Langkawi Travel Tips helps you visit, discover and enjoy this vacation destination.
Langkawi (GPS: 6.3675, 99.79774) is a major tourist destination in northern Malaysia. It belongs to Kedah, and is regarded as a district of the state. Langkawi comprises the main island, Pulau Langkawi, and close to a hundred surrounding smaller islands and islets - some no more than rocky outcrops jutting out of the sea. Some tourist brochures say that at high tide, there are 99 islands while at low tide, an additional 5 emerge above the water surface. How much this is true remains to be ... well, calculated.
I create this guide to provide information you can use as you plan your vacation in Langkawi. My hope is that it will help you have a great time in Langkawi. I shall try my best to update the information from time to time, and do apologise if there are any errors.
The main island is 478 sq km (185 sq mi) in area. The main town is Kuah, a town with a population of around 65,000 people (2011 estimate). The Langkawi archipelago is steep in legend. Many of the place names in Langkawi recall past historical events, legends and myths. This includes Kuah as well as the names of mountains and islands in the archipelago.
The most famous legend of Langkawi is the one of Mahsuri, a woman who was put to death for allegedly committing adultery. She was said to have put a curse on the island to last seven generations. Incidentally, just a few years after the death of Mahsuri, a Siamese attack laid waste the island (that same Siamese invasion resulted in Kedah itself being annex into the Kingdom of Siam, remaining so until 1909).
Suspension Bridge Walkway on Gunung Mat Cincang (6 June 2005)
Langkawi remained a desolate place for much of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century - with many holding to the belief that the curse was in effect. To brush away any links to their unhappy past, Mahsuri's descendents moved to Phuket, where they can still be found today. True enough, Langkawi only began to blossom after what would be seven generations had passed.
To be more prosaic, Langkawi was fortunate in the fact that both the first and fourth prime ministers of Malaysia, namely Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, hailed from Kedah. While the two did not always see eye to eye, they both were in alignment over Langkawi's potential. Langkawi is their favourite child. Of course they are not along. Other far-sighted individuals including the late Tan Sri Loh Boon Siew recognise what could become of Langkawi, and proceeded to acquire Langkawi land, at that time costing little more than a song, until he became the biggest landowner on the island.
Langkawi certainly has much to its side. It has plenty of land, beautiful sceneries, and although its population is low, it is near enough to Penang to bank on the latter's human resources. As a result, it grew at a furious pace between the early 1980's to the turn of the 21st century. Today you can find hotels of every class and category on Langkawi, from the basic to the luxurious. On the whole, the island is expensive, when compared to the Kedah mainland. But this is something to be expected of a resort destination.
Galeria Perdana ceiling design (5 June 2005)
Langkawi is a major beach resort destination in Malaysia. It is often known as the Islands of Legend, because of the many legends associated to the island as well as places within the island. Langkawi is an archipelago comprising Pulau Langkawi, the main island, and 99 satellite islands nestling serenely in the tropical waters some 30 kilometers off the coast of Kedah, in the northeast of Peninsular Malaysia.
Langkawi belongs to Kedah state and is administered under the Pulau Langkawi District. It is adjacent to the Tarutao National Park of Thailand. The largest island of the archipelago is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi. Pulau Langkawi, Pulau Dayang Bunting and Pulau Tuba are the only inhabited islands in the archipelago.
Langkawi has been enjoying tax-free status since 1987. This has helped fuel its tourism industry and improve the standard of living of the population, which numbers around 45,000. Numerous hotels of various classes have been built in Langkawi, catering to a wide spectrum of tastes and expectations.
In 2007, the Langkawi Archipelago was declared a Geopark by UNESCO. Langkawi Geopark is the only Geopark in Southeast Asia and the 52nd geopark under the Unesco Global Geoparks Network.
Soft corals, Underwater World Langkawi (4 June 2005)
Getting to Langkawi
Langkawi International Airport has direct links with Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Bangkok.
There are regular ferry services connecting Kuah, the main town on Langkawi, with Kuala Perlis (45 minutes), Kuala Kedah (90 minutes) and Penang (3 hours) in Malaysia, and with Satun and Koh Lipe in the Tarutao archipelago in Thailand.
Perhaps the most convenient way to explore Langkawi is by renting a car or motorcycle. Other forms of transport is quite limited. You can rent a car or motorcycle directly from both the airport as well as the jetty.
Driving in Langkawi
Driving in Langkawi is fun. The roads are often devoid of traffic. The only drawback is that some of the roads allow only two lanes of traffic. Many of the islanders drive at cattle speed. If you get behind one, it may be a while before you have a chance to overtake.
There are just a few main roads on the island. Confusingly, three of them take the route number of 112. These are Jalan Padang Matsirat, which runs from Kuah town to the village of Padang Mat Sirat; Jalan Ayer Hangat, which skirts the eastern part of Langkawi, from Kuah town to Ayer Hangat village; and Jalan Ulu Melaka, which starts at Ayer Hangat Village and ends at the junction with Jalan Padang Mat Sirat. In a way, if you follow 112, you make a loop around the eastern and central portions of Langkawi.
In addition to Route 112, there are a few other main roads which you should explore. Route 113, also known as Jalan Teluk Yu, begins at Ayer Hangat village, crosses the northern part of Langkawi, and ends at Burau Bay. On the southern part of the island, Jalan Bukit Malut, also known as Route 167, joins Jalan Padang Mat Sirat to Jalan Kedawang.
On the western part of Langkawi, there is Jalan Pantai Cenang, which runs along the main beach belt of Langkawi. To the north of it is Jalan Kuala Muda, which runs along the coast next to the Langkawi International Airport.
Let's explore and get to know Kedah together. To continue exploring the state, pick another destination from the map below.
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