Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Travel: Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah


Langkawi, officially known as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah (Malay: Langkawi Permata Kedah) is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. 

On July 15, 2008, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah had consented to the change of name to Langkawi Permata Kedah in conjunction with his Golden Jubilee Celebration. 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 capital and largest town. Langkawi is a duty-free island.

Langkawi means reddish brown eagle in colloquial Malay. The Malay word for eagle is helang - shortened is "lang". Kawi means the colour reddish brown.

Geography
Langkawi, a cluster of 99 islands separated from mainland Malaysia by the Straits of Malacca, is a district of the state of Kedah in Northern Malaysia and lies approximately 51 km west of Kedah. The total land mass of the islands is 47,848 hectares, while the main island of Langkawi itself has a total of 32,000 hectares. The main island spans about 25 km from north to south and slightly more for east and west. The coastal areas consist of flat, alluvial plains punctuated with limestone ridges. Two-thirds of the island is dominated by forest-covered mountains, hills and natural vegetation.


The island's oldest geological formation, Gunung Matchincang, was the first part of South-East Asia to rise from the seabed in the Cambrian period more than half a billion years ago. The oldest part of the formation is observable at Teluk Datai to the north-west of the island, where the exposed outcrop consists of mainly sandstone (quartzite) in the upper parts and shale and mudstone in the lower parts of the sequence.

Demographics
Kedahan Malay made up the majority in Langkawi, followed by Chinese, Indians, and Thai. Other Malays include Pattani Malays.

Islam is practised primarily by the Malays. Other major religions are Hinduism (mainly among Indians), Buddhism (mainly among Chinese and Thai) and Christianity.

Population
Only four of the 99 islands are inhabited - Pulau Langkawi (the main island), Pulau Tuba, Pulau Rebak and Pulau Dayang Bunting. The population is approximately 99000 of which 90% are Malays. The other ethnic groups consist mainly of Chinese, Indians and Thais.

Tourism
On June 1, 2007, Langkawi Island has been given a World Geopark status by UNESCO. Three of its main conservation areas in Langkawi Geopark are Machincang Cambrian Geoforest Park, Kilim Karst Geoforest Park and Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest park.(Island of the Pregnant Maiden Lake). These three parks are the most popular tourism area within Langkawi Geopark.

Some of the most popular beaches are Pantai Cenang, Pantai Tengah, Burau Bay, Pantai Kok, and Datai Bay. Pantai Cenang is a picturesque beach with seemingly unending stretches of fine white sand. The beach is contoured by tall coconuts and casuarinas. Pantai Tengah is separated from Cenang by a small cape. Burau Bay, fringed by rocky outcrops, is the favorite place of migratory birds in Langkawi. Pantai Kok is a peaceful beach with the backdrop of limestone hills. Datai Bay has a combination of forests and sea. The milky beach is backed by lush forest.

Transportation
The Langkawi Cable Car takes visitors up to the peak of Gunung Mat Chinchang, where the Langkawi Sky Bridge is located.

Tourists can enter the island via ferry from Kuala Perlis or by flight from Kuala Lumpur. AirAsia provides budget connections to the island.


The island of Langkawi can be reached through sea and air. The Langkawi Jetty Point connects the island to main destinations like Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah, George Town, Penang and also nearby towns in Thailand. The Langkawi International Airport is one of the 7 international airports in Malaysia and connects the island to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Penang, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Phuket and also Subang. On the island, a main road runs through the whole island. Rental cars and taxis are available in Langkawi. Taxis do not run on the meter, but instead drivers charge a flat rate which is quite "standardized" from point to point. It will be a good idea to find out from your hotel's concierge how much is the taxi fare from your hotel to a particular destination before confirming with the taxi driver before the trip.

Visitor Attractions

1. Kuah Town
Kuah is more of a commercial centre and shopping zone than a tourist-attraction laden quarter of Langkawi Island. The manmade waterfront is muddy and murky and the concrete buildings surrounding the town are stark and unlovely.

Nonetheless Kuah does have its charms and features a few landmark attractions. Without a doubt Dataran Lang (also known as Eagle Square) is Langkawi’s most well-known attraction. You’ll actually be surprised at the beauty of the colossal eagle in flight statue. On the other hand if you’re not keen on spending the afternoon walking around Dataran Lang take a trip to the nearby Lagenda Langkawi Dalam Taman to cool off. Take in the sights of the statues depicting Langkawi’s myths and legends or spend an afternoon admiring the Moorish architecture of the Al-Hana Mosque.





2. Dataran Lang
Dataran Lang is a massive 12-metre monument in the shape of a sea eagle perched on some rocks. Greeting visitors as they arrive on the jetty, this tourist attraction has landscaped ponds, terraces and bridges. You’ll be surprised at how beautiful it is. Try to visit in the early morning or the late evening when the sun’s at its least brutal.

Location: Kuah Jetty (near the Jetty Point Mall, adjacent to the CHOGM Park and Taman Lagenda).

Opening Hours: All Day, 24 hours
Address: Kuah Jetty, 07000 Kuah, Malaysia
Contact: 604 966 7789 (Langkawi Tourist Information Centre)
Price Range: Free

3. Lagenda Langkawi Dalam Taman
Located beside the Kuah jetty this 50-hectare ‘folklore’-themed park is a skilfully landscaped recreational strip along the Kuah waterfront. 17 multihued statues depicting Langkawi’s myths and fables are scattered along with the four manmade lakes and there’s also a narrow strip of beach; this area is a popular spot for joggers. 

Opening Hours: Daily, 9am to 7pm
Location: Next to Eagle Square and Jetty Point
Address: Kuah Jetty, 07000 Kuah, Malaysia
Tel: 603 966 4223
Price Range: Free

4. Pantai Cenang



Pantai Cenang doesn’t have many sightseeing attractions; the Langkawi Underwater World dominates the scene with its mammoth structure – but kids are most assuredly entertained here. Pantai Cenang’s beach is itself a popular attraction due to its beautiful sandy shores which face the crystalline waters and expansive horizon.

Nevertheless if truth be told Pantai Cenang’s claim to fame are the eateries lining the strip; easily the best fare in Langkawi where the food isn’t cheap but the menu selections are extensive. Most backpackers and package holidaymakers tend to stick to these shores because of their relative convenience.


5. Laman Padi













At the northern end of Pantai Cenang, opposite the Casa del Mar hotel – is Laman Padi; you can watch buffaloes grazing in the paddy field from the bridge at the entrance. As you walk through the compound you can read about the stages of Padi Cultivation; this ‘ecotourism’ complex also encompasses the Padi Cuisine and Caf√©, the Nawa Sari Spa and the Heritage Gallery.
  
Opening Hours: 07:00 – 24:00 (open daily)
Address: Laman Padi, Pantai Cenang, Mukim Kedawang, 07000, Langkawi.
Tel: (604) 955 4312
Price Range: Entrance: free 

6. Rice Garden Museum
This museum is dedicated to rice cultivation and comprises a Heritage Gallery – which displays the sequence of activities pertaining to rice planting – a Paddy Gallery – which has breathtaking views of a multi-tiered rooftop rice garden, a Herb Garden and a Garden of Variety where you can actually try your hand at rice farming.

Opening Hours: 10:00 – 18:00 everyday
Location: Laman Padi, Pantai Cenang, Mukim Kedawang
Tel: 604 955 4312 

7. Underwater World







Underwater World (Malaysia’s largest aquarium) features 200 different species of marine and freshwater creatures. Some of these exhibits like the Rainforest Walk are quite thrilling while others look like giant tropical aquariums that need a good cleaning. The Sub-Antarctic Ecosystem Display houses a ‘penguin-arium’ an underwater tunnel with penguins.

Opening Hours: 09:30 – 18:30 Monday – Friday; 09:30 – 22:30 Friday – Sunday
Address: Zon Pantai Cenang, Mukim Kedawang, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah.
Tel: (604) 955 6100 

8. Padang Matsirat
Padang Matsirat is a quiet area of Langkawi with a limited amount of attractions. There are more kampungs than resorts.

However the area has a few attractions that can keep you occupied for an afternoon or so. These attractions are not located close to one another, so you’re either going to need a car or you’ll need to arrange a tour with one of the operators. Entrance fees are usually non-existent or fairly cheap. Heading west you’ll hit the Pantai Tengah and Pantai Cenang stretch which features additional recreational activities while Pantai Kok – located to the north – boasts even better landmark attractions.

9. Field of Burnt Rice





The Field of Burnt Rice is the site of a mass rice paddy burning conducted by local villagers who scorched their rice fields in an effort to stop them from falling into the hands of the Siamese invaders in 1821. Take an afternoon to visit this site. Allegedly, heavy rain still sometimes brings traces of burnt grains to the surface.

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 18:00
Location: Kampung Raja, Mukim Padang Mat Sirat
Price Range: Free




10. Kota Mahsuri










Mahsuri was a Malay princess who was unfairly accused of adultery and sentenced to death. This complex comprises her shrine – an enclosed slab of white stone – as well as a recreation of an old-fashioned Malay house. There is also a theatre – where rare music performances take place – and a few food shops.

Opening Hours: 08:00 – 18:00
Location: Kampung Mawat, Mukim Ulu Melaka (17.8 km northwest of Kuah)
Tel: +603 955 6055 

11. Pantai Kok
Pantai Kok has a pleasant range of tourist attractions to grab your attention. Besides relaxing on its clean-as-a-whistle beach, you can also head to the elaborate Oriental Village which plays host to a great deal of tourist attractions. The stunning Mat Chincang Mountain forms the perfect backdrop in the distance while the Telaga Harbour wharf – home to gleaming mega-yachts – makes you go green with envy at the sight.

Even though Langkawi is a small island, this quarter of the island manages to offer visitors more than a few entertainment options. Home to upscale resorts and a yacht haven, the crowds here are invariably a mix of well-heeled foreigners. Tourist attractions are spread out over Pantai Kok’s wide expanse making a car or a tour guide absolutely essential if you’d like to visit them all.






12. Galeria Perdana









The Galeria Perdana is home to gifts awarded to former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahatir. These gifts – from various world leaders – range from exquisite Malay wooden architecture to a huge collection of automobiles; the outdoor greenhouse houses a variety of plants under controlled temperature.

Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:30
Location: Kilim, Mukim Air Hangat
Tel: +604 959 1498 or +604 959 1863
Contact: Adults – RM10; Kids – RM4 

13. Mat Chincang Mountains
This may not seem like such an interesting attraction but the Mat Chincang Mountains are really quite stunning. Locals believe that they were once a giant who was cursed and turned into what has invariably become one of Langkawi’s more prominent peaks. For trekking, tour operators will be able to find you a guide possessing a license issued by the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board.

Location: Pantai Kok
Tel: +604 966 7789 (Langkawi Tourist Information Centre)




14. Oriental Village









The Oriental Village is the site where you can purchase tickets to ride the Langkawi Cable Car. With a backdrop of the soaring Mat Chincang Mountains, the ‘village’ itself is pretty spectacular. Resembling a cross between a charming French village and an old-style Chinese town, Oriental Village boasts duck ponds and quaint bridges as pretty as a picture.

Opening Hours: 10:00 – 22:00
Location: Jalan Teluk Burau, Pantai Kok
Tel: +604 959 4225
Price Range: Free 


15. SEGWAY Guided Tours





SEGWAY Personal Transporters are one of the most futuristic equipments you can own, which feature high-tech accelerometers to control speed, acceleration and turning directions. Visitors may choose guided tours around the Village or into the foothills of Machincang.

16. Petting Corners




The Oriental Village also offers visitors two Petting Corners, one featuring primarily rabbits while the other features deer. The Petting Corners are operated by LADA Eco-Tourism Sports Club and Langkawi Cable Car respectively.

At either Corner, visitors may purchase animal feed to hand-feed featured animals.

17. Langkawi Cable Car







The Oriental Village in the upper northwest of Langkawi Island, near Pantai Kok, is the entrance for the cable-car ride, which takes visitors all the way up to Mount Mat Cincang, Langkawi’s second highest peak. Entering the village and passing through the pleasant oriental garden and souvenir shops, visitors make their payment at a counter before stepping onto an escalator which brings them to the cable-car pedestal.

Once in, the cable-car ascends; you’ll begin to notice the temperature dropping and a windy breeze begin flowing into the cabin through ventilation slits at the top. As it gets cooler, the landscape below begins to appear smaller, and at after climbing at a 42° angle for a few hundred feet, you can start snapping pictures of the rainforest below. Look out at the side for a view of the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls, which cascades down a grey rock face.

After around 600 metres, the cable car reaches the first station, where you disembark to either; take another cable car up to the peak, or lull around the observatory deck and admire the magnificent surroundings. Most will not spend too long here, as the view from the peak is even more amazing. After a short queue, you can grab another cable car and ride up another wire cable which doesn’t rise too sharply, though the initial jolt of the car leaving the second station can feel quite unnerving.

As the car settles to a decent speed after the brief spurt from the station, passengers will be treated to an even higher view of the rainforest and hills below. The car here is at its coolest and in too short a time, you’ll reach the final station which is where most of the excitement is. Passengers leaving the cab will be greeted by a menagerie of stalls selling souvenirs, toys, snacks and drinks.

You’ll want to climb a set of staircases that cuts through a thin forest to reach the observatory deck above. Once on the top, you can finally enjoy the magnificent view of the surrounding horizon; the island’s landscape, skyline and seas beyond. At the side is a steel bridge suspended across Mount Mat Chincang and a neighbouring mountain. Walking across this bridge is a fantastic experience and offers a different viewpoint of the island and sea towards the north.

After immersing yourself in the views, it’ll be time to go, and the entire process of cable-car ascent is repeated in a descending route. Along the way, you can pick up some souvenirs at the final or base station before carrying your adventures elsewhere in the magnificent island of Langkawi.

Opening Hours: 10am - 8pm
Address: Jalan Telaga Tujuh Teluk Burau, Langkawi, Kedah 07000
Tel: (604) 959 4225

18. Skybridge Tour
The Langkawi Skybridge Tour takes you on a cable car ride to the top of Gunung Matchincang. As the gondola-style cab makes its way to the top you can get a bird’s eye view of legendary Langkawi as well as numerous outlying islands in the distance; Oriental Village, the home of the cable car, is a great place to visit. The mini town – situated at the base of the geo-park’s mountain range – has more than a few attractions; the tour continues on past Telaga Tujuh – also known as the Seven Wells waterfalls – before heading on over to the Taman Buaya Langkawi – the Langkawi Crocodile Farm – where you can watch keepers wrestling with these leathery beasts.

After that, soak up the sun at ‘Pantai Pasir Hitam’ – known as Black Sand Beach; this shoreline is distinctive due to its almost opaque black sand. End your day with a relaxing visit to the Langkawi Wildlife Park set amidst a natural rainforest and featuring an exotic array of Langkawi’s furry and feathered friends.

Time:
Duration: 4 hours
Includes:
Return transfer
Excludes:
Entrance Fees




19. Island Hopping








Langkawi can best be described as an archipelago of 99 islands that range in size. Dominated by Langkawi Island – the main island is the key entry point into Langkawi and home to most of Langkawi’s businesses, hotels, resorts, restaurants and attractions.

Yet it is Langkawi’s outlying islets that have some of the most unique and mystical attractions and the Langkawi Island Hopping & Eagle Feeding Tour is one of the best ways to experience it. The day starts out with an hour-long visit to Pulau Beras Basah; relax and soak up the sun on the white sand beach, rent a banana boat and splash around in the turquoise-blue waters or have a makeshift picnic under the shady grove of trees.

Next the boat heads on over to Pulau Singa Besar; stopping just shy of its shores, you’ll get to see eagles leaving their aeries to circle the skies. It’s a great photo stop opportunity as they descend with deadly precision to catch their prey – chicken bits that the boat driver has thrown into the water! The last stop on the tour is Pulau Dayang Bunting; a clearly marked path heading inland leads you to its star attraction – the allegedly magical Pregnant Maiden Lake.

Time:
Duration: 4 hours
Includes:
Return Transfer Hotel - Jetty - Hotel
Boat Ride by Speedboat




20. Dayang Bunting Island (Isle of the Pregnant Maiden)






Its name translates to ‘Isle of the Pregnant Maiden’, and is the second largest island of Langkawi. Draped in verdant rainforest, the flora and fauna found here is amazing. A large lake on the island is believed to have magical properties; the water grants barren women fertility, hence its name. The water is also great for swimming. A cave called Gua Langsir sits here, home to thousands of bats, definitely worth an expedition or two. The island is accessible through a 15 minute boat ride from Kuah but plan your trips for a day as there is no accommodation available.




21. Nusantara Gamat Factory
Langkawi also well-known for the sea cucumber oil industry (gamat) whereby tourists from all over the world could see and buy gamat products that provenly good for human body and cure diseases such as cuts and skin problems.

















22. Langkawi Wildlife Park

Parrots



Peacock



Formerly known as the Langkawi Bird Park, the place has been reincarnated as the Langkawi Wildlife Park. The hundreds of exotic birds in the beautifully-landscaped spacious enclosures are still there, with hundreds more being added. The makeover has increased the exhibition area on the left and the rear portion of the main showcase area. The new extension on the left will accommodate a selection of other species of  wildlife.


Flamingo



A walk-thru parakeet house with hundreds of colourful birds are among the latest attractions. The Macaw Courtyard, Flamingo Pond, and the clever impersonations of the Cockatoo and Mynah are just a few of the many attractions that will amaze you. Langkawi Wildlife Park features more than 2,500 birds from 150 exotic birds species.


Duckies


The new extension at the back houses a huge display of rare crafted and raw crystals from Brazil and China. You can spend hours in this area going through the dazzling array of crystal ornaments and art objects, which are also for sale.


The biggest crystal ball in the world

Besides browsing through the vast collection, you will be enriched with a deep knowledge of crystals by the attentive and friendly staff. A recent revival of interest in the curative and therapeutic properties of crystals will surely make a visit here invaluable.




Porcupines

A traditional Chinese tea kiosk offers a wide variety and grades of Chinese teas. By the way, do you know that Chinese tea is also great for washing off permanent marker ink? If it can do this, imagine how it can benefit your innards as a cleansing agent.

On site near the entrance of the park is a restaurant serving snacks and full meals as well as a duty-free shopping area that sells a wide-range of items, including wines, spirits and leather products.



Binturong

Raccoon


Quail


Serindit

The Langkawi Wildlife Park is located at Jalan Air Hangat just 10 minutes by car from Kuah town.

Address:
Langkawi Bird Paradise & Wildlife Park,
Lot 1485, Jalan Ayer Hangat,
Kampung Belanga Pecah,
07000 Langkawi,
Kedah Darul Aman.

Contact:
Tel       :  (604) - 966 5855
Fax      :  (604) - 966 1855
E-mail  :  wildlifeplanet@gmail.com

Standard Package:
Adult: RM12.00
Child: RM6.00
Operating Hours:
Daily: 9.00am - 6.00pm