Penang marked almost the end of our time in Malaysia. We had a 2 night stay in Langkawi and then began our island hopping into Thailand. We ended up flying from Penang to Langkawi because we heard the ferry crossing can be very rough, it is quite long and I get seasick. In the end the flights with Air Asia were only a couple of dollars more than the boat so it was an easy choice.
Langkawi is an archipelago of around 99 islands on Malaysia’s west coast, right near the border with Thailand. It is also a duty free island, which seems to be one of its claims to fame and a main reason why many visit here. Maybe we didn’t see the best bits but overall we were a bit disappointed by Langkawi. I can see that if you come from a big city then the beaches must seem nice, but when you come from New Zealand where we have truly beautiful beaches, or if you have been to Thailand’s beaches then Langkawi doesn’t really compare, in my opinion.
Atma Alam Batik Art Village
We had enjoyed a visit to a Batik gallery in Penang. There is a gallery / shop / workroom, the Batik Art Village, in Langkawi. Here you can also try your hand at painting yourself. For our one full day in Langkawi we decided to do this in the morning and then head to a beach. This turned out to be an excellent choice and between exploring the huge gallery / shop, watching the artists at work and doing our own art, we spent over 2 hours there. The shop has beautiful scarves, dresses, tablecloths, bags…
For the art workshop they have a number of prepared designs on fabric, with waxed borders, as in this picture. This is the one L did.
Watercolour paints are then applied to each section of fabric. The paint will run until it reaches the wax edge. You need to work quickly applying paint to each section and blending colours. L & S both loved this and keep asking for more art classes.
We were the only ones there at the time but they do get tour buses in at times so if you plan to visit it is a good idea to call first to check if they have space. By the time we finished it was midday and time to head to the beach.
We’d heard mixed things about Langkawi, some people raved about the beaches. We visited the popular Pantai Cenang beach area, it was pretty enough but the water was stingy. We couldn’t see jellyfish but we could feel small stings and after awhile it became unpleasant to stay in. The resort area itself wasn’t pleasant, cheap, poorly done development and expensive tourist prices. I’ve heard there are nicer beaches in more remote parts of the island. We didn’t have time to visit them and to be honest we weren’t too sad to leave Langkawi.
Ferry from Langkawi to Koh Lipe
Taking the ferry from Langkawi to Koh Lipe is a popular way to travel from Malaysia into Thailand. We travelled with Tropical Charters, it is a 90 minute trip to Koh Lipe in Thailand.
It is a bit chaotic and confusing at both ends for immigration. You handover passports, then wait to receive them back about 20 minutes later with boarding passes. You go through Malaysian immigration to exit, then you handover your passports again for the whole journey. You arrive at Koh Lipe on a pontoon, there is no jetty so you have to take a long tail boat into shore. You can take your luggage with you, or they will unload larger pieces to shore in a separate boat. We know this because we were last off and ended up in the luggage boat!
You then line up at a hut on the beach to get your passport back and line up again for immigration. There was just one immigration officer for a boat full of people. Smart people put one person in each line to save time! All the time there are no actual instructions or signs you sort of just figure it out. Then you pay the national park fee and you’re in! We’d read online that crossing by sea / land into Malaysia meant we would only get a 15 day visa in our NZ passport, although Paul and the kids could have used their UK passport for a 30 day visa. But in the end we were given 30 days in our NZ passports so all was well. For simplicity we usually stick to using our NZ passports at immigration so we are all on the same one.
So that is 23 days in Malaysia including Borneo done and here we are in Thailand.