Pantai Cenang, Langkawi – As we see it : From sleepy seaside village into touristically developed

Written by @Lan 
Photos by curiostraveller.com

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Is Pantai Cenang having the same direction as Pantai Kuta, Bali had in the 90’s? Read further..

We were pretty confident when driving from Oriental Village, located at the base of Machincang towards Pantai Cenang (Cenang Beach). We’re familiar with Pantai Cenang as we’ve been there 20 years ago. We were wrong. Soon after the road that partly circulate the airport’s runway and exactly after Meritus, we came into a busy road as if there’s a festival going on in that area. This is Pantai Cenang in 2017, way different than it was in 1997. This is our story, our thoughts about this Pantai Cenang, a place that has forever changed Langkawi as a whole, hopefully for the betterment of the locals. Fingers crossed.

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We saw a boy ‘working hard’ to build his version of sandcastle. Coming from new generation, he probably have a different mindset and perspective towards the shape of sandcastle. He might not be an orthodox-thinker, not of old-school, old-fashioned so to say. He might be looking at things differently than both of us; we have our own way to build a perfect sandcastle. We don’t know what was playing in his head. And we will never know unless we ask. A similar thing with what’s happening with Pantai Cenang.

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Exactly 20 years ago, in the same month of December, we were at Pelangi Beach Resort, currently known as Meritus Pelangi Beach Resort & Spa. We still remember how we rented two small motorcycle: dubbed as Kapcai (minus the helmet and license) and head towards south where Holiday Villa is located now. Yes, that includes Pantai Cenang and Pantai Tengah. I remember this old lady who insisted us to come over to her house and had delicious snacks with that bitter black coffee. Shops were smaller, eateries were few and kids wander around, caring less about incoming traffic.

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20 years later, we went through the same area. This time around, we drove. The problem was, we spent quite some time to find a good parking space. There are just too many cars now, not to mention the red taxis which were different as in 20 years ago. When it comes to public transportation in Langkawi, back in 90’s, it’s all about that Kereta Sewa, where those with less cash will have to wait until the whole car or van is full with passengers, in most cases (if you are alone), sharing with 3 people that you have no idea who they are. That was then. This is 2018 now, as we drafted this article (written based on our visit in December 2017).

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We found an interesting article published by The Expat Magazine, titled as The Evolution of Pantai Cenang, Langkawi. (Click HERE to read the article). It’s really an interesting article, describing the development of Pantai Cenang, weighing in the pros and cons of having more development for tourism and listing the redevelopment plan by LADA. It’s great to know that at least someone else is in the same boat, thinking of how Cenang will look like in the future. The writer of the article said..

“Change always brings positives and negatives, depending on individual perception, and how that change is carried out and managed. As is the opinion of many resident business owners in Langkawi, we will all just have to wait and see… once the dust finally settles.” (Source: click HERE)

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We both have no intention to go deeply into the locals wish to develop Pantai Cenang. We are not against development. Development is important for the social and economic growth. After all, Cenang is their place where they have to work hard in order to be able to put the bread on the table. All that we hope is the locals, business owners, developers and the authorities are in the same direction, championing Sustainable Development.

“Sustainable development is the organizing principle for meeting human development goals while at the same time sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy and society depend. The desired result is a state of society where living and conditions and resource use continue to meet human needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural systems.” (Source: Click HERE)

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Pantai Cenang and its endless souvenir shops, spas, hotels, motels, restaurants, cafes, bar and so on, reminds both of us a lot of Kuta in Bali, Indonesia. The narrow road with its congestion is almost similar to Cenang. What else are similar? Beach activities. Not to mention that the airport is closer in both Cenang and Kuta. It will take about 2 hours to get to a hotel in Kuta from the airport during New Year’s Eve, normal days, that’s less than 10 minutes. Hopefully, it’s not the same in Cenang, now and forever.

Don’t get us wrong; we do love Cenang and Kuta. We love walking around that many shops in Cenang. Cenang reminds us a lot of our great moments in Kuta, Bali to a point that we regard Cenang as Kuta of Langkawi. Well, if not now, in few years time. There are lots of eateries at Cenang. The Cenang beach is equally beautiful as Kuta Beach and so are the locals; they are so friendly. As avid travelers, we are looking forward to return to Cenang and stay here for few days.

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Our hope is to see that Cenang develops as one great destination for travelers but at the same time learning the mistakes of other places in the world. While Kuta is already one great destination, it will certainly be hard to reverse its current state to a more flexible area in the sense of being able to re-accommodate things that should have been there in the first place and ‘delete’ the bad elements. One good example is, Kuta’s traffic congestion. Expand the shoulder of the road and serious talks with land owners is mandatory. Logically speaking, when the value of each square meter is about to become infinity, owners will have hard time to let it go.

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Luckily, some vendors are thinking of mobile units. It’s a trend now as what they dubbed as Food Trucks. It is a way to reduce construction of more permanent buildings. Let’s just hope this kind of vendors looks after the cleanliness of the area. But again, if a place is so pack with vehicles, small and big, where would they park their mobile entities? It is the local government responsibility to decide what is best for Cenang and it is up to the business owners to strategically locate their businesses. At the end of the day, it will be up to the locals to decide what is best for them.

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While we did enjoy being in Cenang recently, we have to say that we are a bit worried that one day the locals will find out that it is too late to reverse things, correcting things that they should not be doing in the first place. While they have every right to decide what is best for them, the future generation, which is obviously their own children, are entitled to have greater space to live in. Squeeze in everything into a small space and just a little adjustment will result in dispute between owners.

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We love Langkawi so much, it is a great place to live in or at least for a vacay. While development is much needed, we hope to see that Cenang itself is not overly-developed for the sake of tourism. Cenang beach is already one beautiful and great place thus we hope in 10 years to come, we all get to see adequate facilities and attractions for visitors but at the same time the people of Cenang gives equal consideration towards sustainable development.

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Did we see Kuta in Cenang? Yes. Is Pantai Cenang almost similar to Pantai Kuta? Almost. Is drastic development for the sake of tourism at Cenang is inevitable as what happened to Kuta? There is a tendency, a probability. Hopefully, we are both wrong. Is it too much to say that Cenang has now becoming touristically developed that one day it will be too late to reverse certain actions? Not really as there is similar patent as what happened to Kuta, Bali. Once again, we hope we are wrong.

Did we enjoy our time as much as we enjoyed our stay in Kuta, Bali? Yes, 100%. So, according to both our opinions, is Cenang itself resembles Kuta? Absolutely. What do you have to say? For both of us, Cenang is about to become Kuta of Langkawi.

 

This article is of our own opinion and we wrote it as we hope to see Pantai Cenang remain as it is now and not being too overly-developed. We are not being endorsed by any third party in order to express our own thoughts about Pantai Cenang. Langkawi is one of our favorite holiday destinations in Malaysia and for that we hope to see the locals preserve some of their ‘cores’ for the world to see and embrace. 

 

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