The peace that the innocent clouds held precious was disturbed by the retiring sun. The cotton lumps, ashen white, floated in the air while the rays of the sun, like magical arrows of a jealous lover, pierced through them. And they bled! Oh how they bled dark orange and purple radiance that spread across that corner of the sky. The guilty sun, caught between two island mountains, was going for an escape as it dove, slowly and painfully, into the horizon. The crime was done, and it was beautiful.
Down on earth, mortals sat on the sand and watched the heavenly act in awe. There was no wind but all souls present were blown away. I was seated at the very end of a bamboo fence at the very end of the cove’s west side. Pantai Cenang, the most popular beach in Langkawi, is strewn with beige sand and, at that particular twilight, passion. Lovers were everywhere when I was there. Yes, lovers — of all shapes and sizes and sexual orientation.
“Maybe we should ask him to take a photo of us,” suggested one girl to her boyfriend, while trying to point at me as inconspicuously as she could without realizing that her voice was loud enough for me to catch. The guy was too shy to do the approaching so the idea lived a short life. To my left were a gay couple who had been walking two feet apart along the beach. Many times they would breach the two-foot distance and let their arms brush each other as quickly as that sunset. Up in the air was a man being dragged along thrillingly by a speeding jetski below. Waiting for him on the shore was a woman, who, based on the sweet nothings she fired at him as loudly as she could, was his girlfriend or wife. I wouldn’t be surprised if Langkawi becomes a top honeymoon destination in the near future, if it isn’t now.
Pantai Cenang is a 2-km strip of fine sand facing the Andaman Sea. About 25 km west of the town of Kuah, the district capital, it fringes the southeastern tip of the main island of Langkawi, facing nearby Pulau Rebak Besar and Pulau Rebak Kechil. While it is nowhere to be found on my long list of the whitest beaches, it holds a few appealing strengths. What it lacks in fairness, it makes up for in wideness and fineness. The beach is so vast that the berm, where shells and other sediments are deposited during high tide, was so far away from the line where permanent structures stand. The sand is so fine and compact that pick up trucks and other medium-sized vehicles can drive confidently on the shore face along the tideline without being bogged. The downside of that, of course, is that it is less relaxing to the soles. Too bad it was always a favorite activity of mine to dip my toes in the grains.
The shore ends landward at the series of restaurants, stores, hotels, and resorts, from budget to mid-range and even a few high-end. Behind them is a busy road that runs parallel to the shoreline. It is here that the tourism in the area is visibly booming. The place is crammed with tourists — backpackers, expats, families, and honeymooners. Langkawi is a duty-free island, making it a haven for tourists. Alcohol is absolutely cheaper here than in most parts of the country.
Pantai Cenang may be long but the entire stretch, end-to-end, can be covered in on foot in less than an hour at a leisurely pace. The hotel that I was checked in was located not in Pantai Cenang but in the adjacent beach, Pantai Tengah, and I never took a vehicle to go anywhere in the area.
The blood in the sky was beginning to fade as darkness slowly took over. The lovers were walking away from the waves, through the gaps between concrete walls that separate the sandy beach to the asphalt road. At nightfall, all the evidence of the sun’s marvelous crime had been wiped out by the looming shadows of the clouds that only made their presence known when the moon caressed their silver linings. The moon, too, will be killed by the sun in a spectacularly gory fashion by morning.
How to get there: From Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia you may fly to Langkawi and take a cab to Kilim Geopark. You might also want to consider taking the overnight sleeper train from KL Sentral to Arau (10-hour travel time, RM 54). At Arau Station, take a cab to Kuala Perlis (RM 25), then board the ferry to Kuah Port in Langkawi (RM 18). Take a cab to Pantai Cenang (RM 25).