Paradise has many names and Langkawi is one of them. All the qualities of island paradise are here powder white beaches, clear turquoise waters, lush ancient rainforest and a relaxed, almost surreal pace of life. Blessed with such natural beauty, it is easy to attribute them as her main attractions, yet the jewel in Langkawi's crown is something less obvious: the heritage of oral storytelling passed down by the first settlers centuries ago. The result is hundreds of legends attached to almost every cave, island, rock and lake within the archipelago. It is because of this enchanting folktales and legends that Langkawi is often dubbed "Isles of Legends".
Tucked against Thailand off Peninsular Malaysia's northern coast, the Langkawi archipelago contains not only one but a hundred or so idyllic islands. Scattered where the Andaman Sea merges into the Malacca Straits, there are between 99 to 104 of them the figures vary as some of the islets are submerged during high tide.
The main island and the largest of the lot is popularly known as Pulau Langkawi, about the size of Singapore. Most of the development and population are on this island, as are the places of attractions and accommodation. Pulau Langkawi is easily accessed by air or sea, through its airport at Padang Matsirat and jetty at Kuah town. The island itself is connected by an excellent road system.
Kuah, the capital town, is the island's most developed and populated place. It is here that most of the island's shopping complexes, offices and restaurants are based.
Beyond Kuah town, much of Pulau Langkawi remain (surprisingly) unspoilt. The island's centre is a picturesque composition of Malaysian countryside where brooding, rainforested mountains tower over vast expanses of paddy fields and traditional villages, while sandy white beaches hug the coastlines.
Much of the island's character is that of a rustic malay countryside, much reflected by the relaxed lifestyle of local villagers as they saunter to work or hang out with their buddies at the nearby warong1. Another prevalent sight in this pastoral scene is that of water buffaloes nonchalantly basking in the paddy fields, their dark hides contrasting with the fertile green fields. One wonders if modern harvesting machinery have rendered them redundant, but this benevolent creature remains a charming sight to behold.
From her early days as a place of refuge for pirates and buccaneers who preyed upon trading ships in the Straits of Malacca, the Langkawi islands have seen many changes, but the most profound impact on the islands' fortunes was when it was bestowed duty-free status by the Malaysian Government in 1987.
Since then, life has never been the same for any Langkawian, as concerted efforts to turn Langkawi into a major tourist destination resulted in more development and economic growth. No doubt it was the govenment's hand which turned the tide of fortunes for Langkawi, but many local folk still believed that it was due to something less tangible, that the seven-generation curse cast on the island by Mahsuri had finally ended.
According to legend, the beautiful Mahsuri was sentenced to be speared to death for adultery, a crime she was falsely accused of. With her dying breath, she cursed the island, predicting that it would not prosper until seven generations had passed. Strangely enough, Langkawi suffered a series of woes after that crops failed, it was invaded by the Siamese and Achenese, and bypassed in mainstream development.
Whatever the reason for its prosperity, today's visitors to Langkawi are spoiled for choice with over 7,000 hotel rooms to choose from.
Yet despite these changes, Langkawi has still managed to retain her identity through the ages. It is still very much a land of kampungs, beaches, rice fields, legends and easy going people. Langkawi's magical charm is one which you have to experience for yourself, a spellbinding adventure for all who set foot here.
1. Local coffee shop/eatery.
Area and Geographical
The Langkawi archipelago is situated in Kedah, Malaysia with latitudes 6o10'N to 6o30'N and longtitudes 99o35'E to 100oE.
The Langkawi archipelago consists of 104 islands.
The largest island is Langkawi Island (478.5 sq km), followed by Pulau Dayang Bunting, Pulau Tuba and many other smaller islands and islets.
The capital town of Langkawi
Langkawi has a tropical monsoon climate with a high annual tempreture of between 24oC to 33oC. The raining season is between April and October and the dry season starts from November to March. Its annual rainfall averages 2500mm.
The population of Langkawi for 1990 is estimated at 40,000; 89 percent Malays, eight percent Chinese and three percent other races.
The national language is Bahasa Malaysia. The local people speak Bahasa Malaysia and those originating from Thailand speak fluent Thai. English is accepthed and understood by the youngar generation and Chinese dialects are concenrated in the Kuah commercial centre.
The official religion is Islam, but there is freedom of worship.
Langkawi is accessable by sea, rail and air.
About 35 percent of the total land area in Langkawi is suitable for agriculture use rubber 40 percent, paddy 30 percent, mixed crop 20 percent and coconut 10 percent.
Banks and government officers are closed on Fridays and Saturday afternoons, but open Sundays
Getting to Langkawi