Langkawi A Mystical Paradise
Langkawi is a feast for the eyes and the soul. The first glimpse of the island from air reveals a tranquil hideaway with shimmering azure waters, sun kissed beaches and swaying casuarinas trees. It is a sight that beckons with the promise of a private haven away from everyday life.
Langkawi is actually the name given to a group of emerald islands (l04 during low tide, and 99 during high tide) studded across the Andaman Sea. Located in the northernmost tip of the Malaysian peninsular – just south of the Thai border – the islands are part of the state of Kedah.
Kedah is reputed to be the most ancient state in Malaysia, a place where the earliest civilization and trade in this area were born. Historical finds at Bujang Valley and other parts of Kedah, where Malaysia’s oldest and richest archaeologist sites are located, reveal that a Hindu Buddhist culture existed here as far back as 300 AD. This was a trading port and a migration point a thousand years before a sea route around peninsular Malaysia with Malacca as a bustling maritime centre would emerge. An ancient kingdom in Kedah, it is believed, flourished here from the 4th to the 7th century, attracting a cosmopolitan mix of merchants and traders such as Indians, Chinese, Achenese (from Sumatra), Burmese, and Arabs. The existence of this kingdom is usually linked to the historical site of the Bujang Valley.
The prosperity of Bujang Valley kingdom and its location on the main transit route across the peninsula, it highly attractive to foreigners wanting to monopolise its trade. In the 7th and 8th centuries, it was controlled by the Sri Vijaya Empire at Sumatra, followed by a period of dominating by the Thais. When the Portuguese captured Malacca in 1511, Kedah’s importance waned. The Portuguese also attacked Kedah in the 17th century, but in the late 18th century, the British occupied two of its Territories Penang (1786) and Seberang Prai – (re named Province Wellesley in 1800). In the early 19th century, the Thais strengthened their hold over Kedah, capturing and ruling it between 1821 – 1841. In the early 20th century, after the Anglo Siamese Treaty of 1909, the kingdom was transferred to the British sphere of influence. With the exception of the period of occupation by the Japanese during World War II Kedah remained under British protection until Malaya gained independence in 1957 and was re named Malaysia.
A MYSTICAL PARADISE
Langkawi’s history is as mystical as the mist that clings to the rainforest canopies and the shoreline mangroves in the early hours of the morning. Langkawi’s limestone cliffs and caves are geological masterpieces, believed to be 500 million years old. The island is home to some of the oldest mangrove river swamps and ancient rainforests where rich flora and fauna abound, and are being researched and documented. Only three islands are inhabited Pulau Langkawi (the main island), Pulau Tuba and Pulau Dayang Bunting. The islanders are from Malay, Chinese, Indian and Thai descent and many still live a languid lifestyle, reminiscent of their ancestors. The island was named after two Malay words helang and kawi which mean eagle and marble respectively. Langkawi is also home to Malaysia’s most famous legend that of the Princess Mahsuri who is said to have cursed the island for seven generations. The story goes that a beautiful maiden named Mahsuri who was lusted after by a man and envied by his wife was executed after being falsely accused and found guilty of adultery.
As she lay dying, Mahsuri whose blood was white as proof of her innocence cursed the island saying it would be barren for seven generations. Soon after, the Thai’s attacked the island and ravaged it and Langkawi quietly slipped into the mist of memory. Almost as if on cue, seven generations later, the island was re awakened and re energized when it was named a duty free port in the 1990s. The legend of Mahsuri is forever intertwined with that of Langkawi, and a white marble tomb in honour of the Princess can be found on the island. Malaysians believe that the discovery of Mahsuri’s seven generation descendants confirm that she really existed, and Langkawi’s worldwide fame today as a tropical island paradise means the curse is now over
Langkawi modern airport today welcomes visitors to the island from all parts of the world. Langkawi has a sunny, tropical climate all year with an annual temperature of 25 to 320 C.
Most rainfall occurs from October to November, with occasional showers from April to September. This makes it a haven for sun seekers and water sport enthusiasts inclined towards diving, windsurfing, water skiing, snorkelling and parasailing. For adventure seekers, the many outlying islands offer the chance for some exploration. While many of the islands are no more small rocky outcrops, others offer secluded hideaways that can be reached by boat. These islands offer excellent coves for some private snorkelling, swimming and fishing. There is lush tropical vegetation for nature lovers who prefer more active pastimes such as jungle trekking and cave exploration. Langkawi is also home to Malaysia’s first marine park, Pulau Payar. This is a magical underwater world located about 40 minutes from the main island. Travel in a glassÂ¬ bottomed boat to the pristine white sandy beaches and crystal clear waters where you can snorkel or dive to experience the stunning marine life up close. If you prefer something a little more sedate, the warm and shallow waters at low tide are perfect for peaceful reverie or a leisurely walk on sand banks to explore neighbouring islands. Exploring Langkawi is more than just discoveÂ¬ring its beach life. Take a trip into the interior of main island and you will witness a lifestyle unchanged for generations.
C-Right 2014 by Langkawi Gazette