Accessibility Malaysia

Langkawi in a wheelchair: between disillusion and satisfaction

on
2 March 2018

17th of July, 2017. It’s been already 3 weeks since we arrived in Malaysia. We just left Penang and we are now in Langkawi main island, in the very north-west of the country. We are so close to Thailand that our mobile operator welcome us in Thailand!

Langkawi beaches

This island, also called “the jewel of Kedah”, is well-known for its white sand beaches, clear waters and forests. Plus, we read that it hasn’t been alter by mass tourism. So after a few days strolling on Penang’s bustling streets we were quite impatient to lie on one of these heavenly beaches, away from that restlessness, listening to the waves sound.

Look at this blue!

Look at this blue!

Unfortunately, as soon as we landed on the island, it was quite the disillusion. After we settled in the hotel, we decide to walk to “Cenang beach”, the main beach (the nearest also!), to relax. What a disappointment! Mass tourism is overwhelming. Souvenirs shops are stacked up one another, hagglers are trying to get all our attention to dine in their restaurants and many tourists are wandering around town in bikinis… Long gone is the charm of Chinese, Indian and Malay cultures, which look like have been replaced by western clothing outlets, duty-free shops, filth and a lot of construction work… to build more resorts!

As for the beach itself, it is far from the “dream beach” that we had in mind. Cheap lounge chairs for hire and hagglers are everywhere. In the sea, there are also many jet-skies or banana boats. We didn’t even stop to rest there. We decided to walk further to find an access to a quieter  part of the beach. After more that 1km, still no luck: hotels are blocking every other access.  Just one day, and I already wonder whether or not we should go back sooner than expected…

Pantai Kok Langkawi beach.

Pantai Kok Langkawi beach.

In the end, we decided to head back to our hotel, take our rented car and go north in the Island, to Pantai Kok Langkawi beach. That was a good choice to turn away from Cenang Beach: no more jet-skis on the horizon. Just us, and a few Malaysian enjoying the warm water and this beautiful golden beach… surrounded by hundreds of crabs! They are so tiny and transparent that you can only see them when they move around. Don’t worry, they won’t bother you at all. It is more the other way around, as they quickly flee as soon as you get close to them!

The day after, we go even further north in the island to Pantai Rekreasi Kastam beach. It’s beautiful and stretch over hundreds of meters . While lying on the sand we can look at some of the archipelago small islands. For now, it’s the most appealing beach we have seen in Langkawi. Plus, there is a small restaurant where you can eat a tasty vege nasi goreng for a cheap price, feet in the sand.
Accessibility : The beach can be easily accessed with a wheelchair. it is possible to park just near it and there is no step nor steep pathway. On the beach, there is no special pathway or amenity for wheelchair users.
Pantai Rekreasi Kastam and its beautiful view on small islands.

Pantai Rekreasi Kastam and its beautiful view on small islands.

In the end, it is only the day before our departure that we finally discover the perfect beach! The superb Tanjung Rhu beach was hidden far away in the very north of the island. Fine sandy beach (without crabs!) with clear waters and a view on small islands: that’s a very good start! The place is calm and isolated. Plus there are some trees to shade ourselves from the overwhelming malaysian heat. And like Pantai Rekreasi Kastam beach we had lunch in a restaurant, feet in the sand.
Accessibility : There is not so much space to park near to the beach so you might need to park a bit further away. When you get close to the beach some paths are narrow and a bit rocky so it can be a bit tricky but it is manageable. There is no step nor steep pathway. On the beach, there is no special pathway or amenity for wheelchair users.
Tanjung Rhu beach.

Tanjung Rhu beach.

Langkawi sky bridge

Accessibility : To enjoy the view on Langkawi island and its shores, going to mount “Gunung Machinchang” summit is a good shot as it reaches 708 meters. To go there you need to ride the sky cable which costs 55MYR for a non-malaysian adult. There is no official special price for disabled people but I took the express line without paying for it. Instead of climbing stairs, wheelchair users use a wheelchair lift to get to the skycable onboarding zone. Be careful when you get in the gondola as the cable car slows down but doesn’t stop. The sky cable stops at an intermediary station and at the summit but wheelchair users can’t stop at the middle station. From the top station there are two ways to access the skybridge : by stairs or by taking the skyglide which costs 15MYR per adult. Many non-disabled people take the skyglide instead of taking the stairs so you might need to wait for quite a long time. There is no priority for disabled people. 

There is a toilet for disabled people between the skycable and the skydome entrances (50cts) but they are not fully wheelchair accessible as it is impossible to transfer from side to side.
The wheelchair lift: first step to access the skybridge.

The wheelchair lift: first step to access the skybridge.

Once on the bridge the view is amazing! We can observe the island mountainous areas, the ocean and some of the 99 small islands of the archipelago. The panorama is really great and the view of the bridge itself is tremendous. I must confess that I hesitated a moment before rolling on it! 55 metres above the ground that’s very impressive!
Not a good place if you're afraid of heights!

Not a good place if you’re afraid of heights!

Mangroves and wildlife in Langkawi

For our last day in Langkawi we decide to go on a boat trip in the mangroves to discover the island wildlife.
Accessibility : Let’s be clear : this activity is not accessible at all. I had to walk, go through steps and transfer myself from and to the boat many times. Plus, shuttles for the transport between the accommodation and the boat departure area is not adapted at all. The restrooms are not accessible neither. At the end of the day I was very tired but it was worth it!
 
Let's go!

Let’s go!

As soon as we arrive on site (we are not even on the boat!), we see a water monitor, a kind of small komodo dragon. Good way to start the day! A few minutes later it’s already time for the first stop: a bat cave. After walking about 100 metres, we enter the cave. The ceiling is covered by hundreds of bats! Our guide teaches us some surprising details about those animals. For example, did you know that in order to identify more easily their progeny they pee on them? Other fact: when bats are hanging with two legs on the ceiling it means that they are sleeping whereas if they are hanging only with one leg they are eagerly awaiting.
So are they sleeping or not?

So are they sleeping or not?

Once we crossed the bat cave, we arrive in the mangroves and take a walk through it on a boardwalk. During our stroll we spot a little but dangerous snake and many cheeky monkeys (be careful with your sunglasses and cameras!). After that we head back to the boat.
As we go along  we see more and more eagles flying over our heads and hunting. We also spot some snakes in the trees and some surprising crabs on the sand. Some of them have shiny blue shells and others have claws as big as their bodies! Apparently it seduces females!
These snakes stay in trees waiting for high tide and catch fishes when they are close enough.

These snakes stay hidden in trees waiting for high tide and catch fishes when they get close enough.

After a lunch break on a floatting restaurant (not accessible at all) with pretty surroundings, we visit a fish farm where we can see groupers, sea basses and rays. After that it’s already time to cross the mangroves one last time before heading back to the hotel to pack our bags. Tomorrow we will have a long day in ferrys and buses before reaching the east coast of Malaysia and its incredible snorkelling and diving sites!

Accessibility in Langkawi

  • To get to Langkawi you will have to cross the strait of Malacca (or you can fly there!). Unfortunately the ferries are not wheelchair friendly. It is necessary to walk or agree to be carried. Once you get to Langkawi ferry terminal you will find accessible toilets. When you will buy your ferry ticket, ask for a disabled fare (oku) even if this fare is not mentioned at all: you will pay 10MYR instead of 15MYR (from Kuala Perlis).
A wheelchair will not fit on the boarding platform, and there is a step to get into the boat.

A wheelchair will not fit on the boarding platform, and there is a step to get into the boat.

  • Transports: There are no public transports on the island. The easiest way to get around is to rent a car but unfortunately I didn’t see any adapted car. If you rent one don’t hesitate to bargain. To give a basic idea I can already tell you that we paid 50MYR per day for a small manual car.
  • Sidewalks are sometimes in bad shape, the pathway can be obstructed and curb-cuts can be damaged. So it is necessary to roll on the road on some occasions.

If you would like to have more information about travelling in this country you can read about all our travel destinations in Malaysia and their wheelchair accessibility and discover our travel budget and itinerary.

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2 Comments
  1. Reply

    Susie Twydell

    7 March 2018

    Fantastic post and great tips about beaches! I have linked to it on the Malaysia page of wheelchairworld.org so that other wheelchair using travellers can read your experiences. http://wheelchairworld.org

    • Reply

      Aurélie

      7 March 2018

      Thank you Susie!

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