Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Strait Talking in Malaysia; Nudging the Thai Border, the Island of Langkawi Is about to Be Even Easier to Reach. Chris Folley Is Lured by Its Tropical Appeal

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Strait Talking in Malaysia; Nudging the Thai Border, the Island of Langkawi Is about to Be Even Easier to Reach. Chris Folley Is Lured by Its Tropical Appeal

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Folley Edited by Sophie Lam

ILOVE the sound of rainforest in the morning -- you slide open the windows to your balcony and are greeted by the chatter of cicadas and birds tweeting. A crash of a branch suddenly sends monkeys scurrying around, looking for food.

It's a regular scene at the Berjaya resort on Pulau Langkawi, the main island in an archipelago of 99 at the top end of the Malacca Strait near Thailand. The design of this five-star resort on the Malaysian island's west coast is based on getting guests in touch with nature. Most of its rainforest suites and chalets are tucked in among the trees, barely visible from the shore and accessible by shuttle buses that make their way along narrow, winding paths. At every opportunity, even while waiting briefly for one such bus, my two young boys' heads shoot skywards, hoping to get a glimpse of a brown macaque or a dusky leaf monkey.

Away from the Berjaya, there is more monkey business to be had. On the way to a market near the airport, our taxi driver swerves to the wrong side of the road and on a tight bend to stop momentarily at a favoured sighting spot, and through the undergrowth come more macaques. Cue excited chatter again from the boys. Monkeys are also the highlight of a day out in the mangrove forests of Kilim GeoPark, in the heart of the island, where these scavenging creatures scurry along the mudflats with young in tow in anticipation of the regular flow of dinner that comes with every passing tourist boat.

Of course monkeys aren't the reason that almost 3.5 million tourists a year visit Langkawi. Instead, it's the promise of pristine sandy white beaches, a range of resorts and fabulous Malay food. Access is easy -- it's just a 50-minute hop on regular daily flights from Kuala Lumpur's spage-age international airport, which in turn you can reach via daily non-stop services from Heathrow on Malaysia Airlines' A380 service.

Moreover, British Airways will recommence flights to the Malaysian capital next Wednesday after a 14-year hiatus.

Food is a big draw, starting at breakfast. A favourite routine on previous trips to Malaysia has been to find a local stall and chow down on nasi lemak -- rice, curry, peanuts, eggs, dried anchovies and cucumber -- for about a quid. However, on this occasion we must settle for the Berjaya's resort version, coming as it does in buffet style with plenty of fruit on the side (mango, pineapple, even the much derided durian fruit, which tastes much better than it smells).

Still, there are plenty of opportunities for foodies to go local. We spend a good few hours at the nearby Padang Matsirat night market browsing and scoffing, the boys nibbling crab sticks made in the shape of Angry Bird heads, while platefuls of ulut ayam (curried chicken with rice) and ikan bakar (grilled fish with banana leaves) keep the adults happy. …

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