In the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the north-western coast of mainland Malaysia, lies an archipelago of about 100 islands known as Langkawi, Lang meaning Eagle and Kawi meaning a certain reddish brown colour. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi with a population of some 64,792, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Langkawi is also an administrative district with the town of Kuah as the largest town. Apart from being a UNESCO recognised Geo Park, which very few places in the world can boast of, this island is very popular because of a unique cable suspended foot bridge at an altitude of 700 metres above the sea level, with an amazing cable car transport system which takes you up to there.
Thus Langkawi easily became a part of our itinerary for the Malaysia tour and .after a brief stay at Kuala Lumpur we headed for the serene and picturesque island. The streets are wide and bustling with tourists, the roads are excellent for a pleasant drive around the island, and moreover it’s a duty-free place and thus a shopping hub for international tourists. The main island spans about 25 km from north to south and slightly more for east and west and two-thirds of the island is dominated by forest-covered mountains, hills and natural vegetation.
One the first day of our trip, we had a tour of the island covering the usual tourist destinations. Our first stoppage was the Underwater World which is basically a large aquarium housing about 500 unique species of sea creatures, and also the Rock hopper and African Black footed penguins, along with a vast variety of reptiles and lizards. The sea-like aura created by tanking millions of litres of sea water to display the exhibits, really mesmerizes the audience and enthrals the kid and old alike. From here, the guide took us all the way over to the other side of the island to see the famous statue of a brown eagle by the side of the sea which serves as a symbol for the island. During the half an hour drive, our guide explained how the island thrived almost completely on the tourism industry, and even told us about the lack of education and health facilities. Young natives study primary school from the local schools and then leave for Kuala Lumpur seeking better living opportunities, and that also accounts for the meagre population in Langkawi. The Eagle Square, an aesthetically designed and decorated area where the statue is located, is near the Kuah jetty. Hundreds of tourist throng the statue everyday and get photographs clicked with the eagle hovering over them in the frame.
Langkawi is a treasure trove of local art and culture and the birth place of Langkawi’s art of handmade batik was founded by Aza Osman (Oil Painter) and Roshadah Yusof (batik artist / designer). To allow you to have a peep inside the world of batik world, tour operators take you to the Atma Alam Batik Art Village, where you can see the demonstration on Batik art procedures and even you can shop from the extensive showroom of beautiful bags, scarves, sarongs, show-pieces, etc.
After lunch, we decided on taking the adventurous Mangrove tour- a two and a half hour motor-boat safari through the mangrove plantations including stoppage at different limestone caves in the surrounding islands, eagle feeding and visit to a fish farm in the midst of the Andaman Sea.
Run by a group of local youths, the fish farm provides a unique opportunity to feed and have close encounters with a number of sea species like the archer fish, horse shoe crab, ray string, eel and sea bass. The Bat Cave, one of the many limestone caves in the islands of the Andaman Sea is the sleeping place for lakhs of bats during daytime, and at night they come out in search of food. You get an eerie feeling as you enter the pitch dark cave, and the guide takes out his torch and points it at the wall, and you see black coloured figures hanging the ceiling and the greyish cave interiors are spotted red with their acidic spraying. The most attractive event in the mangrove tour is the Eagle feeding. As the legend has it, Langkawi has always been the home for the brown eagles. To give the tourists a glimpse of this specie, tour operators throw about hundred grams of chicken wings and feathers a particular point in the sea and just in a second you see about a hundred huge brown coloured eagles swooping down from the tall trees of the nearby islands and picking up the food from the sea. It was definitely the sight worth remembering.
Next day, we left for the most fascinating tourist attraction in the island: the Langkawi Sky Bridge and the cable car which takes you up there 700 metres above the sea level. Believe me just as the just as your gondola leaves the first ground station for the mid station at about 600 metres above the sea level, you get an unparalleled thrill by the view of the huge mountains, virgin rainforests and the unending blue sea below. At the mid station, from where you get the first view of the magnificent Sky Bridge, you can get down, stroll, click photographs and again take a gondola to the topmost station, and during this journey, the Sky Bridge nears and the view of the hills and the sea gets simply awe-inspiring. Located 700 metres above the sea level adjacent to the final station f the cable car, the Langkawi Sky Bridge is 125 metres curved, cable stayed foot bridge at the peak of Gunung Mat Chinchang (a hill in the island). It’s an engineering marvel which is quite unique in the world and draws a huge crowd to the island.
After all these, that what was left in Langkawi was to experience the enthusiasm at the beaches and taste the local food. The Pantai Cenang beach provided a wonderful opportunity for both. Bustling with tourists swimming, engaged in various water sports, para-sailing or silently enjoying the serenity of the sunset against the golden orange horizon, the Cenang beach is one of the most vibrant beaches in the island, and the restaurants by the beach make excellent sea-food dishes including lobster and crabs preparations! And yes with a parachute attached to your waist and you being dragged by a motor boat some 6 km underneath in the sea, you get the thrill of a lifetime!
With this, our two day tour of the Malaysian island came to a pleasant end and we realised that such a lot of activities and fascinating sights were simply too much in just two days!