The luxury begins the moment we step off the plane in Langkawi. Greeted by two gentlemen smartly dressed in white attire with The Datai Langkawi logo embroidered on their shirts, we have quickly whisked away to a private car. The gentleman who is driving us kindly informs us that due to a tree falling across the road we will be taking the “long way” round. Much to our delight, this is quite the blessing, with our driver providing us with a locally guided tour around the island, pointing out all the must-see places and offering some fantastic “insider” knowledge and interesting Langkawi history. I can already sense this is going to be a sumptuous stay.
Driving through the island and the closer we get to The Datai, the more beautiful and isolated it becomes. We turn in to The Datai and arrive at a spectacular Malay style entrance. Immediately greeted by Datai staff, we are taken to a seating area overlooking the resort and private beach. The view really is breathtaking. The sense of isolation is something that hits me immediately; this is a place where you can come and shut off from the world to relax. Deliciously fragrant towels are brought to us to freshen up, along with Cameroonian Tea infused with cinnamon, lemongrass, kafir lime and wild honey and a mysteriously tasty fried curry puff with dry shrimp and spicy coconut, paired with possibly the best mango relish I have ever tasted. A fantastic way to finish your journey and begin your vacation. Then taken to our room by one of the friendly staff, we are talked through the layout of the resort, where to find restaurants, the gym and other amenities. Walking past the lily pond we are told about the various species of frogs living in there. One, in particular, a beautiful gold frog, that the gentleman explains is seldom seen. It must be a good omen because as we are walking away I look at a lily pad and spot a tiny shimmering gold frog.
We are escorted to our buggy. These are used to transport you around the resort, always on call, a wonderfully convenient option given the size of The Datai. There is of course always the option to walk. As the resort is sprawled over 70 acres of private 10 million-year-old virgin rainforest, this service is just one of the many features, that means The Datai can comfortably call themselves a five-star resort. We arrive at our residence, a Superior Villa, and are guided through all the features of the room. What can I say other than STUNNING!
Our first night we select the Thai restaurant (The Pavillion). Perched high on stilts you are immersed in the jungle, with a fantastic view back towards the main lobby and adult pool. The staff here are incredible, regularly checking in with how your meal is. We feasted on delicious young papaya salad, prawn spring rolls and crispy fried red snapper to name a few. Deliciously authentic, I believed this was better Thai food than that I had experienced in Thailand on my recent visit. We select to walk back to our villa, a very cruisey 5-minute walk down an impressive, grand staircase. You feel transported back in time, and the sense of complete tranquillity and isolation fills you with gratification for your resort selection.
The Datai is located in Datai Bay, with the only other resort in this area being the five star Andaman. The private beach the resort backs onto was recently rated in the top ten beaches of the world (as rated by National Geographic). It’s a sprawling, pristine, white-sand cove, with immaculate views. The layout of the resort is so well considered and as an architectural photographer, I’m in heaven. Incredibly the resort was built with the assistance of elephants, so as to help preserve the historic rainforest, which has been achieved so brilliantly. It’s quite an accomplishment to build a resort amongst an ancient rainforest and have it feel as though it belongs. Each of the villas and resort buildings sits nestled amongst the trees, feeling at home and actually adding to the landscape. The integration with the jungle is apparent when you come across monkeys sitting on or above the trails, munching on figs and berries, seemingly undisturbed by your presence. The traditional style buildings and exclusively a minimal number of villas, I believe assists in preserving the integrity of the jungle that you have the pleasure of being immersed within. Our second day we awake to a thunderstorm and rain, enjoying a morning coffee on our private balcony that overlooks a tranquil stream. It feels surreal to be here. Today is the perfect day to check out the renowned Datai Spa. The Spa is like nothing I have ever experienced. I’m quite familiar with day spas and have definitely had my fair share of great spa treatments in my time. However, the open-air private treatment villas are absolutely magical. Opening out on to a stream the whole experience from the sounds, to the scents, to the incredible staff is what spas back home try to imitate. I am lulled into a sense of absolute serenity, opting for the 90 minutes Lembuk massage. The Spa staff are exceptionally professional and highly-skilled, making it truly worth the money spent. With everything at The Datai, the prices are closer to what you would expect to pay in Australia (rather than your typical Asia prices), but it really is worth it. After leaving the spa the sun is shining. That’s something I come to learn quickly if it rains in Langkawi you can expect within an hour or so for it to be clear skies for the majority of the day – we travelled in June at the start of the rainy season.
That evening we are treated to an incredible set menu at Gulai House, which is one of the restaurants on-site. The food is Malay and Indian and we feast on an abundance of deliciousness, such as beef rendang, chicken and coconut soup, and possibly the largest king prawns I’ve ever seen. Richard Millar, The Datai’s executive chef, introduces himself to us at dinner, and it’s great hearing about his time in Asia and love for this place. He makes note of the exceptional hospitality you experience here in Malaysia, and this could not be truer. The staff at The Datai truly add to the charm of the place. Whether it be warmly greeting you every morning by name, or bringing you iced water without request while lounging by the pool, it really is their first priority that you are enjoying your stay.
The following day is spent with some well-enjoyed beach time, soaking in Datai Bay which we have all to ourselves. While swimming in the warm, calm waters we spot a pod of about 15 dolphins playing a mere 50 meters from where are swimming. We spot the onsite marine biologist watching the Dolphins with binoculars and swim over to him to find out more. Turns out this is quite a rare occurrence, Langkawi continuing to put on an incredible show for us. That evening we decide to try out The Beach Club serving fresh grilled seafood and meat. I request a beachfront table and much to our delight the incredible Datai staff have set up our own private candlelit table right on the beach. Enjoying uninterrupted views of the sun setting – very special indeed. And of course, the food did not disappoint.
The following day we hire a car to check out the island. This is all taken care of by the hotel staff and is ready and waiting for us at 9 am. Langkawi is duty free so there is the potential for those inclined to enjoy some shopping. We, however, find ourselves an hour or so into our excursion longing to be back at the peace and tranquillity of The Datai, where everybody knows your name. I feel this place may have spoiled us. Our remaining time is spent exploring Langkawi and it’s islands by Jetski, Parasailing, snorkelling, and more eating and relaxing at the resort. Leaving was exceptionally hard after such a magical stay, but I am confident that we will be back next year! I want to say a huge thank you to all the staff at The Datai Langkawi who made this all possible and added to the whole experience. I will miss everyone’s smiling faces and look forward to seeing you all when we return next year (or maybe sooner!) To book your stay now visit The Datai’s Website. Photography by Kelsie Barley Photography. All images are subject to copyright.