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Langkawi Style


Howard Tan & Jérôme Bouchaud
2015. The Lemongrass
Softcover. 25 cm x 25 cm, 180 pages
100+ colour photographs
ISBN: 9789671159323

Out of stock

Product Description

This is not a book about culture and history, nor is it a book about architecture and design. This is not a travel guidebook. It is an invitation to take a second look, to revisit a place too often (and maybe wrongly) viewed as well known. It is a gift to the people of Langkawi, a tribute to a disappearing world and an emerging one. It is a modest contribution to debate on where Langkawi has come from and where it is going. For the people of Langkawi, from the people of Langkawi, with the people of Langkawi.

Just off the north-western coast of peninsular Malaysia, the Langkawi archipelago is known as a natural haven and the bountiful habitat of a multitude of animals, insects and plants, some of them endemic to Langkawi. It is part of the so-called Kedawi zone, which brings the archipelago together with mainland Kedah and the state of Perlis as a biogeographical region that differs markedly from the remainder of the peninsula in terms of climate, geology, fauna and flora. Its Mat Cincang forest reserve, blanketing the oldest rock formations in Malaysia, shelters unique species, as do Kulim’s complex riverine system and the many islands and islets surrounding Langkawi’s main island. Home to over 350 species of butterflies and temporary refuge for scores of migratory birds, Langkawi is a true tropical paradise.

Langkawi is multi-faceted. Not only is it that picture-perfect nature haven visitors come to explore, it is also a land where human activity has been leaving ever-deeper footprints over the years. Does Langkawi have a style? Maybe, maybe not. What she has is a way of life, and that way of life is now put to the test by a surge in tourist arrivals and developments.

Langkawi, the Land of Brown Eagles. Or so the Malay interpretation goes, claiming lang to be a short form of helang (the Brahminy kite, Haliastur indus) and kawi the name of a brown-colored stone. It’s a definition that works well for the tourist brochures and souvenir makers, but it obliterates the original Sanskrit root of the word. Langka (or lanka) is Sanskrit for “island”. The root is found in the names of many places around South-East Asia, where the two great Hindu epics Ramayana and Mahabharata spread and took hold over the centuries. In these two long poems, the mythical abode Lanka was a large island country ruled by the legendary King Ravana and purported to lie somewhere in the Indian Ocean, 100 yojanas (800 miles) off mainland India.

In compiling this book, the author and photographer met way over a hundred people—craftspeople young and old; artists; nature guides; owners of cafés, restaurants and galleries; residents; foreigners; architects; contractors; designers and hoteliers. They also met retired people and young entrepreneurs. All, with a few exceptions, live in Langkawi today or spend most of their time on these islands, always leaving them with a twinge of sadness and returning with a smile. Their project has no pretension to be exhaustive, let alone scientific.

According to the authors: “As we travelled around the archipelago, open arms greeted us, and naturally, as word spread, we met more people. Most of them were happy to share not only their knowledge about Langkawi, but also their personal experiences of the place and their insights on how she might evolve.”

It is interesting to note that the changes happening around Langkawi today are perceived differently among locally born residents and new residents. The former usually welcome the development as new opportunities arise for the younger generations to make a living, while the latter tend to bemoan Langkawi’s inexorable loss of identity, that of a natural haven which they had in mind when moving to these shores. For Langkawi to retain her culture and lay claim to a certain “style”, sustainability has to be the link connecting all the dots. Up until recently, the local way of life had always been sustainable.

Will reason and foresight prevail over the call of the quick buck?

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Table of Contents

A Treasure Trove of Nature
Soaring to Greater Heights

The Geographical Setting
The Historical Context

  • A jewel on the Kedah Crown
  • A Rival to Aceh’s Pepper
  • Mahsuri’s White Blood
  • Of Pirates and Rubber
  • Towards Merdeka and After
  • The Legends

The Cultural Tapestry

  • Malays, Acehnese, Thais and Orang Laut
  • Hokkien, Hailam and Cantonese
  • Hindus and Muslim Indians

From Old Crafts
…To New Crafts
Today’s Artists

Under Malay Influence

  • The Malay Rumah
  • Built in the Kedah Style
  • Mosques of Langkawi
  • Of Graves, Real and Imagined

Under Asian Influence

  • Shophouses in Langkawi
  • Taoist Temples and Datuk Gong
  • Buddhist Temples
  • Hindu Temples

The Contemporary

  • Restaurants and Cafes
  • Galleries and Museums
  • Hotels and Resorts
  • Spas
  • Private Residences

The Photographer & the Writer

Additional Information

Weight 1110 g
Dimensions 25 x 25 x 1 cm