The Langkawi Archipelago
The Langkawi Islands are part of Kedah State in the NW section of peninsular Malaysia. In total, the archipelago makes up 99 islands. However, only 4 of the islands are actually inhabited. Of the 4 inhabited islands, Langkawi island is largest and has the biggest human population of about 65,000. Additionally, the 3 other inhabited islands are Tuba, Rebak and Dayang Bunting.
Fortunately for Langkawi, former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is from Alor Setar in Kedah State. Therefore, the area benefited from infrastructure investment under his direction which greatly enhanced the touristic appeal of the islands.
The Curse of Mahsuri
The islands were at one time subjected to a curse that would last 7 generations. The curse was made by a woman named Mahsuri who was wrongfully accused of adultery in the late 18th century. As a result, she was subsequently put to death and she cursed the island before her execution. Shortly thereafter, in 1821 the Siamese (Thai) invaded Kedah and Langkawi and as a result of the invasion most of the estimated 4000 Malay inhabitants on Langkawi were taken as slaves or executed. Fortunately for Langkawi, the Sultan of Kedah was able to regain control of the island 15 years later.
The Arrival of the British
The British gained control of the islands under the Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909. Therefore, the midpoint between Langkawi Island and Tarutao Island in the Malacca Strait became the boundary between Malaysia and Thailand.
Furthermore, there were pirate bases located on Langkawi and Tarutao that had effected the trade routes in the northern Malacca Strait. As a result, the British took action in 1945-46 and cleared the area of pirates. Malaysia once again took control of the Langkawi archipelago after independence in 1957.
Sites of Interest on Langkawi Island
The main island of Langkawi has a distance of approximately 25 kilometers from north to south. Therefore, the island is easily circumnavigated by motorbike for those who wish to do so. Some of the popular tourist locations on the island include Eagle Square (Dataran Helang), Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tanjung Rhu and Air Terjun Temurun.
Eagle Square is located in the SE corner of the island in the city of Kuah. In Malay, the colloquial word for eagle is lang and the word for a reddish brown stone is kawi. Thus, Langkawi is the “Island of the Brown Eagle”. However, the statue is not without controversy. Malaysia is a Islamic country and the Quran forbids Muslims from creating anything that takes the form of humans or animals because this is the work of God and not man. Therefore, the eagle remains a controversial figure.
Additionally, from Dataran Helang there are great views into the Malacca Strait. Therefore, the square is a nice place to visit during early evening hours.
In the southwest corner of the island there is a popular tourist area called Pantai Cenang. This is the epicenter of tourist activity and it is located near the airport. The Malay word for beach is Pantai and therefore there is a long white sand beach for tourists and locals alike. There is also shopping malls, restaurants and bars for the tourists. It takes about 15 minutes to drive to from Kuah to Pantai Canang on a motorbike.
In Malay, Tanjung means “cape or promontory”. However, there is also a beach located here so I call it Pantai Rhu. The view from the northeast corner of the island is towards Thailand and the Andaman Sea. Access is fairly simple and from Kuah it is about a 20-30 minute motorbike ride to the north. The setting here is more remote and as a result there will be less tourists and the amenities that they enjoy. However, for the individual traveler this is a boon. Therefore, I visited Pantai Rhu several times. Similar to Dataran Helang, it is a nice spot to enjoy the sunset.
There were mostly locals here when I visited and they are fun to hang around.
Air Terjun Temurun
The location of this tourist attraction is a bit more obscure. In Malay, Air means “water” Terjun “jump or plunge” and Temurun “generations”. Therefore, if you put it all together it means Generations Waterfall. Unfortunately for me, I was there during the dry season and the waterfall had run dry.
As you can see from the picture above, the falls are dry but it would look pretty amazing during the rainy season. Fortunately, some of the Macaques that live in the nearby jungle would provide some entertainment. As I was leaving the falls and hiking back down the trail there were some local girls passing me and they had left their bags on the side of the trail.
This was not a good idea!
The monkeys had descended from the trees and were going through their things….the girls quickly returned and tried to get their bags back but the monkeys were not so easily intimidated.
As the battle raged on between the girls and the monkeys, the monkeys grabbed all they could carry and ran up the hillside.
The Macaques are very naughty and will not easily give up their ill gotten gains. Hopefully the girls were eventually able to recover everything that was not edible. The moral of the story is never leave anything in the jungle that a monkey can carry off because you may never see it again!
Additional Langkawi attractions…
The Langkawi Sky Bridge will appeal to some. Unfortunately, I got suckered in by the photos and I went there. Although the sky bridge itself is interesting, it definitely has a resort feel to it. If you could take Disneyland, Starbucks and the Space Needle and mix them together then you would get the Langkawi Sky Bridge. I was so disgusted that I deleted my photos that I had taken from up on the bridge.
Langkawi is easily accessible by ferry from Penang and several places on the Kedah mainland. Also, Langkawi island is very close to Thailand and the boat ride is short to Satun (I went to Satun when I left Langkawi). Although some of the areas on Langkawi are pretty touristy the island has good infrastructure and everything is accessible. It is easy to find what you want to do or avoid what you don’t want to do.