Explore mysterious caves and pretty lakes, or simply enjoy the bucolic kampung life, offered by Langkawi, the jewel on the Andaman Sea.
Langkawi has come a long way - what once was a rustic archipelago of 99 islands (only four are inhabited) on the north-western coast of Peninsular malaysia is now a charming tourist destination. Laced with emerald lakes, mysterious caves and ancient rainforests teeming with exotic flora and fauna, it boasts some of the most luxurious five-star resort hotels in South-east asia with sunny weather all year round, offering strips of soft white sand and an unobstructed view of the peaceful Andaman Sea.
BOAT RIDE TO KILIM NATURE PARK
The Beauty and Its Myth
Legend has it that the name "Langkawi" is derived from the combination of the malay word helang, which means eagle, and the Sanskrit word kawi, for the reddish-brown feathers of these majestic birds. and, true enough, looking up into the sky on your way to Kilim Nature Park, you'll be able to spot a soaring eagle or two, gliding to where visitors are allowed to feed them.
Fully immerse yourself in the rich history of Pulau Langkawi (the main island) by diving, snorkelling and caving. The most romantic cave is Gua Cerita. It's believed that garuda, a giant mythical bird, opposed the marriage of a Romanian prince to a Chinese princess. It kidnapped the princess and held her captive in the cave until the prince rescued her. Till today, faintly legible inscriptions can be seen on the cave walls. In 2007, Unesco declared Langkawi South-east asia's 1st World Geopark, 52nd in the world for its unique geological heritage. Its two most prominent mountains, Gunung Raya and Gunung mat Cincang, are named after two giants. It's believed the two got into a fight at the wedding of their children, which resulted in a big vat of sauce being overturned, forming the town of Kuah ("gravy" in malay). Visitors can enjoy a cable-car ride above the tree tops to the summit of Gunung mat Cincang from Burau Bay.
On the move
One of the most affordable ways to get there is by airasia, which flies four times a week from Singapore to Langkawi. Couples can stop by Kuala Lumpur for a few days before jetting off on one of the numerous daily airasia flights from that city to Langkawi.
Most tourists explore the area by renting a motorcycle or a bicycle, and pedal around the sleepy villages of traditional wooden houses built on stilts, set into rural vistas of rubber plantations, padi fields and swaying coconut palms.
The Four Seasons Resort Langkawi at Tanjong Rhu, which offers one of the longest private beaches at 1.5km, is an ideal hideaway for hedonists desiring peace and exclusivity. From the moment guests enter the resort's sweeping driveway, they are welcomed by an impressive structure that blends asian, Indian and arabic influences to create a uniquely malaysian whole.
Moghul-inspired vistas frame meandering pathways that - after dark - are illuminated with dramatic flame torches and pit fires. The resort's proximity to the sea is translated to the many water elements incorporated into the design - from a solitary gazebo set on a reflecting pond to the use of mirrored tiles that cast shimmering shadows on the walls.
When promenading the sprawling layout of the resort, you are reminded of a malay village where homes are dotted along the beach. There are 91 sea-facing villas and pavilions, of which 17 are two-storey melaleuca pavilions of four units each, while the rest are private villas in different sizes, each equipped with their own private spa areas and plunge pools.
You'll fall in love with the decadently designed bathrooms, akin to private hamams or Turkish-style steam baths, with double washbasins; and a bathtub built into a large terrazzo niche, complete with a domed roof and Roman arches.