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Last Updated Thursday May 25 2017 04:48 AM IST

Langkawi, the jewel of Kedah

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Langkawi The Eagle Square at Langkawi. Photo: Vanitha

The cluster of islands called Langkawi is about 50 minutes by air from Kuala Lumpur. From the air, the green dot-like islands look prominent in the clear blue waters and inviting, with its mountains, lakes, villages and rivers.

After the tour guide introduced himself to me, we first went to see the giant sculpture of a Brahmani kite that was visible from air.

According to Indians who live here, these islands are the resting place of Garuda, the vehicle of Lord Vishnu. The islands were named so because of the large number of kites that one can see circling over the mangrove forests here. In Malay 'Helang Kawi' means saffron kite. That name got modified with time to the modern Langkawi.

The Malaysian administration created the Eagle Square to reinforce that belief and today, the Eagle Square, which juts out into the sea, has souvenir shops, parks, entertainment zones, walkways and an open air theatre. Eagle Square is also the main venue for cultural programmes and events. During the tourist season, the area is filled with tourists and one cannot miss the usual decibel-rich activities of tourists and operators who try to entice them here.

Langkawi Fort Mahsuri at Langkawi. Photo: Vanitha

As we moved to my hotel, I noticed the beautiful white sands of Langkawi. On our way, Win, my tour guide, told me the story behind the white sands of Langkawi. Myth has it that there once lived a very beautiful woman called Mahsuri in Langkawi. She was so beautiful that all the men in the village wanted to marry her. She chose to marry the brother of the village head, who himself had offered to marry her.

As time went by, Mahsuri's husband had to go outside the village to take part in a campaign against invaders from the neighbouring village. While he was away, a singer came to the village and Mahsuri allowed the singer to stay in her house. The village head’s wife spread rumours against the two and soon Mahsuri was sentenced to death by the village head. None, including her husband, believed her claims that she was innocent. Just before she was beheaded, Mahsuri cursed the land that it would remain impoverished for seven generations. It seems that the white blood that flowed out when she was beheaded lent its colour to the sand.

It is believed that the curse came true and Langkawi did not see prosperity for seven generations after Mahsuri's death. Famine, fire, strife and natural disturbances destroyed the grandeur of Langkawi and things took a better turn only after a long time, along with the seventh generation after Mahsuri. Fort Mahsuri is a monument that is dedicated to the memory of the lady and is located about 18 kilometres from Kuah town. The place now hosts a small museum and a theatre that tells the story of Mahsuri.

Langkawi The cable car runs over the rain forests of Kilim Jiyo to the top of the Mat Cincang Mountains. Photo: Vanitha

Langkawi has many such stories. In the Oriental village in Burau Bay is the very famous cable car of Langkawi. The cable car runs over the rain forests of Kilim Jiyo to the top of the Mat Cincang Mountains. The cable-car journey is one of the must-see activities in Langkawi. As you move in the car, 700 metres above ground, you get a beautiful view of the island masses scattered below, which look like scattered pieces of kitchen utensils. It was here that Win told me the story of the Cincang-Raya Mountains.

Cincang and Raya were the heads of two prominent families in Langkawi. They were thick friends and they decided to get their children married so as to further enhance the bonds between the families. However, difference of opinion set in and soon the two families were fighting, using even the utensils in the kitchen as weapons! During the fight, the gravy of a dish that spilled out became Kuah town and the broken pieces of dishes became the Belanga Pekka village. In Malay, Kuah means gravy and Belanga Pekka means broken utensils.

Win continued, "A friend of the two, Mat Savar, intervened in the fight between Cincang and Raya. He tried to mediate and asked the friends not make a mockery of themselves through the fight. The two understood their petty folly and decided that they would no more fight. They transformed into two mountains that stand guard to the island cluster. To ensure that they do not fight again, Mat Savar transformed into a hill between them.

Langkawi Sky bridge in Langkawi. Photo: Vanitha

From the top station of the cable car one can visit the sky bridge, which however was under repair when we went there. The bridge winds over the rainforests at a height of 700 meters and offers a beautiful view to those who would love to enjoy the beauty of the forest from above.

The Kilim Geo Park is located along the beaches of the Kilim River. It has lime boulders that are centuries old, and a beautiful mangrove forest. The boat trip circling the mangrove forest into the Andaman Sea is something that one cannot easily forget. The first stop of the boat trip was near a limestone cave where one comes face to face with nature.

Langkawi The Bat Cave in Kilim Geo Park at Langkawi. Photo: Vanitha

The trek through the dimly-lit cave is an eerie experience and the thousands of bats hanging on the roofs only added to the experience. Win warned me that the bats would attack if camera flashes were used.

The next stop was a floating fish farm. Here, the lake becomes an estuary and is a favourite place for yachts from Australia and New Zealand to drop anchor. The fish farms are made up of tanks in which eel, sting ray, sting crab etc are grown. After that stopover, the boat quickly ventured into the Andaman Sea and came back to the Geo Forest after circling a giant rock.

Langkawi The floating fish farm in Kilim River. Photo: Vanitha

Many come to Langkawi from Malaysia to take advantage of the low cost of alcohol. Compared to Malaysia, many commodities here are 20 per cent cheaper.

Langkawi comes to life in the evenings and a visit to the Eagle Square or Pantai Cenang Beach proves this. One can see a different face of Langkawi here with music, dance, booze and tastes making their rounds on the beaches. The beaches are relatively safe and yachting is a favourite foreign-exchange earner here. The yachts offer cruises and stay packages. A drive-in beach here offers water sports and other entertainment.

Langkawi The Drive-In beach in Langkawi. Photo: Vanitha

There are no buses in Langkawi and one has to depend on taxis, cars or scooters to travel. Transport arranged by tour operators are risk free.

Langkawi has lot more to offer such as a wildlife park, a rice museum, Mardi agro park, Jet Ski tours and so on. All these are excuses to go back to Langkawi with which one is sure to fall in love.

How to get there

An archipelago of 104 islands in the Andaman Sea, Langkawi is about 30km off the coast of north-western Malaysia. Part of the Kedah state of Malaysia, Langkawi is known as the jewel of Kedah.

By air: If the starting point is India, one has to get to Kuala Lumpur from cities like Kochi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi. Take the direct flights of MH, AIR Asia that are available.

By sea: The coastal towns of Malaysia, namely Kuala Kedah, Kaula Perlis, Penang offer ferry services to Langkawi

Where to stay: From star hotels to budget accommodations, your wish is Langkawi's command!

Weather: November–March is the season here. The usual temperature would vary from 23–24 degree Celsius.

Currency: Malaysian Ringgit

Visa Info - www.kln.gov.my/web/guest/requirement-for-foreigner

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