Lonely Planet nominated Malaysia as one of their top countries to visit in 2014, and it offers everything you’re looking for: warm weather, tropical beaches with crystal clear water, luxe spa experiences, and amazing food.
There are several stunning island destinations I’d recommend, but to miss the rainy season on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, I’d suggest you head to the Langkawi archipelago. Check into Bon Ton, a simple but stylish resort, with only a few traditional thatched villas (and a pool) for a unique and exclusive experience. Your 10-day trip means you will have plenty of time to explore everything on offer in Langkawi. Why not take a cruise through the archipelago on a sailing yacht, stopping off to explore some of the more far-flung islands? Or go snorkelling in Pulau Payar Marine Par? It sounds like you’re a couple of water babies, and might even like to try scuba diving. Back on dry land, there’s opportunities to take cycling tours, and a canopy walk through the jungle. There’s also plenty of time for spas and massages, and lazy days chilling together on the beach with a cheeky glass of champagne. Cheers!
The Wedding Wind-Down
Following the drama and excitement of your big day, all the time spent with friends and family, and your international flight, this should be a day for just the two of you; time to relax, unwind and enjoy each others company. Time to indulge yourselves.
Pulau Langkawi has a wide range of hotels and resorts to suit all tastes and budgets, but I think either the Frangipani Resort in Pantai Cenang or the Rebak Island Resort on a small island just off Pantai Cenang, will give you the taste of tropical luxury that you’re looking for. Chill out in your airy room, and enjoy the romance and exotic charm, perhaps with a glass of champagne or two, or chill out poolside.
Soak up the tropical bliss with evening cocktails on the resort’s sunset deck, watching the sun set over lily ponds inhabited by flocks of birds, then head for dinner at the resort’s Nam restaurant, widely regarded as one of the best in Langkawi. The signature dish is a delicious selection of Malay and Chinese dishes served on a banana leaf; a real foodie pleasure.
All at Sea
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The Langkawi archipelago sits in the sparkling Andaman Sea, and although a popular holiday destination, its beaches receive nothing like the hordes of visitors that head to the nearby islands of Southern Thailand. Tourism is focused on the main island, Palau Langkawi, leaving the outer islands relatively unspoilt.
Today is a chance to explore them yourselves, from a stunning traditional junk-rigged yacht, on a cruise with Blue Water Star Sailing, departing from the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club in Kuah. You’ll see impressive rock features, lush green forest and deserted white beaches as you cruise through the south of the island group, before dropping anchor in a sheltered bay on Palau Timun.
Swim, kayak, explore the beach or just chill with a drink, before you indulge in a delicious Malaysian buffet meal (included in the cost of the cruise). The cruise departs in time to watch the sun setting before heading back to port.
On the Beach
After a light breakfast on the balcony, take a short walk (10-15 minutes) through coconut plantation, past wet paddy fields, and along the palm-fringed waterside to the sugar-white sand beach at Pantai Cenang. Catch some sun, splash and swim in the crystal-blue water, chill out on the beach, and indulge in some serious relaxation.
Escape the midday sun into one of the beachside bars and cafes; Red Tomato (European cuisine with a good vegetarian selection) and Rose Tea (Thai cuisine) are both recommended for good food, cold beer and a chilled vibe.
Head to the Nawa Sari Spa at Laman Padi, and look out over the green paddy fields and grazing water buffaloes as you enjoy a relaxing massage and herbal treatment (or a pummelling if you choose a Thai massage). Prices start around 100 to 150RM depending on the treatment, and they offer a free transfer back to your resort.
Head back to Pantai Cenang for the evening (a taxi will cost you around 10RM each way), and search out Babylon Mat beachside bar to watch the sun set with a tropical cocktail and satay from the BBQ. They often have a DJ or live music from local bands, a great way to spend the evening.
Head for the Hills
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As well as some of the best beaches in South East Asia, Pulau Langkawi was designated a World Geopark by UNESCO in 2007, and has many stunning hills and valleys, lush jungle areas and hidden waterfalls that are worth exploring. I’d recommend that you hire a car for the next four days to see some of the sights, starting with Gunung Reya, the highest point on the island.
The road snakes and twists through jungle as it climbs, and can be quite a challenging drive after recent rain, but that’s all part of the adventure. Look out for wildlife; you might spot a monitor lizard basking at the roadside, a troop of monkeys crossing ahead of you, and comical hornbill birds perched in the trees.
There is a tower at the end of the road (10RM entry), with views from the top across the the entire island, and on a clear day, over the water to mainland Malaysia, and even nearby islands in Southern Thailand.
Head back to Bon Ton for the evening, and visit the night market that takes place just over the road (Thursday evenings). Pick up some souvenirs, try tasty street food from the stalls, and soak up the atmosphere.
Today you’ll head north east, into the Datai region of Langkawi island, to the secret beach at Pantai Pasir Tengkorak. The white sand beach is popular with locals, being quite far from the usual tourist spots. The water is shallow and crystal blue, perfect for swimming, and behind the beach is a pretty park fringed with causurina trees, perfect for a shady picnic.
A word of caution through – local monkeys have become quite habituated to humans and may try to steal any food you have. Please don’t feed them, as they may become aggressive and snatch at your bags.
In the afternoon, drive on through the rainforest to the exclusive Andaman resort, stopping at the picturesque Temurun Waterfall on the way. At the Andaman, you can indulge in a luxury Balinese-style spa treatment, enjoy a cocktail at the stylish beach bar, or just a stroll along the stunning coral beach. Eat at the Andaman’s Japanese Restaurant for authentic sushi and sashimi in a traditionally-styled setting.
Take to the Trees
Today will either be the most exciting day of your holiday, or the most terrifying, as you discover what they mean by airtrekking at Langkawi Canopy Adventures. After a short hike into the forest, your guide will give an introduction to the specialist equipment, teach you how to abseil, and lead you to the start of a route through the canopy. Scale massive trees, weave through a rope spiderweb, and soar over the jungle on a flying fox zip line. A 3-hour session costs 220RM per person, and a shorter version is also available.
Afterwards, head into Kuah, Pulau Langkawi’s main town. Sooth aching muscles with a massage at Bellis Spa, which offers a range of treatments for reasonable rates. When you’re seriously chilled-out, browse the duty-free shopping areas for gifts and some serious bargains. There is a night market in Kuah on Saturdays, where you can pick up food from the stalls for a bargain, or you can try one of the many restaurants offering a wide range of cuisines.
Time to get High
Its only a short drive from your resort to one of the best beaches on Langkawi. Pantai Kok is a curving swathe of white sand, fringed in lush green, with the stunning backdrop of Mat Cincang mountain, and views of luxury yachts threading between tiny offshore islands towards Telaga Harbour Park.
Take a sun break from the beach at the Oriental Village, a short drive away. Pick up tickets for the cable car ride, then grab a reasonably priced lunch at the food court. There are several other attractions in the village complex, such as elephant rides and a tiger exhibition, but these have a reputation for being a bit tacky and touristy, and I’d give them a miss.
The Cable Car is the most popular attraction in Langkawi, rising steeply for 700 metres to the summit of Mat Cingcang and giving stunning views across the island. It is possible to disembark at the middle station to hike to the top if you feel active, or to continue to the top in a skycab to admire the views from the summit viewing platform.
Later, head back to Pantai Cenang for dinner at Champor-Champor restaurant, a Langkawi institution, serving a selection of curries and other dishes with spice levels for all palettes.
Under the Sea
After the last few days spent hopping between gorgeous beaches, lush forests and classy restaurants, today is a chance to chill out with a dip in the warm waters of the Andaman Sea. Book a tour with Langkawi Coral to the reefs of Pulau Payar Marine Park, an hour’s voyage by boat south of Pulau Langkawi.
The Marine Park covers the area surrounding the islands of Pulau Payar, Pulau Kaca, Pulau Lembu and Pulau Senangtang, with the best reefs on the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, and a diverse range of fish life. You can choose a snorkelling package for around 290RM, or another with the option of a SCUBA try-dive for 425RM. Qualified divers can also arrange a package with suitable dives for their experience level.
The tour includes a buffet-lunch and surface-interval time to relax and soak up the sun on the reef platform, or to explore ashore. However, it can get very crowded at certain times of year, so you might prefer to chill-out in a hammock on your vessel.
With only a couple of days left to enjoy your tropical paradise, I’d recommend a day exploring at your own pace. Dev’s Adventure Tours offer a range of activities, from jungle hiking to kayaking through mangrove swamps, but I think you might enjoy the perspective of Langkawi you get from the nature cycling tour. A great way to sample a slice of traditional island culture and see day-to-day life in the villages.
The cycle tour costs 120RM per person, and can be combined in a eco-package with an evening jungle trek for 220RM per person. As darkness starts to fall, the nocturnal creatures of the rainforest start to wake up, and you might spot giant squirrels, flying lemurs, and the super-cute slow loris.
The package is flexible, and both activities don’t need to take place on the same day, so you can mix-and-match with my suggestions for any other day.
Tomorrow you’ll head for home,to your new life as Mr & Mrs, and all the everyday trifles you’ve escaped from for the past 10 days. So in preparation, today will be a day of utter relaxation and indulgence, spent poolside with a cocktail or two.
You might choose to slip into Pantai Cenang later for one last massage or spa treatment, just to ensure you leave Langkawi in a blissful state.
Then spend your last evening dining in style at La Sal, at the Casa del Mar resort in Pantai Cenang. You can choose to eat in the dining room or on the terrace, or even splash out on a romantic candlelit private table on the beach.
Road Trip! Hiring a small car suited to your needs will cost around 90 – 100RM a day, and lets you explore at your own pace. Malaysians drive on the left, making it easy for Aussies and Brits; just keep a close eye on moped riders, who seem to have their own rules of the road.
Budget Grub Head to the night markets for cheap eats, and pick up something from street food stalls. Often stalls have a seating area with an expanded menu for a slightly higher price.
Slap on the Sunblock Waterproof sunblock is essential for a snorkelling session. I can tell you from experience that you can get extremely burnt in odd places without leaving the water, and that’s not what you want on honeymoon.