By David Ngo
Nov 15, 2021
SOME GUIDEBOOKS DESCRIBE Langkawi as a shimmering jewel necklace floating on the Andaman Sea. The original development of the island as a tourist destination was a passion project of one of Malaysia’s former prime ministers, Mahathir Mohamad, who was born in Kedah and come November 15, 2021, you could say his vision will be reborn. Langkawi (named after the sea eagles that inhabit the island) is reopening with no quarantine requirement for vaccinated international tourists.
The Langkawi travel bubble, much like Thailand’s Phuket Sandbox and Samui Plus Sandbox, is geared to recapture global tourist dollars for the country while keeping them isolated on a tropical idyll, testing the waters, as it were, for Malaysia’s ability to keep Covid spread under control with open or semi-open borders. It follows a successful local tourism bubble initiative that began in mid-September.
For all the details on the reopening of Langkawi and how to visit now, see our infographic below.
Malaysia’s move is timely, as Thailand has widely reopened with one-day isolation pending testing and other countries in Southeast Asia look to get their own grooves back. A collection of 99 islands, Langkawi proves a sensible location to test a no-quarantine reopening travel bubble program. It has the infrastructure, for one. Pre-pandemic, the international airport had direct flights to Doha. And there are top-tier resorts with great global appeal.
Most tourists would fly in and flop onto a lounge chair at the pool or the beach of one of many five-star resorts. The Datai has an alluring rainforest-meets-beach setting where wellness and sustainability are planted in the luxury. The Ritz-Carlton (especially its spa pods) is postcard-perfect, The St. Regis has the hottest tables in town at its overwater Kayuputi restaurant, and over at Four Seasons, embedded between a section of karst hill and the sea, adventure activities await. (Read about all three in our article here.) Head to the mangrove swamps to commune with orangutans who’d be happy to shake off their pandemic fatigue with some company by their homes in the swamp.
For stylish humans, Bon Ton Resort’s eight unique villas are comfortable enough to effortlessly ease into tropical rustic luxe living. Over the years, the village chic environs, created by Australian Narelle McMurtie, has been a hit with international insiders. With luscious-sounding villa names like Blue Ginger and Yellow Orchid, who wouldn’t be charmed? Equally commendable is the coffee-table-book-worthy Temple Tree Resort, a 20-villa property popular with the weekend Kuala Lumpur crowd, offering Malaysiana decor with global resort accents. Fun fact: the villas, each with its own backstory, were transported to the island from various parts of Malaysia.
Duty-free Langkawi isn’t just about sleepy hammock vibes (though when you put it that way, maybe a little quarantine wouldn’t be so bad). It has enough attractions to distract hyperactive kids and the equally restless young-at-heart. There’s the Langkawi Cable Car that snakes up the 708 meter Gunung Mat Cincang. At the cable car’s destination, the 125-meter Langkawi Sky Bridge offers bird’s-eye vantage points to take in the sights of the mythical Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) below. Adventurous types might fancy the idea of hopping on a helicopter for unforgettable over island vistas to thrill their inner James Bond.
Courtesy of Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts (2)
Also, Langkawi isn’t called the island of legends for no reason. The 881-meter Gunung Raya is purportedly named after a cursed giant Mat Raya. These days, the mountain’s residents are more of the flying fox, squirrel, and leaf monkey varieties.
For an even deeper dive into nature, venture to the Langkawi UNESCO Global Geopark. It’s the first in Southeast Asia, and one of 147 in the world. The park is made up of Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park, Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park, and Kubang Badak BioGeo Trail. If the adventure trails get too windy or wet, retreat to the Moorish-decked Rhu Bar of Four Seasons Langkawi for delicious cocktails and those magical golden sunsets with which to frame your Insta story — the best way to celebrate the reopening of idyllic Langkawi, we’d say.
To download PDF printable version of this Langkawi reopening infographic, click here.