Lazy beaches and sparkling waters, forested hills and thriving wildlife, and plenty of rains, waterfalls and sunshine. How many terrains do you think I just described? Well, they all beautifully blend into one – on the shores of Langkawi, Malaysia!
An Archipelago of 104 islands, Langkawi is situated off the northwestern coast of Malaysia, just where the Indian Ocean narrows down in the Strait of Malacca. The name Langkawi is derived from the combination of the Malay word helang, which means “eagle” (a familiar resident of Langkawi), and the Sanskrit word kawi, for the reddish brown color of these majestic birds. Very aptly, it has been bestowed with the title of “Langwaki- The Jewel of Kedah” (Malay: langkawi Permata Kedah) for the divine beauty it encompasses.
The largest island is of Palau Langkawi, measuring about 478.5 sq. km; it is the only one with real settlements. Almost as large as the island of Singapore, it is clad with jungles in the interior, fringed by lovely beaches scattered all along the coast. The island is still very much a rural landscape with villages and ‘padi’ (rice) fields. The island is also steeped in folklores and legends, thus mystically called the Legendary Island. It is a sight to witness this striking outline drifting serenely alongside Malaysia in the Andaman Sea.
And this divinity has a story to tell, ancient legends that people speak blissfully and fearfully of. The best known and told legend is of the pretty maiden, Mahsuri. She died under tragic circumstances for a crime she did not commit, as a victim of a conspiracy plotted against her by her very own mother-in-law. She is told to have cursed the island, saying, “For this act of injustice, Langkawi shall not prosper for seven generations to come.” History tells us that within a few years of Mahsuri’s death, Langkawi was devastated, its rice fields and granaries completely set on fire. Followed by this, another popular legend is of the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden. The name is given because its marble and granite bedrock form a figure resembling a pregnant woman. It is believed that the lake, famed for the legend of celestial princess Mambang Sari, possesses mystical powers.
Not only the legends, but its pristine nature is also spell bounding. Its dense covering of tropical rainforests is more than a million years old – one of the oldest in the world. A surreal discovery by trek or bike, they allow to savor the unique flora and fauna bit by bit. Blessed with a balmy climate that promises warm temperatures throughout the year, it is next to the heaven for the hikers looking to lose and re-discover themselves. For this beautiful geological history and geographic scenery, Langkawi has been conferred with the World Geopark status by UNESCO in 2007, being the only one in the Southeast Asian region.
What to visit?
One must-see spot is Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) Waterfall, a beautiful location with a lingering magic. Legend has it that it is home to mountain fairies. Here you can shower under the cool, clear waters that cascade from the seven waterfalls, bathe in the interconnected natural pools, or simply lounge on the wide rocks and enjoy a romantic picnic.
Another is Pulau Payar, which is one of the most beautiful marine parks in the region. It is surrounded by well-protected coral reefs that are home to numerous marine species. It is the place to enjoy the warm
waters for a quick snorkel or a slow scuba dive and marvel the fascinating underwater life of the Andaman Sea.
Cenang Beach is yet another place to explore. The island’s white sandy beaches are some of the Malaysia’s best, full of serene bays and sweeping coastlines. This is the place where one can enjoy an array of incredibly exciting marine activities, suitable for all ages.
Underwater World Langkawi is the place if you wish to discover the secrets of the deep. It was created to raise awareness on the importance of conserving our precious aquatic life forms. It is divided into three sections – Tropical Rainforest, Temperate and Sub-Antarctic. Other highlights include a 3D theatre, a cafeteria and an Educational Resource Centre.
What to do?
It’s an ideal place to discover the great outdoors. You can go trekking, biking, hiking, diving and much more! One activity, missing which should almost be made a crime, is the cable car ride to the second highest peak of Langkawi. At 708 meters above the sea level, this 2.2 km ride allows you to observe the 550 million-year-old sandstone outcrops, waterfalls and verdant flora below while marveling at the breathtaking view of Langkawi’s peaks, coastline and surrounding islands. You can also pedal around on a guided bicycle excursion that meanders through Langkawi’s rural villages, and enjoy the beauty of rustic wooden houses amid far-reaching vistas. Surrounded by placid waters, Langkawi also offers perfect sailing conditions for a sunset cruise or a day of island-hopping. Charter a private yacht, moor on a quiet sandy bay for a picnic and swim in the tranquil lagoon, before witnessing a magnificent sunset on glittering waters. And how can the day be complete without the savory Malaysian cuisine, or the taste of authentic and reasonably priced Pan-Asian food? Visit Langkawi’s colorful night markets, open every night at different locations around the island, or the two best local eateries, Wonderland and Orkid Ria.
Where to shop?
Langkawi is a shopping paradise for duty-free goods from all around the world, from perfumes, cigars, confectionery, handicrafts, and the finest brands of wines to high-quality hard liquor as well as branded apparel and more. The best place to enjoy these bargains is definitely in Kuah, where rows of stores and malls offer the lowest prices of tax-free goods.
Thus, Langkawi has a lot to offer, it is nature served to you in layers of ideation and careful development. The sights and sounds you will experience here will probably remain unparalleled for a lifetime. The austere and azure seas, fascinating flora and fauna and the plethora of activities to be done, its mere discovery is a summoning charm. So what are you waiting for? Do not fight the urge – pack up to lose yourself!