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Langkawi

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Langkawi,(Jawi:لانكاوي ) officially known as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah (Malay: Langkawi Permata Kedah) is an archipelago of 99 islands (an extra 5 temporary islands are revealed at low tide) 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.

Understand

Legends of broken pots and seeping gravy

Langkawi's most prominent mountains, Gunung Macinchang and Gunung Raya, and a whole series of towns and villages are said to named after a local legend. The story tells the tale of a wedding between two families of giants, with Mat Raya's son wanting to marry Mat Cincang's daughter. During the wedding feast, a fight broke out between the two wedding parties, reputedly because the son was caught flirting with another woman.

During the fight, pots and pans were thrown, and a large pot of gravy (kuah) was broken and the contents flowed onto the ground. The place where the gravy was spilled became known as Kuah (the largest town on Langkawi island) and where the crockery (belanga) was broken (pecah) was location of the village Kampung Belanga Pecah. The gravy seeped into (kisap) the earth at the village named Kisap.

The name "Langkawi" has two possible origins. First, it is believed to be related to the kingdom of Langkasuka, itself a version of the Malay negari alang-kah suka ("the land of all one's wishes"), centered in modern-day Kedah. The historical record is sparse, but a Chinese Liang Dynasty record (c. 500 AD) refers to the kingdom of "Langgasu" as being founded in the 1st century AD. Second, it could be a combination of the Malay words 'helang', meaning "eagle" and 'kawi', meaning "reddish-brown" or "strong", in old Malay.

Langkawi eventually came under the influence of the Sultanate of Kedah, but Kedah was conquered in 1821 by Siam and Langkawi along with it. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred power to the British, which held the state until independence, except for a brief period of Thai rule under the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. Thai influences remain visible in the culture and food of Langkawi.

Langkawi remained a sleepy backwater until 1987, when the island was granted tax-free status with the intention of promoting tourism and improve the lives of the islanders. The following boom was spectacular and now Langkawi figures on most every European travel agency's radar.

This spectacular boom was also due to the fact that Mahsuri's curse was lifted with the birth of her 7th generation descendant.

Sheltered by the mountainous backbone of Peninsular Malaysia, Langkawi escapes the northeastern winter monsoon entirely and enjoys sunny skies in winter when the eastern provinces are flooded. Coupled with natural white sand beaches, lush jungle foliage and craggy mountain peaks - but hampered by inaccessibility - the island was at one time touted as "Malaysia's best-kept secret".

The 10,000 hectares of Langkawi and its 99 islands were declared a Geopark by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) in 2007.


Get in

By plane

Langkawi International Airport [1] (IATA: LGK | ICAO: WMKL) is located at Padang Matsirat, on the northwestern part of the island. In 2008, it handled 1.2 million passengers [2].

The following airlines offer service to/from Langkawi: AirAsia [3], Malaysia Airlines [4], Firefly [5], Happy Airways [6], Tiger Airways [7], and SilkAir [8].

Direct flights are available to Penang, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hat Yai, and Phuket,

By boat

Get around

There is effectively no public transport on the island, so your choices are to use taxis or to rent a car, motorbike/scooter, or bicycle.

By taxi

A taxi from the Airport to Pantai Cenang costs RM18. You can buy a coupon at the taxi desk in the airport. From the ferry terminal to Pantai Cenang the price is RM24. For those arriving at the Kuah Jetty and going into Kuah Town, the price is RM8.

By car or motorbike/scooter

Renting a car or motorbike/scooter is highly recommended. This can be done at the airport, the port complex, or from shops on Pantai Cenang. Do not rent from touts, as many are operating illegally without permits and usually without insurance. But they don´t care. Renting an air-conditioned mid-sized sedan costs RM70-RM150 per day (depending on model, condition and length of stay) and a 150cc motorbike/scooter costs RM40 to RM45 per day. Cheaper but usually very used and older are the semi-automatic 115ccm bikes for RM25 a day. Remember to have sufficient fuel in the tank as gas stations are far from one another. However, rental agencies do not care how much fuel is in the tank when the vehicle is returned so do not spend more on fuel than you have to. Fuel only costs about RM 1.85 a litre and you should return the bikes with the same filling level as you picked it up. Some rentals do check the level and mark it when you sign the slip. Remember to drive safely and slowly on the island and on the left side of the road. There are tourists, children and animals like chickens, cows and even buffaloes crossing. Take care not to run over the beautiful snakes or monitors. Cattle and snakes like to lie on the road at night; the blacktop radiates heat.

By bicycle

You can rent bicycles in many of the hotels. Expect to pay between RM10 and RM30 per day.

See

There is also a jungle trekking course available at the site which will lead you through a trail of up to 2500m, up 2 different mountains. This trail is achievable with slippers, but it is best to wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots as some segments of the trail are nearly vertical. Be warned that these trails are not recommended for family trips.

Do

Beaches

Pantai Cenang - The most popular beach in Langkawi, features fine powdery sand and many beachfront restaurants and bars. Located at the south-western tip of the island, 2km long.

Pantai Tengah - Located just south of and contiguously with Pantai Cenang. 1 km long. Means ‘Middle Beach’. Peaceful and tranquil alternative to the hustle and bustle of Pantai Cenang. All inclusive resorts popular with families.

Pantai Kok - Isolated, relatively undisturbed stretch of beach in the western part of Langkawi Island, 12km north of Pantai Cenang. Telaga Harbour as well cable-car ride to the peak of Mat Cincang Mountain and the Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls are located here.

Tanjung Rhu - northernmost tip of the island. Centuries-old limestone caves, mangroves, waterways, limestone crags and sandy beaches make it a nature lover's paradise. This beach is made up of 2 long stretches that include Tanjong Rhu Resort and Four Seasons..

Datai Bay - The most expensive resorts are located here.

Burau Bay - Beach lined with rocky outcrops located at the West Coast of Langkawi. Nearby Burau island is also a roosting place for migratory birds.

Pantai Pasir Hitam - Means ‘Black Sand’. The sand is mixed in white and black shades, due to rich tin and iron ore deposits.

Pasir Tengkorak - Very beautiful small beach in the North of the island.

Tours

Tours can be arranged via any hotel or a multitude of online agencies. Prices vary, the ones given here are averages.

Jungle trekking is free if you follow any of the numerous jungle trek routes available throughout Langkawi. The vegetation is not dense and will be a memorable experience.

Prices vary, depending on the quality of the guide as well as the package components. It can range anywhere from 120-200rm for adults. Alternately, you can charter the boat for 300RM if you are more than 2 people.

Other Activities

Buy

ATMs and Money Exchange booths are available at the Langkawi Airport, at Langkawi Parade Shopping Complex and next to Underwater World at Pantai Cenang.

Langkawi is a duty-free island, and alcohol is significantly cheaper here than in the rest of Malaysia.

Hotel tariffs and retail goods are exempt from government duty. Visitors with more than 48 hours stay in Langkawi are exempt on items like wines and liquor (1 liter), tobacco (200 cigarettes), apparel, cosmetics, souvenirs and gifts, food and food preparations and portable electronic items (one item).

Shop around before buying: the airport is probably the most expensive place to buy anything. Shop in Kuah town for batik, tobacco products and chocolate confectioneries.

Eat

Practically all resorts have their own restaurants and most tourists choose to eat in, but there are a few other options as well. Be adventurous and strike out on your own to savour the numerous foods at the stalls and restaurants all over Langkawi. Try one of the many seafood restaurants. Having said that, beware of certain restaurants advertised in the brochures targeting tourists. An example of such restaurant is the 'Coco Beach Restaurant', close to the airport.

If you choose order seafood or fish, take note if the price is by weight or by a set price for the dish. The unwary can be hit with a much larger bill than expected. Also, beware of restaurants telling you that they only have the bigger size lobsters available, as that is what they tell everyone (a common practice at Coco Beach Restaurant and Palm View Restaurant, at Pantai Cenang). When your lobster or crab is served, you will discover that you will definitely be paying for 900g of shell instead of meat! To counter this, order fish, squid and prawns to be safe.

Budget

For a taste of simple Malay-style breakfast, just walk up to a small stall opposite the Underwater World in the mornings and feast on the famous freshly-prepared banana leaf-wrapped nasi lemak (steamed rice in coconut milk). The price is most affordable at less than RM 2 for a pack. Go local and enjoy this with a glass of hot teh tarik or really good local coffee. This very unassuming stall is just simple and great (clean too!) The nasi lemak comes with curried beef, squid in chili, friend salted fish or chicken.

Mid-range






Splurge


Drink

Because of Langkawi's tax-free status, alcohol is much cheaper than in the rest of Malaysia. Religious Muslims do not consume alcoholic drinks, and while they do tolerate non Muslims who do, try not to behave in a rowdy imbibed manner near them, their houses, mosques, and please respect local culture and communal sensitivities. For those living on a budget, you can obtain alcohol at cheap prices from the local duty free shops - the larger the outlets, the lower the prices. Expect to pay RM 25 for 1L Absolut, RM 45 for 1L Kahlua, RM 60 for 1L Bailey's RM 1.85 for 330ml can beer.

Sleep

Budget

If you are looking for budget accommodation, your best bet would be to walk along the beach and adjacent road at Pantai Cenang. Prices there normally range from RM35 to RM100 per room per night, on or next to the beach.

Mid-range


Splurge

Contact

Telephone

Post

The main post office in Kuah Town. Mini Post Offices can be found in Padang Mat Sirat and in the Padi Complex in Pantai Cenang. Courier service, Poslaju shop can be found at Taman Berlian, Kuah.

Internet

Broadband is available and many Internet cafés can be found along Pantai Tengah, Pantai Cenang and Kuah. In addition, many of the upscale hotels and resorts provide free wi-fi. Red Tomato Garden Cafe & Casa del Mar also provides free wi-fi.

Stay healthy

Langkawi has a lot of mosquitoes so don't forget to use mosquito repellent.

Also, temperatures can be hot, so be sure to stay hydrated.

Stay safe

Be careful driving around Langkawi at night. Although main roads are well-lit, some of the more minor roads are not very well lit and may pass through Kampungs (traditional Malay villages) or rural areas where the locals seem to take a very casual approach to road safety. Drive slow and watch out for erratically piloted motorbikes, pedestrians and livestock. Inside Kuah Town, watch out for errors in the road arrows - they may lead you into wrong lanes or into barricades. at night, watch out for water buffalo sleeping in the road.

Crime is generally not a problem on Langkawi, especially compared to the larger cities in Malaysia. In theory, you don't even have to lock your car, because it cannot get off the island without customs knowing about it!

Beware of smart wild monkeys. Those at Tengkorak beach attack humans who have food. If attacked, pick up stones (or just pretend to do so) and throw them at the monkeys, this will scare them away. don't carry plastic bags. the monkeys associate these with food. be aware; that mother and baby posing for photos is a distraction; the older females and the alpha male creep up behind you and nick your bag!

sea jellies [jellyfish] are increasingly prevalent and have caused at least one death - a Swedish tourist in early 2010. please do not swim at night or when you have been drinking.

please read about rip tides before you go; learn to recognise them and avoid. stay safe.

Respect

Langkawi is a Geopark but still needs to improve its environmental friendliness. Don't participate in certain activities such as eagle feeding and monkey feeding as this harms the animals by encouranging them to become reliant on tourists and you may give them the wrong food. Also softly suggesting to the locals that littering or using plastic is not good for the environment will greatly assist over time.

Get out

Related Information




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A list of contributors is available at the original article on Wikitravel. Additional modifications may have been made by users at TRAVEL.COM [11].

Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply.

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