TAKE LANGKAWI TO ANOTHER LEVEL
Locals and administrator must ensure the island remains attractive
ASIF operates a stall selling fruit juice on Pantai Cenang, Langkawi. He also offers shisha pipes to those who fancy a night smoke by the beach.
His mango juice carries a RM15 price tag. A bit stiff actually, but the juice is fresh and served in a long glass. An associate had two glasses, suggesting that it’s worth the price.
Further down the beach is a café fronting the blue sea. It’s a good place to have sandwiches and coffee in the evening while waiting for the young ones to come out from their dip in the sea. It is not difficult to fall in love with Langkawi again and again. There are more than enough attractions to keep one returning to the legendary island.
Pantai Cenang is the most happening part of the island. Many budget hotels and chalets are located here. Pantai Cenang has a long stretch of white, sandy beach, which is very friendly to swimmers.
The chalet operators decided earlier on to capitalise on this. Today, the area is crowded with all sorts of retailers selling anything, from beachwear to jeans and burgers.
Foreign visitors also gather here for their seafood dinner. Beers and wines are readily available. Dinners can be an elaborate affair. A café named Thirstday offers candle-lit tables for two or more overlooking the sea.
Sunset worshippers have made this café their favourite watering hole. A lot of foreigners come here, watching fishing boats pass by in an almost idyllic fashion. A real great escape of a place. At least two five-star hotels are located here. One is Casa Del Mar, an exclusive resort with not more than 30 rooms.
Next to it is Pelangi Meritus, one of the island’s earliest fivestar resorts. It was built and made ready for the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in 1989. Pelangi has maintained its popularity with foreign guests and is a firm favourite of exhibitors from the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace show (Lima).
There are some tangible improvements in services on the island. The people are friendly, helpful and more aware of their role as tourism promoters.
Food prices are not a big issue anymore. I had a simple nasi campur lunch with teh tarik for RM9 yesterday. A new food court just opened a few days ago, offering a wide selection of local and foreign menus.
Visitors must make certain adjustments if they want their getaway to be enjoyable.
Don’t bring the fast city attitude when you come to slowpaced Langkawi. Be prepared to exercise patience if the driver in front of you drives at 50kph. Remember, it’s his town!
If you huff and puff on the road, you won’t enjoy Langkawi.
Many locals are up in arms against Majlis Perbandaran Langkawi, the island’s local authority. The council has turned the main road in Pantai Cenang into a one-way street, which is a good move actually.
But its execution was haphazard. I doubt if road users had sufficient notice to effectively comply with the new system.
During Lima, traffic can get really nasty till midnight. Parking is a huge headache. Enforcement officers have a tough time trying to manage the situation with limited success.
To complement the one-way system, a dual-carriage highway was constructed to help clear congestion. It wasn’t completely ready when Lima began, but the authorities decided to allow motorists to us it, nonetheless.
The local council has also decided to pave the five-foot-way with colourful brick tiles. But the quality of work is poor.
Many parts of the footway are not covered, suggesting insufficient budget or shoddy work.
I wonder if the local council chairman ever makes his rounds. Lima has made Langkawi a household name in the aviation and maritime industries. I’m sure he would do everything to take Langkawi to another level in international tourism.
As a whole, Langkawi needs to raise its level of services and professionalism. Visitors are watching and deciding whether to return or not. An Estonian man and his family told me Langkawi provides him an exciting getaway.
The five-star establishments are good. But the smaller resorts, some of which are running on limited resources, need to consciously upgrade their facilities.
Langkawi has a bright future, but everyone connected with it has to sit across a big table and make some quick decisions.
Giving Langkawi the duty-free status in 1987 was a brilliant idea, but the people on the island must learn to take it to another level. The writer is the chairman of Yayasan Salam Malaysia
It is not difficult to fall in love with Langkawi. There are more than enough attractions to keep one coming back to the island.