Following our lazy and luxurious Christmas at the Berjaya resort we returned to our backpacker status (and budget) in Langkawi’s major beach resort Pantai Cenang. The beach here is beautiful, 2km of silky white sand and clear turquoise sea, its lined with low rise bungalow resorts, water-sports companies, laid-back bars and palm trees. Its an ideal location to relax for a few days, reading and working on a tan – everything you need is within walking distance plus, the breeze you get from the sea keeps you sane in the intense humidity.
We spent six days in Pantai Cenang during the peak season over New Year and were lucky to find a room as pretty much everywhere was either fully booked or very expensive. For our first few nights we stayed at the new Rasa Cenang (formerly Twenty Twenty), the chalets here are basic but clean with decent AC and hot showers. After a pleasant stay we moved down the road to a slightly more luxurious room in the Langura Baron Resort, rooms here are huge and serviced daily. We recommend both resorts as they are so central and just a couple of minutes walk from the beach, we felt that they were pretty good value considering the season at around 150 MYR (£28) a night.
Behind the beach is the busy main strip of guest houses, hotels, bars, restaurants and shops. As you would expect in a popular tourist resort the food can be hit and miss and overpriced. Pantai Cenang has tonnes of choice along the main strip and beach, here are a few of our favourites and a couple to avoid.
Pak Tam Corner Food. This quaint little shack of a restaurant is located right next door to Rasa Cenang and serves the best Malay dishes in town for about a quarter of the price of the large tourist places. Its only open in the evening for dinner as in the daytime this place doubles as a garage. The local staff are super friendly and our favourite dishes were Tom Yum and Padprik, food here is quick, simple and very tasty. Look out for the newspaper wrapped pyramids of rice, anchovies and chilli paste on the table at the front – a delicious takeaway snack for about 1.30 MYR (25p!).
. You can’t miss this bright yellow bar and restaurant situated right on the beach. The food here is mainly western and quite expensive but portion sizes are generous and their salads and baguettes are super fresh. Its a very popular place especially at happy hour for BOGOF beers. It was here that Steve met one of his daytime TV heroes Dominic Littlewood and apparently James Blunt was there the night before so I think we can say its good for celeb spotting too!
Rafi’s. Another fab place for food and beers at the beach. They mainly serve Malay dishes and all are very reasonably priced, we especially loved their Rendang, Padprik and calamari. The staff are friendly and helpful too.
Red Tomato. This trendy bar is located on the main strip opposite the big duty free shop (near Underwater World). Once we’d discovered it, it quickly became our favourite place for brunch/lunch. Their menu is mainly western ie. salads, sandwiches etc and they serve huge portions at a good price. Service is efficient and friendly. Don’t bother with the place that has a similar name next door.
Yasmin. Unfortunately there are not many hawker stalls in Pantai Cenang but we managed to find this one that serves fresh falafel wraps cooked to order for just 10 MYR (£2). Its the ultimate anti-tourist restaurant solution.
. This Korean family run Korean restaurant is a real hidden gem. The family who run it are so lovely and their daughter is a fantastic chef. They specialise in serving authentic Korean dishes, we chose Kimchi Jji Gae (tuna and cabbage stew) and Beef Boukeum, both were absolutely delicious – we really wished we had discovered this place before our final night! Haroo Haroo is located just before the big duty free shop on the opposite side of the road – keep an eye out for their bright orange sign.
3 Amigos. Possibly the worst Mexican food we’ve ever been served! We waited almost an hour for the smallest burritos we’d ever seen and fish tacos that also came in a tortilla – we got the impression that every dish was in fact a burrito. We sent the food back and definitely weren’t the only unhappy diners in there that evening. The pizza restaurant next door shares the same kitchen so we imagine the food and service to be just as bad. Instead we grabbed a tasty falafel wrap from the Yasmin hawker stall listed above.
The cafe next to the Tomato food court serves very bland food in small portions and is quite pricey for a food court, you shouldn’t really pay more than 5 MYR (£1) per dish. For authentic,cheap, local food go to Pak Tam Corner Food mentioned above. We didn’t eat at the Tomato food court, the buffet and mainly Indian dishes put us off.
Vicky also visited Alun Alun Spa
one of the many spas in Pantai Cenang for a luxury pedicure. Definitely her best one yet and worth the expense, the spa was very busy especially with Japanese and Korean men who apparently love a good facial.
We recommend Pantai Cenang as a great destination for a holiday if you can handle the Malaysian humidity. It was a little too expensive for our traveller budget and we didn’t explore much more of Langkawi or go any excursions because of this (and our laziness!). We really wanted to go on the Sky Bridge near the cable car but unfortunately its been closed for the past two years. We also visited the neighbouring beach of Pantai Tengah but we quickly left again as we felt Pantai Cenang is much nicer, you can get cheaper accommodation down this part of town though.
Langkawi is situated very close to Thailand and Koh Lipe
, a gorgeous Thai island we’d been wanting to visit for years. As our travelling plan is quite fluid we took the opportunity to go! Passport stamped, we jumped aboard a very bumpy and crowded speedboat for the 60km journey (75 minutes). Every travel agent sells boat tickets to Thailand and many of its islands – the price includes hotel pick up, your visit to the immigration office and the boat journey itself. More on Koh Lipe in our next post…