Langkawi, Malaysia: How to get there, where to stay, what to do and where to eat

I have mixed opinions about Langkawi, we spent the most amount of time there which was a mistake but looking back it was really nice to take such a chilled pace of life after a hectic 10 days. I've described Langkawi as the Benidorm of Malaysia. In the main strip, it's pretty Westernised and feels like you could be anywhere in the world. It really doesn't feel like Malaysia. But once you hire a car and start exploring, the island becomes so much more. If you're after a few days relaxing and enjoying the beach then Langkawi is for you. Just don't expect too much to do!

How to get there
There are currently no direct flights available from the U.K but you'll be able to catch fairly cheap internal flights. We flew back to Kuala Lumpur to go home for around £30 on Asia Air. We were traveling over from George Town, Penang. Instead of flying we decided to catch the ferry. If you head down to the ferry terminal, you'll find lots of shops offering a ferry service. We just picked a random one and it worked out fine. Remember to take your passport as you'll need that to purchase tickets. We tried to book online but there is a problem with the website accepting U.K debit/credit cards. Ferries run twice a day, once in the morning at 8.30am and once in the afternoon at 2pm. It will take around three hours. It's not a picturesque ride and is a bit of a tight squeeze but its painless and a pretty cheap way to travel! Tickets cost around £11 for a single and £22 for a return.

Where to stay
Address: Lot 1947, A Jalan Pantai Cenang, Kampung Gelam, Langkawi, 07000
Cost per night: Around £82 based on two people sharing with breakfast included

We decided to splash out and stay at Kunang Kunang Heritage Villas as we were coming to the end of our trip in Malaysia. Although a little out in the sticks, the accommodation was absolutely perfect for a few days of pure relaxation. They had a gorgeous pool which was just the ticket for curling up with a book and putting thoughts of home out of your head. Just be prepared to hire a car as nothing is within walking distance - taxis can work out expensive if you keep booking them.

What to do

Cable car
Langkawi is home to the steepest cable car in the world and its certainly a hair-raising experience! It takes visitors up 708 metres above sea level and offers the most incredible 360 degree views over the island. You'll see jungle and rocks over 550 million years old. There are three stations: base, middle and top. It costs around £8 each and includes a stop off at each station.

Sky bridge
At the top station of the cable car is where you'll find the Sky Bridge. It really does feel like you're up high in the clouds, if you're feeling brave enough make sure to check out the clear glass boxes dotted along the bridge. It will make your legs all wobbly looking at the drop below! You can buy a combination ticket with the cable car for around £16-17.

Hire a car
Public transport is non-existent on Langkawi. The country has its own version of Uber called Grab which is very reasonable but sometimes it's nice to have your own freedom by hiring a car. Our hotel helped us to hire one, we enquired about it one morning and it was in the carpark the next day - it couldn't have been simpler. Langkawi is full off gorgeous beaches and hiring a car is the best way to see them all.

Rainforest trek
Langkawi is full of lush rainforest and we wanted to get up close and personal with it. I was drawn to Dev's Adventure Tours because they're an ethical company who were keen to help preserve the rainforest. We chose to do their jungle evening walk. We were picked up on time from our hotel before being driven to a hotel deep in the jungle. We were lucky enough to have a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide, there wasn't anything she didn't know about Langkawi. After walking through the hotel grounds and spotting ALL the monkeys, we went into the rainforest and managed  to spot some flying mammals as the sun went down.

Where to eat
Food isn't the best in Langkawi, it was a bit of a disappointment after having a such amazing food in the rest of Malaysia. We did have a few delicious meals but they were few and far between. It says a lot when our favourite restaurant was a Syrian one!

Arang BBQ and Grill
I'd never had Syrian food before and didn't think the first time I would try it it would be on a Malaysian island! Located at the southern end of Pantai Cenang, it's a great place to people watch as you can sit outside. We started with a selected of hummus dishes with some flatbread before diving into our mains. I opted for the falafel wrap drizzled with delicious tahini sauce and paired with a side salad. It was so good with the falafel cooked to perfection. My boyfriend went for the Syrian Kebabs which he raved about too.

This wasn't the best Malaysian food we had in Malaysia but it was the best we had in Langkawi. I'd really recommend the curries which were delicious and had just the right amount of heat. Make sure to grab a seat outside and watch the world go by.

Restoran Hafizi Ramli
We randomly stumbled across this place on our first night and discovered they did a cracking Roti Canai. It's a very laid-back place, quite similar to a food court you'll get on the mainland. Just try to catch the eye of someone and they will come over and ask you what you want. Don't forget to ask for the chicken satay as it is delicious!

10 things I wish I'd known before visiting south-east Asia for the first time

Taking a trip to Malaysia was my first time I had ever been to south-east Asia. It was a massive culture shock to be somewhere so different from home. I like to think of myself as pretty well traveled despite only having been to Europe and North America but it completely took me by surprise. It was unlike anywhere I had been before. Here are ten things I wish I'd known before travelling to the region for the first time.

1. Be prepared for squat toilets
For some reason I only though squat toilets existed in China which is ridiculous. This is not the case. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with squat toilets but it is just something I'm not quite used to. They take a hell of a lot of time to get used to when you've only ever used a western loo. All there restaurants always had a western loo but keep in mind some service stations and temples only have squat loos...

2. The toilets don't always have toilet paper
It seems to be very heavy on the old toilet situation doesn't it? But one thing I really noticed about going to the loo in Malaysia is that toilet paper is in short supply. Luckily I had already been warned about this from Michelle so always had some in my bag. I would have come unstuck a fair few times if it wasn't for her! All toilets have toilet sprayer which again was something I had never come across before. But you can use them instead of using toilet paper if you forget it.

3. Health and safety is not the same as home
We had a rather hairy time involving some fireworks and fire crackers which scared the life out of me! You could tell someone hadn't watched the firework safety video at school as a kid... Heath and safety doesn't really exist the over there and it definitely takes a while to go used to. You just have to learn to turn a blind eye!

4. Be prepared for people to ask you for pictures
I'd never been to a country where I was the minority before and one thing that really stood out for me was people asking me for my picture! One family asked me to pose with their children. Another man secretly filmed me when I was buying some food. People really did stare, especially where our friends lived as it wasn't a very touristy place so we stood out like a sore thumb. It wasn't uncomfortable and no one was rude but it took a while to get used to.

5. Drivers don't always stop at red lights
Driving in Malaysia was certainly an experience, luckily our friend was there to navigate. Everyone drives on the same side of the road as we do in the UK but that's where the similarities end! We were ok driving in Langkawi as it was pretty quiet. But on the mainland it was chaotic. No one seems to indicate, no one seems to stop at a red light and the traffic can be horrendous. The no stopping at a red light was particularly scary!

6.  Leave your shoes at the door before you enter guesthouses
I'm used to taking my shoes off at home at the door but it's never been expected of me to take them off at a guesthouse before I enter reception. It's a sign of respect in Malaysia so many will ask you to leave your shoes inside. This is why when you walk past any guesthouse you will see piles of shoes outside. If I had realised this I would have packed a pair of slippers.

7.  The sheer amount of whitening beauty products
I ran out of moisturiser while we were out there and popped to the pharmacy to pick up some more. It took me a good 15 m minutes to find something that didn't have 'whitening' or 'bleach' in the description. I couldn't quite believe the sheer amount of whitening products on sale from body lotion to deodorant. It's quite a sad sight if I'm honest and really makes you think.

8. No one wears helmets on mopeds 
No one at all wears a crash helmet on a moped, not even a six month old baby. Literally everyone drives around helmet free and it gives me a heart attack. See what I mean by heath and safety is not the same as home? Just because no one else seems to wear a helmet doesn't mean you should skip it if you decided to hire a moped.

9.  Sometimes eating western food affects you more than the local food
I love to stick to local food whenever I visit a new country but sometimes you just have a craving for food that reminds you of home. I'm talking burgers, pizza and chips. Sometimes needs must! I have no problem eating street food wherever I am despite people often warning against it. I think it's the best way to get a feel for a country. I was shocked that the times I felt a bit out of sorts - and really poorly at one point - was when I opted for the western food. So keep in mind eating western food won't necessary be better for your stomach!

10. The humidity is unlike anything I would have ever experienced before

My friend said before we went that in Malaysia you are always wet. Be it from the rain or from sweat because of the humidity. I thought he was exaggerating. But he wasn't! I wish I had been much better prepared to deal with it. Maybe taking a misting spray or lighter clothes from natural fabrics. It can get pretty intense!

Postcards from Malaysia

I'm home after an incredible two weeks in Malaysia and I still can't quite believe it has happened. It was my first time to Asia and south-east Asia is a region I've wanted to visit since I was 17. I was determined to take a gap year there but it never quite materialised. One of my biggest regrets in life is that I didn't a gap year when I was younger. The older I'm getting the more I thought that I had missed my chance. That the ship had sailed for the chance for me to travel and see the world. But after this trip I realised that that type of travelling wasn't really for me. I feel like now I'm older I appreciate the world so much more than I would have back then. And also I've figured out I can only do sharing bathrooms and sleeping in rooms with no windows for no more than one night!

So Malaysia eh? What an utterly incredible country. It was so unlike anywhere else I have ever been before and I spent the entire 14 days just wandering around in awe, unable to believe just what I was seeing. I feel like it was a great introduction into south-east Asia. It is quite westernised in some parts but yet also quite unfamiliar so it wasn't too much of a culture shock. I'm really glad I decided to come here first before I explore more of the region. I feel like now I'm ready to explore more of the other countries.

We spent the first week doing a road trip with our friends and covered so much ground. Our friend drove over 1200km over six days so I feel like we literally saw the whole of the country. We visited Malacca, Ipoh, Fraser's Hill, Cameron Highlands, Kuala Lumper and spend time in their city of Seramban. It was mayhem but so much fun.

After they went back to school, Connor and I headed north and explored Georgetown and Langkawi. I really did feel we was away for months and I can't quite believe it was only two weeks.

I can't wait to write about it, I've got a lot to say! The food was absolutely insane, in fact I'm still dreaming about the Laksa now and dying to recreate it home in my kitchen. The culture blew my mind. Experiencing Chinese New Year really was one of the best things I've done. It was slightly annoying that everything we wanted to do was shut but it was so cool to experience it that I'd do it all over again. The scenery and architecture was stunning and my camera roll is filled to the brim with images of temples.

If you've ever had the slightly thought of visiting Malaysia then book those flights. It's a country you definitely have to see!


Why you should take a tour of a tea plantation in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

When I started researching my trip to Malaysia, I stumbled across images of the Cameron Highlands and knew immediately I had to add it to my itinerary. The rolling hills filled with tea leaves as far as the eye could see reminded me of Hobbiton. It felt almost dreamlike and so unlike anything I'd ever seen before. Turns out seeing a tea plantation in real life is even more stunning that you could imagine. I never knew tea leaves could be so beautiful!

Located in the state of Pahang, Cameron Highland is unique in the fact it has a different climate from the rest of Malaysia. This temperature of this lush corner of the country is slightly cooler which makes it the perfect destination if you want to escape the stifling heat for a few days. It's very tourist-centric and can get very busy but it's so worth grinning and bearing it so you can get up close.

Created by the British during the Colonial times, the Cameron Highlands doesn't really feel like Malaysia. It's full of restaurants offering afternoon tea, strawberry picking farms, scented lavender farms and high rise mock-Tudor hotels. But that's exactly why you should visit! Because it doesn't feel like anywhere else in the country.

You'll come back with a new-found appreciation for how tea is created. It's easy to forget it's origins when you buy it in a tea bag from the supermarket. Malaysian tea isn't actually exported because they don't make enough of it so this is your chance to buy some tea that no one else will have at home. I bought some home for my family and they were all suitably impressed!

You'll only need an overnight trip to see this gem of a place so make sure you squeeze it in your trip!


Hotel review: The Sticks, Fraser's Hill, Malaysia

Address: Lot 213 Jalan KKB - Fraser's Hill, 44000 Kuala Kubu Baru, Selangor, Malaysia
Cost per night: Starting from around £47 based on four people sharing a hut with half board meals. It's an £5 to opt for full board.

I can't take any credit for finding this gem of a place. All credit lays with my friends who live in Malaysia and I'm very glad they knew about it! You'll need a car to drive to The Sticks as it really is in the middle of nowhere. But it's well worth navigating those Malaysian roads for.

Free of WIFI in the middle of a forest, The Sticks consists of lots of self-contained huts dotted around. You can spend your days sitting on your terrace with a cold can of beer, splashing around in the river with a rubber dingy, feasting on delicious home cooked meals, petting the dogs wandering around or competitively playing board games. The whole point of The Sticks is to be with nature and completely switch off from the outside world.

We only stayed overnight so just took advantage of exploring the river and catching up over a few ice cold beers. But you can book jungle treks, white water rafting, paragliding or botanical walks - depending on how adventurous you're feeling.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner can all be included in the price, meaning you don't have to worry about a thing. We missed lunch as we got stuck in traffic on the way there but made up for it stuffing our faces at dinner. We were served a delicious evening meal of BBQ'd fish and veggies on a banana leaf. Breakfast was Western themed and just as tasty.

The Sticks really is a great place to get away from it all and well worth making the extra effort to find. It was one of my favourite places during my trip. Such a hardship to leave!


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