Lo­cals and ad­min­is­tra­tor must en­sure the is­land re­mains at­trac­tive

New Straits Times - - Viewpoint -

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.

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