Langkawi: Land of mystic mangroves, treasure of history

  • Soumya Mukerji, Hindustan Times
  • Updated: Jan 03, 2015 13:39 IST

You walk to the shore well past midnight, and find a wave kiss your feet with stars — glowing plankton swimming about — of which you pick a pure blue pearl and place in your hand. Just one of the many tiny wonders afloat the vast blue ocean. That’s what Langkawi’s like, and those are the kind of moments you’ll always remember it by.

One of the 99 isles spread across the archipelago of Malaysia, Langkawi, surrounded by 600-million-year-old mangroves and the richest flora and fauna all over the world, is a lady of charms hard to demystify.

Day one at the island is a picture of pure peace. Your suite opens into a private beach, and a barefooted walk helps you lose your feet, and self. As you slip deeper into the spell of the sands, you see, out on the horizon, tiny islands that wait to be explored in the following days.

A little further into the day, you are led into the many nooks and corners of the privately owned 390-acre Rebak Island — the luxury cottage suites, the sprawling nursery, the 100 plus yachts at the fully-equipped marina, and the island’s history. The legend goes that a young woman named Mahsuri of ancient Langkawi had cursed the island after her mother-in-law accused her of adultery, but well after getting over with its seven-year doom, it has risen to a blessing with the Vivanta by Taj resort, vibrant water sports, resident yachtees, and tropical thickets.

The mangroves weave magic in the rains. As our motorboat sets out, cutting between forest-loaded islands with a white eagle or two on the watch, the rain, growing from a drizzle to a full-fledged diamond dance on the surface of the sea, sets the greens aglow enough to dazzle your senses — an experience that you take back forever.

Back to base, the Vivanta Rebak Island is a sanctuary of serenity waiting for more surprises. The biggest, of course, is the Pitcher Plant, which you’ve so far only seen in the biology textbook as a rare carnivore. The tube-mouthed thing looks harmless from a distance, but a good glimpse of its big tummy tells you how hungry it is for insects. Our naturalist is just about as interesting as the plant, by the way. A man of half Tamil and half Malay descent, he takes us on an early morning hike up the hilly forest with an enthusiasm that amuses and inspires you enough to believe again that nature’s bounty has the best in store for health and happiness.

Getting to Langkawi
By Air
Both Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia have two daily flights to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur, which land at the Langkawi International Airport.
By Ferry
Ferries usually leave the port of Kuala Kedah on the mainland on the hour from 7 am to 6 pm. The ride lasts 1.5 hours. There are also ferry services from the mainland port of Kuala Perlis and the Thai port of Satun, both 45 minutes from Langkawi.

Take off on the boat again, and it’s the million-year-old bat caves that draw you in. The next stop is a host of water sports — take the ride you find wildest.

Back in evening, we are treated to a musical Malay dinner, with traditional dances upping the tempo. The Malay are a life-loving and peaceful people — their all-embracing nature evident by the fact that the island’s culture is a mix of Dravidian, Austronesian and Islamic influences.

And if it’s a luxury cruise that’s your kind of holiday, don’t forget to watch the sunset on the Andaman sea, afloat a private yacht with jacuzzi cabanas. We muse huge dancing dragon clouds in the skies, a 20-year-old Malay band playing merry aboard, and a surreal front deck view of the sun going down as the soul wells up. And the magic does not get over there — the dark skies leave you with sights of generous phosphorescence in the distance, and more glowing plankton playing in the waters.

The next day begins with trying your hand at batik painting at the Atma Alam Batik Art Village. Two well-stroked red-breasted woodpeckers later, you feel good about the piece of forest they hand over as a gift you can keep sometimes, all you need to be on an island, and Langkawi does well at that.

The author’s trip was sponsored by Vivanta by Taj – Rebak Island, Langkawi.

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