The first, and most important, piece of advice if you’re thinking of visiting Langkawi’s cable car is to check whether it’s running before you set out. It seemed a fine day on our first attempt, but we arrived to learn that the cable car was closed due to high winds. (Later, when we made it to the top of the mountain, we came to appreciate how a gentle breeze below could become a serious gust at higher altitudes.) It’s also prone to close for maintenance unpredictably – though this too is a precaution you’ll appreciate when you’re dangling hundreds of feet in the air.
When we finally made it there on a day it was actually open, our next challenge was to survive the queues. The base station is surrounded by an “Oriental Village”, a distinctly Chinese-style area of lakes, bridges, and many, many shops. You can avoid being steered round this retail park by taking a left as you enter from the car park, where a short cut takes you straight to the cable car.
We waited a perfectly acceptable ten minutes or so to buy tickets, which state the time at which you should go to the station. So far, so good. There’s a bewildering array of ticketing options, including a line-jumping priority pass which adds RMB 100 to the cost. We’d opted for a ticket which also gave us admission to various other attractions, so we filled in the time by visiting “3D Art Langkawi”.
This turned out to be one of those “optical illusion photo opportunity” attractions so beloved of the Asian tourist industry. There’s also the mandatory baffling laser show, which in this case was about a carpet having a fight with an eagle while an Egyptian pharaoh shot laser beams from his eyes. Or something.
We returned just in time, to find that we had missed our slot because they’re actually called 15 minutes ahead of time, as had been explained by nobody. We joined a huge chaotic scrum around the cable car station, and seethed at the people blatantly cutting in. Only just in time did we realize that they were all standing around for no reason at all. Once your time slot has been called you just go to the barrier, where you pass through to the real queue.
Fortunately nobody complained that we were late. After another wait of 20 minutes we were in the gondola and away. There’s a stop halfway with a viewing platform, before you queue up again to ascend to the peak. The cable car claims to be the “steepest on earth”, and it certainly provides dramatic sights as it sweeps over the virgin rainforest.
At the top there are more viewing platforms, and the “Sky Bridge”, one of those glass-bottomed viewing platforms also beloved of the Asian tourist industry. Fortunately our tickets did not include admission, so I was spared displaying my embarrassing fear of heights in front of my children. Instead we admired the spectacular views from the summit, enjoyed a drink at the cafe, and headed back down.
Our ticket gave us admission to two other attractions, beside the cable car and the 3D Art. SkyRex is a 4D virtual ride through a dinosaur theme part where – you’ll never guess – the megabeasts are running amok. SkyDome was a rather less impressive virtual spaceship ride.
Although I’d been less than keen on the other attractions, the package overall was good value, and we spent most of the day there. If you fancy a change from lazing on the beach, then it’s certainly worth a trip. Just remember to check it’s actually open.
Photos: Andrew Killeen