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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Langkawi Island

Off the coast of Kedah is a cluster of 99 islands with the best of many worlds; beautiful beaches, world-class infrastructure, mangroves rich in flora and fauna, ultra-cheap duty-free shopping and fascinating legends. Langkawi has a lingering legend woven into its history. Ask anyone in Langkawi about the tragic legend of a beautiful young lady named Mahsuri, and you'll hear a tale of love, jealousy and a curse that was placed upon the island by the her for seven generations. Today, the seventh generation of Langkawi’s inhabitants has long come and gone, but people here still believe that the prosperity and blessings the islands enjoy today and the passing of the curse is not a pure coincidence. The mysticism of this legend can be felt in many parts of this island, especially at Makam Mahsuri (Mahsuri’s Mausoleum) where the famous legendary figure is said to be buried. Langkawi is not only geared towards tourism. Many of the islanders are farmers, fishermen and entrepreneurs. Experience the beautiful countryside and the peaceful landscape of paddy fields by renting a car and taking a leisurely drive around the island. Some of Langkawi’s most rustic and memorable views are along the road that circles the island. You'll pass small villages with wooden houses framed by palm trees, and children pedalling their old bicycles on an errand. Aside from experiencing the local lifestyle, there is no shortage of things to do in Langkawi. Head up the thrilling new cable car to the summit of Mount Mat Cincang - Langkawi's second highest mountain - for an unrivalled view of the entire main island and beyond. You can also visit the Field of Burnt Rice, the Hot Springs, Telaga Tujuh (The Seven Wells) and the Beach of Black Sand. Boat tours are organised to Tasik Dayang Bunting, (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden), Gua Cerita (Cave of Stories) and the Gua Langsir (Curtain Cave). And if you're more outdoorsy, why not go trekking through the pristine rainforest that blankets most of Langkawi, or go on a boat tour of the mangroves, go diving, or play a round of golf at some of the 5-star resorts. Langkawi also has an underwater world, containing an underground tunnel that runs though a giant aquarium, that has gotten rave reviews. For beautiful scenery, great adventures and five-star conveniences, Langkawi is the place to geaway.

Pangkor Island

Across the Manjung Straits opposite Lumut is a bustling fishing village on Pulau Pangkor, the largest of nine islands in a small group of islands. The name Pangkor might have originated from the Thai word Pang Ko meaning 'beautiful island'. However, others believe it might have been named after Pang Kui, a legendary Chinese adventurer said to have lent his skills in seamanship to bands of pirates this island once sheltered. Pangkor, with its quaint mix of fishing settlements and resorts, is a fascinating holiday destination. It presents the visitor the rare chance to live near fishermen and observe their lifestyle, or to simply enjoy the fine beaches and resort amenities. The fishermen live in scattered settlements on the eastern side, facing the town of Lumut and Teluk Batik. Visitors get a chance to see some of them on the 40-minute ferry ride from Lumut as the ferry stops at the main settlements of Sungai Pinang Kecil and Sungai Pinang Besar before landing at Pangkor Town. Pangkor's two popular beach areas of Pasir Bogak and Teluk Nipah offer sun and sea enthusiasts activities like scuba diving, Snorkeling, wind-surfing and fishing. While Pasir Bogak is quite developed, Teluk Nipah still retains its kampung, or village, atmosphere. The island has accommodations to suit every budget and visitors can hire vans and motorbikes for island sightseeing. Food is available in most locations around the island and there are some good seafood restaurants in Pangkor Town itself.

Besar Island

Located approximately three nautical miles off Pengkalan Pernu in Umbai, 10 km south of Malacca town, is Pulau Besar. Covering an area of 133 hectares, it is the largest of eight islands off the coast of Malacca. Believed to be the location of Malaysia's earliest civilisation, it abounds with legends of mermaids and princesses, as well as sacred graves and shrines.Its unspoilt beauty makes it a tranquil haven for those in search of fresh air and white sandy beaches. There is an international class hotel and several beach chalets, an 18-hole international golf course, a yacht club and a host of water sport facilities for fishing, parasailing, windsurfing, water-skiing and Snorkeling.The island is an equally inviting spot for island hopping, swimming, camping, picnicking and jungle trekking. According to legend Sultan Ariffin of Baghdad stopped over at Pulau Besar on his way home, whilst spreading the Islamic faith in Acheh from 1416-1420. On his way home, he disembarked on the island and fell ill there. Soon he passed away and was buried on the island. His tomb, measuring some thirty feet long is considered the oldest ever built in Melaka. Back then, it was beleieved that the size of the tomb was determined by the age of the deceased. If he was 30 years old at the time of his death, then his tomb would be five cubic long. If he was 60 the tomb would be ten cubic or thirty feet long.

Dayang Island

Located 65 km off Mersing on the northeast coast of Johor. Dayang Island is West Malaysia's furthest and most unique paradise out in the South China Sea. Untouched and unspoiled, surrounded by crystal clear blue water or striking beauty and remarkable marine resources. Although known to sportfishermen as the region's foremost Black Marine fishing location, this sunny little island is virtually unknow.. a place often described as "new discovery". However, with more efforts now being made to increase accommodation and more information disseminated about its unbeatable scenic beauty and fabulous underwater world, Dayang is poised to be explored more and lay claim to being on eof the most beautiful island paradise in the world. Dayang Island,is the second biggest island in the Aur group. Facing the Aur Island, separated by Dayang Channel.

Aur Island

The island off Mersing, along with Pulau Dayang, Pulau Lang and Pulau Pinang, are rated among the best diving destinations within the Johor Marine Park Area. The deeper waters around the area ensure good visibility and a large variety of marine life, the island is popular among weekend divers. The rich pelagic action also attracts numerous sport fishermen, hoping to try their luck with the marlins or sailfish outside the marine park island. Many private yachts anchor in the calm waters between Pulau Aur and Pulau Dayang. The main reef is located towards the southern end of Pulau Aur and Pulau Pinang. The top of the reef begins at about 12m and slopes in excess of 25m, making it ideal for diving. If you plan to do some diving out here, all inclusive packages are easily available from the accommodation on the island.

Tinggi Island

Tinggi Island or Pulau Tinggi is one of the many captivating tropical islands that nestle the East Coast of Johor. Its stretches of white, sandy beach surrounded by alluring blue waters makes it a perfect haven for those who want to escape from the mundane world. Pulau Tinggi gets its name from a high hill rising 2,000 feet above sea level ("tinggi" is a Malay word for high). The island is painted green by the lush tropical forest that is rich with rattan, timber and other valuable plants. Its surrounding waters is rich with exotic marine life and beautiful underwater flora fringing its coral reefs, providing a breathtaking underwater view for divers and Snorkeling enthusiasts. The island is also blessed with natural fresh water and sheltered harbour, which explains its role as a stopover point for traders in the olden days.Apart from its physical beauty, Pulau Tinggi is also famous for its mystical characters. The locals believe that Malay's most famous hero, Hang Tuah, had stopped here in one of his journeys. It is believed that his spirit still guards the island till these days.

Sibu Island

Pulau Sibu is a pleasant hideaway with its lush tropical vegetation, endless stretches of golden beaches and clear blue waters. The island is also dotted with numerous sea caves carved out of rocks. The constant pounding by the sea during the monsoon season has given the island a beautiful yet rugged appearance. The surrounding waters contain fascinating coral reefs teeming with colourful marine life. Shipwrecks off its coast can also be found. In the olden days, Chinese junks and pirate vessels often exchanged cannon fire around this island, and the remains of these battles lie scattered all around the seabed. There are facilities for scuba diving, Snorkeling, windsurfing, sailing and angling. Visitors can go for a hike through the jungle leading to unspoilt mangrove swamps or visit the kelong where anchovies are caught. Alternatively, head for the kampung to get a first hand look at how coconuts are smoked to make copra. Accommodation on the island range from fully furnished chalets to basic A-frame huts. Bathing facilities are available at the community showers. There are also restaurants serving Asian and Western cuisines.

Besar Island

Located 8 km off Mersing, Pulau Besar (literally means "big island") is one of the closest islands to the Malay Peninsula. It is one of the largest islands off the coast of Mersing and is surrounded by Pulau Rawa, Pulau Tengah and Pulau Tinggi. Its proximity to the mainland draws throngs of visitors from the mainland to its stretch of white sandy beach and glistening blue waters. The island's beautiful coral reefs and amazing marine life makes Pulau Besar a superb diving destination and a sheer delight for underwater photographers. Besides that, it is also a great place to enjoy Snorkeling, fishing, windsurfing, canoeing and jungle trekking. To protect its pristine environment from human activities, the Government has gazetted this island as a Marine Park.Formerly known as Pulau Babi Besar, this island is said to have been a pirates' hideout in the olden days. Today, scores of accommodations and other facilities are available here to cater to both vacationers and day-trippers.Diving, oceanic and island bird-watching. Trekking, climb up an extinct volcano (Pulau Tinggi). If you are lucky, nesting Leatherback Turtles may been seen on Pulau Babi Tengah in July. Varied dive opportunities. Deeper waters are usually good for pelagic marine life: schools of Hammerhead Sharks, lone Whale Sharks, or Manta Rays. Wall-diving (Pulau Aur) for Moray Eels, groupers and snappers. Sponges, soft corals, sea squirts, nudibranks and flatworms on rocks.

Rawa Island

Sixteen kilometres off the coast of Mersing is Pulau Rawa. Famed for its white coral sand, tall palm trees and coral reefs with neon-coloured fish and other exotic marine life. This quiet island only has 2 choices of accommodation on it. The wooden chalets nestled amongst coconut groves complement the island's reputation as a quaint hideaway. The sea gets rough and murky during the east coast's monsoon (November - March), so try to time your visit outside of this period.From Johor Bahru city centre, take the Johor Bahru-Kota Tinggi trunk road and on through the Kota Tinggi-Mersing trunk road (Highway 3). From the North-South Expressway, take the Ayer Hitam exit (Interchange 244) and drive towards Kluang and onwards using the Kluang-Jemaluang trunk road (Highway 50). After Jemaluang town, get onto the Kota Tinggi-Mersing trunk road, heading towards Mersing. Look out for signboards that will lead you to the Mersing Jetty.

Tioman Island

About 56km off the coast of Pahang lies Tioman Island, an alluring holiday paradise in the South China Sea. Acclaimed as one of the best island getaways in the world, Tioman was the location of the Hollywood musical, 'South Pacific' in 1959. According to legend, this island is the final resting place of a mythical dragon princess. The warm waters and good visibility make Tioman a paradise for divers. Discover astounding sights such as colourful Gorgonian sea fans, Staghorn corals, nudibranchs and beautifully sculptured sea sponges. Snorkellers can delight in swimming alongside huge Napoleon Wrasse, Golden Striped Trevally, Bumphead Parrotfish and shoals of Fusiliers. This island is an idyllic spot for leisurely days under the sun. Swim in its emerald waters, enjoy a stroll by the beach or be lulled to sleep by the sound of the waves. There are several villages scattered around the coastline, the larger ones being Salang, Tekek, Genting, Paya and Juara.
Each village offers a different and unique atmosphere. Tioman's verdant greenery is home to a splendid variety of plants and small animals, including butterflies, monitor lizards, deer and monkeys. Its flora and fauna have been featured in National Geographic's documentaries. The island's granite formations make for excellent rock-climbing expeditions. The more adventurous can attempt to scale the sheer cliff face of the legendary Gunung Nenek Semukut or Dragons Horns.

Pemanggil Island

Pulau Pemanggil is about five hours away by boat from Mersing. This remote island is also famed for the beauty and abundance of marine life within its clear emerald waters. Chalets and longhouses are available for visitors wishing to spend the night.Pemanggil Island sits 45 km east of Mersing, the take-off point to most islands off the Southern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is situated next to Tioman, requires a 4- to 5-hour ride by boat from Mersing. To get to Mersing itself takes 4½ hours by car or roughly 6 hours by coach from Kuala Lumpur.