Kuah Town in Langkawi: Looking to the Future

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This post was written by T.C. Gerrard

Kuah town has been the centre of commerce on the island of Langkawi for hundreds of years. As the tourist trade began to infi ltrate Langkawi after then- Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad declared it a duty-free island in 1987 and made a concerted effort to develop it into a holiday destination, other areas of the island became the focus of the tourist dollar.

Speaking to early cruising sailors that arrived in Langkawi during the ‘70s, ‘80s, and even into the ‘90s, Kuah was not an impressionable town and many moved on to explore the more pristine parts of the island and its surrounding waters. However, Kuah has always been the centre of commerce and administration in these parts of the world, and with it comes the focus of suppliers, importers, merchants, and the professionals needed for a growing population.

The town of Kuah has seen many growth spurts over the years. With new tourist developments popping up all over the island today, Kuah Town is booming. There are several new hotels under construction and many more that have recently opened. The De Baron is the newest on the waterfront offering bay and beach views, beautiful grounds and swimming pools. The new Pekan Rebu shopping centre is right next door, home to the Mafi oso Steak House and even a karaoke bar. Next to the Bella Vista Resort and Spa is a new hotel growing high over the bay, along with the Simfoni Resort and the new 150-room Dayang Bay Serviced Apartments a bit further from the town centre, next to the Century Suria Condominiums.

The new HG Komplex across from the central police station is bringing a new look to the retail scene and the attached hotel will be opening soon providing an even more modern alternative for shoppers. The Langkawi Fair, Langkawi’s oldest shopping mall, has recently added some well-known tenants such as PappaRich and Secret Recipe.

With the all-popular Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah becoming more developed, Kuah Town is moving towards a small city status and with it, all the convenience that one would expect. The new hotels are anticipating that more tourists visiting the island will choose to stay in Kuah Town to visit the beaches and natural sights, while staying in a busy, but manageable small city where there is an abundance of different restaurants, shops, and services.

There are few old waterfront timber shop houses left in Kuah Town today but they are no longer near the water, as new landfi ll projects slowly push them further out into the bay. The old town strip that runs along the canal behind the Bella Vista used to have access to the bay and a daily trail of fi shing boats and dinghies bringing in sailors and fish. Even as the old timber buildings slowly fall to the wrecking ball there has been a concerted effort to retain some of old Kuah Town as is refl ected in the bustling area referred to as the Langkawi Mall along Jalan Padang Matsirat.

The original wet market in Kuah Town is still a great spot to explore in the mornings and evenings, brimming with locals vying for fresh fish, meats, vegetables, herbs, and fruits to supply their kitchens for the evening meal. It’s a place where even the shyest tourist will fi nd themselves chatting about the clams or asking helpful and friendly vendors about the colourful and exotic fruits on display.

The Westin Resort anchors the end of the road past the Royal Langkawi Yacht Club where the RLYC International Regatta brings in hundreds of seasoned racing sailors every January to compete in the waters of the Bass Strait, and the islands beyond. Just next door you can book a diving or snorkeling trip out to Palau Payar or hire a bareboat or crewed charter trip to explore the outer islands.

The ferry terminal has become a bustling mecca for arriving workers, business people, and tourists and, with the addition of the island’s duty-free status, eager shoppers. With 40 ferries arriving and departing each day from Kula Kedah, Perlis, Penang and Satun (Thailand), the ferry terminal feels more like a busy airport terminal and is full of shops and restaurants. The Ferry Building even boasts a world-class bowling alley!


In addition, the Langkawi Sports Complex has a large selection of tennis courts and even has coaches available for lessons. Alternatively, you can just play a match with friends. The Sports Complex even hosted an international lawn bowling championship recently – yes, lawn bowling! In Langkawi!

A quick escape from the “Big City” for a unique Langkawi seafood meal is an easy trip over the headland behind the Langkawi Fair. There, just off Jalan Beringin, you can dine on fresh fi sh and seafood in the more casual atmosphere of the Fish Farm Restaurant. If you want to catch a movie or watch your friends battle it out at karaoke, it is all available right in Kuah Town.

From Kuah you can easily book an adventure to the Kilim Geopark Forest in the north and spend a day discovering the mangrove eco system, dine out at a fl oating fish farm or do a bit of cave exploring in the many spectacular limestone pinnacles that tower over the winding waterways. The lovely Ayer Hangat Hot Springs are just a bit further up the road. These natural hot springs bubble hot salt water in a number of pools that are located around the landscaped grounds. You can even hire a private saltwater Jacuzzi room that is perfect for a romantic night in.

Of course, the beautiful beaches are only a 30-minute drive either to the north to the nearly deserted Pantai Tanjung Rhu or west to the busy and more popular Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah.

Kuah Town is no longer just a place to visit the hardware store or dentist. Kuah Town is coming into its own as a tourist destination for the traveler that wants explore the jungles and beaches of Langkawi without giving up the buzz of urban living. Kuah Town is defi nitely a place to get that Big City experience… with a uniquely Langkawian dose of small-town charm.


Source: The Expat September 2013

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