Langkawi is an island I’ve been to many times in my life, but have seemed to fail to narrate about here in this blog. Perhaps it’s because it was only recently that I have re-discovered this beautiful island as something other than just any old beach vacation. Recent times have seen it flourish to offer more than just commercial hotels and overcrowded tourist spots, with a more robust café culture, precious experiences and underrated beautiful hidden nooks to explore. In this particular post, I intend to share some of these less popular yet equally intriguing places to see in Langkawi, and if you’re like me, I think you’ll enjoy them as much as I did.
Enjoy A Hot Afternoon Chilling at the Temple Tree Café
In the peak of midday, there are few things to do in Langkawi. The combination of high humidity and harsh sun means that the only activities you’ll want to do must require a lot of shade and minimal movement. Although there are many cafes scattered around Langkawi for you to spend the afternoon in while enjoying the balmy weather with a cold drink, I’m especially recommending the Temple Tree Café for a few reasons.
One, it is not crowded. The café is relatively quiet, manned by friendly servers and located in a large colonial building with excellent ventilation. Two, it is beautiful. There are large shady trees, a dreamy pool and beautifully preserved old Malaysian constructions around the café for you to walk around and wonder. Three, the menu is delightful, spanning from meat to vegetarian options, with cold glasses of whatever you may fancy to soothe you from the heat. Bonus? It’s also a pet-friendly hotel, so if you adore animals like me, you’ll enjoy making friends with some cats and dogs while lazing around large wooden tables under a speedy fan as you finish reading that book you’ve always wanted to finish.
Take A Day Tour to Tuba Island
Did you know Langkawi is an island of an archipelago of 104 islands? Yeah, me neither. What this means is that there are more to see than just merely the main island. There are local boats going to almost all of the habitable islands, and most of the boats can be taken from the main Kuah port. No pre-bookings are necessary as the boats a frequent, to cater the locals who move around for work (basically the boats serve like a water bus, if you will). Take note that safety isn’t necessarily that paramount, so expect to see no one donning life jackets and locals perched at the edge and top of these small boats, unencumbered.
Pulau Tuba is a lovely, small island about 20 mins boat ride away from the Kuah main port of Langkawi. You don’t need more than a day to explore it, and upon arrival you’ll see plenty of motorbikes to rent for the day. Cars are rare on the island, so the roads are safe to ride in, boasting beautiful views of the sea, local villages, vast paddy fields and limestone hills. Suffice to say that you’ll need to know how to ride a motorbike to roam the island.
There is a beautiful bridge that takes you across the sea to another island, Dayang Bunting Island. Crossing this bridge in the evening will allow you a beautiful view when the sun is low. There isn’t necessarily that much to see in Dayang Bunting Island itself, so a couple of hours there should be more than enough.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to sample Tuba Island’s famous mee udang, or prawn noodles. It’s a brothy concoction of shrimp and noodles in a savoury tangy soup, and there are a couple of different places for you try them, the more famous ones being at Mee Udang Ombak Rindu, and the Lubuk Cempedak area. I ate at both, and thought they were equally good (I mean let’s be honest, if you travel all the way here you might as well try them all).
Sample Vegan Delicacies in Langkawi’s Blooming Vegan Scenes
I love plant-based meals, and so whenever I stumble upon a great vegan scene I feel compelled to share them with my fellow vegetarian-loving friends! In the past few years Langkawi has begun to grow its own vegan community, and now there are plenty of amazing vegan and vegan-friendly cafes for you to try. Melior Café (ig: @meliorlangkawi) in Kuah makes pretty amazing vegan burgers, even better than most of the ones you find in KL. Membawang Café (ig: @membawang_corner) is a quaint little place that makes amazing vegan tacos and pastas. The Fat Frog (ig: thefatfroglangkawi) is a deliriously hot café located next to a golf course, but makes up for it by having amazing salads, vegan hot meals (I especially loved the tempeh and cauliflower spring rolls) and scrumptious dessert .
A notable place I’d also recommend is S’ekar Penang Café (ig: @sekarpinang), a small glasshouse café located in the lush greens of a local kampong. The Nasi Ulam is exquisite, made by herbs grown from its own garden. Its juice of the day is also bright and beautiful, made from delicious greens and fruity notes of whatever the chef feels like that day. And oh, before I forget! The kuih keria? Aptly named the 'Unforgettable Kuih Keria'. it's probably the best I've ever had (it's not on the menu, so ask for it).
Visit Furry Friends at the Bon Ton Animal Shelter
Why on earth would you visit an animal shelter while on vacation? That’s because this animal shelter is located at Bon Ton café (ig: @bontonresort), a beautiful hidden gem surrounding a small pond, with a menu that boasts delicious desserts and drinks. Bon Ton shares the same owner as the China House in Penang, and if you know China House then you know that you’re up for some good eatin’ where desserts are concerned. The animal shelter was lovingly built next to the café by the owner to cater for the strays and abandoned pets in the island, and you can stroll down the area to meet some loving, friendly furry friends who would love your attention.
As of present, Bon Ton is in the middle of constructing an arts center, and so there could only be even more reasons to visit this place in the future.
Join Yoga Classes and Sound Bath Experiences
Reminiscent to Bali, Langkawi is slowly embracing the appeals of the wellness vibe, offering many yoga classes and sound bathing experiences to try. My favourite ones are the yoga classes at Ambong-Ambong Villas, with an open air yoga studio perched on a high platform overlooking the beautiful blue sea. Most classes are held in the mornings and evenings, and if yoga isn’t your thang, why not try a sound bath? Despite what the name may suggest, no one will be bathing you in public, but it is a session where the instructor will be playing a lot of sound bowls as you lie down on the floor, as the soothing sounds of these Tibetan bowls are said to aid relaxation and a meditative state of mind (don’t scratch it if you haven’t tried it, it really is a unique and interesting experience).
Another yoga class to try would be the sunset yoga sessions at the Westin Hotel, where the class is held by the beach as the sun sets in the horizon. Non-residents of the Westin Hotel are allowed to join this class too, so be sure to book a session in advance with the hotel to secure your spot. There is really nothing quite like winding down with some awesome stretches while watching the beautiful sun go down on the quiet beach.
Try a Hand at Batik Canting at Mawart Café
Remember those times when you had a small voice in your head saying “hey, I should try painting at some point in my life”? Well, here’s an opportunity. Batik Canting is a form of painting, mainly done using liquid hot wax as an outline, and beautiful dyes to paint your fabric. Sounds difficult, but it’s actually a fun activity to attempt. For as cheap as RM60, Mawart Café (ig: @rumahmawart) provides private batik canting sessions where you can create whatever you like and bring them home as your own personal art piece, under a watchful eye of a friendly, professional artist/teacher.
It’s fun for kids, and it’s therapeutic for adults – picture a lazy evening of mindless batik canting accompanied by cups of coffee and treats (the studio is attached to a cute café). Best of all, you get to pack your piece and bring them home, perhaps as a new piece of art to commemorate your creativity.
Take a Sunset Dip At Tanjung Rhu
I know, I know. Tanjung Rhu isn’t exactly a hidden gem. But I do want to let you in on a little secret. As you approach Tanjung Rhu, keep on driving on the main road until you reach the edge of the road where it meets a beach. Park wherever you will, and then walk on along this beach towards the East, and you will come to a beautiful stretch of almost-empty sandy space with a beautiful view and gorgeous waters. There are shady spots where locals sometimes camp, but most of the time when I’m there (and I’ve been there plenty of times) it is almost empty.
A recommended time would be nearing sunset, where the sea turns a glimmering surface of orange as you watch the sun set in between the tall peaks of limestone hills emerging from the water. Unlike the main beaches in the West of the island, the water here is a lot more calm and serene, making it perfect for a late evening dip. Bring drinks, a book and some sunblock – this beach is also perfect for quiet isolation and relaxation.
Climb the Many Peaks of Langkawi
The ancient, rugged topography of Langkawi means that there plenty of trails for you to hike in and enjoy breathtaking views of the island from an elevation. The more famous trails are the Machincang, Gunung Raya and Kilim trails, with a range of fairly easy to slightly harder difficulty levels. For an easy, quick climb that takes no more than a couple of hours, try the Kilim trails. For a slightly harder but rewarding peak, Machincang mountain is the way to go. Start very early in the morning and you should be able to reach the top by early noon, and feast your eyes on a 360 view of the island and seas.
Don’t forget to bring snacks and adequate water, and for the best experience, wear proper hiking shoes as some of the rock formations can be sharp and slippery at times. If you love a good hike, you won’t be disappointed with what Langkawi has to offer.