Most Malaysians have been to Langkawi. You would still be mesmerized by the sheer beauty of the island. The white sandy beaches, the green jungles surround the winding roads that hugged the rugged terrains along the many coastal fronts as you drive from point A to B and to C…still would never missed the smell of the pure and clean air fragranted from the virgin forests. And from afar you could see the mountains that shrouded with white and clean cotton clouds. Serene and mystical. On a very clear day, you could see a Mat Chincang Mountain forming itself like a pregnant lady that lies sleep peacefully.
Twenty five years ago (or so)…Langkawi’s beauty was unsurpassed. It has it own beauty befits only to a virgin princess from the sky the above. What you are seeing now…just a fraction from her former glory. It was far beautiful, jungles were greener, water was even clearer than a crystal, fishes of all kind can be scooped out from the sea as if they were called into your net. The water falls cascading down the hill at the Telaga Tujuh wells were streaming white as if you are seeing a lustful of grey hairs tucked between the green jungles. As if the was a giant lady perched her head behind those mountains.
I am a local boy. I have seen changes. Langkawi has developed from her domain sleeping mode to what it is today…an international brand that Malaysia is so proudly advertised.
Langkawi people has indeed enjoying the fruits of these developments but our beloved island has suffered tremendous side effects. Even the young islanders have lost the opportunity to see what Langkawi was like before those big hotels were built. We welcomed the progress that tourism has brought in but we are paying the price seeing the heaven is being ripped little by little from her most magnificent state.
When I was a small boy, my kampung people together with some relatives from Alor Setar sailed with a flotilla of fishing boats, small and big to the nearest islands for a picnic and we even camped for a night or two on these islands. The most visited islands that we used to camp were Island of Singa or Lion Island and the other was Pulau Rebak and sometimes to the island of Pregnant Maiden or Pulau Dayang Bunting. It was an annual retreat that we enjoyed so much. Till this day, reminiscent this outing has certainly made me cringe for the fact that, we have long forgo such a beautiful family gathering.
Our favorite “transit point” before reaching our camping sites was the now infamous Pantai Chenang Beach. These long beaches of Chenang and Tengah were quiet as a grave. They were no human insight because there was no populations along these beaches. The beaches were full of coconut trees and wild cashew trees (P0kok Janggus for the local Langkawi and Gajus for KL people). The cashew trees bore fruits in varied colors especially in flaming yellow, siren red, orange and the young ones would be in green. My mom and her friends would collect the fully ripe cashew fruits and it young shoots to make “kerabu” or assortment of Malay’s salad. We, the boys either forced to collect muscles shellfish or cashew nuts that fell from the trees. Been forced because we were easily distracted to play and swimming in the sea.
The sands on the these beaches WERE soft as if you were stepping into a giant pot that full of baking flours. It gave you this squeaky sound every time you pressed your heel into the sand. When you lying on it, you could not get rid of these sands from your body because they were so…so fine. You have to shower to remove them.
I had mentioned about being forced to collect the muscles shells….they were aplenty. We would only have to choose the bigger ones to be collected. They were everywhere under the shallow seabeds. If you been snorkeled at Perhentian or Payar Island, surely you have experienced the juvenile fishes that came and playing with you. It was the same experience that I had when playing in these waters. Even when you just barely a knee-depth into the water, there were hundreds of small fish that came and playing with your young “bulu roma”…my hairy legs. We had to shoo them away in order to collect those muscles. Tourists now complaining that the water are muddied but it was even clearer than Evian’s.
When the business of collecting “provisions” at these beaches was done, back into the boat and we would together sail to the Pulau Singa. Along the way…I swear, this is not an exaggeration…they were dolphins in Langkawi’s waters. They were all…swimming along the boats, crisscrossed below us, leaping higher onto the air right in front of us. They were also gigantic jelly fishes as big as mini Kancil. They would race against our boats. I tell you, these jelly fishes can really swim. I know they do not have eyes but swimming fast they were.
On the Island of Singa or Lion…I have no idea why did they give the island this name. I had a dreadful imagination that there were lions roaming the island…I was a kid anyway. There were no lions of course but this island has plenty of clever creature in the form of mouse deer. After camping site had been cleared, tents were erected…they, adults then spread themselves into two groups. One was tasked to catch fish and the other to trap mouse deers. At lunch we would have grilled fish, freshly made curry…fish of course, local salad consists of cashew shoots, morsels of muscles and many ingredients that I could not recall. There was a simple meal but with a breeze from the ocean, the silent-ness of the island and crispy air coming from the jungle behind us…it was a delicious retreat.
Dinner then, would consist of variety of fish dishes again and now we have…grilled and sambal mouse deer added to the buffet table. Cooked to perfection. It is now illegal to hunt a mouse deer on the island or any part of Langkawi’s many islands.
When all left-over foods were kept safely somewhere…the gathering, talking and sharing stories begin. It never failed to send shiver to my spine when the ghost stories start to take a centre stage. We were on the remote island in the vast ocean…telling stories about ghost? The same creature that lurking right among us on this far-flung island and now we are talking about them. Of course my young mind were full of imaginations.
The next day, when the sun was up….heaven returns. The “ghosts” that haunted me last night, is now seemingly floats away. Heaven smiles upon us.
There was a glorious feeling witnessing the God’s wonders when the sun rising slowly from the horizon, the plants and trees breathe life into our lungs, the chirping sounds of waking birds.
It was a beautiful Langkawi to me. understatement I must say.
You have lost seeing heaven on earth. I have seen a minute part of it and I thank God for having me born and raise on the island.