Destinations Malaysia Travel Notes Week by Week

Week by Week 15: Postcards from Langkawi

February 6, 2016

I’ve been in Penang for three weeks now.

Most of the people I meet passing through the hostel think that I’m crazy. “A few weeks?!” they repeat after me, incredulous. “What could you possibly do here for that long?!”

For me, it’s gone quickly. I’ve settled into a routine that revolves around working at the hostel, wandering the streets of Georgetown with my camera in hand and going out to dinner with friends. I explore whenever and wherever I want, and for the first time in seemingly forever, I make time to write everyday. Penang has been almost everything that I wanted after my last hectic couple of months in Australia.

Only one thing’s been missing: the beach.



This week, a few of us made a break for it, escaping the city for an overnight trip to paradise. Langkawi — the most popular island on this side of Malaysia — is only a three-hour ferry ride away. As beach-deprived as I’ve felt here after living in Melbourne and Broome, I knew that I couldn’t leave without at least checking it out.

During our short trip to Langkawi, the forecast was almost entirely cloudy. Every splash of sun was matched by a short drizzle. Our first impression of the beach was the annoying beeping and grinding of construction for a new resort, and within minutes of jumping into the ocean, sea lice were stinging us all over.

It wasn’t the island paradise I was picturing after weeks in the city, but you know what? It was kind of perfect.

We found a beautiful stretch of beach with only a handful of people, took advantage of the island’s duty-free fame to enjoy some mojitos and went for a night swim by the green light of the far-off squid boats. Mostly, we did nothing. For us, Langkawi was all lazy island bliss.

I returned to Penang refreshed, inspired and ready to hit the road again — although with a slight change of plans. Next up: Thailand!







I’m still slowly but surely working my way through Richard Flanagan’s Gould’s Book of Fish,, which is making Tasmania collide with Malaysia in my daydreams. I often try to read books related to where I’m traveling, but this book is too fascinating to not read, no matter how many worlds away it feels. (Has it really only been a month since I was in Tassie?!)

Listening to…

Ever since its release on Australia Day, I’ve been listening to a lot of Triple J’s Hottest 100 from 2015. It plays like a soundtrack to my year in Australia, which gives me all the feels. I love it!

& Feeling Inspired by…

I so love this postcard project from National Geographic. I’m usually the type who buys postcards, never gets around to sending them and eventually uses them as cards back home (sorry, friends!), but this has me feeling inspired to step up my postcard game.

I’m also seriously impressed by Caitlin from A Girl Abroad, who just wrapped up her trip cycling across the whole of Vietnam. Her posts about the journey have me dying to do something like this one day!

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  • Reply Terra February 6, 2016 at 8:45 pm

    What beach in Langkawi did you experience sea lice? I will be there in mid-April, and was so looking forward to the beaches, but hearing about sea lice makes me a little more apprehensive. Also, what is your favorite part of Penang?

    • Reply Katie February 7, 2016 at 2:16 am

      I think they were sea lice, at least! We were on Cenang Beach. They weren’t unbearable, but we couldn’t stay in for as long as I would have liked. There’s SO much to love in Penang! I’ve been staying in Georgetown right outside the historical zone and it’s been perfect. Would definitely recommend anywhere around Chulia and Armenia Streets. If you have any more questions, just let me know 🙂

  • Reply Rachel February 7, 2016 at 5:36 am

    I’m in Koh Lanta now, at least for a few more days. (I actually considered heading to Malaysia via Koh Lipe). Thinking of heading to Koh Tao next! Let me know where you’re going in Thailand!

    • Reply Katie February 7, 2016 at 7:41 am

      Actually heading to Ko Lipe and then Ko Lanta! Maybe we’ll cross paths?!

  • Reply Prianka | Map Halves February 8, 2016 at 2:47 am

    The beaches at the far end of Penang (called Batu Ferringhi) are pretty as well. Not stunning like Thailand, but lots of beach bars so you can have your toes in the sand and drink a couple mojitos ^^

    • Reply Katie February 8, 2016 at 6:37 am

      Thanks for the advice! I’d heard some meh reviews from friends at the hostel, but maybe they were just expecting Thailand? Should definitely check it out before I go!

  • Reply Caitlin February 11, 2016 at 12:01 am

    Thanks for the mention Katie – glad to be inspiring a few other adventures! Sounds like Langkawi wasn’t up to all the hype – I’d been thinking of going there, but settled on Myanmar as something a little more exciting instead! How long are you in Thailand for? I’ll be heading there for a few weeks of diving right after Myanmar. 🙂

    • Reply Katie February 16, 2016 at 4:58 am

      No problem, Caitlin — excited to share your adventure with others! Would LOVE to do a cross-country biking trip someday. Langkawi was good enough as a city getaway with friends, but its definitely not up to par with the other islands I’ve visited in SE Asia. I think you made the right call with Myanmar! I’ll be in Thailand for a month in total, I think. Maybe we’ll cross paths?!

  • Reply Ellie February 17, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Hey! I’m making a list of everywhere I need to go to in Malaysia whilst living in Singapore and will have to put Langkawi at the top! Do you know if you were there on low season?

    • Reply Katie February 20, 2016 at 5:07 am

      I think we were there during high season, actually! For us, Langkawi was a good island getaway from Penang (which is also an island, but not one to visit for its beaches!) — we had a good group of people, so it was a good time. Honestly, though, I don’t know that I’d put it at the top of your list — it really doesn’t compare to other islands I’ve visited in SE Asia. It was weird, too, because even though every hostel was completely booked and we stayed in the main backpacking area, we hardly ran into anyone. But hey — our trip was short, and there’s A LOT we didn’t see! Definitely let me know if you make it and how you find it 🙂

  • Reply LC March 10, 2016 at 12:12 am

    Australian beaches do ruin you for life – I feel your pain. So glad you managed to find some sand and surf! Enjoy Penang!
    LC recently posted…A Birthday and a Bug: First Impressions of CubaMy Profile

    • Reply Katie March 20, 2016 at 11:48 pm

      Thanks, LC! I guess the amazing beaches there just mean I’ll have to plan a trip back soon 🙂

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