Malaysia days 7-12: beach life and local community in Langkawi Island + my 29th birthday!

My last days in Malaysia were just beautiful. After a week in Malaysia’s big cities, I headed to a beach island off of West Malaysia called Langkawi. It was also my birthday(!), and I wanted to choose a relaxing, scenic place to celebrate. Langkawi blew me away in so many ways. Mostly, the community there was wonderful, and it was one of the few times on this trip I felt like part of a family. In the end, I’m pleasantly surprised to say Langkawi was one of my favorite stops of my gap year so far!

What started as a relaxing beach vacation turned into a packed few days of partying, spending time with new friends, and enjoying local life on the island. Writing this post is the first time I’ve had a chance to catch my breath and reflect.

Instead of my usual day-to-day recaps, I’m going to sum up my time in Langkawi altogether since most days looked similar. I also have a brief post-country reflection at the end for my short but sweet time in Malaysia.

Langkawi is a small island, and the main draws are the white sand beaches, solid tourism infrastructure, and even some surfing. There were plenty of natives/foreigners visiting Langkawi, but it still had an authentic vibe versus some other beach islands in SE Asia with way more tourists (like Thailand).

The town was quaint and accessible, with plenty of eateries, shopping, tour companies, etc.

The town also had a commercial feel, as there was plenty of construction going on. I’m glad I visited now as I’m guessing Langkawi will feel more like a resort town in 5 years.

I stayed at Rembulan Hostel near the main street. It was the best decision and 100% why my time here was so sweet! There was a large community of locals who worked/hung out at the hostel, and they instantly welcomed me into the family. The guests were also down to earth as we had a girl gang going. I cannot say enough good things about this hostel. πŸ™‚ Also, they had SO many cats! I was in heaven.

During my time here, I rented a scooter so I could see the island on my own and have more freedom. During the day, I usually woke up early before the rest of the hostel and headed out for a morning adventure.

There are a lot of attractions to see in Langkawi (cultural sites, parks, waterfalls). I saw a few of them, but my favorite sites were seen randomly driving on the backcountry roads. One of my favorite spots I stumbled upon was this restaurant right in the middle of a rice paddy field. They had picnic tables set up on the fields and it was so scenic.

There were mostly locals eating there. They welcomed me in and explained all the food to me. I got to try some new treats. πŸ™‚

A friend in Langkawi recommended another cool spot called Maw Art. I didn’t know much about it other than it was an art gallery. Finding it was quite an adventure! I was in the middle of the countryside looking for something that resembled an art gallery, but all I found were these modest, nondescript homes. I ended up knocking door to door until I could find it.

When I finally reached it, the inside transformed into a chic and zen art gallery and coffee shop. It was very cool, especially with the backdrop of the countryside. I stayed for a bit and relaxed with my iced latte.

Another scooter adventure was driving up Gunung Raya, the tallest peak in Langkawi. I was not smart about fuel and almost ran out of gas, so 2 km to the top, I turned around. Nevertheless, I got beautiful views of the island on the drive. I got lucky with the weather especially since it’s been rainy season.

After my morning drive, I usually had lunch in town and took a nap. Around 4pm, it was time to head to the beach with the hostel crew. I loved this group activity that everyone joined each day, and by the end, I got so much beach time. πŸ™‚ Most of the crew would surf, while a few of us laid out on the beach.

This was my favorite part of the day – so many good talks with friends on the beach. Especially one French girl named Jessica; she was so genuine and had great energy. We instantly connected from day 1.

We all stayed through sunset each day. Beautiful.

After beach time, we’d head back to the hostel, clean up, and then head out for dinner as a group. Depending on the day, our night group ended up being quite large with the entire staff of local guys, our group of female guests, and friends from other hostels as well. In this case, it truly was the more the merrier. πŸ™‚

After dinner, we’d either hang out back at the hostel or go out in the town. This was the most partying I’ve done on my whole trip. A good night always ended with 7eleven, in the true SE Asia fashion. πŸ˜‰

My birthday!

The one day I want to recap fully was my birthday and also my last day in Malaysia! I remember planning Malaysia and thinking, β€œI would be completely content spending my birthday on the beach, getting a massage, and eating dinner solo.” Well, what ended up unfolding was a packed day of fun activities and being showered with love from my new friends here. 

My day started with a day trip with the girls. We drove to the other part of the island for a waterfall swim. There was a small hike to reach the waterfall, but once we got there, we were greeted with a tall, strong fall with several swimming holes. It was magical! There were other locals around, but we still had plenty of space to swim. The freshwater was a nice change from the salty beach.

Afterward, we got some ice cream and waffles and headed to the beach near our hostel. It was the perfect spot to relax before the night ahead. 

After our outing, we headed back and cleaned up, and then it was time to hit the town with the usual suspects. We all crammed into this pickup truck. It’s been a fantasy of mine to ride in the back of a pickup truck, and it was a LOT of fun. The things you can do in SE Asia. πŸ˜‰

Happy hour and watching the sunset on the beach. Perfection. Everyone was so sweet and sang me happy birthday several times. I never imagined I would feel so special on my birthday while traveling alone this year. 

Girl shot! All the girls were solo travelers from France (except me, of course). 

We caught a fire show at the main club on the beach. Reminded me of my Thailand days.  

Then, we went to the main event of the night – a music festival! A bunch of Langkawi local artists performed at this event, and it was popping. It felt like the entire island came out for this. We danced, ate, and enjoyed the good vibes and music. It felt like a very local thing to do. 

And that sums up my 29th birthday! Between the unexpected fun in Langkawi, support from my new friends here, and love received from people back home, 29 goes down as one of my best birthdays ever, if not the best. πŸ™‚ ❀

And with that, my short but sweet time in Malaysia is through. This whole year, I’ve left each country feeling complete and ready to move on, but this is the first time I wish I had more time. I originally chose to spend less time in Malaysia because I wanted to free up time for other places, but every step ended up being beyond what I imagined. I can say this is one of the most underrated places in SE Asia! 

I enjoyed that Malaysia is more developed than the rest of SE Asia – similar comforts/infrastructure of east Asia but with the rustic charm of SE Asia – the best of both worlds. Big cities were rich in culture but not overwhelming, making KL and Penang two of my new favorite big cities in the world. And of course, the chill vibes, authenticity, and community of Langkawi were right up my alley. Lastly, I absolutely loved the melting pot culture of Malaysia, especially from China, India, and Indonesia (which at this point I’ve all visited). Again, so underrated! 

Even though my time here was short, it was packed with meaningful experiences, especially since I sped up my traveling pace to see as much as possible. So at the moment, I am feeling a bit drained and finding it hard to switch gears for my next country. I might have to slow things down to catch my breath and reflect on everything.  

Currently, I’m blogging on my flight to Hanoi, Vietnam! As much as I’m still processing Malaysia, I’m beyond excited to eventually settle into Vietnam and spend a whole month here. This will also be the last country of my gap year…can time please slow down?

Love and light to you all!  

4 thoughts on “Malaysia days 7-12: beach life and local community in Langkawi Island + my 29th birthday!

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