|Once a sanctuary for pirates, Pulau Langkawi
carries a reputation that was largely known only to the locals until it
was made a duty-free port in 1987. Add modern amenities and
state-of-the-art business facilities to its natural appeal, accentuated by
a multitude of intriguing folklore and legends, and you get a Malaysian
getaway exclusive for holidaymakers and corporate figures from all over
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
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.