PictoJournal©: Langkawi Lures You

Text by Anu (Arundhathi) and Photos by Suchit Nanda [http://photos.suchit.in/Travel]

Read a thousand words or view a hundred pictures, yet there will be no substitute to visiting Langkawi.

Panoramic view of the beach at Langkawi, Malaysia

We flew down from Singapore and landed on this beautiful green mountainous island, “The Langkawi Archipelago”, with 99 unspoiled islands of which only three are inhabited. An airport taxi drove us to our hotel located at the island’s longest and famous beach– Pantai Cenang. It’s packed with an assortment of bistros & cafes, souvenir shops and famous restaurants that transforms this area to a very lively place to hang out in the evenings.

At the break of the day we walked to the beach just 50 yards away and spent four hours chilling out on the white sands and swimming in the emerald waters. The tranquil and sparkling beach with an overcast sky created a magic in the ambiance. After hours of floating on the water we explored for some underwater experience and arrived at the Underwater World, featuring more than 5,000 types of marine life, exhibited in more than 100 tanks of different sizes. The best one was a giant tank housing large species such as sharks, stingrays, groupers and green turtles. We could walk through a 15-metre tunnel to view the underwater gardens of weeds and sea plants together with exotic fish as well as exhibits of fossils and shells. It was an exceptional experience indeed!

Next on our itinerary was the Oriental Village, a theme shopping centre housed in a couple of individually designed buildings showcasing Malaysian and Oriental architecture. This village offers a wide range of international designer labels and local products. The presence of a delightful tavern completes the village concept while cultural and theatre performances enhance the Oriental theme that encompasses the village. The Base Station for the cable car ride to Machincang mountain range is located here. We took off in a clear bubble shaped cable car ride up the valleys. I'd call it a 12 minutes heart-thumping and breathless ride. At the onset, the car leisurely and gradually ascended the slopes of the mountain but soon it climbed at a steep 45º. The ground suddenly seemed so far below while we cruised along in mid-air. It was a bit of a frightening experience, I actually broke into a cold sweat. Though thoughts of the car falling into the dense forest sneaked into my mind, I forcefully purged them out of my head! But before long, I was diverted by the mesmerizing views of the island and by the Seven Steps water falls against the forested backdrop in the 1,700 meters climb up. I was enthralled by the craftworks of nature fashioned by the granite protrusions on the mountain slopes.

In a little while, the middle cable car station came at an elevation of 650m above sea level and we stepped out to visit a curved bridge suspended over a chasm. This suspension bridge is an engineering marvel; the view from here provides access to the eastern cliffs with its three vertical chimneys and beautiful 360-degree views. For the first time we were able to observe at close range the unique rock formations shaped 500 million years ago during the Cambrian period, in geological terms. After enjoying the awe-inspiring views we got back into the gondolas, which took us another 450 meters up to the Top Station. A short walk up the stairs took us to the two viewing platforms at the top of the mountain, the climax of the trip. We were amazed by the unfolding of some dramatic views from here. The unique and exciting features of Machincang, are the dominating rock tower peaks providing spectacular 360-degree panoramic views of the Langkawi islands, Kedah and Southern Thailand along with the dramatic views of the deep chasms, overhanging cliff walls, isolated pinnacles and some caves. Such nature monuments in this combination are seldom seen anywhere else other than in Langkawi. A cafe at the Top Station offers some spectacular views alluring visitors to enjoy Sunsets at 708m above sea-level. With its magical feel in the air where the mystique and legends lie, Panoramic Langkawi oozes with the beckoning of a dream island. The cable car ride is a memorable experience I recommend to all the visitors of Langkawi.

Langkawi is full of beautiful resorts, sun kissed beaches and luxurious spas to rejuvenate all visitors. Promoting Langkawi as a green holiday destination, the government discourages visitors from bringing their own cars and vehicles to control pollution and traffic congestion. Hiring cabs is the norm here. For those who prefer to do self driving, the alternative is to rent cars which are easily available either at the airport or at Kuah town and cost around RM 80 to 120 per day. Motorcycles can be rented for RM 20-30 per day. The extensive network of good roads provides easy accessibility to every part of the main island. But we heard that driving in Langkawi can be dangerous, not because of traffic but due to wandering water buffaloes and cows therefore one has to be particularly careful at night.

Langkawi also boasts of the existence of various legends and myths. Well known among them is the legend of Mahsuri. It is believed that Mahsuri, a young woman who lived about 200 years ago in the island of Langkawi, was accused of adultery and executed by stabbing. With her dying breath, she cursed Langkawi to have seven generations of bad luck. People here believe that only after seven generations the islands of Langkawi began to flourish after suffering several invasions and natural calamities. Her tomb, Makam Mahsuri, in Langkawi, has become a tourist attraction on the island in the cultural village that also showcases traditional Malay houses, music and handicrafts.

How could we ignore Kuah, the capital of Langkawi that has grown from a quiet little town to a city with beautiful shopping malls since Langkawi was given duty free status. Almost every shop is filled with tax free products like cigarettes, cigars, clothes, electronic equipments and liquor. Wandering around, we reached the Kuah jetty, the landing point for visitors arriving by sea. A few minutes away, is the Dataran Lang (Eagle Square), Langkawi's most prominent landmark, where a magnificent statue of a reddish brown eagle majestically sits. According to local folklore, Langkawi derived its name from the eagle or "helang". In old Malay, "kawi" denotes reddish brown, hence, Langkawi means reddish brown eagle! This Eagle square is delightfully landscaped featuring scenic ponds, bridges, covered terraces and restaurants. We were very fortunate to be at this point just before sundown to get stunning pictures and to enjoy the spectacular coastal seascape. The square is brilliantly illuminated at night and presents a dramatic scene. In fact, the majestic eagle is strategically positioned to welcome visitors to Langkawi.

Can a visit to Langkawi Island be complete without a trip to its marine park? The famous Pulau Payar Marine Park is situated in the northern part of the Straits of Malacca, 19 nautical miles south of Langkawi. These islands are enclosed by coral reefs that support the healthy existence of the marine environment. The calm and clear waters with an average visibility of between 30 to 50 feet make these islands a very attractive destination for swimming, diving and snorkeling. For the divers, the marine park offers a variety of diving conditions; one can chose between the flat terrain to the east of Pulau Payar or plunge the steep slope to the west and around Pulau Segantang. There is an underwater observatory for those who do not wish to get wet. I strongly suggest that one must keep at least a day for snorkeling and observing the underwater world.

Langkawi not only offers feast for the eyes but for the tongue as well. Tourists get to savor varieties of food ranging from Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai or Western but best part is in Langkawi, one gets to enjoy some superb beachfront dining experiences whilst watching the dazzling sunsets. A visit to any destination is incomplete without shopping for some souvenirs. Langkawi is a shopper’s paradise with a wide range of local as well as imported goods. Most of the island’s shopping establishments can be found in Kuah, the main town of Langkawi. The choices for shoppers include items such as pewter, batik, crystals, glassware, silk fabrics, perfumes and liquor.

Going on island cruises is a great way to unwind and capture the breathtaking scenery of Langkawi as your boat weaves through the watery passageways between the islands. As a natural paradise, these islands are perhaps unmatched anywhere else in Southeast Asia. With a geological history dating back 500 million odd years, the islands contain unique rock formations that swirl the imagination and mystify the mind. Numerous caves, with their stunning stalactites and stalagmites, taunt the adventurous to unravel their ancient secrets.

At the end of four sun-filled days on the white mesmerizing beaches of Langkawi, it was time to pack our bags for our next destination Penang. The cool way to get across to Penang is undeniably the Langkawi ferry which facilitates in indulging in the last glimpses of this entrancing island while sailing away with a deep desire to return someday.


~ Anu & Suchit Nanda, Mar, 2008
Many more pictures can be seen at: Langkawi, Malaysia, Travel Images
Official website: http://www.tourism.gov.my/

Fact File:
Getting there:
• From many Indian cities various airlines fly daily to Kuala Lumpur.
• From Kuala Lumpur Langkawi can be reached by flight, by train, by road as well as by ferry

• Langkawi offers a large selection of accommodation from Budget Hostels to Five star Hotels to suit all budget types.

Text copyright Arundhathi. All pictures copyright Suchit Nanda. All images shot with Nikon D300 & D200 DSLR camera with lens: Nikkor 70-200 mm f/2.8, Nikkor 18-200mm f/3.5-4.5G ED IF AF-S DX, Nikkor 50 mm f/1.4

This article has been printed in Asian Photography Magazine May 2008 issue and can be seen here.