It’s not easy to find time off. That’s why when we finally do, we hurriedly chase the idea of experiencing a slower paced life – as ironical as it sounds. Stranded between choices for a short, leisurely getaway? No worries. Here’s a breakdown of deal clinchers for two contending islands!
When it comes to island retreats, the only TV show you’ll need is The View. And the only remote? A remote island😉
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Besides its famous white beaches, Langkawi has an abundance of green paddy fields! Instead of taking the typical sunset photo at the beach, how about snapping one from a rice paddy?
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Langkawi is the only place in Southeast Asia that’s listed as a UNESCO Geopark! For peculiar limestone formations, make a dive for the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, which is also home to 25 species of mammals, 84 butterfly species and 238 types of birds!
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With its many beaches, it makes sands that Phuket is often the choice for a little getaway! And yet, with the influx of travellers, many of the island’s beaches are over-developed. Skip the infamous Patong Beach and head straight to lesser known spots like Bang Tao Beach for its powder-white sands and Banana Beach – a favourite with the locals!
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If “Salty Hair, Don’t Care” isn’t a slogan you’d want on a t-shirt, Phuket’s sprawling hills provide numerous viewpoints for views worthy to be put on postcards!
2. Charming Accommodations
At a laidback island, we’d really like to lay back. This means resort-ing to accommodations that are less business hotel, and all chill vibes.
Common lounge area at Pondok Keladi Guest House
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Who says you only get what you pay for? At the Pondok Keladi Guest House, you get the closest brush with nature and a healthy dose of peace at only USD 25-35 per night. Squirrels and monkeys wander about the patch of jungle – and they’re not the only friends you’ll make! Free breakfast will be served in true kampong (village) style, which means you’ll get to know other guests at a shared table!
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At the Temple Tree resort, you’ll stay in one of 8 rustic buildings of Malay, Indian, Chinese and Eurasian origin. Each antique villa has its own story and had been relocated to this patch of land. The Black and White Malay-style House was built in Kuala Lumpur in the 1940s, and the 1920s Colonial House once belonged to goldsmith trading Arabs. Prices range from USD 90-265 per night.
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If you’re willing to splurge, the most posh place you can find in Langkawi is the Four Seasons Resort Langkawi! Prices range from USD 428-1,531 for a Malay-style private pavilion, or a residential-style villa, and a promising view of the Andaman Sea.
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Budget accommodations in Phuket can go as low as USD 6 per night, though they tend to be no-frills. For a place with tropical vibes, the Baan Krating Resort offers rooms with thatched roofs, as well as contemporary bungalows for the modern traveller. At USD 42-132 a night, you’ll get to experience Phuket’s pre-tourism allure.
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If you’re hoping to live like a king or queen during the short time you’re in Phuket, The Slate Phuket is for you! A tropical fruit bowl is served when you arrive, which you may ravish at your own private balcony, Your Highness. If you opt for the extra luxurious suites, you’ll even have butler service and a personal pool! In exchange for the royal treatment, prices are surely extravagant for Thai standards, and range between USD 169 to USD 942.
3. Exciting Things to Do
Your itinerary shouldn’t be limited to lying on the beach and making sand angels. Here are some ways you can avoid being pinched by crabs for overstaying at their homes!
Whether you’re in #TeamThrill or #TeamChill, there are lots of things to do in Langkawi. Get your adrenaline pumping by jet-skiing across Langkawi’s islands, and expend your excess energy at Skytrex, an outdoor adventure park! If you prefer leisurely activities, you can regenerate at the Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) Waterfalls. There’s even a free rice garden and museum for you to take in a few grains of knowledge!
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For the lionhearted souls out there, the Langkawi SkyCab ride is an absolute must-do! One of the steepest cable car rides in the world, it grants you a bird’s eye view of the island and a 360-degree panoramic view when you reach the top of Mount Machinchang. If you’re feeling extra daring, you can walk across the SkyBridge – one of the world’s longest curved suspension bridges!
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Not as adventurous but want to look the part? Visit Art in Paradise Langkawi, the second largest 3D art museum in the world. Demonstrate your levitation skills, travel back in time to Medieval Europe, and walk straight into classic paintings!
Many of Phuket’s activities are water-based – cats, look away! Surrounded by vibrant reefs and corals, the island is an ideal location for swimming, diving, snorkelling, jet-skiing and parasailing. Many small islands also encircle Phuket, so you may want to book a boat cruise and go island-hopping!
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Is this the real life? Is this just FantaSea? You won’t get caught in a landslide, but you can escape from reality at this 140-acre night time cultural theme park! Treat yourself to Phuket’s greatest performance show, which showcases dancers, trapeze walkers, elephants and other animals. Even locals agree it’s an enjoyable way to spend your time!
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Can’t get enough of Phuket’s waters? Don’t cue the waterworks yet – have a splash of a time at the Splash Jungle Water Park! Get ready to be taken on a spin on the park’s rides, and when you’re done, bask in the sun’s glory while you float down the Lazy River.
4. Yummy Local Food
A country’s food shows a lot about its heritage, so excuse us for wanting to eat more – we’re just eager to learn more about the country! Thankfully, finding halal and Muslim-friendly food in these islands isn’t a chore.
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Scour through the night markets, and you’ll learn that the only thing to worry about is not having enough hands to carry plastic bags of street food! Because Islam is the main religion in Langkawi, there’s halal and Muslim-friendly food of a diversity of cuisines available – you’ll find Malay food, Middle Eastern food, Thai food, and even Korean fried chicken!
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Finding Muslim-friendly food in Phuket isn’t difficult. With almost half the population being Muslims, you’ll be relish-ing Thai, Indian and Middle Eastern food, plus we’ve been herring lot about the seafood in Phuket!
P.S. Have a huge appe-thai-te? Grab a Bite at These 3 Muslim Friendly Eateries in Phuket!
5. Shop till you drop!
Relaxing at the beach all weekend may be nice, but sometimes we need a little retail therapy! With colourful, lively markets around these islands, be prepared for what’s in store for you!
For a true reminder of Langkawi’s culture when you’re back home, head to the Atma Alam Batik Art Village, which has an array of items like handbags and cushion covers made from batik!
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Langkawi is a duty-free island, and things here are often cheaper than most parts in Malaysia. Stock up on boxes upon boxes of chocolates at the Teow Soon Huat Duty-Free Shopping Mall and the Oriental Village, which also sells souvenirs and handmade crafts.
If Bangkok’s night markets are your thing, do check out the Phuket Town Weekend Night Market, which is a scaled-down version of them and in a good way too. Like Chatuchak Market, the Phuket Weekend Market hosts a selection of food, clothing, plants, pets, home decor, and more.
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For a refreshing whiff of culture, we’ll put our money on Thalang Road, a Portuguese-style street! On a normal day, it’s a pleasant place for a stroll. But come Sunday evening, you’ll be drawn into a fantastic medley of heritage and colour! Walk the stretch and you’ll see not just the usual items sold at weekend markets, but also some eye-popping handicraft.
Unlike in the concrete jungle we’re used to, transportation in these towns may be a wheel hassle. Though with more tourists pouring in these islands, it’s become more accessible over the years.
There are direct flights to Langkawi International Airport from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Hat Yai and Phuket, so the visit to Langkawi should go airy if you’re travelling from Southeast Asia.
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There’s no public transport in Langkawi, and as roads are still developing in this vast island, it’s best to rent a car at RM50 (USD 11.30) to RM150 (USD 34) a day, depending on its size. Many hotels also rent out bicycles at daily charges ranging from RM10 (USD 2.26) to RM 30 (USD 6.78). Cab fare is on the pricier end as all taxis operate under a fixed price system, which ensures cabbies are paid healthily enough not to rip off their passengers!
As a town that welcomes tourists with open arms, getting to Phuket is easy. Phuket International Airport is the second busiest airport in Thailand, with direct flights from 10 countries.
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Public transport around Phuket is limited, covering only areas between Phuket Town and beach towns. The term ‘bus’ in this town typically doesn’t refer to a conventional bus, but the songthaew – a converted pick-up truck – a more common sight than the kind of bus we’re used to seeing. Fare is cheap, going from THB 25 (USD 0.70) to THB 40 (USD 1.12). There are no definite stops – drivers pick passengers up and drop them off upon request.
Another way to commute around is by taxi. There are three kinds that operate in Phuket – the first being tuk-tuks, which are like mini songthaews, and the second being unofficial taxis, but we recommend sticking to the third – metered taxis. They’re safer and usually cheaper than tuk-tuks, although they’re more difficult to spot.
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While Langkawi and Phuket are both similarly popular beach destinations with a multitude of activities to do, we’ll crown Langkawi as the contender for the perfect island getaway. It’s more peaceful with less traffic – great for enjoying lazy days with. It’s said that Langkawi’s beaches are what Phuket’s unspoilt beaches used to be 10 years ago! There are also more halal food choices available, and the hard tooth is, food is a belly huge factor for us gluttons!
If you’re one for more developed places, book it to Phuket! It’s the noisier destination between the two, but much easier to shuttle around. Although, with direct flights from Phuket to Langkawi, who’s thai-ing to stop you from visiting BOTH islands?