THE cold, wet and gloomy weather that we are experiencing lately is triggering memories of holidays to warmer climes; and one particular holiday, albeit a short one, to Langkawi, seems to be on a loop with repeats of the enchanting crystal clear waters, long sandy beaches with stunning sunsets, the Kilim Geoforest Park and its army of eagles circling the blue skies above lushes mangroves, the Skycab and many more.
Last but not least on the long list of attractions that is flooding my mind on this cold gloomy morning is the picturesque idyllic location of Nasi Dagang Pak Malau stall, snugly located by green padi fields that stretch out to the hills in the distance.
Yes, a visit to Langkawi last year had rekindled a love affair that started some 30 or more years ago, when as a student, I biked across the island with four friends in search of adventure. We found that and more in terms of the warmth and hospitality of the locals, who went out of their way to show the pride and joy of the island of Mahsuri.
Three days in the Jewel of Kedah with its 104 islands in the Andaman Sea would not do much justice — that was what Kak Fauziah, our guide, told me.
But, that was all I could afford, with one agenda in mind — to document the famous sunset from the beaches of Cenang. But more of that later.
“Three days is not enough,” said Kak Fauziah again as we enjoyed the famous Nasi Dagang Pak Malau, taking in the breathtaking view that must have become cover pictures in many a Facebook account and subject of Instagram and suchlike.
By the time I was introduced to Pak Malau, Kak Fauziah and coffee painting artist Amanda Zulkifli had already taken me to most of the attractions in Langkawi. To places I had never been before. However, I kept lamenting that I wish I had befriended Pak Malau earlier. I would have loved to spend at least one night at his homestay next to his stall that had attracted so many customers from the break of dawn and listen to him talk about his journey from the comfortable corporate communications department of Malaysian Airlines to this roadside stall along Jalan Makam Mahsuri, Kampung Mawar.
Pak Malau, or Jamaludin Hashim, told me how the place had captured his imagination. He recalled how he was mesmerised by the magical setting that would attract visitors throughout the day. With a stall by the green padi fields and the hills in the distance, he added some props you’d find in any old Malay movie — an abandoned vintage car under a tree and an old bicycle. These have all served him well in attracting customers to not just taste his nasi dagang but also to record the beauty of its surroundings.
For someone from the world of public relations and corporate communications, the importance of things trending in social media was not lost on Pak Malau. He made the old abandoned car work for him as many visitors couldn’t resist posing for a picture with the stunning view in the background.
It was with tummy full of nasi dagang that I visited the Mahsuri Mausoleum and relived the story that was told numerous times by my late mother when I was a child. It was like visiting an old friend’s house while she was not there; I sat on the steps and enjoyed the serenity, reliving the fate she suffered. I washed my face with water from her well, while the haunting tune from the gamelan drifted from the “diorama museum” evoking more memories of the legend that never dies.
As a sunset chaser, I had been to many places to document the sun setting. It was with this in mind that I ventured out to Langkawi. However, from the gloomy dark skies from the first day I arrived, I knew it was not to be.
Being the optimist, I still went out on a sunset cruise, harbouring hopes that the sun would still make an appearance as we anchored somewhere in the middle of the sea. We had buffet and watched some of the younger tourists dive into the cold waters. From a distance I saw Pulau Dayang Bunting, again triggering much memories of childhood days.
Alas, the sun never appeared but the much dreaded rain came. However, the hue and the colours that appeared over Langkawi after sunset did much to pacify me. It was almost magical.
The disappointment of missing the sunset was temporarily forgotten after a trip to the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park to see the mangrove swamp and enjoy the limestone formations that are more than 500 million years old. I watched eagles fly gracefully in the sky. The ride in the Skycab over the jungles of Langkawi offered a breathtaking view of the islands. The trip to the Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (Mardi) Agro Technology Park was also unforgettable, where I treated myself to fruits I had long missed.
So, Kak Fauziah was right. Three days was too short a time to truly enjoy what Langkawi has to offer. I had to give Telaga Air Panas a miss and saw just glimpses of Laman Padi. I think these as well as the elusive sun are good enough reasons for a return visit. In the meantime, now, more than ever, snapshots of Langkawi and her charms are working overtime to lure me back.