By: Rebecca Bisset
There are many lovely things about Langkawi – which is probably why UNESCO has made it a world heritage site. And one of these lovely things is the lack of traffic. About 40 minutes after landing we arrived at the resort on the northwest tip of the island.
Designed by famous architect Kerry Hill, The Datai’s impressive main lobby (and rooms extending to either side) overlooks a large adult-only pool and thick natural rainforest with the sea in the distance. It’s a bit last misleading as it seems miles from the water – I was sure we were coming for a beach break!
However, after we’d enjoyed a welcome glass of chilled rosé wine, the buggy took us through the estate, past the Jungle Villas and down to our very own Beach Villa Number 1 – totally private and enclosed with its own back gate leading right onto the white sandy beach.
Although the hotel, which is a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, is 20 years old, the Beach Villas are new, completed in 2012. They’re beautifully kitted-out. The separate living/dining room and the bedroom have gorgeous rugs. Everything is ultra-modern, including electric blinds, TV and mini-bars. We squealed when we saw the bath “area” – difficult to call it a room as it’s so huge. The dressing area leads into the bathroom with its enormous bath (with plenty of hot water for bubble baths), a pseudo outdoor shower with three different kinds of shower options, and then a proper outdoor shower in the private backyard area. Grand bathrooms are a specialty of The Datai and they feature in all the Suites, Rooms and Villas.
The beds are superb, too. I think a lot of hotels are finally paying attention to a very important part of staying away from home – a good sleep. Ours looked on to a private pool and the double French doors meant that you could take two steps and be in the water whenever you wanted.
The property sits in 300 acres of natural rainforest fronted by a very beautiful seafront shared only with The Andaman, a resort a couple of kilometres away. There’s another family pool by the sea and the wonderful beach club and bar. We didn’t see any children at the resort; although they are allowed, it’s definitely geared towards couples, and there were couples of all ages from all over the world. And quite a few that made this journey every year. Langkawi is one of the few places where you can guarantee warm weather and no rain for the winter period in the Northern Hemisphere.
We did see one single: Robson Green. Brits will know him from Soldier Soldier, Wire in the Blood and chart-topping hits like “Something’s Gotten Hold Of My Heart”. He was on his own – and sat next to us at dinner one night. I couldn’t bring myself to do the “fan club” approach so we let him enjoy his meal in peace. He was reading scripts and finding inspiration, it seems.
Wine & Dine
Breakfast is always an important gauge for me; The Datai does excellent coffee, with a good selection of fruit, sushi, noodles that vary each day, choice of eggs how you like them – and Champagne is included (so you kind of have to really…).
There are four restaurants in the estate. The Gulai House which is Indian influenced; our set included a divine crab soup (lots of flavours), chicken tikka and vegetables, and squid in thick soy sauce. Set in the jungle with very rustic and light raw wood for the décor, it’s very different and special.
The Pavilion is a Thai restaurant (the one where Robson was); it was very good too, though the “medium” Tom Yum Gung nearly blew our heads off. My face was on fire from my nose down, so we opted for a mild green chicken curry after that, which was too mild. Or perhaps our taste buds had been fried.
The Beach Club had everything from Asian to Western staples. It also has an open layout, with thatched roofs and contemporary décor. The beer comes in those frozen glasses so was even more appealing than normal. The fish and chips, haloumi spinach salad, salmon salad and rack of lamb were all very good. Prices were average; $10 for a beer and food ranging from $12 to $28.
The staff were exceptional; many of the wait staff in the restaurants are from the Philippines.
Beach & Activities
I got dumped when we went out in both the little Hobie cat and the kayak and was beginning to think that may be another reason for this romantic weekend but after the paranoia left I realised it was just lack of skill and felt much better! All non-motorised watersports are free; you can travel further to the main beach of Pantai Cenang about 30 minutes away for parasailing and jet skis. In area around The Datai, it’s all very quiet and unpolluted. The lovely bay has waves that are body-surfable if you’re able, as my other half was. All I managed to do was lose my Witchery sunglasses that I was very fond of!
We did the trip to the Langkawi Cable Car and up to the Skywalk to find that it’s closed for repairs, so do check before you go. It’s still a nice view but not worth the price or time it takes to get there without the skywalk section.
The nature walks around the hotel happen twice a day and are a must. On the first evening, we were sitting in the top lobby having a sunset drink when a massive bird took to the sky from one of the tall jungle trees. It looked almost prehistoric, and when we saw its huge beak – or bill, in fact – we realised it was a hornbill. Then it was joined by a mate and the two of them swept between the trees every now and then until the light faded.
The next morning on our nature walk, Irshad filled us in on the Hornbills, their wingspan is over 1.5 meters and they were there because the fig tree is about to fruit. We were very privileged to see so much of them apparently. He explained the different relationships between trees, creepers and animal life and the ones that work and the ones that don’t. It was fascinating. He also bought a philosophical element in to the talk that was along my way of thinking. I wish we had time to do more of them. These walks are also complimentary.
Pricewise, I’m not sure the older Jungle Rooms are worth the rack rate at the moment; they’re due to be renovated, so wait for that if you want a real jungle hide away. The Beach Villas, though, are perfect for a special, romantic couple of days. And it was nice to be completely private and surrounded by lovely new décor and fittings.
Like this? Read more at our travel section.