Langkawi, or to give its official title, Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah – in Malay Langkawi Permata Kedah – is indeed a tropical paradise. Yes, that’s an oft-used term but an apt description of this floating gem.
Langkawi is, in fact, an archipelago of more than 100 islands in the Andaman Sea, 30 km off the mainland coast of north-western Malaysia. There are many suggestions for the origin of the name of the island but one of the most plausible is that it’s derived from the name ‘island of the reddish-brown eagle’ in Malay. There are still eagles here, making Langkawi a bird-spotter’s dream location.
The island was mentioned way back in history by Chinese traders and other travellers. In the 15th century it was known to Acehnese as Pulau Lada or Pepper Island. It was home to seafarers as well as pirates and fishermen. In 1909 the islands, curiously, came under British rule under the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of that year. During the Second World War Siam, Later Thailand, took control briefly when Malaya was occupied by the Japanese. The British continued to rule until Malaya gained its independence in 1957.
Langkawi is blessed with more than 2,400 mm (94 in) of rain annually. That might not sound like great news for tourists but it’s that precipitation that makes the vegetation so green. And anyway that rain is still warm and rather refreshing. Langkawi has a dry season from December until February, while March to November is the long rainy season. August is the wettest month, when it normally sees more than 500 mm (20 in).
Tie the knot as the sun sets
Langkawi offers warm weather and exotic colour and is great value for money. I have found a couple of remarkable hotels of character that offer 5* service and great charm. The Meritus Pelangi Beach hotel is remarkable and has a view over white sand and blue sea. That strand makes a romantic setting for weddings: with tables decorated and chairs arranged, the lucky couple can tie the knot as the sun sets.
This hotel is memorable for its architecture. Its wooden construction and open main building is reminiscent of traditional structures in Malaysia. The guest accommodation is found in bungalows and 2-storey buildings around the grounds. The resort resembles a village in a lush and mature garden.
That aforementioned ocean is as warm as a bath although the attraction of the two sizeable pools fringed by trees and umbrellas will always be enticing. The adult pool sports a bar and the well-appointed spa will also help to relax the fatigued sun-bather after a long day on a lounger.
Food at Meritus Pelangi Beach Hotel is a must-visit. Breakfast is an unmissable event and tempting, with Western fare as well as local specialities such as Nasi Lemak which is a national dish. This is a hotel attracting international clientele but it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to sample Malay delights from morning till night.
Local retail therapy
It’s safe to leave the confines of the resort and wander along the main road to enjoy a little local retail therapy. There are numerous bars and casual cafés in which to relax and most of them are open till 11pm or midnight. But it’s the shopping that will keep you going back. Perhaps for that amber-coloured sarong or a couple of woven purses for the girls back home.
If your taste in 5* luxury follows the gleaming white and glossy marble route then I can highly recommend the Danna. This is polished, manicured and refined with every amenity. It boasts the largest pool on the island for those who are training for the Olympics, and rooms that are spacious and well-appointed. There is an inner courtyard garden and even a 3rd floor fish pond. The spa here offers all the usual treatments and is open till late in the evening.
The Danna is also right on the beach with its dazzling white sand. Lounging capsules with soft cushions and a bit of shade will cocoon any reader of a good book while they dream of dinner in the large restaurant. It might be the evening for a barbecue, with the staff putting on a display of local dancing. Food here is a priority, from the champagne breakfast through to the Friday night buffet. An outside excursion might woo the visitor away for the day but nobody would want to miss dinner at the Danna, with a menu of both Western and Malaysian dishes.
A little gentle adventure
Both The Meritus Pelangi Beach Hotel and The Danna offer the highest standards with service to match. The staff are helpful, happy and efficient. Their locations are convenient and there is a host of trips to enjoy for those seeking a little gentle adventure, if you can tear yourself away from the pool or the sea. Take a boat trip around the mangroves to see monkeys, snakes and bats or one can go for a dip in the freshwater lake called Pregnant Lady Lake. The island is a small and accessible area but there is plenty to entertain all the family.
The Langkawi International Airport is one of 7 international airports in Malaysia and connects the island to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang and also Subang.
Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa
Kedah Darul Aman
Phone: 60-4 952 8888
Fax: 60-4 952 8899
General Enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about The Danna here
The Danna Hotel
Telaga Harbour Park
Phone: 604 959 3288
Travel review by Chrissie Walker © 2018