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The Jewel Of Kedah
Visiting Malaysia? Then make sure that you do not pass up on the opportunity to visit Pulau Langkawi, one of the most famous tourist destinations in the region. Located off the coast of the Malaysian state Kedah, Pulau Langkawi boasts unspoiled natural beauty, a rich culture, fun activities, great food as well as a serene atmosphere that makes it into a popular tourist attraction, gathering large crowds of visitors every year.
Although Pulau Langkawi is commonly referred to as simply
Langkawi, they actually refer to different things. Langkawi is an archipelago consisting of 99 islands off the coast of Kedah, many of which are uninhabited, of which Pulau Langkawi is part of. The archipelago has a total land mass of about 47,000 hectares, with Pulau Langkawi is by far the biggest island taking up a total of 32,000 hectares.
The origin of the name “Langkawi” is debated, but there are two popular theories about where the name came from. The first one is that the name Langkawi comes from being related to Langkasuka, a kingdom centred in what is now modern-day Kedah. The other is that Langkawi simply means “red eagle” in Malay, with “Lang” being the short form for “Helang” (eagle) and “kawi” meaning reddish-brown in old Malay.
Langkawi has been home to a sizable population for a long time and thus has its own share of myths and culture formed throughout the years. The most famous folk tale in Langkawi, however, has to be the legend of Mahsuri, a woman who was wrongly accused of adultery. When she was executed, white blood gushed out of her wounds, a sign of her innocence. With her dying breath, she cursed Langkawi to be unable to experience peace and prosperity for seven generations. Intriguingly, Langkawi was plagued by wars and other problems soon after, and it was not until Mahsuri’s seventh generation was born that Langkawi prospered and became the popular vacation spot we know today.
Langkawi was considered to be part of Kedah for most of modern history. Originally ruled by the Kedah sultanate, Langkawi spent a brief amount of time under the Thai and British powers when Kedah was conquered. Kedah, along with Langkawi, eventually joined Malaya which later became Malaysia.
Until 1987, however, Langkawi was no more than another sleepy backwater island town. That year, in an effort to improve the lives of islanders and to
boost Malaysia’s tourism industry, Langkawi was granted tax-exempt status. The result of the move exceeded expectations, and within a few years Langkawi was flooded by tourists, both foreigners and locals alike, looking for a break from the hectic city life.
Getting To and Around Langkawi
Langkawi is rather accessible and can be reached by sea or by air. Ferry services carry passengers to Langkawi from Georgetown, Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah or Satun in Thailand. The international airport at Padang Matsirat receives international flights, as well as daily flights from Kuala Lumpur.
The main transit point for Langkawi, Kuah Town is also the main town for the island. Formerly a fishing village, Langkawi’s recent status as a tourism haven has led to a rapid development, resulting in many modern facilities such as hotels, banks and malls around the area. It’s a great base explore the rest of the island from.
There is almost no public transport on the island. Pulau Langkawi is quite large, so it’s best for visitors to be able to drive around in Langkawi to discover and explore the best of the island for themselves. Motorbikes and scooters can be rented for anywhere around RM25-RM40 per day, and cars are slightly more expensive at about RM100-RM150 per day.
Where to Stay
Being a popular tourist destination, it is only natural for Langkawi to feature a wide variety of hotels, motels and resorts. The range of places caters to almost everyone, from budget motels for those looking for an affordable stay to luxury resorts that pamper their customers.
As with the rest of Malaysia, a great variety of restaurants and cafés selling tasty Malaysian food can be found across the entire island, with much of them concentrated in popular tourist areas such as Kuah Town, Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah.
Langkawi’s Natural Beauty
Langkawi is perhaps best known for its breathtaking natural beauty, which is carefully preserved despite major development projects in recent years. Langkawi’s biggest attraction is likely to be its pristine beaches, which are world-famous for their relaxing atmosphere and great beauty.
At Langkawi, visitors can marvel at the clear turquoise sea gently brushing against the sandy shore lined with tall coconut trees, an awe-inspiring sight which is difficult to find anywhere else. Popular ones include places such as Pantai Cenang and Pantai Pasir Hitam (Black Sand Beach, the black sand caused by rich tin and iron deposits).
There are also a number of structures, institutions and businesses that have been set up that assist visitors in appreciating the unique natural treasures of Langkawi even more. For those interested in a bird’s eye view of Langkawi, the cable car offers a breathtaking journey that allows you to admire the beauty of the island from afar. The sky bridge on top of Gunung Mat Cincang also offers a breathtaking view of the island. Its curved design allows visitors to view the island from many different angles, allowing them to fully appreciate the beauty of the island.
Culture and Interesting Locations
Malaysia is notable for being a country with a proud cultural tradition, and Langkawi is no exception, even having its own unique myths and legends. With many tourist spots that showcase or are deeply related to the culture and folk tales of Langkawi, the island is a treasure trove for those who are interested in culture and history.
One of the major cultural centres is the Kota Mahsuri, a building built to honour the memory of the falsely-accused Mahsuri. Kota Mahsuri is the site of Mahsuri’s tomb, and it houses other cultural attractions in its mini-museum. Another place to find out more about the culture and traditions of Langkawi and Malaysia is the Langkawi Craft Complex, where visitors can find a large collection of Malay arts and crafts. A number of mini-museums can be found in the building, and quite often there are different activities or workshop that held at the complex for visitors to find out more about traditional Malay crafts.
Another fascinating place to visit would certainly be Galeria Perdana, a two-storey building built to house the various awards, souvenirs and gifts to Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad during this tenure as Malaysia’s prime minister. Tun Dr. Mahathir believed that the gifts he received were on behalf of all Malaysians, and as such it was only appropriate for the country to have access to the collection.
Rice is an essential part of Malaysian diet, and Laman Padi Langkawi is a place to remember the importance of rice to Malaysia. Curious visitors can find out anything and everything about rice paddies, from its cultivation, nurturing to the harvesting. Not only are there real rice fields to look at, there’s even a museum where rice-planting tools and equipment are shown!
Other places of note include the Underwater World (where you can find interesting aquatic life for display), the Snake Sanctuary, Crocodile Farm and many more.