ice cream and chocolate

Selamat datang daripada Langkawi,

    When did we change from perceiving islands as ideal sites for penitentiaries, asylums and quarantine stations to seeing them as idyllic destinations for leisure activities?

islands as tourist destinations

Was it when we successfully exchanged work time for leisure without diminishing our share of the return on capital? Was it when we started to value travel and tourism more than isolationalist policies? Or was it when individuals and corporations became so stupendously wealthy that they could own whole islands and decided to find a way to gain a return on their investments? Or all of the above? 

Jewel of Kedah

  Pulau Langkawi is the largest island of 99 in the archipelago. The full name is Langkawi Permata Kedah, which means jewel of Kedah – Kedah being the northern-most state of Malaysia. For thousands of years the islanders have gone about their fishing and farming existence, probably oblivious to the potential for tourism on their patch of land. 

a tourist destination – earmarked

  When, in the early 1980s, Mahathir Mohammed (Malaysian Prime Minister) announced boldly that Malaysia was going to develop, he earmarked Langkawi as a tourist destination. He was clearly going for the western tourist’s money as a likely way of improving foreign exchange. But, the problem was obvious: if tourists have never come to Langkawi before, why would they now? Answer: build some new draw cards and sell the existing ones better.

at the top of the cable car

    Whilst this meant that there was a surge in new infrastructure (Mahathir himself helped in the design of several of the buildings), it also meant that there was a well-spring of artificial tourist attractions. This means that Langkawi has its fair share of man-made draw cards like ice creameries (?!), chocolateries (?!?!), cable cars and ziplines. These contrived attractions don’t measure up well, compared to nature.

NOT built for tourism

     Dear readers will almost certainly agree with me that the best things to see as a traveller are the things which were NOT specifically created for the tourism trade. These will include natural and cultural attractions.

After all, the Colosseum was built for entertainment, yes, but the concept of tourism was not even on the horizon 2000 years ago. The Currumbin Bird Sanctuary was started by a bloke playfully feeding the birds in his own back yard. Niagara Falls are worth seeing for their sheer natural grandeur. And the Great Wall of China holds a history lesson from which each of us benefits.

These attractions are all worth visiting but none of them were built specifically to attract tourists.

undisturbed jungle

    Langkawi is certainly not a case of the emperor’s new clothes. There is sufficient natural beauty here to warrant a visit. Two-thirds of the island is swathed in undisturbed jungle. The beaches which are public are very agreeable. The ocean water is warm. The cable car is actually an impressive piece of engineering technology that fits into the mountain quite seamlessly and provides a commanding view to three sides of the island. The bird’s nest culture “factory” was indeed a revelatory experience for both of us.

And Linda liked the ice cream, too.

Perpihasan daripada Langkawi​


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