Lagenda Langkawi isn’t your typical historic site. It’s actually not really all that old. Built in 1996, the park isn’t even 20 years old yet, but the inconsistent upkeep on the site has made it appear a bit older than it actually is.
I imagine that when the park was first created it was magnificent and drew crowds of people. The 17 massive stone sculptures depicting scenes from legend and folklore were probably a sight to behold in their shiny new glory. But 20 years of neglect and apathy have taken their toll on the once-grand monuments. It’s not decrepit, but you’d think that after spending RM37 million ($9.5M) on the park that they’d take better care of the features.
The official name of the site is Lagenda Langkawi Dalam Taman, which means Legendary Langkawi in a Garden. It is a beautifully landscaped park near the waterfront in Kuah, a town on the island of Langkawi. That park itself is 50 acres (20 hectares) of winding paths that lead to ponds, grottos and gardens that host heroic giants, mythical birds, evil ogres and beautiful princesses. To make it easier on visitors, the signs explaining each of the legends has both Malay and English.
Only, neglect has made the stone signboards almost illegible. And the once-grand sculptures and once-magnificent grounds have been reduced to common, weather-worn features that bear the marks of forgotten grandeur. Without the signs to tell the story of each sculpture, the park just seems like a mishmash of enormous stonework and ponds with random items.
It made me sad to wander around Lagenda Langkawi and see how forlorn it has become. The exterior gave such high hopes for what was beyond the massive walls, but soon after entering we realized that the locals had all but forgotten about the place. It’s not awful, but there is a definite rundown appearance.
When we were heading over to the park, we came across this adorable bridge. It gives off an old world charm and fits right in with the era of myths and legends. It was the perfect segue between the town and the park entrance.
The courtyard outside the entrance to the park is very clean and vibrant.
The welcome sign shows signs of age, but we were still able to read most of it. I was pretty excited about the park after reading it. Seriously. The place sounds amazing!
It reads: A theme park, Lagenda Langkawi was created to recapture the glorious history of Langkawi. Lagenda Langkawi brings to life the mystifying events and romantic legends that have made Langkawi known as the “Isle of Legends”.
The subject of enchanting tales, Langkawi is a cluster of 99 islands. Folklore claimed Langkawi was the habitation of spirits while classical literature, Hikaya Merong Mahawangsa, related that Garuda, a giant bird, nested in these islands.
The Chinese admiral Cheng Ho in his voyage to Malacca in 1406 recorded Langkawi in his map as a cluster of islands known as Lung-ya-Kiao-yi while 16th century maps described Langkawi with various names such as Langa, Langka, Langu Langura and Langapura.
Lagenda Langkawi, approximately 50 acres, is a beautiful park built on reclaimed land with man-made freshwater ponds and a lagoon. A sparkling waterway flows through the middle separating a Hillview on the left from the exciting sculptural displays of the legends on the right. You can enjoy a panoramic view of the Straits of Kuah both from the 20-foot-high hill and the 40-foot-high Celebration Gallery or a scenic view of the surrounding sea from the two horns of the Tanjung or Cape embracing the lagoon and the Lagenda Beach.
Step into Lagenda Langkawi, a journey through history and a series of gerbang (gateways) will welcome you to an enjoyable passage righ with mystifying legends and local folklore.
I really liked the map of the Langkawi islands on the wall outside the park. It was neat being able to see all the different places we’d been over the past few days and all the other areas that make up the island group.
The map of the park makes it look huge! The grounds were pretty extensive, but it wasn’t quite as big as we thought it would be. I think we may have missed a few areas.
This is Banjaran Gondwana, which is the Gondwana Range. Gondwana is one of the two supercontinents that was created when Pangaea first broke up. Laurasia is the other one. Malaysia was part of the Gondwana continent, which is depicted with these trees. I discovered this on google because the sign for this section was gone.
The pond is Laluan Hujan Hujan, which means Rain Driving Rain. It rains a lot in Malaysia. Like, a lot. We lived in Kuala Lumpur and almost every day around 2pm it would rain. It was nice having the predictability, but I was happy on the days it didn’t rain.
This next section is Tanjong Chinchin. It doesn’t translate to English and the sign for the legend story was missing. By googling I discovered a legend called The Legend of Mat Cincang and Mat Raya or The Feud of Two Families (think Montagues and Capulets), which tells of how the island was created.
The story goes that two families (Cincang and Raya) were having a party to celebrate the engagement of their children when the son of Cincang was caught flirting with another girl at the party. This was perceived as an insult to the Raya family (understandable). The engagement was immediately called off and a heated fued begun. The place where the daughter of Raya threw her engagement ring is now known as Tanjung Cincin (spelling is not consistent in Malaysia, which drives me crazy!) which means Cape of the Ring.
This sculpture also goes along with the Tanjon Chinchin legend. The broken crockery became the village of Belange Pecah which means Broken Crockery. Near Belange Pecah is the town of Kuah, which means gravy. Near Kuah is Kisap, which means ‘to seep in’. That village is where the gravy seeped through the land. And just beyond that is Ayer Hangat, the Hot Springs where a cauldron of hot water was broken. As for the two warring fathers, they were turned into mountains of stone, Gunung Mat Cincang and Gunung Mat Raya, and the man who tried to mediate between them, Mat Sawar, was transformed into the hill which now separates the two mountains.
The next legend we encountered was of the Pulau Dayang Bunting. That translates to “Pregnant Maiden Island”.
I can’t read the sign, but I this is the story I found on google:
Dayang Bunting was a female giant guardian that kept watch over the islands of Langkawi. The giant’s defensive weapons include her pet lion and poison from the tuba root. Hence, the two islands closest to Pulau Dayang Bunting, whose silhoutte resembles that of a reclined pregnant giant, are named Pulau Singa Besar (Great Lion Island) and Pulau Tuba (Poisonous Root Island). The story goes that, a group of merchants failed to pay the obligatory respects to Dayang Bunting as they passed by the islands. Awakened by the intrusion, Dayang Bunting summoned her pet lion to dispatch the trespassers. She roused the spirits of wind and water, stirring up a tropical storm that unleashed its fury on the incoming fleet of sailors.
The howling winds and tossing waves threw the vessels on Pulau Jong (Junk Island) where they were destroyed beyond repair. After the ships were destroyed, the cargo of black and white water buffaloes escaped to Pulau Gubang Darat (Land Stable Island) and Pulau Gubang Laut (Sea Stable Island) while the white buffaloes made their way to Pulau Balar (White Water Buffalo Island). The last of the ships, laden with rice, were stranded at Pulau Beras Basah (Wet Rice Island).
Unfortunately, along from the pond being overgrown and murky, some of the sculptures have been broken.
This sculpture is called Bahtera Karam, Sunken Ship.
The placard next to it reads: Some believe that you can still see the horrific reminders of the great epic battle between Garuda and Jentayu at Pasir Tengkorak (Sand of Skulls), Tanlong Tulang (Cape of Bones) and Pantai Pasir Hitam (Black Sand Beach) in the form of skulls, bone fragments and shop ballast remnants. Others claim that these beaches bear the remains of the traders and their ships, wrecked in the whirlpools off northern Langkawi where turbulent waters merge with calmer seas. These same whirlpools also sank countless vessels, or Bantera Karam, which came along this way.
Pantai Pasir Hitam spins another tail of a mermaid who gave a magical ring which could bring forth an endless supply of fish to a fisherman. In return for a promise by him to find a cure that could transform her back to a princess. If, however, he failed, he was to return the ring within a specified time period. Alas, that fisherman failed and did not even return the ring as promised. Thus the mermaid turnde the beach from white to black.
The next place is actually a semi-circular area and looks like it has either been kept up really well or was recently restored. This actually gives me hope that they are working to restore the rest of the park. There is a pavilion (perhaps to listen to the mythical music?) next to three tunnels that lead to sculptures of legendary musical instruments.
This reads: The west coast of Lulau Langkawi reverberates with the strains of gentle breezes as if a full orchestra performs in and around Padang Gaong (Field of Echoes) where the winds meet the highlands of Bukit Hantu (Hill of Guardians).
This is nature’s gift to Langkawi, entertainment with a naturally sense surrounding environment: tapping waves evoke the rhythm of the canang (inverted gong), giving the beach the name Pantai Cenang. Listen carefully or the multi-layered compositions of the canang, the hypnotic beat of the genggang (double-sided conical drums) and the classical strains of the rebab (three-stringed instrument).
The story of the rebab claims that angels once watched over the islands, riding on the winds playing their musical instruments. A pair of rebab fell into the sea and were transformed into the islands of Pulau Rebak Besar and Pulau Rebak Kechil (Big and Small Rebak Islands), living off Pentai Cenang.
The rest of the sculptures had plates that were too weathered to read, so I had to do a lot of googling to figure out what some of them mean.
This is a sculpture of a mermaid playing with a golden ball. According to legend, a heavenly princess used to come down and bath in a lake on Langkawi and one of the mountain princes happened upon her one day. He immediately fell in love with her and attempted to woo her. She resisted his advances and he sought out the advice of a local mystic. The mystic told him that if he were to rub mermaid tears on his face, the heavenly princess would fall in love with him.
So, the prince found a mermaid and when she refused him her tears, he gave her a golden ball to play with. So distracted by the golden ball, the mermaid didn’t notice the tide going out and was stranded on land. Devastated by her predicament, she began to cry and the prince gathered her tears in the golden ball.
After the prince made his way back to the lake where the princess was bathing, he rubbed the tears on his face and presented himself to the princess. Enamored by magic, the princess fell in love with him and they were married. Unfortunately, deception cannot bring about a happy union and the couple’s first child died seven days after being born. The princess then learned of the prince’s deception and after burying her child in the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden and putting a blessing of fertility on the lake, she disappeared from this world for forever.
It is rumored that the Lake of the Pregnant Maiden is protected by a giant albino crocodile who prevents the unworthy from getting near the water and partaking of the powers of fertility. I guess Troy and I were worthy because we swam in that lake for over an hour. (i guess this means we’re going to have a ton of children if we ever get married……………….:/ )
I can’t find what this is actually called, but from what I can tell, this represents Telaga Tujoh, Seven Wells. The story of this is that long ago there used to be fairies who would swim in these wells that are famed for their beauty. For years they would come down every day and play in the water until one day a mountain prince tried to capture one of the fairies. Since that day the fairies have never come back, but the waters retain their healing properties.
This one is a little weird. lol. The legend google brought up for this one is that there was a wedding feast to celebrate a royal wedding and one of the princes ate undercooked rice. Suffering from indigestion, he later passed gas and out came two islands. The islands are named Pulau Kentut Besar (Big Fart Island) and Pulau Kentut Kecil (Small Fart Island).
These are the hands of the fighting giants from the beginning of the park. Not sure why they aren’t over by the other sculptures, but it’s still pretty cool.
This one is pretty cool. It’s the Battle of the Mythical Birds.
Long ago the emperors of Rome and China arranged for an alliance by forming a union between their respective children. The local Phoenix was opposed to the match, fearing that the merger would mean an end to smaller kingdoms. It vowed to prevent the marriage or banish itself from the world.
The Phoenix abducted the Chinese princess and kept her prisoner in Langkawi. It also attacked the galley ship carrying the Roman prince who then fell into the sea. Fortunately, the prince was washed ashore on Langkawi island and brought to the Chinese princess’s pavilion where the couple was then reunited. Realizing the union was the will of God, the Phoenix kept its vow and left the earthly world. To this day, the beautiful sunsets and rainbows on the island serve as a reminder of this beautiful creature.
This is Dinding Warita Mahsuri. The wall is in honor of a young woman who was unjustly accused and wrongly sentenced to death. The legend states that two Muslims from Siam came to Langkawi to start a new life. The couple had a daughter named Mahsuri and when she was old enough, she was married to a local warrior. While her husband was off to war Mahsuri became friends with a young man in the village. Spurred by jealousy over Mahsuri’s beauty and endearing personality, the chieftain’s wife began to spread rumors that Mahsuri was being unfaithful to her absent husband. Soon many people began to demand justice for the absent husband.
Without conducting a trial, Mahsuri was convicted of adultery and sentenced to death. Despite her pleas of innocence, she was tied to a tree and stabbed repeatedly. Though she was injured, the wounds did not kill her and every method tried thereafter failed.
After several attempts to execute her failed, Mahsuri (probably in great pain) suggested they use her family kris (ceremonial dagger). Once stabbed with the kris, Mahsuri began to die. When her blood came out pure white, the villagers realized they had killed an innocent woman and felt shame for her actions, but could do nothing to save Mahsuri’s life. As she lay dying, Mahsuri cursed the island with seven generations of bad luck.
The residents of Langkawi hold this legend very dear and have several tombs, shrines and memorials dedicated to her. I’m not sure what this one is supposed to represent, but it was build in her honor.
On the side of this section of the bronze wall is a poem. I used google to translate it, but some parts didn’t translate over very well.
Langkawi Does Not Sleep Anymore
Long sleep a dream Langkawi
Cushioned mattresses history
Embroidered brocade phrase
“A wilderness curse
Langkawi earth seven generations “
Season bypass time
Ray vision looked blessed land
Carrying a full stride physician order
Children develop the seventh
Split sentence whisper sacred oath
Minister in the morning saw the sky was torn
Earth anchor dismantled locked
Mahsuri sigh of relief
Jentayu looked smug smile
Lang brought the news
Back a radiant glowing field
Langkawi does not sleep anymore
To end the tour of the park there is a Celebration Gallery. The sign was gone, so I don’t know what the significance is. Perhaps that is part of the allure. We all like things that are beautiful and mysterious, right?
I translated this one as well. And, again, google gave some strange results. But the meaning still comes through.
Grand Opening of Lagenda Langkawi
In a revival
blossoming bud of hope
in the sweat and tears
white patch of blood and the words
the first ever Legend
into delirium seconds ago
In a permulam
blessings and insights
The fourth captain opened the bow
Sheryl smart drain
a time to witness
changed the face of the earth
a magnificent peddle name
fragrant floral musk fragrance name
current surf seven seas
Leanback Monsoon anchored in the continent
opened the eyes
the wind touched the hearts of conformity
vibrating lips of flattery terbisiklah
Rice bow thanks
Our vertical acclaimed
celebrate seasonal harvest awaited
native flowering blooms soul
On behalf of a revival
on the basis of a preliminary
the nursery resounding satisfaction
dated October 23, 1996
a Legenda Langkawi
with the word bismillah
of YAB Dato Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
Prime Minister of Malaysia