A night at The Datai Langkawi is remarkably pricey, but it’s also seriously worth it
By Lim Chee Wah
The Datai Langkawi is one of those resorts that is written about so much that it’s almost becoming a cliché, but still you dream of going there. Well now I can safely say that everything you’ve heard about The Datai is true; it is the standard bearer among the luxury resorts in Malaysia.
The Datai is isolated on a hilltop and camouflaged within an age-old virgin rainforest, which slopes down to a pristine, secluded white-sand cove. Monkeys swing from tree branches, hornbills fly through the thick canopies and monitor lizards sun themselves on walk paths – yes, you’re deep in the elements but this is no survivor camp. Rather, a jungle retreat for the jet set, as the rooms and villas are well-appointed with contemporary luxuries; there’s a Bose sound system, iPod, coffee machine, flatscreen TV and yes, free WiFi.
On closer inspection, it’s amazing how forward thinking the architects were when they built this resort 20 years ago. The ingenious design of The Datai marries local heritage with ecological sensitivities – a trend we are just beginning to see more of in today’s newer resorts. The main building is located on the higher ground, with balconies that offer sweeping views over the treetop canopies, and has the elegance of a royal Malay palace. It’s hardly a conventional brick and mortar structure, but one that is built with hardwood and natural stones, creating rich details on the façade.
It really is beautiful to look at, and the same applies to the rooms – spacious, high ceiling interiors featuring both day and king beds, hardwood floors and hardwood furnishings. The villas, nestled under the shade of the jungle, are even more spacious with lots of room to relax, but the bathrooms here are the highlight. These terrazzo-covered bathrooms are as sumptuous as the living space; they hold twin vanities, each with its own wardrobe, a bathtub set under a window, a separate walk-in rain shower and still have enough room left to quite possibly do a cartwheel.
No doubt, The Datai is the kind of resort where you just stay put and let yourself be pampered. There are four restaurants in the resort; from the acclaimed Gulai House, which serves Malay and Indian specialities in an open-air, classed up kampung house, to the Mediterranean-inspired dishes at the casual Beach Club by the sea, there’s enough variety to go around that you won’t get bored of the food here. And The Spa. Yes, the spa at The Datai is special. The four spa villas are set deep in a mangrove forest, and although they are open air, you have the utmost peace and privacy. Trust me, the view and the environment alone are therapeutic enough. And if this is the kind of holiday you want, avoid the family pool by the beach and opt for the adults-only pool adjacent to the main building. Perched amongst the treetops, this pool and its surroundings is the postcard perfect view that has come to represent The Datai.
From the natural environment to the facilities and the design, there’s no doubt about The Datai’s star quality. But if there’s one thing that The Datai could do to hit it out of the park is to make its service, which is already commendable, slightly more intuitive. For example, an attendant could come offering towels, cold water and even sunblock the moment a guest sits down on a lounger by the pool instead of him having to walk over and ask for one. I could very well be nitpicking but I just have very high expectations of The Datai, more than I would normally have for other resorts.
That’s probably the only gripe I can think of because everything else was just perfect. More so with the morning nature walk, which you should not miss, however lazy you have become after checking in. Ask if the famous Jungle Wallah, Irshad Mobarak, is conducting the walk because his narration is engaging and his passion for nature and conservation is infectious. He has a way of relating theories and observations in nature to the world of politics and even banking; it’s bound to be an eye-opening experience. This 90-minute walk is most probably the only strenuous activity you’ll be doing because your day of indulgence can start right after that, with free flow champagne at the buffet breakfast. Good, eh? Oh, did we mention rooms start from RM1,868 per night? Oh yes, it’s steep but for that special occasion holiday, it’s worth it.