefatfroglangkawi) is a family-run restaurant that wants to make tasty healthy food accessible to everyone. This former golf clubhouse building promises pretty views and a menu featuring daily specials based on available fresh produce, whole grains, vegetarian options, salads, as well as an array of mains from classic local dishes to international favourites. Drinks don’t fall short either with mojitos and daiquiris going down a treat come sunset.

Nasi dagang
Photo: Tourism Malaysia

Malaysia is a food paradise and Langkawi is no different. For a taste of the east coast states of Terengganu and Kelantan and a great view of the rice fields and hills, head to Nasi Dagang Pak Malau (186 Jalan Makam Mahsuri). Nasi dagang is basically steamed rice with fish curry, but Pak Malau ups the ante by offering an array of curries – take your pick from spicy beef rendang, rich mutton korma or any of the other fragrant curries that’s usually on display for a satisfying Malay meal.

The Cliff Restaurant and Bar (63 & 40, Jalan Pantai Cenang. +604 953 3228/theclifflangkawi.com) restaurant has been around long enough to garner the reputation as the kind of place you come for a nice meal, celebration or to impress a date. With its unobstructed views of the sea, it’s particularly lovely when the sun sets. The dinner menu revolves around fusion seafood dishes while lunch sees beachside favourites like pizza, burgers and sandwiches do brisk business. As with most eateries on this duty-free island, the drinks menu has many choices of cocktails, wines and spirits at the kind of prices you would never see in the city, i.e. very affordable for the kind of establishment this is.

The unassuming Wonderland Food Store (180 Persiaran Mutiara 2, Pusat Perdagangan Kelana Mas) is located in the heart of Kuah town close to the waterfront. It looks like a regular Chinese restaurant that can be found everywhere and specialises in fresh seafood cooked in myriad ways at a reasonable price. It’s not the prettiest of restaurants but the food more than makes up for this. Butter prawns coated in light egg floss, flavourful salted egg crab, steamed fish and all kinds of shellfish with any kind of sauce you want. The menu is extensive to be prepared to eat a lot.

Langkawi SkyCab
Photo: Tourism Malaysia

Langkawi SkyCab
Everyone who visits Langkawi for the first time must try one of the steepest cable car rides in the world. Start the ride at the Base Station at the bottom of Macinchang mountain and get out at Middle Station for a look before setting off again for the final ride to the Top Station. There are viewing platforms that look across the hills, cliffs and sea, and on a clear day, southern Thailand can be seen. Go on a glass bottom gondola for extra thrills, and while you’re there remember that the rock of the mountain you’re ascending is 550 million years old!
+604 959 4225; panoramalangkawi.com

Sail away
There are several yacht charter companies offering sunset cruises, day trips and longer excursions to spend the night at sea under the stars. The most popular are the sunset cruises where drinks flow freely, and a barbecue dinner is offered before going back to port. If you go with a group of friends, sign up for an overnight cruise for the unique experience of being out at sea and exploring the island’s coastline and surrounding islands. And, if you’re planning an engagement or wedding, doing it on a yacht will be memorable and make your friends very envious!
Crystal Yacht crystalyacht. com; Tropical Charters tropicalcharters.com.my

Kilim Geoforest Park
Photo: Tourism Malaysia

Kilim Geoforest Park
Nature lovers will love Kilim Geoforest Park as this nature reserve is full of stunning flora and fauna, as well as beautiful geological formations. There are limestone rocks, fossils, caves, beaches and lagoons for those who are willing to explore. Entry into the park is only via boat, and the boat ride brings visitors along the Kilim river lined with mangroves on one side and limestone formations on the other.
3km northeast of Tanjung Rhu Beach (+604 959 2323/kilimgeoforestpark.com)

Pantai Cenang
Pantai Cenang. Photo: Tourism Malaysia

Beaches
You come to an island for the beaches and Langkawi is certainly not lacking in the sun and sand department. For a quieter, more secluded beach scene, Tanjung Rhu has powdery sand and not many people. This is where luxe resorts like the Four Seasons is located. For more action, head to Cenang beach with its wide shoreline and where most of the cool eateries and bars are located. Tengah beach is basically a continuation of Cenang but more placid with less activities and people. Sunsets on Cenang and Tengah are spent lounging around the beach or at a beach bar watching that amazing tropical sunset with something cold in your hand.

Telaga Tujuh
Photo: Tourism Malaysia

Seven Wells Waterfall
Telaga Tujuh – as the Seven Wells Waterfall is known in Malay – is seven natural pools that have been formed at different levels by the incessant flow of water. It’s not too easy to get to and there are two options – either walk up over 600 steps through the jungle to the top of the falls for gorgeous views Burau Bay and Pantai Kok, or walk up a service road to reach the steps that will take you down to the bottom of the falls. Considered the nicest waterfall on the island, everyone who comes here ends up taking a dip or even sliding down the slippery stones, which is advised against but not really heeded, especially the kids. And, there’s even a story that says fairies bathe in the pools at the top of the falls…
Mukim Padang Matsirat, Jalan Telaga Tujuh, Langkawi, Kedah

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