Three days on Langkawi was not enough! We’ve both said that if we get chance, we definitely need to come back to this beautiful land of beaches, cheap booze and happy times.
First things first – do not get the ferry from Penang to Langkawi. Just… don’t. When we looked at methods of travel, the options were to fly (40 mins) or get the ferry (3 hours). The flights, including baggage, cost about £50 each when booked last minute, whereas the ferry was £16 each. So the question was: do we spend £100 or do we spend £32? Obviously the ferry seemed like the better option moneywise. Oh how we regretted it.
We should have known we were in for a rough ride – as soon as we got on board, the first thing we noticed were the large quantities of sick bags hanging up all over the ferry. There was no option to be out in the fresh air, so we were all packed together in a stuffy cabin with tiny windows as the boat crashed up and down through the waves. I, along with at least half of the other passengers on board (no exaggeration), spent a miserable three hours throwing up, with the other half handing over fresh sick bags (thanks Blakey!) while trying not to breathe through their nose. Extra disaster – my sick bag split, sick everywhere. It was horrible. Avoid at all costs.
Pondok Keladi – our little hostel home
After the horrible ferry crossing, we took a Grab (Asia’s version of Uber) to our hostel, Pondok Keladi. It was a beautiful little place tucked back from the main roads, about a 20 minute walk to the main strip and Cenang beach. Our host, Dee, greeted us with a free welcome beer (which went down surprisingly well once I was on dry land) and took us out in his car for a tour of the local area. This is very unusual for hostels – usually you get shown your room and the kitchen, given some house rules and left to your own devices.
On a side note, we are still very much undecided on whether we like hostels or not. Some days we think they’re great: budget friendly beds, social atmosphere, cheap booze… whereas other days we hate them with a passion: awful roommates, absolute dumps, everyone glued to their phones, get me to a hotel ASAP. Pondok Keladi was definitely one of the best ones we’d stayed at – free food all day, cheap private rooms with en suites bathrooms, big comfy social area and a great host who was always happy to help out.
Dee showed us the beach, pointed out the scooter rental shop, where to buy cheap beer, the best restaurants and beach clubs, and gave good ideas on things to do on the island. If we went back to Langkawi then we’d happily stay at his hostel again. Top marks.
Duty Free Island = Day Drinking, Hangovers & Sunburn
The Malaysian government have made Langkawi a duty free island in order to boost tourism. This makes it a haven for backpackers, as it’s pretty much the only place in Malaysia you can buy reasonably priced alcohol.
We decided to spend the first day at Dash Beach Club, which was in a new hotel on Cenang beach. For a grand total of £7 each we got sun loungers by the infinity pool, beachfront views and welcome drinks. Our plan was to have a relaxing day swimming in the pool, snoozing on our sun loungers and reading our books. Unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be.
By ten thirty in the morning Blakey had a bucket of ice cold beers on hand, and I had a full bottle of prosecco. We were planning on making those drinks last most of the day and not spend any more money. However, we soon spied a group around our age who were also on the beer so early in the morning… I pointed them out to Blakey and said we’d found our friends for the day. They had taken their buckets of beers to the bar stools in the pool. Perfect plan – no longer would we have to make the hard decision of drinking or swimming; we could do both! We took our buckets and went to make friends.
To cut a long story short, we had a wonderful day with our new German & French pals playing card games, drinking beer, chatting shit and watching the incredible sunset. We didn’t read our books or relax in any way. We didn’t go back to our rented sun loungers all day. Our drinks did not last us for more than an hour, but there were more on the way so no worries there. We were probably the loud, annoying group of Europeans who everyone wished would just go away. We had sunburn. We had terrible hangovers. We had fun.
Mountains and Outdoor Movies
Despite a ropey start to the next day, we managed to swallow a couple of paracetamols and go rent a scooter. We figured a nice scoot around the island would blow the cobwebs away.
The island is only small – you can get all the way around it on a scooter in two to three hours and one tank of fuel… which costs all of £1. We aimed our scooter towards the mountains and went off to find the national park.
Langkawi is home to the world’s steepest cable car, which whisks you off to a beautiful mountain top look out and the Sky Bridge, which is a bridge at the top of the mountain, stretching between two peaks, curving out over a very long drop. I got about a quarter of the way along it before my fear of falling to a gruesome death kicked in and I had to go back. Blakey enjoyed it though.
We were lucky with the weather – the visibility wasn’t amazing but was good enough to see the forest-covered mountains stretching away to one side and the bright blue sea stretching out to the other, with tiny islands scattered here and there… Langkawi would definitely be a great place to rent a boat or kayaks and go explore some of those deserted island beaches. As we were going back down the cable car we could see the clouds sweeping in – I felt bad for the people just heading up to the top as they were going to see a whole lot of nothing.
Unfortunately our hangovers were really settling in for the day and we were both beginning to feel a bit shaky so we cut out explorations short and headed back to the hostel for a lay down.
Dee told us that his friend, who owned a nearby hotel, was having an outdoor horror movie night and we were all invited. That was our evening plan sorted – chilling out under the stars, watching the Conjuring with lots of locals and other guests. It was a weird night… they started off by having a karaoke session which had us wondering what was happening, but eventually played the film and we all settled down on the grass with the ants and mosquitoes to enjoy a night of scary fun.
Waterfalls, Hiking and Beach Time
We got up early the next morning and headed out on our scooter to the Seven Wells Waterfall, with the aim of hiking to the very top of the falls, have a paddle and admire the view. I’d read somewhere that there were about 600 steps up to the top and it was signposted but hard going. That was fine – we were happy to put in the effort. However, we managed to take a wrong turn pretty much straight away and ended up on a service route up the mountain, no waterfall in sight.
After climbing over 1000 (I counted) steep and deserted stairs cut into the jungle floor, it began to dawn on us that we were actually heading up the wrong side of the mountain, and if we kept going we’d eventually end up somewhere near the cable car station. By this point we were drenched in sweat, it looked like we’d been swimming. Back down we went, and finally found the right path. I actually don’t know how we missed it, it was glaringly obvious. Anyway, we walked up to the bottom of the waterfall, which was really pretty. We mooched around there for a bit and Blakey floated the idea of hiking to the top, but took one look at my sweaty, unimpressed face and thought better of it.
Instead, we hopped on the scooter and headed back for a quick shower and a change into our swimming gear and went to the beach for the afternoon to lay on sunbeds and watch people playing about on the jet skis.
On a side note, three days earlier a 17 year old lad from Yemen had died while jet skiing from Cenang beach… the offical story was that he’d taken off his life jacket to take a selfie, fallen in the sea and drowned. However, our new friends had told us they’d been at the beach that day and ran to help when they saw him in trouble (one of them was a life guard), and the guy still had his life jacket on when he was carried to the beach… hmm…
What we wished we’d done…
We loved Langkawi – the warm welcome at our hostel, the ease of getting around by scooter, the national parks and gorgeous beaches. We’d already booked flights to the Perhentian Islands, which meant that we couldn’t stay longer. We’re thinking of maybe going back in January though – we’re going to be in Thailand over Christmas and into the new year and may need to do a visa run. A lot of people use Langkawi for that as it’s really close to southern Thailand. It gives us a great excuse to go back and do all the other things we didn’t have time for: boat tour through the mangroves, horse riding on the beach, kayaking to the islands, snorkels, diving and island hopping. I’m looking forward to it already.