The events calendar for the Island of Langkawi, Malaysia, is dominated by two major sporting events, Le Tour de Langkawi and the Langkawi Ironman Triathlon. During these events, the island becomes a hive of buzzing activity, with athletes, media and international spectators taking over the streets and sidewalks here.
Legends of an enchanted island
Located at the top Northwestern corner of the Malaysian Peninsula, Langkawi has in the past been closely associated with its mythical and legendary heritage. Over the last ten years, however, efforts have been made to create a vibrant resort offering not only beaches and historical sites, but also sporting events, permanent attractions and duty free shopping.
The legend of Mahsuri is well-known to most schoolchildren in Malaysia. A maiden from the island aristocracy, she was the victim of calumny when she was wrongly accused of being unfaithful to her husband by having an affair with another man. As she was executed, she placed a curse upon the island to last seven generations. Many say that the times of the curse have now come to an end, with a little bit of help from the energetic plans of the Langkawi Development Authority, a government body which has played a significant role in bringing events and infrastructure to the island. As for the wronged maiden, a shrine built in her honour has become a popular tourist attraction.
Yet another popular story relates a fight between Mat Raya and Machinchang. Mat Raya’s son was to marry Machinchang’s daughter. However, a fight broke out, and a pot of gravy was spilt. That spilt gravy is commemorated today by the name of Kuah town, the main town in Langkawi. Kuah means gravy in the Malay language. Machinchang and Mat Raya were said to have been transformed into the mountains called Gunung Machinchang and Gunung Raya, which are the highest points on the island.
Sports events and shopping
The high point of the annual calendar here is Le Tour de Langkawi. Officially sanctioned as the national tour for Malaysia by the International Cycling Federation, this tournament kicks off early January every year and makes its way around the Malaysian Peninsula. The first stage is a time trial race around the island to determine placings for the race start on the mainland. In the weeks prior to the start, you can catch the atmosphere and build up of excitement towards the race, with participants training on the usually quiet roads of the island.
The other major annual sporting event held here is the Ironman Langkawi Triathlon. The only full ironman event held in South East Asia, Langkawi offers a unique challenge to the professional triathletes who travel from the temperate countries to compete in the grueling heat and thick humidity of Langkawi. This event has successfully attracted more participants from all over. Professional triathletes make the trek here in search of early points to qualify for the most prestigious event of all — the original Ironman in Hawaii at the end of the year.
You can join in the hubbub of the spectators lining the roads where the contestants will whizz by. For photographers, there will be excellent opportunities to snap action shots, not to mention a number of human and emotional moments all through the day’s excitement.
At other times of the year, Langkawi is not short of visitor attractions for the whole family. The new “Langcarview” cable car offers visitors an unparalleled experience, taking you straight up to Gunung Machinchang, located 708 m above sea level and offering commanding views of the Andaman Sea and the neighbouring islands. Along the way to the peak, you also get an excellent view of Telaga Tujuh, or the Seven Wells, which legend has it was once the bathing place of fairies. This series of waterfalls was once accessible only via a strenuous hike, but you can now enjoy a bird’s eye view of the scenery. There are two stations for passengers to get off, and from both you will either enjoy views of distant seascapes or take in a mist-enveloped scene, depending upon the weather of the day.
Shopping is of course something to do round the year. Most of the shopping in Langkawi can be done at Kuah Town, the main town on the island. Here, you can find a wide selection of liquor, crockery and chocolates at bargain prices. Most of the shops stock similar products, so take a walk around the shops to compare prices. Negotiating for a better price is sometimes possible, so do not shy away from making a counter offer. For shoppers coming in from Thailand, do note that many of the shopkeepers are able to speak Thai, as well as the standard English and the local Malay language.
The airport is located near yet another historical site, Padang Matsirat. Also known as the field of burnt rice, this site is so named due to an invasion by the Siamese, in which the rice paddies were razed by the invaders. Today, burnt kernels of rice may still be found in the field proper.
The airport was extensively re-developed for the purpose of hosting a major Air Show. Known as LIMA, the next edition is slated to be held in December 2005. Popular displays which regularly make their way here include large Military transport planes from Russia, high performance Russian jet fighters and assorted aircraft from Britain, the United States and South Africa.