Off the coast of Kedah is a cluster of 99 islands offering the best of many worlds: beautiful beaches, world- class infrastructure, mangroves rich in flora and fauna, ultra- cheap duty-free shopping and fascinating legends. Langkawi has a lingering legend woven into its history. Ask anyone on the island about the tragic story of a beautiful young lady named Mahsuri, and you’ll hear a tale of love, jealousy and a curse that was placed upon the island by her for seven generations. Today, the seventh generation of Langkawi’s inhabitants has long come and gone, but people here still believe that the prosperity and blessings the islands enjoy today and the passing of the curse is no mere coincidence. The mysticism of this legend can be felt in many parts of this island, especially at Makam Mahsuri (Mahsuri’s Mausoleum), where Mahsuri is said to be buried. Despite what looks like a slant towards tourism, many of the islanders are actually farmers, fishermen and entrepreneurs. Experience the beautiful countryside and peaceful landscape of paddy fields by renting a car and taking a leisurely drive around the island. Some of Langkawi’s most rustic and memorable views are along the road that circles the island. You’ll pass small villages with wooden houses framed by palm trees, and children pedalling their old bicycles on errands. Aside from experiencing the local lifestyle, there is no shortage of things to do in Langkawi. Head up the thrilling new cable car to the summit of Mount Mat Cincang – Langkawi’s second highest mountain – for an unrivalled view of the entire main island and beyond. Other popular destinations are the Field of Burnt Rice, Hot Springs, Telaga Tujuh (The Seven Wells) and the Beach of Black Sand. Boat tours are organised to Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden), Gua Cerita (Cave of Stories) and Gua Langsir (Curtain Cave). For a more intimate time with nature, go trekking through the pristine rainforest that covers most of Langkawi, or go on a boat tour of the mangroves. There are also opportunities to go for a dive, or play a round of golf at some of the 5-star resorts. Langkawi also has an underwater world, with an underground tunnel that runs through a giant aquarium that has received rave reviews.
Pulau Payar Marine Park
The sprinklings of jade green islands that make up Pulau Payar lie just 30km south- east of Langkawi. From here, it is a 1-hour boat ride out to the best marine park on Malaysia’s West Coast, making it an ideal choice for a day outing. This well-preserved, uninhabited marine park extends over a number of islands, with Pulau Payar being the largest. Your base out here is the floating platform moored off Pulau Payar. But the real attraction of this platform lies below sea level. Step into the underwater observation chamber to view the marine life surrounding a reef. Want to get even closer to the swirl of fishes that make these corals their home? Grab a mask, a snorkel and fins and join the spectacle!
If you’re into scuba diving, the best diving is along the reef system that skirts the south, east and west of Pulau Payar. Please check with your dive operator what the visibility is while you’re there, as conditions vary.
Kilim River Cruise
Spread over an area of 100sq. km, Kilim Nature Park features a beautiful mix of well protected green mangrove forests, isolated white beaches and blue lagoons. Along the trail, passing through calm winding rivers, you will be exposed to the wonders of the park’s marine ecosystem, flora and fauna and its natural habitats. Some tour operators will stop at a special spot along the river where they feed the eagles, found in great numbers here. These include the white- bellied fish eagle, brahminy kite and gigantic sea eagles. Kilim River is also a great place for some birdwatching during the migratory seasons in September and March. After feeding the eagles, the boats will move downstream and soon, the Andaman Sea, located in the northern coast, comes into view as they exit the Kilim River through The Hole in the Wall. This is a famous passage so named after a narrow opening between formidable walls of limestone cliffs that connect the river to the open sea. This narrow gap provides a sheltered area for a thriving fish farm and mooring for yachts. The farm adopts a very hands-on approach, encouraging visitors to hand-feed the multitude of marine life such as groupers, bat fish, blue spotted stingrays, lobsters, mantis prawns and snappers. Visitors can choose their own lunch or dinner directly from the 50-odd cages and have it cooked to order at the floating restaurant.
Alor Setar Tower
Located in the heart of Alor Setar, this 165.5-metre tower is one of the tallest telecommunications tower in the world. It is a prominent and modern landmark that signifies the rapid development in the state of Kedah.
At its tip is the Seri Angkasa Revolving Restaurant which specialises in a variety of sumptious local as well as international cuisine. From here, one can enjoy a spectacular view of Alor Setar and nearby Butterworth. On clear days, you can even try to spot the neighbouring country of Thailand! Besides landmark-spotting, the tower also serves as an observatory tower from which to look for the crescent moon to mark the beginning of Muslim months. The observation deck stands at a height of 88 metres from the base of the structure. A souvenir shop at this level ensures that breathtaking views are cemented as little trinkets for your trip home.