This is Langkawi – the Jewel of Kedah, a group of more than 100 islands in the Andaman Sea and well known for its bright, shiny beaches. But what travelers often don’t realise – myself included before I went there – is that there’s a lot more to Langkawi than just sun and sand.

Last December, Air Asia Singapore and Naturally Langkawi were kind enough to send me and my fiancee Gillian for a three-day Langkawi vacation. The island itself is just 90 mins away by air, which makes it ideal for a weekend jaunt from Singapore.

Air Asia, Langkawi, travel

©Nicholas Yong

First thing on the agenda – the traditional island hopping. The Langkawi archipelago is really rather gorgeous and – though I’ve never been there – reminiscent of Ha Long Bay in Vietnam. Little islands, some looking more like really large rocks, dot the water, many of them covered with verdant green.

And it really is a wonderful feeling to be cruising along in a speedboat in the sun, the wind in your face, jauntily going from island to island. The knowledge that we could have literally crossed the border into Thailand within hours somehow made the experience even better.

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The highlight of island hopping – definitely Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden), whose waters are supposedly a panacea for women who want to have children. It’s in the middle of one of the islands, surrounded by greenery and equipped with a boardwalk for you to stroll around.

But even if you’re not looking to fertilise your eggs, or are even a woman in the first place, it’s a lovely place to while away the afternoon. You can canoe or get on a paddle boat from 20 ringgit for a half hour, swim or just soak your feet for a bit.

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When we got back to the mainland, we just had to stop off at a verrry touristy spot for the obligatory photo op: Dataran Lang or Eagle Square, where a 12 metre-high depiction of the eagles that inhabit the archipelago sits.

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Dinner was at Laman Padi Langkawi, located at Laman Padi, a free rice museum with mini padi fields that show the process of how rice is grown (Tel: +60 4 955 4312, Add: Pantai Centang, Mukim Kedawang). And as the breeze blew and the sun set over our first day in Langkawi, they laid on a real feast for us.

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The best part of the meal was definitely dessert – banana porridge.

Langkawi, food

©Nicholas Yong

Our final stop for the day was the pasar malam or night market, which runs five nights a week and changes location every day from Kuah to Kedawang to Padang Matsirat. We only knew about it thanks to our guide and driver, so you probably ought to check with a local on where it is. Trust me, it will be well worth the trouble.

It’s a potent mix of frying, boiling, roasting, chattering and bargaining, all mixed with the petrol fumes from the portable generators that power the market.

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Check in here again for the second part of our Langkawi vacation, when we check out a waterfall, take a cable car ride and stuff our faces some more!