Secluded luxury ... the Datai Langkawi is nestled in rainforest between the Mat Cincang mountain range and the Andaman Sea.
The master bedroom of my villa overlooks a private 12-metre pool even though the beach is just a few metres away on the other side of a fence. An elegant open-plan living and dining area leads to a private sun deck. The bathtub is big enough to fit a family of five (or more suitably a pair of honeymooners). And the buffet breakfast is a buggy ride down to the lobby.
But, should you feel like staying in, no worries. Your personal butler will cook for you in a separate pantry at the rear of the villa. Immersed in an ancient rainforest, the sprawling, secluded Datai resort, where I'm fortunate enough to be staying, is nestled between the Mat Cincang mountain range and the Andaman Sea on the Malaysian island of Langkawi.
The resort features 110 rooms, three restaurants and a private beach that's perfect for paddling, snorkelling, windsurfing and sailing. I'm one of the first to experience one of the Datai Langkawi's new luxury beach villas. Staying in a rainforest villa the previous night had seemed decadent enough — the room generous, the rear view onto the rainforest serene and private.
Tropical ambience ... a spacious suite at the Datai Langkawi.
But the new beach villas are in another class entirely, with its private outdoor shower and an XXL shower head on the indoor version. This is the sort of place where there's fine attention to detail, with the hotel emailing its guests before they depart for Malaysia to ask what pillows they would like in their room.
Once at the Datai, the range of activities offered at the resort are numerous and impressive. A Balinese massage at the spa is an experience bordering on the transcendental. The Thai cooking class teaches you how to make two simple and delicious traditional dishes, which we enjoyed with a glass of wine. The resort's restaurants are good, too, particularly Gulai House, offering Malay and Indian specialties. Breakfast is bountiful and includes optional champagne and DIY cocktails. The fitness room is well equipped while pools throughout the resort provide options for couples and families.
A highlight of my stay is the nature walk, led by the Datai Langkawi's resident naturalist, Irshad Mobarak. A former banker and rugby player, the polymathic, warm-natured guide held our interest for hours as we explored the rainforest and nearby mangroves on the Kilim River.
Unfortunately for me, it was a cloudy afternoon when I took a ride on the Langkawi cable car and the attached Langkawi sky bridge — a 125-metre bridge 700 metres above sea level — was closed for renovations. On a clear day, views would doubtless be magnificent, though those with vertigo, beware — it's a long way to the top.
On your way back to the airport, stop in at the Bon Ton Resort, a boutique hotel comprised of eight unique antique Malay villas. Stray cats rescued by animal-loving owner, Australian-born Narelle McMurtrie have been nursed back to health and happily roam the peaceful grounds. The resort's Nam restaurant is one of the island's finest, and perfect for pre-flight departure tapas and drinks.
Besides the cable car and a few wildlife parks of varying quality, Langkawi doesn't offer much in the way of kids' activities, but the beaches, rainforests and hotel pools are fine places for adults and children to while away the days.
The main town of Kuah is a good place to stock up on duty-free alcohol, chocolates, perfume and tobacco in supermarket-style shops, and the island of Pulau Payer, 35 kilometres south of Langkawi, is a great day trip for snorkelling, diving and baby shark feeding.
If you want the warmth and exoticism of a Bali or Thailand holiday, without the hordes of tourists, Langkawi, and particularly the Datai, is a close and appealing luxury option. This was my first visit to the island, but it definitely won't be my last. Oh, and those pillows? The best I've ever slept on.
The writer was a guest of the Datai Langkawi resort and Malaysia Airlines.
Malaysia Airlines operates 14 flights weekly from Sydney direct to Kuala Lumpur with regular connections to Langkawi. 13 26 27, malaysiaairlines.com.
Staying and dining there
Deluxe rooms at the Datai Langkawi, which is about 30 minutes from the airport, start from 1888 ringgit ($591) a night, with a two-bedroom beach villa costing $4600. +604 959 2500, dataihotels.com.
Bon Ton Resort and Nam Restaurant, Langkawi, is located 10 minutes from the airport. +604 955 6787, bontonresort.com.
Datai promotional rates for April 1 to December 19 are $591 a night for a deluxe room, $2601 a night for a one-bedroom beach villa and $4600 a night for a two-bedroom beach villa. +604 959 2500, firstname.lastname@example.org.