‘Don’t be scared!’ These words of attempted reassurance come from the confident driver, who cuts through the ocean waves on his torpedo-like jet ski – which is probably going 40 mph but feels like 100, or at least to the wimpy passenger behind him, knuckles milky-white from desperately clamping tight around the holding bars for dear life.
Ary’s jet ski had been heading out for the last five minutes, increasingly surrounded by the seas, leaving questions about whether the next four hours of island-hopping would involve dread and terror.
If, like this writer, you’re too much of a big wuss to pilot the jet ski yourself, being driven by a pro is a good option. The jet ski in question was exploring Langkawi, an archipelago of 99 islands off the northwest coast of mainland Malaysia.
It is to this place’s credit that it’s able to calm even the most nervous traveler, thanks to spectacular scenery and so many different things to focus on other than how nervous seafaring jet ski journeys might make you.
Ary – a patient guide who did, it must be said, take safety super seriously – went to Pregnant Maiden Lake, a freshwater lake that is believed by locals to help you become pregnant. It’s surrounded by a giant buffer of glorious nature on the island of Dayang Bunting. Monkeys swing in the trees and birds of every color dart above, providing you with chirpy background music for your strolls and dips.
The area’s many isolated beaches that in Thailand would be swarmed with tourists and locals trying to put slow loris on their shoulders in exchange for money, are here able to be enjoyed with more solitude – although with 3 million tourists a year and growing, it might only be a matter of time before Langkawi is just as invaded, so act fast.
The adventure was rich with enough views that choosing your 10 best pictures to annoy friends with would be a real test of whittling down abilities.
The Danna Hotel boasts the top tier of luxury and world-class service – the latter of which has seen them rated first in Malaysia and in the top 25 in all of Asia, according to Traveler’s Choice, which is quite the accolade in a continent already known for luxury service.
Decadent rooms with views that make pulling back your curtains a euphoric rush every time, and a shimmering poolside lounge area mean the only negative element about the Danna is that it makes you want to stay there and not see the rest of Langkawi. And you’re treated like an A-lister too. The Danna prides itself on having unrivaled service. You’re smiled at so much, you do begin to feel famous.
The hotel also boasts several excellent restaurants – try the lamb curry in The Planters. There’s The Terrace, an Italian eatery with a signature tiramisu that could convert even the most adamant anti- tiramisu diner, as well as tiffin lunches available at Straits & Co and The Verandah, which holds claim to the largest gin collection in Malaysia. And once you’ve tried one too many, there’s a fantastic games room upstairs, where you can enjoy cocktails and billiards into the early hours.
You might need a stiff gin cocktail before going on the Umgawa zipwire experience, which allows you to experience some truly out of this world visual feasts from the air. Scary, yes, but the views make up for it. And if you can’t make it up the wire, the 7 Wells waterfall in the complex can be seen on foot, and is simply stunning.
There are two boat tours you could, and should, partake in, which offer something different from the jet ski adventure. On the Sunset boat tour, you take a lazy and indulgent coast around the islands, with the chance to jump off and go for a swim in bath-like salty seas, with a cocktail bar at your disposal. And the other, a true highlight of any trip and not to be bypassed, is the amazing Mangrove tour.
On the Mangrove tour, you get up close and personal with the wildlife on the islands. Brown monkeys play on branches and come up to you with their families as you sail past, cradling their super-cute babies and providing a never-ending show. Sometimes, they’re very close. One cheeky monkey jumped on our boat looking for food – but left without issue. Soon after, a dolphin came to say hello, and there were also giant lizards and vipers. The tour goes through a bat cave and if you’re lucky, offers views of the island’s iconic eagles. Getting to see the brown monkeys and other animals in their natural habitat felt like a real honor – the Mangrove tour is really special, and informative, too.
For a more entertainment-based day out, head to Oriental Village, home to the world’s steepest cable car ride, which is a staggering 400 feet high, giving perhaps the best views of all in Langkawi. For those not fond of heights, there are a number of other attractions including a three-dimensional art museum known as Art in Paradise, all found at the complex, which is sponsored by Langkawi Development Agency (LADA).
Malaysian food is delicious, the people are warm and welcoming and they have more than enough beauty to make Thailand nervous, especially with easy and reasonably priced flights available through Malaysia Airlines.
Langkawi couldn’t come highly recommended enough from this nervous traveler. There’s nothing to be afraid of.