What do you call an archipelago of 99 islands...?? I would prefer to call it Langkawi, even though the etymology refers it to as Golden Eagle (Lang- Eagle, Kawi- Golden brown). Situated in the North Western part of Malaysia in the Andaman Sea, this beautiful archipelago with Kuah Town as its main city attracts numerous domestic and foreign tourists to its shores. Surrounded by turquoise blue waters, these islands have a forest coverage of 80% as per my guide cum driver who took us from the airport to our hotel, Bella Vista in Kuah town.
With only 2 days at our disposal to explore the islands, we decided to begin our sojourn without any relaxing or sleeping sessions. The two activities which were missing from the tour operator's itinerary were the cable car/ sky bridge and the mangrove tour. From all the information that I had gathered about the place, these two were on the must-do list everywhere.
The Langkawi cable car is supposedly the most steepest cable car ride in the world. I was amused by this fact which turned into excitement on reaching the premises of the Oriental village ( the cable car s located here) and on seeing the car's steep climb to the top station of Mount Machingchang, I was contemplating about going up all the way. Mount Machingchang stood intimidating and the long cable ride all the way to its top looked quite scary from the ground. After deciding to conquer Machingchang, we entered the cable car and began our ride to the top. The ride was smooth and wonderful with beautiful vistas of the blue waters and distant islands in the background. It looked so surreal that my inmates inside the car and myself were left gawking at the scenic beauty of the place. We also happened to see a beautiful fall known as the Seven well waterfalls onto our right. As we gained height the bays looked magnificent in the distance and the Machingchang looked lush green.
|Seven wells waterfalls|
The first pit stop was the middle station from where one can have a 360 degree view of the place. The view from here is a stunner with the expansive blue sea, miniature Oriental village and miniscule islands floating in the waters. One can also get a closer view of the cable cars chugging up nonchalantly against the the blue backdrop. Breathtaking!!
After spending a considerable amount of time capturing the natural beauty of the place we took the next cable car to the top station. Top station lies at a height of more than 700 meters from sea level. The views as expected were more beautiful and I felt elevated not just physically but psychologically too to an altogether different level. The place was quite crowded with tourists and that probably took away a bit of solitude and serenity from the top of the mountain. With the sun beating down, we had no option, but to head to the refreshment counter first and help ourselves to a couple of chilled bottles of water. Photo shoots in different angles and various backdrops had a long session and then we walked down the steps to the famous Sky bridge of Langkawi. After a moderate trek through the bushes, we were walking on the marvelous architectural wonder called, the Sky bridge. Beautifully constructed, connecting two mountains this Sky bridge is one of the most scariest ones in the world. Deep, lush green gorges on both the sides added more flavor to the mind blowing landscape. Being a hanging bridge, it swung as we walked on it and that made the experience more scarier. The scariest part was however the return journey from the top station to the Oriental village. Not only did the cable car go down at a very high speed, we also sat inside the car facing the Oriental village, which meant that I could see myself approaching land at a fiery pace. :). The Oriental village does have numerous shopping options and eateries. After the cable car adventure, we had a relaxed heavy lunch, before our driver drove us to KILIM Geo forest.
The mangrove tour is also quite popular like the cable car and from the mountains I suddenly found myself splashing waters and speeding on a motor boat on the KILIM river. This mangrove tour is a guided one inside the KILIM Geo forest park through which the massive KILIM river snakes along. We went past many yachts which were parked in the middle of the river and had a few European tourists enjoying their solitude. Huge limestone hills popped up in between as we sped past the yachts and went deeper into the dense mangroves. The place was so serene and the only sound that could be heard was of the propeller.
Our first stop was at a small fish farm where we were allowed to feed the fishes and crabs. Eagle feeding is another attraction of the mangrove tour, whereby chicken innards are dropped into the river and the eagles swoop down to pick them and fly far off. Within seconds of my boatman flushing out the chicken pieces, numerous eagles flew down from nowhere and picked up their meal in a flash. It was tough to capture on my lens, the exact moment when the predators picked up their food and even after numerous shots, I never clicked a perfect one.
The next attraction was the crocodile cave, a cave with absolutely no signs of the reptiles except in its name. Our boatman tried entering the narrow, low roof cave and had the top of of our boat stuck. He somehow managed to wriggle it out and off we were to see the bat caves. The bat caves were dark, deep and with numerous stalactites and stalagmites. We were given a torch and after going a few meters inside, decided to return back as people had to crawl in certain places and I was not very sure about doing the same.
Our boatman then took us further on the river into the deep sea, where the KILIM river disgorges itself into the Andaman sea and from where a 45 minute ride would take us to Thailand. Thailand, unfortunately was a distant dream and we sped further into the sea, past the numerous islets that popped up en route. Post that it was a speed ride back into the land and from there we were driven back and deposited at our hotel in Kuah town. An incredibly exciting, adventurous and tiring day came to an end with a melange of colours as the sun set over the horizon.
The second leg of the tour was taken care by the tour operator and we left the hotel in the morning and headed for island hopping. With numerous islands at disposal, this is one of the prominent activities on most of the itineraries by the operators. The jetty was quite crowded with tourists from all parts of the world waiting for their turn to be motored away to the lovely secluded islands. After a long wait we embarked on our journey deep into the sea, past the limestone hills into the turquoise blue waters.
The first stoppage was Dayang Bunting Island which was infested with notorious monkeys and scared tourists who were trying their best to keep away their belongings from the reach of our ancestors. It was indeed a tough walk of about 200 meters for all the visitors as the monkeys were hell bent upon snatching away things from them. Post that adventure it was a little trudge through the verdant island into the mouth of the magnificent pregnant maiden lake. This fresh water lake situated on the island gets its name from the fact that the mountain lying adjacent to it portrays a pregnant lady lying on her back. That was indeed a beautiful sight. The lake was gleaming in the hot sun and the visitors in no time stripped down to their swim wears and dived into the warm waters. As far as the local saying goes, the waters of this lake has magical effects on infertile women and can make them fertile and help them produce off springs. The lake looked so placid and serene with the surrounding greenery and hills and the only thing that distracted me was the splashing of the waters by the tourists. The sun was getting hotter and I decided to get back to the top and head into my boat after a precarious walk back through the territory of the apes.
|Pregnant maiden lake|
From Dayang Bunting, we sailed along the coast line and and went past many amazing rock formations. One such interesting formation was the shoe island. The island resembles a shoe and hence the name. We also had another eagle feeding session, however this time the eagles were less and I found the one on KILIM river to be more exciting than this one.
The next brief stop over was at Island Singa Besar, a beautiful isolated island filled with white sands and surrounded by azure waters and verdant hills. A nice little island where the visitors can sit in the shades and stare into the deep sea in oblivion. The island also offers a refreshment shop and a few water sport activities for the tourists. I wanted to explore the island on foot but the hot sun made me think otherwise. After spending a considerable time on the island lazying around, we had a languorous walk back to the boat.
Post lunch we headed to Kuah town for a guided city tour and this began with a visit to the Atma Alam handicraft centre, where they impart knowledge to the visitors about Batik which is a painting and textile dyeing technique. Malaysia promotes Batik through tourism and numerous tourists go back home with those lovely painted fabrics. The place also has a huge collection of handicrafts and after scrolling through their varied displays we left for the Mahsuri tomb. The tomb is built in memory of Mahsuri, a princess who cursed the island because she was falsely accused of adultery. The land mark structure of Langkawi is definitely the towering eagle at Eagle Square in Kuah town facing the bay. With a stern and piercing look, the eagle stands intimidating the visitors who stand besides it for a photo shoot. After buying a miniature eagle from a near by shop to add to my collection of curios, we were dropped off at the duty free shops in Kuah town to splurge on whatever was displayed.
The next destination was the famous Under water world, which undoubtedly was the surprise package of the day. Numerous species of fauna like avian, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and even the ones from Antartica can be seen roaming around within their specified territories. Its an interesting place where one can enhance their zoological knowledge and come back with a few captures of not so commonly found colourful and exciting fauna.
After covering almost all the must see places on this archipelago, a question just popped up- How caould I leave Langkawi without visiting its charming beaches? Pantai Cenang, Pantai Kok, Pantai Tengah and Tanjung Rhu are the well known beaches of Langkawai. Pantai Cenang stands out amidst these beaches purely on the basis that it is the most famous and most frequently visited one by both the tourists and the locals. It attracts families, backpackers, expats and travellers from all corners of the globe. With white sands, blue waters, water sport options and an entertaining night life this definitely is considered the most favoured destination of most travellers who visit Langkawi. Dotted with numerous restaurants, hotels and shops, the main road next to this beach is considered a shopper's and a food lover's paradise. As the sun slant, I got into one of the restaurants by the beach and enjoyed the colourful horizon, quirky tourists, the crystal sand, the azure waters, delicious food and the yellow beer. Indeed an enthralling place from where one would never want to return back. Shortage of time made me miss the other three beaches.
|Pantai Cenang beach|
Langkawi does leave its visitors spell bound and all travellers exploring the islands would unanimously want to go back to her shores again and again. Being close to the mainland of Thailand also gives travellers an option to club it along with other south east asian countries.
Signing Note: Langkawi enthralls, entices and absolutely engulfs everyone who sets foot on her...!!