The Look: The Datai is tucked inside the gangly arms of an ancient rainforest, with a central building peering over the Andaman Sea and wooden guest villas tumbling down to a private beach (shared with The Andaman, another GHM property). The resort, which 15 years ago put Langkawi on the map, is currently undergoing a $6 million face-lift by Indonesian-born designer Jaya Ibrahim (who also did The Dharmawangsa in Jakarta, and The Legian in Bali). For now only guest rooms have been renovated, updating the 90’s décor with stylish – if not very adventurous – steel grey and beige tones offset with native red balau wood trimmings, knotted wall features and meters of silk and thick cotton. By mid 2008 renovations will include the restaurants and most public spaces.
The Scene: Set on a secluded corner of Langkawi- listed by Unesco as a Geographical Park for its rich ecology- the Datai is all about nature. Discover more of the island’s treasures with in-house naturalist, Irshad Moborak (who also advises National Geographic) and his free daily tours spotting hornbills, owls and flying squirrels frolicking amongst the trees. Off-shore lays Palau Payar, a protected marine park, and several uninhabited islands, with great snorkelling or picnic opportunities from chartable schooners.
The Rooms: Deluxe rooms are in the main building; villas tucked into the forest floor below. The newly renovated rooms have polished floorboards, flat screen TVs, rain showers, bathtubs, daybeds and balconies. Exquisite tailor-made satin blend sheets are a highlight, as are generous pots of Molton Brown toiletries, Lavazza espresso machines and big bowls of local fruits. Splurge on a spacious 98-square-meter free standing villa for the chance to wake to the sound of birds and frogs.
Service: Gracious, competent and jovial; this is one of those rare resorts where service- from bellman to bartender – is first-rate. Memos are kept on guest quirks and penchants – including how you like to be addressed. Perhaps little wonder when considering the General Manager, Jamie Case, and an impressive percentage of the staff, have been here since the resort opened 15-years ago.
The Facilities: The two pools and a cute spa perched over a gushing stream are the biggest draw-cards. The spa menu derives from India’s ancient health system, Ayurveda, which sadly none of the administering therapists know anything about. Better, opt for one of the resort’s many free activities, like an excellent but gruelling Pilates class with Anne, playfully known as Scary-Anne by her co-workers. Langkawi is a duty free zone; shops at the airport and ferry terminal stock great bargains on wine, a bonus unfortunately not passed onto guests.
Hotel: The Datai, Pulau Langkawi, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia.
Room Count: 110
Meals: Three restaurants serve Thai, Malay and Mediterranean, plus an outstanding breakfast buffet with free flowing Champagne. Don’t miss the delicious ikan dimasak bersama kunyit, grouper spiced with garam masala, from the Dining Room.
Nice surprise: Next door, The Andaman’s Gulai House restaurant is in a traditional stilted house with silver service staff (who start by washing your hands with an old ceramic beaker) and superb Malay cuisine.
Cost: Doubles from $770 net
Contact: + 613 9360 0600; www.ghmhotels.com