Gay Langkawi: a pink travel guide to the Jewel of Kedah

Stefan Arestis

For most gay travellers, Muslim countries like Malaysia are not necessarily high up there of places to visit. Technically, under Malaysian law, we’re seen as criminals and this ungodly practice (!) of ours becomes very hush hush and hidden away.

But get to Langkawi and a whole new way of thinking kicks in.

Enjoying the beautiful outdoor pool at Temple Tree
Enjoying the beautiful outdoor pool at Temple Tree

There was us thinking we would not be welcomed if we rocked up as gay travel bloggers promoting pink tourism in Langkawi. But to our surprise, every single place we visited in Langkawi was very enthusiastic and excited to welcome us as a gay couple visiting their shores.

In any case, Langkawi has always had a reputation as being more liberal and relaxed than mainland Malaysia. For example, its politicians have always fought to maintain its duty free status (a savvy move, which has helped boost tourism a great deal over the years).

Following our 2 weeks on Langkawi, here's what we thought of her, in our gay friendly travel guide of Langkawi.

SO WHERE EXACTLY IS LANGKAWI?

Langkawi is an archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, located in the state of Kedah, 30km off the mainland coast of Northwestern Malaysia near the Thai border.

Map of Langkawi Southeast Asia
Map of Langkawi in Southeast Asia

It was officially renamed Langkawi Permata Kedah, meaning Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah, as part of the golden jubilee of the Sultan of the Kedah State in 2008. But on 14th June 2015, this nickname was temporarily hijacked and stolen by Sebastien when he arrived on the island…

Sebastien Jewel of Kadah, in Gay Langkawi
Sebastien: the new Jewel of Kedah

We stayed on the largest island in the Langkawi archipelago called Pulau Langkawi (Pulau means island in Malay), which has some great beaches with some very dramatic waves.

Sebastien Poseidon waves of gay Langkawi
Sebastien Poseidon – King of the Waves on Langkawi island

FABULOUS PLACES TO STAY IN GAY LANGKAWI

We stayed at a variety of beautiful and very gay friendly places during our stay on Langkawi island:

AMBONG AMBONG   Check prices now

  • The most romantic and gay friendly place to stay in Langkawi.
  • Located in the middle of the jungle on a hill, the private luxury apartments offer stunning views across the island and the Andaman Sea from their private open-air balconies.
  • Prices start from $180 / £120 for a private studio.
Morning view from bedroom at gay friendly Ambong Ambong
Our view from our bed every morning at Ambong Ambong

BON TON RESORT   Check prices now

  • Chic and gay friendly boutique hotel split into two parts and made from antique restored villas.
  • One of the best outdoor swimming pools we’ve encountered in our travels. It is made from concrete, giving it an earthy and very natural feel.
  • Prices start from $110 / £70 for a double bed.
Outdoor pool Temple Tree Sebastien on gay langkawi
Sebastien enjoying the outdoor pool of gay friendly boutique hotel Temple Tree

FRANGIPANI LANGKAWI   Check prices now

  • Excellent eco friendly resort, located right by the beach.
  • Offering both mid range options and luxury suites with a private Jacuzzi:
  • The Frangipani also has a gym for fitness enthusiasts as well as a chlorine and salt-water swimming pool, great for pre buffet breakfast laps.
  • Prices start from $120 / £80 for a double bed.
Stefan at the Frangipani Langkawi salt water pool
Stefan taking a break after a morning swim at the Frangipani Langkawi salt water pool

THE FOUR SEASONS RESORT   Check prices now

  • STUNNING luxury hotel on Langkawi – the best and most romantic in our opinion.
  • Super gay friendly: despite being in Malaysia, staff are accustomed to LGBTQ travellers and we found everyone here to be very welcoming to us.
  • Massive pool! Both indoor and outdoor. THIS is where you want to be hanging out for your holiday in Langkawi.
  • A DIVINE spa where they did a uniting spirits lovers ritual ceremony for us. Yes THIS happened in a country where being gay is illegal! That's how gay friendly this hotel is:
Gay lovers ceremony at the spa of gay friendly hotel Four Seasons Langkawi
Uniting spirits during the lovers ritual after our massage

BARS AND CLUBS IN GAY LANGKAWI

There is no official gay scene as we know it, but we encountered a number of local gays, who are out of the closet, living happily and very openly within this island society.

  • Sunba was the main gay hangout, located on the Southwestern part of the island. It attracts a variety of expats as well as locals. It's not officially a gay bar, but seems to attract the majority of local gays.
Sebastien discovering the gay scene of Langkawi
Sebastien with cocktail and frangipani flower
  • One Love is a bar almost opposite Sunba with very friendly staff and great cocktails. Like Sunba, it’s not officially a gay bar, but we noticed many local gays gathering on the dance floor later in the evening.
Cocktails at gay friendly One Love bar
Enjoying the awesome cocktails at One Love bar and loving this sign

WHERE TO EAT IN GAY LANGKAWI?

  • Sun Café: the staff here are really friendly and make you feel like family from the moment you set foot in the door. We recommend their Supreme Pizza, Barracuda fillet and delicious chocolate lava cake.
Sun Cafe gay friendly staff
Hanging out with the very gay friendly staff of Sun Cafe in Langkawi
  • Red Sky: is headed up by the very friendly Chef Ben who specialises in fusion Malay and Western food like durian crème brûlée. The lamb shank is popular and for good reason.
Chef Ben with Stef and Seb
Posing with the awesome Chef Ben of Red Sky
Stefan with sushi meal at Unkaizan
Stefan with his sushi meal at the Unkaizan Japanese restaurant

GAY FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES ON LANGKAWI ISLAND

There’s so much to do on Langkawi to keep everyone of all budgets and ages entertained.

1. ROMANTIC SUNSET CRUISE

Boat cruises around the island are very popular and there are a number of companies to choose from. The following are the ones we encountered who were willing and open to receive us on board as a gay couple.

  • Damai Indah sunset cruise: an excellent option for couples looking for a luxury and romantic sunset boat experience. The Damai Indah only takes a handful of people on board and being a small boat, can access more secluded beaches, which the larger tour company boats cannot.
Sunset cruise with gay friendly Damai Indah
Enjoying a romantic sunset in Langkawi with Damai Indah

We cannot recommend Damai Indah highly enough: the crew on board are so friendly and welcoming, particular the very charismatic German owner Eva. The food on board was also delicious.

Eva of Damai Indah serving food on board
The amazing owner of Damai Indah, Eva, with her proud, er, boat and really tasty food onboard
  • Tropical Charters: offer good budget tours for up to 60 people as well as boarder ferry crossings to our favourite Thai island, Koh Lipe.
Stefan happy in Koh Lipe
Stefan Happy in Lipe's walking street

2. LEARN TO COOK WITH THE BEST

Malaysia is all about food. Malaysians of all races will proudly tell you all about the different foods you can go face down in. Naturally, we were only to happy to listen.

A cooking course in Malaysia is a must and while staying at the awesome Ambong Ambong, we did a cooking course with celebrity Chef Anuar Hassan, learning to cook fish cakes wrapped in banana leaves, chicken rendang and pandan pancakes. The ingredients were picked fresh from the herb garden of Ambong Ambong.

This is a must for any foodies travelling to Langkawi.

Stefan with pandan pancakes
Stefan showing off freshly made pandan pancakes with Chef Anuar

3. CYCLING THROUGH LANGKAWI'S COUNTRYSIDE

Langkawi has a large patch of rainforest and paddy fields. As a tourist it's easy to miss this, staying in your resort or beach and a cycling tour is one of the best ways to see more of the island.

We found Dev’s Adventure Tours on Tripadvisor who have mainly excellent reviews and for good reason! Our guide, Khirien is a local, who took us out as a group of 5 people on sturdy mountain bikes.

We cycled through the jungle countryside and paddy fields of Langkawi. It's got some stunning scenery, just begging to be photographed:

Cycling tour through Langkawi paddy fields
Worker in the paddy fields of Langkawi

We also stopped at several local markets along the way to try a variety of yummy Malaysian prizes like nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk and topped with shrimp paste), rambutan fruit and other lovely delights:

Cycling tour local market visit in Langkawi
Visiting the local market during our cycling tour with Dev's Adventures on Langkawi

4. PANORAMIC VIEW OF LANGKAWI

The Langkawi cable car and Sky Bridge is a fun day out with some great views across the island and surrounding archipelago from 700 metres high on Mount Machinchang. It is reached by car rental (if using) or taxi.

Admission is 35 ringgits per person (around £6 / $9) and a further 5 ringgits (£1 / $1.5) to cross the sky bridge at the top. It gets quite busy, but the views from the top make it worthwhile.

Sky Bridge view of Langkawi
The view of lovely Langkawi from the Sky Bridge

5. A DAY OF ROMANCE AND LUXURY AT THE BEST SPA ON LANGKAWI

The Four Seasons Langkawi Hotel has an excellent Geo Spa offering treatments, inspired by the ancient healing energies of the nearby Geopark.

We tried the signature massage, Urut Melayu. This is an ancient Urut-inspired technique used by Malays for generations to relieve tension and unify the mind with the body.

Sebastien and massage girls at The Four Seasons Langkawi
Sebastien with our massage girls at the Four Seasons spa

After 60 minutes of pure bliss, the massage was followed by the ‘Raja Ratu’ (meaning King and Queen) ritual.

The Raja Ratu is a bonding ceremony, where two spirits are unified by the sound of chants, with flower petals decorating the lovers, symbolising their love for each other.

A truly special and unforgettable moment and proof that Langkawi is surprisingly very gay friendly!

Lover ritual Four Seasons massage
Uniting spirits during the lovers ritual after our massage

For more about our adventures through Malaysia, please check out our Malaysia travel video:

 

Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, an activity or your insurance, we’ll earn a small commission. There is never an extra cost to you for using these links and it helps us keep the site going.

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Pink Travel Guide to Langkawi by the Nomadic Boys
Stefan Arestis

Stefan is the co-founder, editor and author the gay travel blog nomadicboys.com. As a travel nerd, he has explored more than 80 countries across 5 continents. What he loves the most about travelling is discovering the local gay scene, making new friends and learning new cultures. His advice about LGBTQ travel has been featured in Gay Times, Gaycities, Pink News, Gay Star News, Attitude and Towleroad. He has also written about gay travel for other non-gay specific publications including Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian and The Huffington Post. Stefan is also a qualified lawyer, having practised as a commercial property litigator in London for over 10 years. He left his lawyer days behind to work full time on Nomadic Boys with his husband Sebastien. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

32 thoughts on “Gay Langkawi: a pink travel guide to the Jewel of Kedah”

  1. Just arrived in langkawi on a spur of the moment 2-day break, so your run-down was dead useful. I am at frangipani, by pure coincidence. Will check out Sunba after sunset. Thanks.

    p.S. fairly sure I read one of your posts when I was travelling South America a couple of years back…good for you!

  2. This is exactly what we needed to see ?????????? We’re in KL now and flying to langkawi tomorrow morning and weren’t very sure about the gay life over there or the people in general , but this post gave us an insight of the place ???thank you.

  3. Fantastic post guys, have really encouraged to choose Langkawi next year. May I ask what time of year you went and what the weather was like? Thanks!

  4. Great write up on Langkawi! Glad you went the personal FAM trip route, because it’s so much more diverse and you made some great ala carte selections. Looking forward to seeing you both in Bangkok!

  5. Hi guys ..I simply love your pics…Lived in Langkawi from 2004-2008 as I used to work at Four Seasons Resort Langkawi as its PR Manager…and back again Langkawi 2011-2013 at Seri Chenang Resort & Spa Langkawi…..also as its PR Manager…are you guys still in Malaysia? Let me know as am based now in Kuala Lumpur….

  6. What a fantastic blog guys. You are clearly having the time not just of your lives but of several other people thrown in for good measure! Your last post on this part of the trip was really quite moving as well as very romantic. Take care and continue to have exciting and adventurous travels. (like you need me to tell you that!) 🙂 x

  7. Great blog, with super photos and interesting information. One thing that you might think of adding is the price of hotels/spas/meals – even roughly – as it would be good to know how much you paid for the luxury appartment and the pricey Japanese dinner!

      • Fabulous and detailed review guys! Most of your tropical tastings are high end budget-wise for those wanting costings. Most are what I also recommend to guests as they are very very good value for money as the quality and quantity of experience is superb. The Ringgit is generally much weaker comparing Forex rates so travelers get so much more bang for their buck. If you’re ever back in our area though , please contact me and I’ll put you in touch with a great local guy who will take you to places not on the typical tourist guide and are unbelievably budget orientated. This is not a self-serving plug as he’s just a great friend who under values himself. (yes yes, I nag him)

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