Whether you’re looking for adventure or a beautiful place in the sun, Malaysia is the destination where you can have it all on a reasonable budget.
Malaysia is filled with places to explore and plenty of surprises. It’s known for tropical scenery, wildlife and idyllic islands containing natural wonders.
Langkawi is one of those special islands. The duty-free isle is a UNESCO Global Geopark because of its 550 million years of geology, 99 limestone rocks and islands, many in extraordinary shapes.
In classic Malay literature, Langkawi is depicted as the resting place of Garuda, the mythical bird ridden by the god Vishnu. Beyond the crystal aquamarine waters and pristine beaches are tropical rainforests filled with flora and fauna, some very rare.
The name Langkawi comes from the words “helang” meaning eagle and “kawi” meaning strong in ancient Malay. Therefore eagle-spotting is a must. The best way is to take a boat along the mangrove forest in the northeastern part of the island. There eagles hover above the water, as low as 10 meters, then suddenly dive in to catch fish.
Tourists are warned not to spoil eagles by feeding them since eagles are solitary birds and feeding has already altered the natural habits of some eagles.
Cave of bats
Langkawi has a vast number of limestone caves that are home to fruit bats, birds, insects and invertebrates. Some caves are archeological sites, while some are used to harvest edible birds’ nests that are made into valuable tonics.
The cave of bats is near the eagle watching site. Remember to take a flashlight to see the legions of bats hanging upside down. The numbers are countless.
Remember to wear a hat because the bats might dump guano on your head if they feel disturbed.
At dusk, the bats swarm out to feed on fruit and insects. If you look carefully, you might see a snake waiting to lunge at a bat, which is famously “blind.”
Langkawi is a paradise for hikers. It has a large stretch of rainforest in its northwest where you can begin a jungle adventure or stroll in a secret garden. If you cannot find a local guide, you can spend a night at the Datai Hotel in the rainforest. It has many different rooms, suites and cottages, including some on a creek. At night you can hear a symphony of insects and frogs.
Theme parks for children
Apart from natural beauty and islands, Malaysia has theme parks, including LEGOLAND Malaysia and Hello Kitty Town in Johor, Nusajaya, near Singapore. LEGOLAND is the first of its kind in Asia.
Opened last year, it contains miniature replicas of Asia’s popular landmarks, including the Summer Palace in Beijing, the Taj Mahal in India and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Nearby is Sanrio Hello Kitty Town, the first Hello Kitty theme park outside of Japan. There are Hello Kitty attractions, rides and interactive games.
Girls can dress up, decorate their nails and make jewelry, cookies and get a Hello Kitty Doll at Hello Kitty’s Wish Studio.
How to get to Langkawi and Johor:
Malaysia Airlines flies direct from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi and Johor. Baggage allowance 30kg, so there’s no need to worry about buying too much on the duty-free island and buying children’s toys.
Where to stay:
In Langkawi, the Datai Hotel in the rainforest.
In Johor: Traders Hotel, next door to Hello Kitty Town and 10 miinutes’ drive from LEGOLAND Malaysia.
Hello Kitty entrance fee: MYR75 (US$23)
LEGOLAND Malaysia one-day tickets: MYR110 for children 3-11, seniors over 60, MYR140 for children 12 and older and adults under 59.