Lying off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Pulau Langkawi is the largest among an archipelago of 99 islands collectively known as Langkawi. With only a small population of 54,000 in a land of 32,000 hectares, its economy is driven mainly by the tourism industry. The most comfortable way to get to this exquisite tourist destination is by air from Kuala Lumpur or Penang. The Langkawi International Airport is only 20 km from its main town, Kuah .
If you choose to travel by land, a ferry ride from either Kuala Kedah (51 km) or Kuala Perlis (30 km) will bring you to Kuah, which means gravy. It is the heart of the island with a population of 13,000. Here you can find hotels and restaurants of different classes, tour agencies, car and bike rentals and, most probably, the story
behind its name.
Kuah is also the hub of shopping activities with numerous duty-free outlets. The good news is that the requirement of a minimum stay of 72 hours to make purchases at a duty-free shop has been reduced to 48 hours. The bad news, most visitors burn a big hole in their pockets when it comes to shopping on the island.
Fancy the fables
Due west about 12 km from Kuah, you will come to Kampong Mawat where Mahsuri's Masoleum is located. A folklore behind this site revolves around a local village maiden, Mahsuri, who made a curse some 300 years ago to impoverish Langkawi for seven generations. If you have not already known, it is not difficult to find out why Mahsuri is such a celebrated figure despite the curse.
Lying on the northeast of Makam Mahsuri is Padang Mat Silat, or Field of Burnt Rice. Once the island's granary, it was ordered by the village head to be burnt during the Siamese invasion in 1821. It is said that, until today, remnants of the burnt rice could still be found after a downpour and these are potent for certain diseases. On a serious note,Padang Mat Silat is where Langkawi International Airport and The Mahsuri International Exhibition Centre, home to the biennial Langkawi Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA), are located.
Further northwest is yet another interesting attraction - Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, which means Seven Wells. Found on the slopes of Gunung Mat Cincang, it is in effect water that streams down from the mountain through seven natural pools, forming a series of cascading waterfalls. Getting to the highest 'well', 91 m above sea level, requires some serious jungle trekking.
The lowest 'well', however, is easily accessible with concrete steps provided. Other than being an ideal site for a picnic, both the mountain and the wells also have their own fabled stories to share. Gunung Mat Cincang, with Gunung Raya being its counterpart, is believed to be a quarrelsome giant and the Seven Wells a favorite bathing
place for the mountain fairies.
Sweat it out
Amid an aura of mystery, lush greenery and pristine beaches abound on the island and beyond. Pantai Cenang on the west coastline is the liveliest, providing all sorts of water sports, and the modern Underwater World Langkawi, which showcases 5,000 fish and marine creatures. This is also where most international hotels are located, among various types of budget chalets.
Relatively subdued, Pantai Tengah is a short distance to the south of Pantai Cenang. The stretch to the north provides two idyllic beaches in Burau Bay and Pantai Kok where the movie 'Anna and The King' has left its mark. Further up at the northwestern end is The Datai Langkawi, where an 18-hole golf course beckons. On the north coast, the Beach of Black Sand and Beach of Skulls are worth visiting. Though they are not suitable for any water activities, each has its own unique characteristics and stories, as suggested by their names.
About 20 km from Kuah on the northeastern coastline is Pantai Rhu, another favourite spot for adventurers. Popularly known as Casuarina Beach, it is rich in coral and marine life though the casuarinas that once filled the area are missing.
If the beaches on Pulau Langkawi are not up to your mark, go island hopping. Among the favourites are Pulau Payar, Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pulau Singa, and Pulau Rebak.
Pulau Payar - together with Pulau Kaca, Pulau Segantan, and Pulau Lembu - is known for its beautiful coral gardens and has been rightfully gazetted as a marine park. Whether you are an ardent scuba diver or not, a 45-minute boat ride trip to this gorgeous island is highly recommended. Package tours are available for your convenience.
Pulau Dayang Bunting, the second largest behind Pulau Langkawi, is ideal for snorkelling. It also offers two interesting spots, Lake of the Pregnant Maiden and Gua Langsiar, or Banshee Cave-with fabled legends for your eyes and ears.
Pulau Singa Besar is an animal sanctuary with deer, peacocks, horses, and macaques around. Pulau Rebak, on the other hand, is a privately developed island that offers a luxurious resort, Rebak Marina, equipped with modern facilities for comfort to go with adventures.
History of LangkawiLangkawi which means Reddish Brown Eagle in the Malay language is nestled on the Thai-Malaysian sea border and is the main island from a cluster of 99 islands during high tide and more than 104 islands in low tide.
Legend has it that Langkawi used to be the habitat of spirits and classical Malay literature Hikayat Merong Maha Wangsa states that Garuda, the mythological giant eagle rested in these islands.
Lying off the northwestern coast of Peninsular Malaysia, about 30 kilometres from Kuala Perlis and 51 kilometres from Kuala Kedah, Pulau Langkawi, as it is popularly known, covers an area of 32,848 hectares. The island is divided into six districts namely Mukim Kuah, Padang Matsirat, Ayer Hangat, Bohor, Ulu Melaka and Kedawang and has
a population of approximately 45,000 inhabitants with most of them being the Malays.
With a geological history dating back to 500 million odd years, the islands contain bizarre rock formations that stir one's imagination and perplex the mind. Numerous caves like the mystical Gua Cerita, the haunted Gua Langsiar and Gua Kelawar with their stunning stalactites and stalagmites, taunt the adventurous.
But Langkawi is more than captivating beauty ' it is also a land steeped in legends and shrouded in mysteries. Its past is filled with legendary tales of wronged maidens and lovelorn princes, all of whom have left their mark for posterity.
As it turned out, in 1821, Langkawi was savagely attacked by the Siamese. Upon knowing the inevitable fate of the island following the battle, Datuk Kerma Jaya, the headman of Kampung Raja, the ancient capital of Langkawi, ordered that Padang Matsirat, the village granary, be burned and all the wells poisoned in order to starve the
Call it superstition or coincidence, the island's slumberous existence ended seven generations later. Modernisation crept-in swiftly and the lethargic landscape of the land was given a careful face-lift.
On 13 January 1996, Malaysia saw the launching of MEASAT I into the earth's orbit. Langkawi was chosen to house the MEASAT Satellite Control Centre to monitor and control all MEASAT satellites in-orbit operation. The erection of the centre at Gunung Raya, the highest peak of the island, brought Langkawi's name up further in the world map.
More and more tourists from all over the world are beginning to stream into the island for various reasons ' the idyllic pristine beaches such as the Pantai Cenang, Pantai Kok and Pantai Datai as well as the many small islands namely the Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pulau Payar and Pulau Singa Besar surrounding Langkawi.
To cater for the growing number of travelers flying into the island, Langkawi International Airport, located at PadangMat Sirat, has expanded three times within the last decade and undergone major renovations costing RM90 million.
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