Langkawi is an island in Malaysia surrounded by the sea. There is so much lush greenery around and the weather is extremely humid and hot. It’s definitely a tropical island. We were told to make sure and wear mosquito repellant while we were here. This is one of the few times I actually listened and did what I was told. Not only is the island beautiful, there are a ton of mosquitos too. The kind that bite and itch for days. Lots of open fields with cows and rice fields filled the space in Langkawi.
I was really looking forward to the beaches here. After reading and hearing that these are the most beautiful beaches in Malaysia I couldn’t wait to see them. Turns out they were just “okay”. The water is clearer and cleaner than in Penang and the setting is nice but for some reason the beach isn’t as inviting as I imagined. The sand is the flat and the well known beaches were filled with water motor sports lining the shorelines. The large forest areas around the ocean made the beaches look like sprawling lakes.
During a drive to Pantai Pasir Tengkorak beach, we saw monkeys hanging out on the side of the road. They were all along the roadside the further we drove into the forestry areas. Of course I had to make contact. I bought a big plate of fried sausages and threw them out of the car window as we drove off. They could spot the flying sausages immediately and ran over to them.
Most of the tourists stay in Pantai Cenang around the beach front. We stayed inland and away from all the madness. This is a place where it’s safe to drive a car without worrying about getting run down from high volume traffic. We rented a car and ventured out to see the island at our leisure. We stayed in an area called Kedah. The landscape is forest and rice fields.
We stayed in a restored Malaysian house at Sunset Valley Holiday Houses. The owners added a bathroom and kitchen. There were 4 original houses ranging from 60 to over 100 years old that the owners took apart and rebuilt on the property. Each piece of wood was numbered so they would maintain their original form. The other 3 homes (one belonged to the hotel owner) were “inspired” by the original houses. It’s amazing how these houses and the wood stood the test of time. They were built out of teak wood which never lost it’s color or strength to the elements of the weather or time passed. They were great in the daytime but at night it was hot inside.
God bless mosquito nets in Malaysia. Along with the forest and rice fields comes the critters. Without a mosquito net we would have been eaten alive. There were also frogs invading our room from all angles at night. They would appear in obscure places during the night. At first it was frightening but then it was comical. Frogs and lizards came out to visit every night and didn’t budge when we tried to shoo them off. The people staying next door told us they had a 3 foot monitor lizard in the roof of their patio at night. Now that would have been scary. They didn’t seem to mind him there.
We ventured out to Oriental Village on the way to Pantai Pasir Tengkorak for lunch. This was an outdoor area with an animal park, 3D museum and other activities for children and families. We walked into Laila Kabob restaurant and were quickly told they were closed even though people were eating inside. Confused we left but were called back immediately from another employee and told come back inside and eat for free. Yes free! They were serving a buffet style spread of middle eastern dishes. After a few stares at each other in confusion, we went back in and ate. It was the most bizarre thing but we enjoyed it. This was our first free meal of the trip. We were the only westerners in restaurant full of Pakistanis and locals. The food was really good too.
The Pantai Pasir Tengkorak beach was relaxing. There were hardly any locals and it was quiet and clean. It was nice to get into the ocean and enjoy the surroundings. If only all of the beaches here were like this one.
In America people usually wear swimwear to the beach when they plan to swim. Malaysia is a predominately Muslim country and the women are mostly covered up from head to toe. The men however can wear shorts and tank tops? One of the things that stood out at the beach is women swimming or sunbathing in layers of clothing. Some women had a full burqa on. It was just odd and confusing to see that being it was so hot and humid. For some reason I never felt relaxed at the beaches here. I don’t know if that was part of it. Being from a place where men and women are treated equal, here it was loud and clear that was not the case. I found myself feeling horrible that these beautiful women and girls had to cover themselves from head to toe to visit the beach and go swimming. The only people wearing swim attire were the tourists and a few local children.
The food is Malaysia has been the cheapest of the entire trip. We ate great dinners this entire stay for less than $20.00 (USD). Teo’s Chinese restaurant really stood out. There was one chef, an assistant, one hot-pot, one wok and a huge pot of rice. The wait was long but the food was great. The chef made each dish individually with one wok. Dish after dish he never stopped cooking. We ordered 6 dishes and everything was good. From seafood to fried pork he could make it.
Another place that was memorable was The Kasbah Restaurant. It was rated high on TripAdvisor so we sought it out. When we pulled in we were the only ones in the parking lot. Two Malaysian guys with long dreadlocks and no shoes were standing at the entrance. One of them was playing a guitar while the other was waving hello. Not a soul was in the entire place. We sat in the car deciding if we should pull off and go to another place. I didn’t have the heart to drive off in front of them so we reluctantly went inside. When I asked the guy if they were open he replied “you’re just in time”. He went on to explain the menu and told us the chef was out sick and he was going to cook it himself. He said it would be 13 minutes before the first course was served. We ordered a range of different things from bruschetta to Malaysian special dishes. I just knew he wouldn’t be able to pull this off on his own. Needless to say, he did. Everything we ordered came out one by one and it turned out to be the best meal we had in Langkawi. The moral of this story is “never judge a book by the cover”. We even stayed for the homemade five-inch thick brownie for dessert.
I liked Langkawi. It seems like the Muslim culture isn’t as outgoing as other cultures I’ve experienced during my travels. They are much more reserved and modest. Now and again we would run into happy smiles and outgoing attitudes but not as much as other places. I loved the countryside and being away from the madness of the beach areas but found myself feeling like a stranger in a strange land. Maybe the modesty was too much for me. I’m glad I could visit this country and see firsthand how other cultures live and work. The wildlife and nature were beautiful and the landscaping was wilder and rougher than the other places I’ve seen in Southeast Asia. As the saying goes, “its a nice place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live here”. Goodbye Malaysia, I wish you well.