The islands of Langkawi had been cursed by a young lady named Mahsuri, who was accused of adultery some 180 years ago.
She was a beautiful girl and the Sultan of Kedah was won over by her charm, much to the chagrin of his wife, who, out of jealousy, condemned her and employed henchmen to pierce her with a sword. White blood oozed out of her body.
In her last moments Mahsuri swore that the land would be doomed, and would regain its glory only after seven generations. The legend might be true or not, but only a decade ago Langkawi rose in prominence. The idyllic islands still possess uncrowded beaches, thickly forested hillsides, and unpolluted mangroves where monkeys, otters, kingfishers, and hornbills abound.
Langkawi is a cluster of islands in the Andaman Sea. It is a part of the Kedah State of Malaysia. A one-and-a-half-hour steamer ride takes you to there from Kualah Kedah, a fishing village about nine kilometers from Alorsetar, the Kedah state capital.
Kualah Kedah is a tiny hamlet smelling of fish at every corner. We parked our car in a school which is making lot of money providing parking spaces in a covered car park charging 10 RM/day. Just opposite is the jetty terminal. Crossing the road at about 12 noon with the sun right overhead we entered the crowded port. There are steamers going up and down every hour charging 23 RM/head.
We booked tickets for the 1.30 p.m. ferry and waited in the lounge for an hour. The upkeep of the port is very poor, with cigarette stubs everywhere, and the shore looks dirty with dirtier boats and even dirtier sand gleaming black with soot and rubbish, while the smell of fish pervades throughout.
At half past one in the afternoon we got into the steamer. We had to be careful when getting into it as the bridge temporarily assigned is rickety. The interior of the steamer was not very much to our liking but the ride was pleasant. Getting into the sea we found the waters clean and the sky downcast with dark clouds roaming here and there.
The ride was quite enjoyable, passing tiny islands. We alighted from the steamer at 3 p.m. There was a welcome rain and the passage was drenched making the floor slippery. Crossing the duty free shops we came out of the harbor. We hired a car for two days, paying 200 RM with a 100 RM refundable deposit.
Kuah is the administrative capital of the Langkawi islands. There are about 100 small islands in the archipelago. A 20-minute drive takes you to Pantai Cenang, the most picturesque of all the islands.
The beachfront of Pantai Cenang is really amazing. A rustic ruggedness remains, entwined with the quietness. The pristine beauty of the seashore is evenly punctuated with palm and coconut trees.
The island has many attractions, including Langkawi Underwater World, with its mammoth structure, providing interesting entertainment for the kids.
The long sandy shores provide a stimulating experience to all, irrespective of age. Water sports, such as parasailing, snorkeling, banana boat, jetskiing, kayaking, and diving sessions keep you active throughout your stay.
The spas – Indian ayurvedic, Thai, Chinese, and Malay – are the best attractions. They offer a variety of massages, facials, and hairdos to keep you fit and agile and looking well, and the charges are reasonable.
There are a number of duty-free shops and a score of shops that sell handmade bags, gifts, lacquer trays, and boxes. The prices are not too expensive and the items are worth buying.
Accommodation is not a problem as there are many starred and budget hotels. As the place grew into a hot tourist spot, the locals converted tin sheds into rooms and called them cabins, and transformed small houses into guest houses with bed and bath.
The Kedah state government needs to engage in a drive to spruce up the islands and maintain cleanliness and hygiene. The tourist industry is flourishing and the State is earning huge income, yet its involvement in development is not emphatic. The Federal Government should involve itself with enthusiasm to beautify the lovely islands which are rightly called the “jewel of Kedah.”