The best known legend of Langkawi is of Mahsuri, a pretty maiden who lived in Langkawi between 1762 and 1800. The story goes that Mahsuri , the daughter of Pandak Mayah and Cik Alang, grew up to be a beautiful young woman of marrying age. From the many suitors, Mahsuri was then betrothed to Wan Darus, the younger brother of the village headman Dato Pekerma Jaya.
Soon their idyllic life was disrupted, when Wan Darus left to fight against the invading Siamese army. It was during this time that Mahsuri befriended a young wandering minstrel named Deraman. The village chief’s wife Wan Mahora, who was always jealous of Mahsuri’s beauty, accused Mahsuri of adultery in the absence of Wan Darus.
Mahsuri was tied to a tree in the scorching sun for days while awaiting her punishment. She pleaded her innocence, but no one believed her. She was finally sentenced to death, but none of their daggers or swords could kill her. Resigned to her fate, Mahsuri told them to kill her with her father’s ceremonial keris. When she was stabbed, white blood flowed from the wound, signifying her innocence.
With her dying breath, Mahsuri cursed Langkawi with seven generations of bad luck. Langkawi then experienced a period of tribulations – from the Siamese invasion to a series of droughts and floods, prompting the populace to believe in the Mahsuri curse.
Located in an island south of Langkawi, Pulau Dayang Bunting features Langkawi’s largest freshwater lake, Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden). Legend tells the love story between Mat Teja and Mambang Sari, a beautiful female sprite. Struck by Mambang Sari’s beauty, Mat Teja sought the advice of a local sage, who advised him to wipe his face with mermaid tears.
Immediately after doing so, Mambang Sari saw him and fell in love. Before long, they were happily married and soon it was time for Mambang Sari to give birth, but the baby died seven days later. In intense sorrow, she laid the body to rest in the deep waters of a lake.
Looking at the surrounding mountains, you can see Mambang Sari’s outline as a pregnant woman, guarding the watery tomb of her child. Since then, villagers began to associate the lake with magical powers. They believed the lake’s water possessing mystical ability of healing infertile women.
Back in 1821 the formidable Siamese army made an attack on Langkawi. To prevent food from falling into enemy hands, the people of Langkawi led by their chieftain Datuk Panglima Hitam, transferred the content of their grain warehouse and hid it a few metres below ground in an underground cellar.
Then they started strategising about facing an invading army. Thinking ahead and preparing for the onslaught of Siamese troops, Datuk Panglima Hitam ordered the villagers to dig up water wells at strategic locations and laced them with poison. As expected, Siamese troops found the water wells as soon as they landed on Langkawi and drank from it to quench their thirst.
Many Siamese troops died that day. In retaliation, the Siamese commanders launched an attack to kill, pillage and plunder everything in sight. The whole village was set alight and everything burnt away in the fire including the hidden rice cellar. The site was then called Beras Terbakar or Burnt Rice when remnants of blackened rice grains were found every time it rained.
According to local legends, these two mountains, together with Bukit Sawar (Sawar Hill), a smaller mountain, were all human beings at one time. As the story goes, at the wedding reception of their children, Mat Chinchang and Mat Raya got into a fight and began throwing things at each other.
In the middle of the commotion, a number of famous spots around Langkawi were created. A pot of gravy fell in Kuah (gravy) town, a pot was broken in Belanga Pecah (broken cooking pot) and a pot of hot water fell in Ayer Hangat (hot water) with the pot itself with its ring handles falling into Selat Cincin (the Straits of Rings), separating Langkawi from Terutau Island in Thailand.
Eventually, Mat Sawar was able to stop the fight and in deep remorse both Mat Raya and Mat Chinchang chose to be transformed into mountains with Mat Sawar following suit. If you look at the two mountains today, you will notice that little Mat Sawar Hill is wedged in between, probably to prevent another fight between the two.
The Seven Wells Waterfall is a popular tourist spot in Langkawi. Located deep in an ancient forest, the 90m waterfall greets you with it wondrous sight and sound after an arduous walk up the steep trails and stairs.
Situated near the Telaga Harbour, the Seven Wells Waterfall is considered by many to be the most beautiful waterfall on Langkawi. The natural rocks and slopes over which the waters cascade are beautifully crafted as though they were man-made, forming seven natural pools with one pool cascading on top of the other.
According to folklore, the waterfall is believed to have healing properties and used to be a favourite bathing place of seven beautiful, ethereal maidens who would bathe under the moonlight. Once a prince tried to capture the fairies but they vanished into thin air, never to come back.
Another place that is equally interesting and mysterious is Gua Langsir (Cave of the Banshee). Located on the western shores of Pulau Dayang Bunting, this cave is said to be haunted by a banshee because of the high-pitched, scream-like sound that flows out from the depths of the cave.
The locals believe that the cave is home to a female vampire or banshee known as Langsiar who sucks human blood from unsuspecting victims. The eerie darkness and the chilling sounds that come from the shadows are enough to make even a strong-hearted adventurer’s blood run cold.
Despite all the superstitions attached to the cave, it is an adventure worth exploring for climbers with perfect physical health and great climbing expertise.
Gua Cerita of the Cave of Legends is located on the shores facing the southern coast of Siam. The cave’s interior is filled with rocks of assorted shapes and sizes resembling beds and mattresses and furniture items. The cave derived its name from the legend of Merong Mahawangsa who was assigned to escort the son of the Roman Emperor to China in a sea voyage. The entire fleet including the ship carrying the prince was said to have been sunk by a Phoenix. The prince was washed ashore and that the legend took place in the Cave of Legends. According to the mythology of the Voyage of Raja Merong Mahawangsa, the great empires of Rome and China were considered the mightiest powers in the world in the 10th century. To ensure continuity of great powers, the rulers of these two empires agreed to a marriage between their children. Their plans to foster close alliance was not favoured by the mythical fire bird, the Phoenix. The Phoenix believed the coalition between Rome and China would signify the end of smaller kingdoms.
The Phoenix sought an audience with King Solomon to seek permission to prevent the royal marriage. Solomon tried to stop the Phoenix by saying that had God willed the union, none can prevent it. But the Phoenix with its supernatural powers was adamant to stop the union. He abducted the daughter of the Chinese Emperor and hid her in a palace on the isle of Langkawi. Meantime, Merong Mahawangsa, who was a good friend of the Roman Emperor, was trusted to sail with the Roman Prince to China. During their voyage with a fleet of ships, they were attacked by the Phoenix. Against the relentless attacks from the Phoenix, Merong Mahawangsa turned one of his arrows into the Jentayu, the mythical bird endowed with the power to call for rain which was no match for mighty Phoenix. Defeated from the relentless attack, Merong Mahawangsa ordered his fleet to seek shelter at a nearby island so repairs on the damaged fleet could be carried out. After a few days, when the clear skies showed no sign of the Phoenix, Merong Mahawangsa ordered the ship carrying the Roman Prince to sail out without him while he stock up food and water in the other ship.
As soon as they crossed the waters of Langkawi, the Phoenix returned and swooped on one of the ships where the Roman Prince happened to be in. The prince fell into the sea and was washed ashore onto a beach in Langkawi. the beach was close to the palace where the Chinese Emperor’s daughter was hidden. One of the Princess’ maids found the Prince and alerted the Princess. They had him carried back to the palace and revived him. When the story of his journey to China to marry the Princess was unveiled, the Princess hid him in a cave, away from the Phoenix which frequents the island.
Thinking that it has succeeded in destroying he fleet of Merong Mahawangsa, the Phoenix sought an audience with Kind Solomon to inform him so. King Solomon then instructed his genie to fetch the Princess from Langkawi. The princess and her entourage as well as the Prince were placed in a chest and taken to Kind Solomon. When the chest was opened, the Phoenix was shocked to see the Princess and her betrothed. The Phoenix, in embarrassment after its failure to separate the Roman Prince and Chinese Emperor’s daughter, banished itself.