Kedah - Langkawi

Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. The islands are a part of Malaysia's Kedah state, but are adjacent to the Thai border. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi with a population of some 45,000, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Langkawi is a duty-free island.

The name Langkawi is a combination of 'Lang' and 'Kawi'. 'Lang' means 'Helang' eagle in Malay. In the past days the land was a home to innumerable eagles. 'Kawi' is the Sanskrit word for marble, which is found in excess in this part of Malaysia. Both these words together joined to form the word 'Helangkawi' which ultimately became as Langkawi.

Another reference found in the book of Tun Mohamed Zahir's named 'The Legends of Langkawi' which says its a mix of two sanskrit words 'Langka' (beauty) and 'Wi' (innumerable).

Langkawi lies north of the Straits of Malacca in the southern Andaman Sea near the border between Malaysia and Thailand. Only a few kilometres to the north lies the neighbouring Thai island of Ko Tarutao. The island group's main town, on the main island, is Kuah.

Langkawi's highest point is Gunung Raya, rising to 890 m above sea level in the main island's central-eastern area.

The Isles of Langkawi consists of 104 islands with a total land area of about 528 sq km (204 sq m).

The name "Langkawi" is believed to be related to the kingdom of Langkasuka, centred in modern-day Kedah. The historical record is sparse, but a Chinese Liang Dynasty record (c. 500 AD) refers to the kingdom of "Langgasu" as being founded in the 1st century AD. 'Langkawi' means Eagle Island, it may be noted, and indeed there is a great abundance of eagles in the area. In Kuah, the capital, there is a huge eagle monument in Eagle Square which commemorates the origin of Langkawi's name.

Langkawi eventually came under the influence of the Sultanate of Kedah, but Kedah was conquered in 1821 by Siam and Langkawi along with it. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred power to the British, who held the state until independence, except for a brief period of Thai rule under the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. Thai influences remain visible in the culture and food of Langkawi, while Thai language is still understood by many on the island.

Langkawi was the site of the Langkawi Declaration, issued by the Heads of Government of the Commonwealth of Nations and making environmental sustainability one of the priorities of the Commonwealth.

From the Kuah jetty, there are high-speed ferry connections to Satun in southern Thailand, Pulau Payar, Penang, Kuala Kedah and to Kuala Perlis in the mainland of Peninsular Malaysia. Star Cruises ships dock at the Awana Porto Malai harbour on the west coast of the island. Malaysia Airlines has daily flights to Langkawi whilst AirAsia flies from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. SilkAir flies to Langkawi from Singapore and there is a Penang-Langkawi flight route operated by Firefly airline. The Langkawi island has a well developed road network. Taxis and car rentals are available at the Langkawi International Airport.

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