Sunday, June 3, 2007

Places I've Been... Langkawi

Langkawi, MalaysiaOne of Southeast Asia's most beautiful (and overlooked) locations is Langkawi, a little cluster of islands in the Andaman Sea off Malaysia's west coast. You can lounge on the white sand beaches. But not that long ago when Langkawi was populated by pirates who roamed the surrounding sea in search of ships to plunder. The 104 mostly tiny islands provide a ocean playground for international guests instead of hiding places for pirates today.

The Attraction is simple. The Langkawi Island group has been compared to the Bahamas on a number of levels - starting with the history of pirates. The thin strips of inviting beach -- some on completely unpopulated islands -- provide a refuge today for sunseekers and snorkelers.

Langkawi, MalaysiaThe islands are just north of the Penang, Malaysia. I spent a week on Langkawi Island (the chain's largest land mass) once. It was time well spent. A few moments stand out, but none more clearly than sitting at a nameless little Italian beachfront restaurant (complete with red and white checkered table clothes) drinking marguerites served in a carafe' while the sun sank into the Indian Ocean.

Langkawi is also shrouded in legend. The most popular of these tells of a young woman who was executed after being wrongly accused of adultery. She is supposed to have cursed the island for seven generations, and the Malays of the island were attacked soon thereafter by the Thais. The island was severely plundered, according to the legend.

Langkawi, MalaysiaParts of the movie "Anna and the King" were filmed on Langkawi and the 20th Century Fox movie set is among the island's newest attractions. There are a number of good beaches, including the black sand Pantai Pasir Hitam beach. Fishing is popular (though I didn't do any) and chartered fishing boats are easy to contract with. And you can rent a car on the island and tour the interior to see the Malay villages and rubber plantations. Langkawi also has a number of beautiful bird species and some butterfly species that only exit on the island.

For more on Langkawi, check out the island's web site.

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