Langkawi (Part 1)

This article is the first part of my 2016 Langkawi Trip series. Click here for the second, third and fourth parts.

By boat, the most convenient gateway to Pulau Langkawi (Langkawi Island) is Kuala Kedah. Actually, Kuala Perlis is nearer to Langkawi. However, the longer distance from Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan (North–South Expressway) to Kuala Perlis offsets the shorter boat ride.
Hourly passenger ferries depart from Kuala Kedah from 7:00am to 7:00pm. The journey itself takes almost 2 hours. Adult ticket costs RM23.00 each way. It is possible to purchase tickets on the spot. But during holiday seasons, it is advisable to book online to avoid unexpected delays.
After picking a rental car in Kuah, my first destination is the highest point on the island, Gunung Raya (Mount Raya). The summit is reachable by road. Towards the end of a winding mountain road, there is a lookout point which also marks the terminus of Tangga Helang Seribu Kenangan (Thousand Memories Of Eagle Stairs).
This 3-kilometer hiking trail starts from the foothill and contains 4,287 steps. Gaining elevation of 700 meters, an uphill hike takes approximately 2 to 3 hours to complete. However given its state of disrepair, I suspect that the trail has not been in use for several years. What a shame!
The viewpoint provides a bird's eye view of paddy fields around Padang Matsirat. Further away are Cenang Beach (Pantai Cenang) and several outlying islands such as Pulau Tepor (Tepor Island) and Pulau Rebak Besar (Greater Rebak Island). The peculiar shape of Tepor Island suggests that the island was formed by a meteorite impact.
After a 30-minute drive from the mountain base, I arrive at the summit of Gunung Raya. Perched on the peak of Gunung Raya is an observation tower made from stone. There is a RM10.00 admission fee to enter the tower. An elevator carries visitors near the top floor, but it is still necessary to climb several flights of stairs. Not truly wheelchair-friendly, apparently.
Once at the top, visitors are greeted with 360-degree panorama of Langkawi Island. With an elevation of 900 meters above sea level and near the geographical center of Langkawi Island, Gunung Raya provides breathtaking view of the entire island under favorable weather conditions.
The second tallest mountain in Langkawi, Gunung Mat Chincang (Mount Machinchang), is visible towards the west. According to local folklore, once upon a time there were two giants called Mat Raya and Mat Chincang. Both giants started as friends but got into a squabble over trivial matters. They started throwing objects between each other, resulting in other features around Langkawi like Ayer Hangat (hot water), Belanga Pecah (broken pot) and Kuah (gravy). When both giants came to their senses, they atoned for their sins by turning themselves into mountains.
Owing to its high elevation, the summit of Gunung Raya is quite windy. Bring along a jacket in case it is too chilly up here. While enjoying the scenery, visitors may enjoy complimentary herbal tea too. The experience on the tower is mesmerizing indeed.
After descending from Gunung Raya, my choice for lunch is at Scarborough Fish & Chip Restaurant in Tanjung Rhu. As the name implies, this restaurant serves English-style fish and chips.
I think the main selling point at Scarborough is the scenic view. Despite the hefty price, the food here is mediocre at best. Then again, there are not many restaurant choices at this part of the island.
Ayer Hangat Village is renowned for natural hot springs. The water contains minerals that are claimed to alleviate aches, pains and skin diseases. There is an admission fee for bathers. Bathing in hot water on a hot day is not what I have in mind, so I shall skip this place today.
A small road off the main road leads to Durian Perangin Waterfall. There are several food and souvenir shops near the entrance.
The immediate section of the park is family-friendly. There are several gazebos for people to enjoy the melodic chirping of birds and crickets.
There is also a boardwalk on each side of the stream. Both sides of the stream are connected by a bridge over the lower falls.
There is also a hanging footbridge which spans over the stream. Overall, the place is relatively well-maintained despite the fact that no admission fee is charged.
The middle falls of the 3-tier waterfall can be reached by hiking a short distance on the right. The stone steps may be slippery when it rains, so watch your footing.
After 10 minutes of reasonably easy climbing, hikers are treated with a nice view of the upper falls. This is a popular place for people to bathe in cooling water from Gunung Raya.
My next destination is Galeria Perdana (Prime Gallery), which is located halfway between Kuah and Ayer Hangat. This museum opens from 8:30am to 5:30pm every day. The admission fee is RM5.00 for adult.
Galeria Perdana is dedicated to Tun Dr. Mahathir, Malaysia's fourth Prime Minister, and his wife Tun Dr. Siti Hasmah. The museum contains more than 9,000 exhibits but only around 2,000 pieces are displayed at a time.
Many of these exhibits are gifts from foreign dignitaries to Dr. Mahathir during his 22-year tenure (1981-2003) as Malaysia's fourth Prime Minister.
The museum complex comprises of 3 buildings with two floors each. The buildings are interconnected by marble-laid pathways.
Each building features an ornate dome designed with elements of Islamic architecture. Natural sunlight is allowed in.
Interesting exhibits here include Pontiac Catalina (a top of the line model during the 1950s), Mitsuoka Classic Type F (modeled after Lotus Seven) and Proton Perdana V6 Executive (serves as the limousine for Malaysian heads of state and government)
Also noteworthy is a mock Sauber-Petronas Formula One car. Sauber-Petronas was a racing team which the national petroleum company sponsored during Dr. Mahathir's era.
Art or history enthusiasts can spend hours exploring the entire museum. However, I feel that Galeria Perdana is not as well-maintained as its prominence suggests. Several sections of the museum suffer from malfunctioned lighting and air-conditioning.
Backtracking to the extreme northeast corner of Langkawi Island, my next destination is Tanjung Rhu (Cape Rhu). There is a small parking lot at the end of the main road.
According to online sources, Tanjung Rhu is supposed to be one of the most scenic beaches in Langkawi. Therefore, I am dismayed to see the beach strewn with debris like wooden planks, bottles and plastic bags. I think the local authorities are not doing enough to enforce littering rules.
From Tanjung Rhu, Kilim Karst Geoforest Park can be viewed at a distance. To explore the park, one needs to hire a boat from one of the operators near the parking lot.
There are 2 stretches of Tanjung Rhu coastline which are privately owned by Four Seasons Resort Langkawi and Tanjung Rhu Resort. These sections are reserved for resort guests only. The private beaches are drastically cleaner than public ones.
Pantai Rekreasi Kastam (Customs Recreational Beach) is an extension of Tanjung Rhu's shoreline, but is located on the other side of the resorts. This beach is located near Jabatan Kastam Diraja Malaysia (Royal Malaysian Customs Department).
There are two small islands at a distance away - Pulau Pasir and Pulau Gasing. These minor islands are inhabited.
A small floating pier extends a short distance to the sea. Several speedboats are moored nearby.
A wooden structure with Malaysian flags indicates the presence of operators that provide recreational activities such as parasailing and water skiing.
There are also several beachfront properties that are still under construction. I wonder whether they are part of a new hotel.
Moving westward along the coast, my next stop is Pantai Pasir Hitam (Black Sand Beach). After navigating through a dense cluster of souvenir shops, a flight of stairs lead to the beach.
Pantai Pasir Hitam is known for its "black" sand. Actually, the sand is not entirely black, but only in strewn patches.
Black sand is caused by higher concentration of certain mineral such as ilmenite (titanium-iron oxide).
To the east of the stairs are the remnants of an abandoned wooden jetty.
Further along the coastline is Teluk Yu (Shark Bay). This place is located within a short distance from Kompleks Kraf Langkawi (Langkawi Craft Complex).
Teluk Yu is named after sharks. Considering the absence of shark warnings here, I doubt that there are dangerous sharks in Langkawi's waters.
Compared to other beaches so far, Teluk Yu is properly developed for visitors. Unfortunately, this part of Langkawi's coastline is not ideal for beach activities. Nevertheless, Teluk Yu offers nice views in the evening.
Returning to Kuah, my dinner is at a popular Chinese restaurant called Wonderland Food Store. The food menu is pork-free.
Most customers here are tourists, so I am not expecting afford food. Overall, food taste at Wonderland Food Store is acceptable but fails to impress me.
My hotel for the first 2 nights is Season Inn. It is actually within walking distance from Wonderland Food Store. The room rate here is RM135.00 per night.
The hotel room has air-conditioning and an adjoining bathroom. Although quite small in size, the room is reasonably comfortable. After all, I just need a place to sleep for several hours.
Click here for the second part of this article.

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