Idyllic Langkawi Island puts Kedah on the holiday map of the world with its rich mangrove forests, craggy limestone hills and age-old legends.
This special article was written by Douglas Chew, Tourism Malaysia, published on Singapore Straits Times, 6 Sep 2011. It is about Malaysia, Langkawi. I find it interesting, full of information and knowledge about Langkawi and would like to share this article with the world.
Many visitors to Langkawi are contented to laze on pristine beaches, swim in the turquoise sea, get a massage or enjoy spa treatment. But the archipelago of 99 islands, also known as the Jewel of Kedah, has more to offer besides the sun, sand and sea. It has some of the world’s most preserved rainforests and stunning limestone formations.
In recognition of its rich bounty from nature, Langkawi bagged the Unesco Geopark status in 2007. Embraced the greenery with a visit to the Langkawi Mangroves. Against a backdrop of craggy limstone outcroppings jutting out of the Andaman Sea, the mangrove forest is an intricate network of streams and hidden coves, home to hundreds of species of wildlife.
Go on a boat tour. While saling down the rivers, keep an eye for the eagles such as the Brahminy Kites and huge Sea Eagles nesting in the crags. A highlight of the tour is feeding the eagles. The boatman throws food into the water and the huge birds circling over-head come swooping down for their meal. Some of the mangrove tours include jungle trekking, cave, exploration, village visits and swimming. There is a guided tour of the mangrove’s flora and fauna.
To have a bird’s view of the park, take the Langkawi Cable Car. The 20 minute ride takes us about 2.2km over the rainforest canopy up to the base station of Gunung Machinchang. From there, climb to its top and let the scenery unfold with eagles, hornbills and other colourful birds in the sky. Go up to the viewing platform for a commanding view of the surrounding islands, the rural lowlands and the seas as far as Thailand. You can also see the famed Telaga Tujuh waterfalls.
Trekkers can follow a 2.5km hiking trail between the waterfalls and cable car stations.
Being an archipelago with abundant marine life, Langkawi is popular for island hopping and diving. Island hoping includes a stop at the wildlife reserve on Pulau Singa Besar, where Lizards, mouse deer, macaques and colourful birds roam freely. Another popolar site is the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden or Pulau Dayang Bunting, which is believed to bestow fertility. This legend arose from the shape of the backdrop of the lake, which resembles the belly of a reclining, pregnant woman.
Langkawi has many legends, including one of the reddish brown eagle descending on the island, which gave rise to the name Langkawi. In Malay, an eagle is helang or simply lang, while reddish brown is kawi. This is also the reason why an imposing 12 meters statue of an eagle was erected at Dataran Lang (Eagle Square) and it is one of the first things that greet visitors arriving by boat on the island. Next to the square is the Taman Lagenda (Legends Park), a 20 ha garden that gives a quick overview of the legends in Langkawi.
A well known legend revolves around Mahsuri, a Malay princess who was falsely accused of adultery by her jealous mother in law. You can find her tale at the Kota Mahsuri Cultural Center. It was believed that at the point of the execution by a keris (dagger), white blood flowed from her body, proving her innocence.
With her dying breath, Mahsuri cursed the island for seven generations. War indeed plagued the island soon after her death. Incidentally, it was only in 1987 that Langkawi awoke from a long stupor, when it was granted tax free status and promoted as a tourist destination. Many people took this as a sign of the end of Mahsuri’s curse.
Besides Langkawi, the state of Kedah has other attractions to delight visitors. The Sedim River Recreation Park offers the longest canopy walk in the world. Visitors traversing the treetop walk, which spans 950 meters in length and is suspended 50 meters high above the primeval rainforest, can enjoy a magnificient view of the foliage teeming with wildlife.
Another popular spot is the Ulu Legong Hot Springs in Baling in southern Kedah. Locals and tourists alike come here to enjoy the hot mineral waters, which are believed to have the therapeutic properties, especially for people with ailments and skin problems.