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1991 May: A Visit to Langkawi, the Land of Mahsuri


A Visit to Langkawi, The Land of Mahsuri, May 1991

The legend said that when Mahsuri was stabbed with the "keris" (a dagger), white blood oozed out. The painting showed she was stabbed in front at the breast, perhaps impiliciting that the milk was oozing, together with blood.

Langkawi, like Melaka has a lot of legends. The famous one is the curse by Mahsuri, the beautiful wife, that "There shall be no peace and prosperity on this island for a period of seven generations", laid at her death during her execution in 1819 (1235 H) as a victim of treachery and jealousy. How long is seven generations? Let say a generation spans 60 years. Seven generation accrued 420 years. Let say a span of 30 years for overlaping of two succesive generations; there are six overlaps, making 180 years. Thus the "real time" seven generations is more or less 420 minus 180 equals 240 years. By this simple arithmatics, the curse expires by about 2060. A variant of longer generation span would result in bigger than 240 years. Conversely, increasing the overlaping time to 40 years would result in 180 years. My cousin Abang Awang went to Langkawi in 1970's (ca. 150 years after the curse) to work as a fisherman. He did not tell any story of unprosperity, in fact he went there because fishing in Langkawi was more prosperous than in Merang, Terangganu. In 1980's a "wise man" claimed that the seven generations had elapsed, and it was time for prosperity, so let's get on with development! Within ten years, Langkawi changed from a fishing paradise to become a tourist midi-mecca, thus changing the demography of the island. Ironically, Redang, an island off Merang in Terengganu, which had never been cursed, was also similarly "uncursed" in 1980's, by the same "wise man". Like Langkawi, the island fishing paradise of Redang, where my causin Abang Awang fished before he went to Langkawi, changed into a tourist mini-mecca. The inhibitants who lived on the many sandy beach spots of the island for more than seven generations, were resettled, to "deinfest" the beach. In 1990's Redang received its first drop of fresh water via submerged pipe from mainland Merang. Fishing was prohibited within 5 miles of the island's perimeter, and also in similar perimeter of nearby islands, including the infamous Bidong, because it was declared "marine park". I watched Redang from the mainland all my life since my childhood and "toured" it several times a year in my adulthood. I went to Langkawi in 1991, for the first time, ca. 170 years after the curse.

The journey from Kuala Perlis in LADA Ferry was very confortable, feeling like travelling in Jumbo 747. It took 45 minutes to reach Kuah. On negotiating the bends to Kuah I could really feel the fishing paradiseness as told by my cousin. Kuah is on the gulfy side of the island, nearly facing the mainland. The stony wall of this side with many small islands was a perfect ground for the various kinds of snappers, just like around Bidong and the Five Island off Terengganu.

I stayed in Tanjung Mali Beach Resort, a chalet on Pantai Tengah, the side of the island facing the Indian Ocean. I felt very much at home, for everything I saw around was like a duplicate of my hometown beach, except that the waves were smaller and less rythemic in pounding the shore. The chalets were well spaced. It has an open restaurant on the beach. The water flow was a bit slow though, thus a bit itchy to desalt the skin after a dip on the beach. However, at night, the place was a mosquito-infested area. I had to go out at eleven at night to get some mosquito coil. I revisited this place in Nov 1998 to find out that rather than became better, it looked like a squatter area in KL. Apparently more rooms were built, well over the optimum number.

I rented a car in order to move about. It was said that you do not have to return the car to the owner, just leave it anywhere you like on the island, the owner will get it somehow, and no one will steal it. So, I decided to part with the car at the jetty on the return journey, for convenience. And at the jetty, on the morning of the return journey, I was greeted by a non-mistaken person: the car owner, to claim his car. On my revisit in 1998, I rented a van because my family had grown bigger. On one occasion, at the jetty's car park, I found that the driver's door of the van was slightly dented: it was a case of hit-and-run. On the morning of my return journey, I parted with the van at the stated place without seeing the owner. Five minutes before we were to board the ferry, the owner rushed at me, claiming RM150 for the small dent, on top of the RM750 I had already paid for the rent.
Hot spring. The water tastes a bit salty. My geologist colleague said it has something to do with geo-fissure which has an opening in the Indian Ocean. On my revisit in 1998, I could not find the spot of the spring from the road side. It was fenced all over, tolled, and in fact it was fully commercialised.

Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells). Basically it is a series of low water falls with seven levels of platform. I let the children dip in the first level only, and that was quite a breath-taking climb. This is probably an alternative to the salt water dip for the tourist or the local people. The water was really cool and refreshing. On the way back I left my outer vest with all my money and other documents, hung on a branch at the spot. Luckily when I returned to collect in about an hour later, the vest was still there, and everything inside the vest, thus saved otherwise my Mahsuri's curse. I did not bother to go again there when I revisited Langkawi in 1998.

This is where Mahsuri supposed to live 170 years ago; a decent life of farming for land produce and fishing for sea produce. Obviously the items were beutified and reconstructed for tourism purposes. What really been preserved was the place, and perhaps the spot of the items. A small marketplace nearby was for sure an annex.