An IRONMAN Hot Spot in Malaysia
IRONMAN Malaysia has returned in record numbers and offers a unique experience.
by Ian Hepenstall
Last November, around 1500 triathletes from over 40 nations thronged to the stunning island of Langkawi off the coast of Malaysia for IRONMAN Malaysia. After returning to the IRONMAN circuit in 2014 following a five-year hiatus, the organizers made some key changes to the course last year, moving the swim and the run to the other side of the island. The new course earned plaudits from participants from near and far.
IRONMAN Asia-Pacific ambassador Cameron Brown, a 15-time IRONMAN winner and recent IRONMAN New Zealand champ, is a huge fan of the race and the place.
"I enjoyed IRONMAN Malaysia and Langkawi is a fantastic spot. I like the changes with a much improved swim venue at the beach resort—the run along the coastline is fantastic," says Brown. "I am sure IRONMAN Malaysia will continue to grow as a must-do destination for triathletes not only from Asia-Pacific but around the world.
Brown adds that the only danger might be if you were having a bad day: "You might get tempted to stay rather longer than you should at T2 in that air-conditioned building."
Last year the race start was moved to Pantai Kok with participants embracing pristine white sandy beach and crystal blue waters. This linked to the two-loop bike course that takes riders through the magnificent Gunung Raya mountains. The second transition is a unique air-conditioned indoor venue near the airport that leads to a multi-lap run course along the stunning Cenang beaches with the finish outside the Pelangi Beach Resort.
German professional Diana Riesler, a previous IRONMAN Malaysia champion both as an age-grouper and a professional, has nothing bad to say about the event and the destination: "IRONMAN Malaysia is one of the most stunning and one of the toughest events at the same time. It's famous for its heat and humidity. You race the course, not the competition. It's a unique experience. For me it is a must-do IRONMAN."
Jacques van Leeuwen ventured from the Netherlands to compete as an age-grouper, and says he just loves the locals, who all seem to enjoy having the athletes around. "They are proud to have us at their home. The temperature, humidity and hills are all much easier to endure when you are in such a welcoming place."
van Leeuwen said he had met a local working at the hotel he was staying in, and they have become friends and communicate often, with the families meeting each time they visit.
John Fenwick from Harrogate in England decided to mix IRONMAN racing with the opportunity to visit amazing places after his retirement. "Malaysia was everything that I thought it would be. The race was hot and tough but the experience was quite spectacular and incredible."
Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands 30 kilometers off the mainland coast of Malaysia. It's regarded as a "jewel in the crown" of Southeast Asian tourist destinations. It provides the ideal opportunity for triathletes to experience an enthralling and challenging race in a truly magical place.
Langkawi International Airport hosts a number of international airlines with direct flights from Penang, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Phuket.
Ferries operate from Kuala Kedah or Kuala Perlis jetties, which can be reached from Singapore or Kuala Lumpur by train (via Alor Setar or Arau stations) or bus.
Taxis from the airport to the Cenang beaches (where the race starts and finishes) are only around US$5 while a good mid-sized rental will cost around US$30 per day.
While this is a tropical island with Malay food naturally predominant, there is also a vast array of international foods available including Italian, Chinese, Mexican, Thai and Indian. (Local Malay food is a rich mix of beef curry, tandoori chicken, seafood, salads, rice and vegetables.) There are an abundance of eateries of all types along the Cenang beaches—both a mix of price and style. Enjoy your dinner with stunning views out to the Strait of Malacca.
There are plenty of hotel accommodations on the island and especially along the Cenang beaches or further afield nestled into the rainforest from as little as US$35 per night up to US$400 per night.
Come for the race, but stay for the place. There’s plenty to suit every taste and circumstance:
- Water adventures: Private yacht, boat or jet ski charters; kayak and swimming adventures; scuba diving and snorkelling.
- Jungle trekking in the rainforest; explore the mangrove and limestone outcrops; take a nature walk to see monkeys and other animals, a boat tour to check out the famous Eagles.
- Cable car ride and hanging bridge or the Telaqga Tujuh Waterfalls
- Crocodile Adventureland or Underwater World
- Mountain views from Gunung Raya or the Laman Padi Rice Garden