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Travel Rendezvous With Nature (Langkawi)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004

Alabaster beaches, a dense tangle of million-year-old rainforests, the cacophony of the cicadas… this could be a place I could get addicted to. Once a refuge for the pirates in the Andaman Sea, Langkawi, part of an archipelago of 99 islands, is today a classic get-away-from-it-all island paradise.

It was former Prime Minister Mahathir who, in 1986, made Langkawi a duty-free, investment-friendly haven, and gave a fillip to its growth as a resort town.

It's a region of exceptionally pristine bio-diversity — there are over 400 types of butterflies, 200 species of birds and around 100 species of bats.

Our hotel room is a villa built into the forest floor with views of the emerald Andaman Sea. A sign on our bed-side table ‘Monkey business' explains the ways of safeguarding our rooms from simian guests. They quite often let themselves into the rooms through the balcony door, and even help themselves to the minibar! Monitor lizards walk across jungle paths and small buggies ferry guests across the sprawling resort.

Shining in contrast

The jungle feel of the forest villas is in contrast to the sunny vibe of the sea-side chalets that many guests prefer. The first few days are a whirr of {censored}tails by the pool and walks on the white sand beaches. The more energetic among us play beach volleyball and navigate kayaks in brilliant shades of yellow and orange on the ocean waters. We are spoilt for choice with Chinese, Malay and even Indian food on the menu.

A relaxing aromatherapy massage with ginger oil at the spa set at the edge of the resort and a dip in the open-air Jacuzzi after that set the tone for the next few days. Sinking into a stupor is the natural order of things after that.

We take a slow boat tour of the mangroves fringed by the limestone cliffs of the Kilim Geo Forest Park (recognised by the UNESCO as a World Geo Park with unique ecology), starting with Tanjing Rhu village. The sea arches, stacks and rocks here may date even to the pre-Jurassic period! The mangroves are a magical place where the tenacious plants, capable of surviving in both saline and freshwater, have a unique eco-system. The mangroves act as a natural defence against strong waves — they say many Langkawi coastal villages were saved from the full force of the 2004 tsunami, thanks to the mangroves. There are mud skippers and fiddler crabs; a huge monitor lizard looks almost like a tree trunk; and frogs sit nonchalantly on gangly roots. Dusky leaf monkeys watch us from the roots of a tree. Our boatman asks us to hide the snacks on the boat as they are capable of grabbing what they can and dashing into the wilderness. We visit a floating sea-food restaurant-cum-fish farm called the ‘Hole in the Wall', situated as it is between two massive limestone outcrops.

It has huge cages holding sea creatures such as archer fish, electric eel, bat fish and even king crabs. There are huge pet stingrays, playful and hungry — and can be hand-fed with fresh fish.

There are colourful yachts moored in the estuary, a safe place for travellers from European countries who return here a couple of times a year. If you want to linger, you can have fresh sea-food lunch with local beer.

Murky caves lie close to the swamps. We visit the Gua Kelavar or the bat cave, an eerie tall cave where several hundreds of fruit bats hang above. The roofs and the walls are covered with old sea shells proving this cave was once the sandy bottom of a river raised by tectonic forces millions of years ago.

A different world

Our boat goes through the Crocodile Cave, so called because the tide comes through its jaw-like opening. Inside are wondrous stalactites and stalagmites formed over millennia. A little away from the Kilim River Jetty is the ‘eagle feeding spot'.

The boatmen rev up their engines to attract the attention of the sea eagles and the Brahminy kites swooping overhead. They scatter some chicken gut and skin on the water, and the sharp-eyed birds of prey swoop down near our boats for a wonderful photo-op.

I hear there is protest from environmentalists for this is a bad practice, and should be discouraged as it dulls the predator's instinct to fish, and is not their natural diet.

From river Kilim, the return journey home is exhilarating — our boat suddenly speeds into the open sea, a choppy bumpy ride which has us clinging for dear life.

Far away, we see the limestone outcrops, deserted beaches, and the glorious royal blue sky turning crimson.

There are Disneyesque attractions that I have missed — such as the Underwater World and even a cable car ride. But then, I am high on what Nature's offered. What's not to love? Terima Kasih, Langkawi. Thank you!



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Chaan Pardesi

Oct 4, 2008
London & Kuala Lumpur
Langkawi-the full name is Pulau Langkawi is in my birth state, Kedah.I spent many young days cycling the islands during the school excursions>once we even cycled from Kulim in South Kedah to Langkawi- a distance of approximately 150 miles in all - from point to point -Kulim to Kuala Perlis- from where we catch a boat...by the old roads-we did that in a day and half.The nearere Kuala Kedah was in those days almost a non existent Malay fishing village and no ferry connection directly to Lankawi.We stayed for five days in the old undeveloped islands with such beauty- which something that has gone missing these days with the tourists influx.There were 40 of us, it was great fun and we had stops along the way in Padang Serai, Sungai Petani. Langger was prepared in Gurduara sahib , Sungai Petani when the late Granthi Harbans Singh and the president, ?Lal singh heard, there were two Sikh boys in the group cycling all the way to Langkawi; from my esteemed father sahib!This is 1968 I am talking about.They only heard about it just as we left Kulim that morning at 7 am....They got a few of the sangat around and did a fantastic langger and an ardas for the safety of all of us.The non Sikhs were shocked and lost words for the great welcome we got.In fact I often recall that experience and tears roll down my eyes..thinking of that hospitality ..

Our first group was welcomed and stopped just outside SP and were informed by the Sikhs who had come in two cars ... that as all the groups caught up we were to head for the Gurduara and stop at the Gurduara where there would be refreshments.

At the intervals of about ten minutes one group- [there were ten of us in each cycling group ]after another caught at that point, imagine our surprise..and the warm welcome! I was in the second group and was asked to take the lead being a Sikh ..by the teacher in charge who was overwhlemed with emotions- in fact every one of us was.On our return journey we had refreshments as well.

The next stop was Gurun and t we by passed Alor Star and headed for Sik and Kerpan and Kuala Perlis and on to the island.

The sangat at A/Star too wanted us to stop at the Gurduara sahib.., but as we had by passed AS, they then caught up with us about five miles north of Alor Star.They brought soft drinks and hot tea with biscuits!A car had gone out on the old road to catch us entering AS, but we took some small little known road that bypasses the town and got beyond AS.

Anyway, long story short, I have had since visited the place quite often.

At one time one of my sister lived in Kangar, so it was always a short visit to the Langkawis whenever visiting her during my holidays.However since about 2001,when we went with some friends for diving excursions to Langkawi from UK, I have not been back.Perhaps next time.

Beautiful islands.One of my chinese classmates is now the chief engineer at one of the leading hotel resorts and have had several invites from him to come over,but just never had the time.Plus, the islands have become too touristy ....now.



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