Langkawi, is an archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off mainland Malaysia’s northwestern coast adjacent to the Thai border. Just four of the islands are inhabited, the largest being Pulau Langkawi, which is also known in and of itself as Langkawi. It has a population of 45,000, most of whom live in-and-around Kuah; Langkawi’s largest town. As well as being the island’s population centre, Kuah is also the landing point for ferries from mainland Malaysia. As Langkawi is one of Malaysia’s most popular beach holiday destinations, more and more investors come here to buy Malaysia properties in this region.
The islands came under the rule of the Sultanate of Kedah before being conquered by Siam. They then signed it over to the British in 1909 who, apart from a brief period when it again came under Thai and Japanese rule during World War II, held onto to it until Malaysian independence. Both British and Thai influences are still in evidence among the population, and the Thai language is still largely understood on the island.
Langkawi was a relative backwater until 1987 when the island was granted tax-free status with the intention of promoting tourism. Subsequently the island’s airport was upgraded and ferry links were increased. It has since become nearby Penang’s biggest competitor for the title of Malaysia’s largest tourist draw. Langkawi received another big boost more recently, when it was granted World Geopark status by Unesco.
Langkawi’s geographical position is another big advantage in its bid to draw tourists; the mountainous backbone of Peninsular Malaysia means the island escapes the northeastern winter monsoon entirely and enjoys sunny skies when the eastern provinces are largely flooded. Its stunning beaches, diverse culture and exceptional climate have led to Langkawi securing its current place as one of Malaysia’s most popular beach holiday destinations, and it plays host to range of high-end resorts, from the Four Seasons to Sheraton. However, its tourism infrastructure still has some way to go with an increase in flight frequency Langkawi International Airport is among its most pressing issues.