Places to visit – Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi was the last stop on our 2-week Malaysian holiday earlier this year (if you don’t count our stopover in Kuala Lumpur on the way home). Our primary reason for visiting was to do as little as possible on the beach!

We stayed at the Tropical Resort on Pantai Tengah. The hotel itself wasn’t on the beach but a very short (2 minute) walk down to the beach. It was a complex of 1 storey rooms and some communal areas, all very clean and well maintained. We thought it was very good value for money!

Pantai Tengah and the adjacent Pantai Cenang are the two main beaches on Langkawi and are fairly touristy, although the beach at Pantai Tengah is a lot quieter. It suited what we wanted well: there were lots of shops and restaurants near to the hotel, and Pantai Cenang had a large selection of bars and restaurants on the beach itself which was a lovely way to spend an evening. We took quite a few sunset photos!

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My only complaint about Pantai Tengah was the lack of shade. It was very exposed for most of the day, apart from very early in the morning and our hotel did not provide sun shades. This made it difficult to spend too much time in one go on the beach! We would go for a little while and spend some time in the sea, and then have to go back to the hotel to cool off!

We didn’t do that much while we were in Langkawi as we just wanted to relax, but here are some things we did do:

Cable car and waterfalls

The Langkawi cable car on the north-west side of the island will take you up to the top of Gunung Machinchang, where there are some great views over Langkawi.

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There is also a ‘sky bridge’ up there but it has been closed almost since it was open from what I can gather.

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We went by taxi from Pantai Cenang and it wasn’t that expensive. The cable car is situated in a very strange purpose-built touristy “village” which was pretty much deserted when we went. But the cable car was good fun and we got some fairly decent pictures from the top. Having read reviews online, the best advice is to pick a clear day to go as you’ll be in the clouds otherwise!

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Nearby are the Telaga Tujuh waterfalls, which are about a 15 minute walk from the cable car. Unfortunately, once you get to the bottom, there are a large number of steps up to the top! It’s quite a climb but doesn’t actually take too long. Also, you have two options: you can go all the way to the top, or stop halfway at the base of the waterfall which gives great views of the waterfall itself.

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However, if you continue up to the top, you get to the beautiful pools where you can slide from one pool to the next! The water was cool and this was lots of fun. I think we went at quite a dry time of year (January) but you could still slide between the pools.

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Boat trip

There are lots of reasonably priced boat trips which will take you round some of the outlying islands. Our hotel recommended one that was organised by a nearby agent so we went with that. For the price it was pretty good value! Plus, our boat was a lot less crowded than some of the others so I guess we picked a good company to go with (unfortunately I don’t know the name).

The first stop on the boat trip was to the Island of the Pregnant Maiden (Pulau Dayang Bunting). This island has a large freshwater lake in the middle where you can have a swim or go on a pedal boat. Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo of the lake but it really was a beautiful spot. There were a lot of monkeys though, and they were trying to grab anything they thought might be food.

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Our next stop was at a bay where they fed sea eagles. It was certainly an impressive sight to see all the sea eagles flying around, although afterwards we heard that they attract the sea eagles by feeding them chicken skin which isn’t nourishing for them and means that they have problems forming eggshells for their offspring.

We finished at a tropical beach on a small island. Unfortunately, our boat was doing the same trip as a number of other boats so whilst we were the first to arrive and enjoy the soft sand and clear sea, it wasn’t long before it was overtaken by a number of other people! It was a nice stopover though, and the beach had lots of shade and some food and drinks vendors.

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Rampant Sailing day trip

This was our ‘splurge’ whilst we stayed in Langkawi as it was pretty expensive, but I have to admit that it was totally worth the money! This day trip aboard a beautiful catamaran promises that there will be no more than 10 of you on the boat (there were 8 the day that we went) and sails around some of the small islands around Langkawi.

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The couple that own the boat are lovely and treated us like royalty the whole day! We were supplied with cold drinks whenever we wanted, and they provided an amazing spread for lunch. The views from the boat were wonderful, and we were never bored as there were activities to do as well – from a jacuzzi-like experience in a net being towed behind the boat, to kayaking, relaxing in hammocks in the water and a stopoff for a jungle trek where Tom saw a monitor lizard!

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So, that finishes my little summary of our Malaysian holiday, which covered Kuala Lumpur, the Cameron Highlands, Penang and Langkawi. We had a great time and would recommend Malaysia to anyone.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel

Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island

The Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island is more commonly known as the Big Buddha. It was built on top of a hill and can be seen from quite a way away. It was only built quite recently (in the ’90s) and is a bit of a tourist attraction, with a purpose-built ‘village’ of shops and restaurants lining your route to the Buddha. Having said that, it’s on the list of ‘must-see’ things for most tourists to Hong Kong and the cable car up to the Buddha is quite fun.

Lantau Tian Tan Buddha

To get the cable car up, take the MTR Tung Chung line to Tung Chung. As you leave the MTR station, head round the buildings in front of you to the right and you should see the cable car station ahead (called Ngong Ping 360). The cable car costs HK$135 for a return trip, or $94 one-way, for a standard cabin. Both times I’ve been, I’ve had to queue for well over an hour. To avoid this, I would either book online or either go very early in the day (it opens at 10am on weekdays and 9am at weekends and public holidays) or mid-afternoon. I came back from the Big Buddha at about 3.30pm on a weekday afternoon and there was virtually no queue to go up. Booking online will at least fast-track you through the first part of the queue (which goes to the ticket desks) but you will still have to queue for the cable cars.

Once you have made it into a cable car (and had the obligatory photo taken), you can sit back and enjoy a 30 minute trip through the hills up to the Big Buddha. You get a great view of the airport! (the geek in me loved seeing the planes landing and taking off!)

Hong Kong airport from the cable car

And also the hills and the Buddha…

Lantau hills from the cable car

Big Buddha from the cable car

When you get to the end, walk through the purpose-built Ngong Ping village and out the other side and you will see the Buddha on your right above you. Follow the signs to the steps up to the Buddha itself.

Steps up to the Big Buddha

There are quite a lot of steps! I’ve not made it up without at least one breather on the way up! Oh, and there’s a counter at the bottom of the steps where you will be asked if you want to buy a ticket. The Buddha is free, I think the ticket is for an exhibition inside the Buddha, so don’t feel that you need to buy a ticket before you go up.

Once you get to the top you are rewarded with further views of the Big Buddha, the surrounding hills and the nearby Po Lin monastery.

Tian Tan Buddha, Hong Kong

Po Lin monastery, Lantau

I believe you can go into the monastery, but I haven’t done so.

The view from the Big Buddha is nice, but not very exciting. I don’t think I’ve spent more than about 20 minutes up there in one go. One way to make the most of your cable car journey up that I would recommend is to have lunch at the Zen Noodle Cafe which is in the Ngong Ping village near the cable car station. My friend and I both had the Udon noodles there, which were huge and very tasty – the noodles in particular tasted very fresh! And it was only $50 (approx. £4.20) too.

There are various options for you after your visit to the Big Buddha. You could take the cable car back down and go back to Hong Kong and do something else with your day. You could walk back down to Tung Chung, which I think would take a couple of hours. You could take a number 23 bus from Ngong Ping village to Tai O, which is a fishing village partly built on stilts. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed with it, it’s quite small and dirty and apart from a boat trip where you “might” see some pink dolphins, there wasn’t anything to do there. Alternatively, if the weather is good, you can take the number 21 bus from Ngong Ping village to Cheung Sha beach. This is a really nice beach and is usually not too busy compared with most Hong Kong beaches. Upper Cheung Sha beach has some great restaurants too (although you might need to book in advance on Sundays or public holidays).

Overall, I’d say that the Big Buddha is very touristy but probably worth doing if you like that kind of thing. If you’re interested in Buddhism and want to see temples and religious sights, then I’d recommend somewhere like the Sik Sik Yuen temple instead.

Thanks for reading!

Rachel