The multi-coloured chutes of the paraglider float in the blue sky above the lush green mangroves. Local youths, perched on the nearby rocks, laugh as they fish for their supper with a rod and line. Sandstone mountains are visible in the distance.
The sun, raging down, makes the empty sea an alluring invitation. Diving into the cool water relaxes my muscles and the taste of salt on my lips immediately reenergizes and soothes my sapped spirit.
This is Pantai Tengah Beach, on the southern side of Langkawi—an archipelago of around 100 islands in the Andaman Sea, just over the southern border of Thailand in Malaysia. I was here with my girlfriend to swim and snorkel, in a part of Southeast Asia away from the traditional backpacker route.
The next day, I’m on a bumpy speedboat ride packed with screaming Malays: all heading outwards on a tour of the islands, all whooping with delight. The first stop, Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden), gets its name from the surrounding mountain range that supposedly resembles a pregnant woman.
The water here, unlike the frenzied monkeys playing on the path to the lake, is calm. But apart from a few Malays dipping their toes in the water, the lake is free of swimmers.
Between the lake and the next stop, our boat pauses near Pulau Singa Besar—Island of the Big Lion—to observe the feeding of brahminy kite eagles and white-bellied sea eagles. Drivers of other boats moored in the area chuck bits of chicken at them: some eagles catch them in the air with their claws, while others swoop down and pluck them from the sea.
With all this tranquillity and great places to swim, Langkawi is a wonderful place to unwind. Just don’t relax too much and fall asleep on the beach: you’ll miss all the action.