Get Lost in Langkawi - For Families
This year I took my family on holiday to Langkawi in northern Malaysia. We are intrepid travellers who have taken our children, Sam (10 tomorrow), Zoe (8) and Suzette (4) across the world a number of times. This time we wanted a relaxing holiday in the sun with not too many adventures. Langkawi looked to be ideal with nice beaches, a 5 star resort, 4 swimming pools, a day spa and town nearby. That combined with an AUD$600 return special we were hooked and booked immediately.
Langkawi is located off Malaysia near the Thailand border. The weather is tropical and there is usually rain at the end of each day. Being Malaysia the environment is safe and there is never a feeling of being unsafe. This is an ideal place to take children to enjoy and experience new cultures while still being in a western style environment.
The people are very friendly and while the nation is muslim there is a tolerance of other belief systems and culture.
Langkawi is the local name for Eagle which is the symbol of the island and one of its attractions.
Getting to Langkawi
Malaysia airlines flys to KL direct from most major airport hubs. We travelled direct from Adelaide in Australia to KL and then transferred onto a domestic flight to Langkawi.
Travel time from Adelaide is approximately 7 hours, however it can be up to 15 hours from Europe and more from the States. The internal flight to Langkawi is just 45 mins.
Once you arrive at Langkawi International Airport you may choose to have a transfer to your hotel or you can take a taxi for about R50 (ringett is the currency, about AUD/USD$1 = R3) or $16 to Kuah town area or R20 to the resort district.
What to Do?
When travelling with young children it is very difficult to do a host of activities. This makes Langkawi ideal for families as there isn't really that much to do.
We spent our first day exploring the Westin Langkawi resort, trying out all of the different swimming pools, walking the beach and finding the local 7/11 for essential supplies.
Each of the Hotels will offer 'tours' at inflated pricing. Day tours cost R150-400 for adults and R80-150 for children and this includes entry. I discovered that you can employ a taxi for 4 hours for R100 ($33!) or a full day for R160 ($53!). As most of the taxi's are buses its quite easy to fit a family of 5 into the cab.
When we checked the travel guide and tours there was only 4 things that really caught our attention - the Aquarium, Wildlife Park, Elephant rides and Hot Springs. But Langkawi offers a lot more including a cable car ride, tiger exhibition, chocolate factory, eagle feeding, mangroves and fishing trips. You can even do day tours to Penang or Thailand if you want. Because we wanted to spend our days relaxing by the beach or pool, reading books and unwinding we selected the four things we wanted to do.
Day 2 - West Coast Tour
This day we took a taxi for R100 to the West Coast. We were a bit early - it appears nothing opens until 10am, so we took a slow trip across the island to see the views of Langkawi. We even stopped at a beach so that the kids could play while we waited for the attractions to open.
Our next stop was the national Aquarium (R140 for a family of 5) which showcased a range of local aquatic life - sharks, fish and stingrays. In the middle of the attraction is a cafe where we enjoyed some local popcorn and drinks. The next part of the Aquarium is a penguin display - a bit bizarre seeing that we are in the tropics, but good to see regardless. As you get to the exit you need to traverse about 10 shops selling trinkets and souvenirs, not the best experience, especially with young children that want to touch everything.
After the Aquarium we stopped at a local rice paddy field (Free) which is quite interesting to see.
We then took a long drive north towards the cable car area. Our intent was to ride the Elephants (from R80-R250 per ride - from 5 mins to 30 mins) which was a fantastic experience for everyone. We even got to feed the elephant afterwards. At this area you can take the cable car and see a tiger experience. Our kids were scared of the cable car, so we declined the opportunity, but everyone says that it is a must do. There are plenty of shops at this area and it is worth a browse.
After the cable car area we headed back home with our 4 hours totally used up and straight into the pool for a relaxing dip.
That night we headed to the Night Market in Kuah Town (every Wednesday and Saturday night) for a feast of local food and some market gifts.
Out next great adventure was when we hired another taxi to explore the northern section of the island. First stop was the Wildlife Park. The cost is minimal, about R80 for a family of 5! This is by far the best attraction on the island. We bought bird seed as we entered (R3) and spent the time feeding all of the birds and monkeys at the entrance. Inside the avairy we attended a fantastic show where the tropical birds were on display, we learned about eggs and got to touch a python.
Around the back is a cafe with icecreams which is a must. After icecream the kids hand feed some rabbits which made them very happy. You leave via an area with local eagles and monkeys. At the end you can get your photo taken with an eagle if you so desire.
After this we headed further north to a hot springs. Apparently this is sea water that has made its way inland and heated in the process. Being a tropical environment we all have minor cuts and scrapes that weren't healing, however the salt water in these ponds cleaned up the sores almost instantaneously. There are also the obligartory shops in this area - but they are some of the cheapest in Langkawi.
Once we finsihed here we set off to the Langkawi Tower shopping centre for some Marry Brown fast food (asian style fast food fusion - you can have a chicken burger & fries or a traditional chicken dish with rice - delicious!) Another 4 hours were up so we headed back to our resort.
Where to Eat?
We had complimentary breakfast daily at our resort, so we eat up with a big cooked breakfast every day. At lunch the children mainly eat sandwiches that I prepared in the room - travel version of vegemite is a must!
For dinner each night we tried a range of different dinner options:
- We ate at the resort a couple of times. While the views were magnificent the prices were high as compared with other local shops - about AUD$150 for dinner
- The children like the KFC, Marry Brown and McDonalds excursions for dinner. The cost is generally under R50 for a family of 5 - AUD$17!
- Visiting the night markets - there is one on every night of the week - is a must. We ate from the food vendors, everything from spicy hamburgers, chicken satays, fried rice, hot dogs and samosas. We didn't get ill, so can highly recommend this under R20 dinner feast
- Langkawi Yacht Club is an absolute must. It is walikg distance from the Westin and it's prices are about a third of the price. A full dinner including alcohol and desserts cost about AUD$80 with a great view of the bay. The dining area is over the water and the children spent most of the time between mouthfuls looking at the fish and crabs under where they were eating. We also even saw a komondo lizard one evening. The beer is also very cheap when compared to the resort R8 verses R26 for a pint
Langkawi is a duty free port, so alcohol is one of the cheapest you will find in the world. 1L bottles of Sapphire Gin cost R52, Single Malt Scotch starts at R80 and cans of beer from just R1.20.
Chocolate is also cheap as is tobacco products. We also discover that perfumes are very reasonably priced as well. I can recommend the shops in Kuah Town for alcohol and chocolates as well as the Langkawi Towers shopping centre.
Other designer goods are harder to find, so steer clear from this in Langkawi.
For local treasures and soveniers I can recommend the local markets at the hot springs, the night market store or the 'Bob Marley' store within Kuah Town. The prices are reasonable and you may find something a little bit different.
One of the great things about Langkawi is there is not a lot to spend your money on. This helps to make it truly relaxing!
We found the taxis to be really inexpensive and a great way to get around the island. The trip from the Westin to Kuah Town was just R10.
Shopping in the town is a great experience. We found a very good toy store, great sovenier shops, lots of duty free and gifts. Shopping can also be fun in the Shopping Centres. We found a DVD shop selling DVDs for R6 - they even worked! You can also find nice sarong shops scattered in the malls as well. In town there is a great sports shop where we bought an authentic Liverpool shirt and Barcelona Tshirt for under AUD$80.
The jetty port is also another good shopping area and even have a KFC and 7/11 for all of those needs while on holidays.
Picking the right hotel is also essential. We found the Westin to be pleasant and we were able to do our own thing. My wife enjoyed some time in the day spa and the kids had a great half day in the Kids Club. Making sure that you get the accommodation right is essential on any holiday.
So we can recommend Langkawi to you if you want a do not too much holiday and to recharge the batteries and your kids will love it as well!