Langkawi Island Paradise
Sweat dripped down my back and coated my arms. The sun beat down relentlessly as I searched for the shady part of the sidewalk. I had only been outside a few minutes; already, I was drenched.
Air temperatures in Malaysia usually hover around 95-105 degrees Fahrenheit with 80-90% humidity. After spending a week sweating in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur, it was time to find a beach.
It hadn’t rained on Langkawi Island for two months, our taxi driver informed us after we landed on the largest island in Malaysia. Just steps away from Thailand, this tropical paradise was our home for a bliss-filled week. While rain occurs less frequently during the dry season, two months without it was a bit extreme. Waterfalls had been reduced to mere trickles with no swimming to be had in them.
Thankfully, the ocean beaches were plentiful. The water, a beautiful turquoise, was fairly clear and warm. I loved going for a swim and feeling the breeze cool on my skin. At least for a few moments, I would be cool.
One day we took a tour boat to a neighboring island that had a fresh water lake. The water was smooth and cool and deep. I felt like a mermaid playing in the water surrounded by tourists.
Langkawi is duty free – making items like cars, alcohol, and perfume significantly cheaper than anywhere else in Malaysia. I had expected a plethora of motorbikes on the island, but the lack of an import tax encouraged cars. With no public transportation system, tourists are left to take taxis or rent a vehicle to get around the 470 square kilometer island.
We rented a motorbike, of course.
Technically, you need to have a motorcycle license…We were still able to rent a bike despite our lack of a license and just got the warning that if caught it would be a 300 ringett fine (about $75). OK. We paid the man 25 ringetts ($6) for the day and headed out with smiles on our faces.
A popular tourist spot is the cable car and suspension bridge. The cable car takes you up 700 meters to the second tallest mountain on Langkawi, Gunung Mat Chinchang. The views were beautiful…except for the haze, which supposedly came from Indonesia who is burning their rainforests to make palm oil plantations. Heavy sadness on my heart.
Malaysia isn’t any better at preserving the environment. At night, a line of green lights litter the black horizon: fishing for squid. Overfishing is a tremendous problem here. More sadness on my heart. We ate vegetarian.
We rented a little cottage at the Rainbow Lodge. It had a refrigerator. We ate cold cereal and drank coffee on our porch every morning. It was a lovely little home except it was insufferably hot in the afternoon, even with the air conditioner on high.
A night market pops up in a different location on the island every night.
I love markets! We tried Kuey Teow, which is a flat noodle stir fried with veggies. To my delight, meat was left out of the noodle stir fries at this market! If you wanted meat, there was plenty at the fried chicken and satay stands.
I also tried durian, the stinky fruit that people either love or hate. I think I could grow to like it, but right now I’ll pass… Fried bananas, steamed garbanzos, and fried bread were also on the menu. Malaysian food is usually fried.
The day we rented the motorbike, we drove to the other side of the island to visit the market again. There, I discovered a mango and papaya salad to die for. I will be re-creating that some day!
I love meeting random people as we travel.
One day we stopped in a little clothing shop near the Rainbow Lodge to have a look around. The owner, we learned, was a Spaniard who had married a Malaysian man. She was looking through a vegan cookbook in the attempt to eat more vegan food. Girl after my own heart. Needless to say, we chatted with her for a while.
Another day, we were watching the sunset from the rooftop bar Nest when a Canadian who had been sailing for the past seven years befriended us. The next day, we found ourselves on his sailboat having a great time.
Restaurants in Langkawi were a little hit or miss. One I really liked was Colonial India on the far side of the town Cenang. Near it was a Turkish grocery store! I love the diversity in Malaysia!
Langkawi was the perfect island for us because it had more to do than just sit on the beach. We toyed with the idea of taking the ferry to Penang, a popular city to visit, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to leave the island. It was just too much fun. (And I didn’t even mention all the cats and monkeys Martin befriended…)
Langkawi was like a little vacation – even for full-time travelers.