I’ve just passed my year anniversary in Malaysia due to COVID and it’s shortly coming up to my 5 month anniversary in Langkawi. I still can’t quite believe it! Langkawi is a beautiful archipelago of 99 islands, or 104 if it’s low tide, situated on the north west coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It’s also South East Asia’s first ever UNESCO Global Geopark and I live here (temporarily)! Crazy how life can turn out sometimes! I also can’t believe that I haven’t actually written a blog post in so long. So why not dive straight back in with one of my favourite things – abandoned places!
The popular things to do when you visit Langkawi are the beaches, the watersports activities, shop duty free goods, take the cable car up to the top of Gunung (Mount) Mat Cincang and walk along the longest curved and suspended bridge in the world, go on a mangrove tour and island hop with one of the many popular half day trips. All worthy activities and that’s what draws an average of 3 million visitors a year (pre-COVID…). What happens if you’re here longer or maybe a lot of that doesn’t appeal, like for me. To be fair, except for the watersports activities I have now got involved in all of the others, but they weren’t high on my to do list. Whilst Langkawi is a wonderful island that I had visited twice previously, on the exploration touristy side there wasn’t anything that really floated my boat so to say. Turns out if you dig just a little deeper under the surface there are quite a few wonderful interesting places to discover, you just got to know where to look.
Living in Malaysia, as with a lot of countries right now, economies are suffering without tourism and on the surface a lot of places could seem “abandoned”. I’m sure in years to come urban explorers will sadly have a whole host of new places to visit as COVID claims some wonderful tourist places. There are however two places in Langkawi which were abandoned long before a world pandemic hit.
The snake sanctuary had never been on my radar. I had driven past the entrance a couple of times but as I’m not particularly into snakes and don’t have any small children to try and interest (or scare) I just ignored it. Then a friend tagged me in a video about abandoned places in Malaysia and asked if I was still in Langkawi. There was a creepy looking concrete snake’s head abandoned and overgrown in the jungle. Imagine how gutted I would have been to have spent months on the island and missed this! In the same video there were some abandoned planes just outside Johor Bahru and I’m gutted I didn’t know about them when I lived there before coming to Langkawi.
At the time I had forgotten I had spotted the entrance to the car park previously, and after much googling realised it must be the Snake Sanctuary. Set up as a educational facility the sanctuary housed many venomous and non venomous snakes. Typically, Langkawi tourist pages suggest it’s still open… finger on the pulse as ever, it closed in 2012! It’s a small site and doesn’t take long to explore. For full transparency it did take me a few visits to brave going in deeper, but only because I’m a scaredy-cat. There were rumours that some of the snakes had been freed into the jungle, like the crocodiles that were rumoured to be still wandering the abandoned Taman Festival in Bali. Also, and one of my biggest bugbears is that I was exploring alone, anything could have been waiting in the jungle! If I was a YouTube vlogger my headline would have been something like “Would you dare to visit the world’s creepiest abandoned snake sanctuary?”. You know those headlines, always seem to make places out scarier and daring to visit more heroic than the actual reality. In the end, I didn’t find it creepy or scary and have always felt relatively safe in Malaysia as a solo female traveller. I figured the worst would be that someone would spot my car in the car park and come and see why I was there. There wasn’t any of the usual signs showing trespassers at gun point but I cased the joint the day before anyway and realised it was hard to spot the car from the road, and there’s very little traffic at the moment. Despite scoping out my safety worries, what I did forget was that ole’ classic – DOGS! As I was feeling confident and proud of my solo exploration I was nearing the interactive centre at the far back of the site when a pack of dogs emerged barking. There are so many wild dogs on the island, it is quite a serious issue, but they are normally just barky and territorial not bitey. I wasn’t going to try my luck though so retreated slowly and let them keep ownership of the centre.
Despite not getting to explore what was left of the interactive centre I was elated to spot the amphitheatre that use to be used for shows twice a day. It’s located close to the entrance, walk past the snake’s head and then there’s a pathway to the right through the overgrowth.
The merchandise store is still standing and pretty cool to look round.
and of course, the pièce de résistance is the snake head entrance. Quite spectacular!
Here’s the GPS if you’re ever on the island and want to explore for yourself, I don’t think it will be going anywhere anytime soon: 6°19’42.0″N 99°46’50.1″E
RESORT & VIEWING TOWER
When I was researching things to see in Langkawi I had read about a resort – D’Coconut Hill which was located at the top of Gunung Raya, the highest of the two mountains on the island. It was bookable through the usual hotel booking sites and prices seemed reasonable. Next to the resort was a tower that you could take the lift up to the top for a respectable small fee and get 360° panoramic views. I had read also there was a nice Vietnamese restaurant at the resort but not always open, call ahead. So whilst it didn’t have me rushing to visit, I figured a trip up the mountain would be worth it at some point. When friends wanted to head up to the top to try out their drone I figured it wouldn’t hurt to visit and if I liked it I could maybe book a night up there at some point in the future. Well, low and behold, in what I’m realising is in true Langkawi style – the whole place closed down years previously! Friends had told me on the way up, in which I think I argued ‘but it’s still on booking.com’. Apparently you can try and select a room, but it says it’s all booked out for those dates. Now I was DEFINITELY interested in heading up the mountain! Since visiting I watched a YouTube video of someone exploring the hotel back in 2018 and they found a newspaper in one of the main rooms that was dated Friday 13 November 2015. A bit spooky!
The day we picked was in the middle of wet season and the whole mountain was covered in cloud, nevertheless we drove the 30 minute slow and steady windy road up to the top. The worst weather for droning but oh my goodness me, I couldn’t have asked for better conditions to see the abandoned viewing tower! Check this atmospheric scene out!
The entrance up to the old spa that was once next door to the tower is blocked off. If I hadn’t spotted the small Polis station and a couple of motorbikes outside it I would have possibly tried to gain entry. Outside the tower is a sign stating it was closed for business from 1 February 2018 but weirdly, inside the entrance way, looking through the very filthy windows was a calendar on the wall turned to February 2020. A month before the world stood still.
Unfortunately, the resort is completely closed off with big metal fences round it, and there’s the Polis station of course. I had wondered whether to ask them whether I could have a cheeky look around but the weather was so atrocious I think we were all keen to get back down to ground level.
I drove back up recently, now it’s dry season, more so to actually see the view from the top of the mountain. I think we’ll all agree that the tower looks much better and a bit more chilling during wet season, right?!
I still didn’t ask whether I could have a cheeky look round but this time there was much less cloud cover to be able to take a few snaps of the outside so that will have to do.
Whilst it may not have the same spooky atmosphere during wet season you do get the added bonus for some great views on the way up!
I was hoping there would be a third place I could visit – the old movie set for Anna and the King. I had read that the replicated Summer Palace for the 1999 remake of the King and I was once a tourist attraction but now sat in ruins. Hello! Sign me up! I spent a whole day trying to pin point it’s location somewhere around Pantai Kok, walking up and down the beach. I kept showing photos to random people asking if they knew where it was but I drew many blanks. Eventually I found out that my detection skills weren’t that bad and that it had been torn down, probably for another new development.
Does anyone know of any other interesting abandoned places in Langkawi? Leave a comment below if you do! Would love to explore more.