Situated 30km off the coast just south of the Thai border, at 500 square kilometres Pulau Langkawi is the largest of an archipelago of mostly uninhabited islands.
A shore excursion on your MSC Grand Voyages cruise can be the opportunity to discover its white-sand beaches which are easily the best along the entire west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Langkawi’s charms consist largely of lazing around on the sand, perhaps taking time off for a mangrove cruise after sea eagles, to snorkel or scuba dive south at Pulau Payar Marine Park, or to ride the Langkawi Cable Car over the interior forests to the top of Gunung Mat Cincang.
Once a haven for pirates, Langkawi has in recent years been converted into a cruise port and an upmarket destination aimed at Saudis and Europeans. It’s also popular with Western yachties, as a cheaper place to hang out than Phuket in Thailand. Lining a large sweep of bay in the south-eastern corner of the island, Kuah, with a population of thirteen thousand, is Langkawi’s de facto capital. Down at the south, Kuah Jetty is a large complex of cafés, banks and duty-free shops where vessels from the mainland and Thailand dock; beside the ferry terminal, Dataran Lang – Eagle Square; Langkawi means “red eagle” – is graced by an enormous sculpture of a sea eagle.
Jalan Persiaran Putra runs north from here for 3km or so – the grey, concrete town on one side, the sea on the other – before heading off around the rest of the island. A shore excursion on your MSC Grand Voyages holiday can also be the opportunity to discover Pulau Langkawi mangrove cruises and island-hopping boat trips to the forested Pregnant Maiden Island (Pulau Dayang Bunting), whose crater lake is good for swimming.