26 Jan 2011

Experience Malaysia’s island life… just watch out for mini-bar monkeys!

Langkawi is so laid back, it’s best viewed from a hammock, which is where most holidaymakers spend their time in this neck of the rainforest. Like Bali before it was invaded by the bucket-and-spade brigade, this idyllic island in the Andaman Sea is the largest of an archipelago of 99 scattered off the coast of Malaysia.

Reclining with a cocktail or two vies with eating as the most popular pastime in this lazy haven, where barely an eyelid is batted when a six-foot monitor lizard saunters by. Resident red eagles scale the clear blue skies above (Langkawi literally means ‘reddish brown eagle’ in colloquial Malay), and cheeky monkeys have been known to enter hotel rooms and make light work of emptying mini bars!

If eating is your thing, welcome to paradise. You may well spot the TV chef and seafood guru Rick Stein here, picking up tips at the restaurants of Pantai Cenang, such as the legendary Siti Fatimah and The Nam at the resort of Bon Ton.

Malaysians like to start the day with one of two breakfast staples: roti canai is a delish pancake dish and nasi lemak is steamed coconut rice, typically served with eggs and anchovies (actually nicer than it sounds) and wrapped in banana leaves or little parcels of newspaper. Pair with sweet and frothy tarik tea, for the ultimate cuppa to cure a night of over indulgence.

For lunch, try the buffet-style champor champor at one of the island’s roadside canteens. For just a few ringgits (the local currency), you get enough rice to fill a paddy field, with spicy fish, meat and veggies curries. Tuck in Malay-style, with a fork and spoon.

Beach-lovers can luxuriate in the best white sands set against the jungle-clad cliffs of Datai Bay. Free from salesmen flogging mass-produced trinkets masquerading as traditional handicrafts, this idyll may be a hike from bars and restaurants at nearby Pantai Cenang, but it’s worth it.

For an even more exclusive beach feel, hire a boat and explore some of the other 98 islands, most of which are completely uninhabited. Langkawi’s four marinas have boats and yachts for hire (skippers optional), and Bon Ton has a traditional wooden sailing boat, which can be chartered by the half or full day. Pick an island, drop anchor, swim, sunbathe and barbecue (food rather than your own flesh, that is – SPF 30 recommended). With blissfully little else to do, other than perfect your Ursula Andress impression, this is guaranteed to be a relaxing holiday – and all you Bond Girls out there deserve it.

While You're There…

Get wild
For a David Attenborough moment, try a Langkawi Canopy Adventure, where balancing precariously on an aerial walkway brings you alarmingly close the tree-top wildlife. Watch out for the flying squirrels – seriously!

Make like Nigella
Langkawi Cookery School in Bon Ton Coconut Village in Pantai Cenang, offers fab foodie classes for would-be Nigellas who want to take home culinary tips.

Cable trip
Want to see what the world’s biggest bowl of broccoli would look like? Take the island’s cable-car ride to the top of Machincang mountain range and look down on all 99 forested islands in this archipelago.

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