The History of Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah
The magnificent name, Langkawi, is believed to have originated from the abundance of eagles found on the island. The Brahminy Kite, a species of eagle fondly known as “Lang Merah” in Malay, and “Kawi”, meaning marble in Sanskrit, is also unique to the island. Another reference states that the name is a combination of two Sanskrit words, “Langka” (beauty) and “Wi” (innumerable), which means ‘The Place of Immense Beauty’. True enough, this island was also once known as the ‘Land of Bliss’ dating back 2,000 years ago.
Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, who is also recognised as the Architect of Modern Langkawi, initiated the move to transform the island into a celebrated beachside and recreational hub. Tun’s relentless effort and ingenuity gave rise to the creation of the Langkawi Development Authority, known as LADA. It was a simple but a far-sighted move from the legendary leader who foresaw an opportunity in a once-upon-a-time remote cluster of islands in the North-Western area of Malaysia. Since then, LADA, as one of the most prominent government agencies in the country known for its patron leadership, worked hard in developing Langkawi.
The island has seen many changes through the years, and an utmost transition occurred when it was granted duty-free status by the Malaysian Government in 1987, attracting many locals from across the country, and at the same time, becoming a prominent tourist destination in the region. Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in his continued love for Langkawi as well as an incredible passion for horses and equestrian, has constructed a full-facility Perdana Stables, and a horse riding trail of over 70km long at Mount Machinchang, the longest mountain trail in the vicinage.
The ‘Isles of Legends’
Langkawi’s heritage includes the oral storytelling passed down by the first settlers centuries ago. This resulted in having hundreds of legends attached to almost every cave, forest, islet, rock and lake within the archipelago.
As the island prospered, a legend took place. It is said that the beautiful Mahsuri was sentenced to death for adultery, a crime she was falsely accused of, and with her dying breath, she cursed the island, predicting that the island would not flourish for seven generations. Strangely enough, Langkawi suffered a series of woes after the curse as crops failed for a very long time.
There are many accounts on Langkawi’s origin, including those from legends and folklore, but according to history, one can ascertain that the island was under the rule of the Sultanate of Kedah for a long time. The Sultanate of Kedah, founded in 1136, was the earliest Sultanate on the Malay Peninsula.
Eventually, the island came under British rule and then, for a brief period during World War II, it was controlled by the Thai monarchy. This is evident by the number of Thai cuisines and Siamese-inspired sights found around the island. After the war ended, the island became a favourite nesting ground for pirates as the dense jungle provided an excellent hideout.
Today, Langkawi has changed dramatically. The island is probably one of the busiest islands in Malaysia. Yes, it was the duty-free status that made the island a popular destination, but many local folks still believe that it was due to something less tangible – that the seven-generation curse cast on the island by Mahsuri had finally ended.
The first UNESCO-endorsed Geopark in Southeast Asia
A collection of 99 thickly forested tropical isles, Langkawi’s mountains, islands and beaches hold records of earth’s story that go back over half a billion years. These records tell of the birth of the land now known as Malaysia, and the monumental forces and processes that shaped it until it reached its present form. In fact, Langkawi is the country’s only location with such complete records.
In 2007, UNESCO officially declared the Langkawi archipelago as one of 94 globally recognised Geoparks from 27 countries to be endorsed for its natural beauty, ecological harmony and archaeological, geological and cultural significance.
Langkawi’s Geopark is noteworthy in its array of impressive rock formations surrounded by ancient jungle, vast caves with stalactites and stalagmites, winding mangrove reveries, sea caves and tunnels, wildlife and waterfalls. Over 90 geo-sites have been found in the region but there are three distinct areas that form the Langkawi Geopark, each with its own unique geological significance:
Warm beaches, gentle breeze and azure seas. Few islands can boast of such an abundance of relaxing beaches and clear waters as Langkawi. The island’s white sandy beaches are some of Malaysia’s best, from serene sandy bays to sweeping coastlines. This is the place where one can enjoy an array of incredibly exciting marine activities for kids and adults of every age.
Breathe in the island’s refined beauty. Go on a little journey to explore Langkawi’s most unique islets. With many of the islands laying so close to one another, hiring a speed boat is one great way to discover more of the lush scenery and diverse landscapes. Pulau Dayang Bunting and Pulau Beras Basah are some of islands you should visit.
Pulau Payar Marine Park
Watch as beautiful aquatic life unveils before you. Pulau Payar, West Malaysia’s only Marine Park is known for its amazing marine life. There are several sandy beaches on this island with ideal spots for picnics as well as hiking trails for those who wish to explore the island. Just off the beach, one can indulge in the thrilling experience of seeing baby sharks and more.
Snorkelling in Langkawi’s clear blue ocean is an exciting and fun family activity. All you simply need are fins and a mask to get a glimpse at the amazing undersea world of Langkawi. Hop on a boat to find the best snorkelling spots – usually found around the offshore islands of Pulau Payar and Pulau Selembu. Witness the many exotic marine creatures that inhabit the coral reef complemented by the shallow, sunlit waters that show their colours off to us land-dwellers.
Discover 99 islands in style and comfort. Experience world class marina and yachting indulgence, while enjoying the romantic sunset with a beverage in hand. Langkawi now has a total of 3 marinas and several bases offering facilities for yachts around the islands. You can hire yachts of many makes and sizes for a private cruise or even for fun with friends and family.