This is a story about rediscovering my sanity at The Datai Langkawi.
Do you know what’s worse than finding out your baby has hand foot and mouth disease? Having to cancel a 10-day European vacation two days beforehand because your baby has hand foot and mouth disease, and is barred from traveling for a week.
That’s how we found ourselves – utterly disappointed, depressed and stressed – leading up to the Chinese New Year holiday.
In a fit of desperation during our week of quarantine, my husband started looking for available last-minute flights around the region. “What about Langkawi?” he asked me. Incredibly, I’d never made it to Malaysia in my four years living here, though I’d always heard great things about Langkawi (National Geographic counts it among the world’s Top 10 beaches).
We sent some quick emails, did a bit of research on TripAdvisor, and boom! Within two days we found ourselves on a brief 1-hour SilkAir flight to northwest Malaysia.
The happiest 4-day stretch I can recall in quite some time began when a driver from The Datai whisked us from the airport off to the resort 40 minutes away.
I’ve stayed at many resorts across Southeast Asia and seen my fair share of spectacular lobby views, but The Datai’s rivals any of them. Not only does it overlook a pristine swimming pool, the turquoise water of the Andaman Sea and a clutch of mountains off in the distance, but it’s all framed by the most unbelievably lush, tall trees.
The 5-star resort’s secluded location in a 10 million year old rainforest is among its biggest selling points. From the incomparable vegetation to the unique wildlife (dusky leaf monkeys, Sunda flying lemurs … we even spotted a wild boar one night!), The Datai’s singular location becomes such an important part of your stay. The resort’s even got a resident naturalist who leads free guided treks around the immense property; my one regret is that their timings clashed with the baby’s naptime. Definitely something to look forward to on our next trip!
We arrived just before noon; our room wasn’t quite ready so we headed down to the beach, the main hub of activity during the day. Here you’ll find the kids’ pool (one indication that this is definitely a family-friendly resort), the Beach Club restaurant, and a massive strip of powdery soft sand. Even on a crowded weekend like CNY, there was no shortage of beach chairs or private space. Each day we were even able to secure ourselves a nice daybed under some shady trees (perfect for enjoying the long list of cocktails and yummy snacks).
The water is shallow, calm, and beautifully clear. The baby delighted in going for swims, and looked longingly at the bigger kids who were building sandcastles on the shore. There are all sorts of other free, kid-friendly activities on offer, too, including kayaking, snorkeling, windsurfing and sailing.
We stayed in a Superior Villa, which is part of the “Rainforest Experience”. Guests can also stay in the main hotel building at the top of the hill (“Canopy Experience”), with views looking out over the treetops to the water, or in a Beach Villa (pictured) with private pool and butler service (“Beach Experience”, duh).
Water views are always nice, but I kind of adored being surrounded by greenery and the veritable symphony of wildlife. Each day while the baby napped, my husband and I stretched out to read – he on the daybed in our room, me on the big porch overlooking the rainforest. We never turned the TV on once during our stay; this was the kind of quiet and tranquility you just can’t find in Singapore.
The resort’s colour palette is very natural with a mix of dark and light woods; the aesthetic is luxurious but rustic. Our villa was huge, with a comfy king bed, a nice daybed nook (perfect for older kids to sleep on), fantastic free Wi-Fi, the aforementioned, awesome porch, and an enormous bathroom/dressing room with separate rain shower, his-and-her sinks, and deep soaking tub.
This may make us terrible parents, but the dressing area was so spacious we had no problem putting the baby’s crib in there for her to sleep at night (otherwise we would have had to turn all the lights off and be extra quiet from 7pm onwards!). She didn’t seem to mind; the layout suited us quite well!
The Datai also offers babysitters certified in first aid and CPR at a very reasonable price. One came by for a couple hours one evening so we could have a relaxed dinner just the two of us. The baby slept the entire time, but she was prompt, courteous, and gave us total peace of mind.
Food options at the resort are plentiful, a good thing since you’re in the middle of the rainforest without much else around. Our favourite was the Beach Club, with a mix of Western and Mediterranean options and fantastic staff (not to mention a killer view of the beach at sunset). We also liked the more formal Dining Room and the Indian/Malay Gulai House. Everywhere was extremely accommodating of the baby; I think every server at the resort knew her name by the time we left!
Over the course of our 4-day stay, my husband and I each tried to take full advantage of the resort’s myriad offerings. He went golfing at The Els Club Teluk Datai (recently named “World’s Best New Golf Course” at the World Golf Awards), and I indulged with a massage at the award-winning Datai Spa.
Each spa treatment suite opens out onto a babbling brook in the rainforest, providing the most unique and soothing soundtrack. I even fell asleep during the signature “Tungku Batu” Massage, always the sign of a great treatment in my book! As for the golf, my husband said it was challenging, absolutely beautiful (many holes overlook the water) and very private. He also gave bonus points for occasional monkeys crossing the fairway.
So we loved our room, adored the beach, and were delighted with the activities on offer. But you know what truly made our stay a great one? The fabulous staff. We arrived at The Datai emotionally drained and frazzled, and everyone on staff was just so incredibly nice to us! It was a genuine warmth and kindness, too, from the buggy drivers who gave big waves as they whizzed past, to the ladies tending to the gorgeous gardens, to the concierge staff who promptly assisted with every request and booking.
Everyone doted upon the baby so much that we kind of felt like she was a mini-celebrity. Going in we weren’t sure if this was a resort geared primarily toward couples and honeymooners – and I think there is plenty of space for that, in fact we met many couples who’ve been returning to the resort annually for over a decade – but we always felt 100% comfortable and catered to as a family, as well.
Langkawi is such an easy trip from Singapore, and this made for the perfect (and much-needed) escape. The three of us returned home feeling happy, relaxed, and rejuvenated. Then we checked our calendar for the next long weekend so we could plan our return trip!
Location: The Datai is located near the Thai border on the northwest tip of Langkawi, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Island for its natural gifts. The resort is about 40 minutes from the airport and main town area, which includes the island’s popular duty-free shopping and famous cable car.
Vibe: Relaxed and low key, with service that’s attentive but discreet. You come here to enjoy the resort’s natural beauty and tranquility. Guests get around the jungle-like property by buggy service, or they can walk up the lush, hilly paths.
Travel details: Langkawi is about an hour from Singapore by air, with direct flights available on SilkAir, AirAsia and Tigerair. Langkawi’s Airport is small and barebones (no need to arrive 2 hours before your flight, mama!), but immigration’s a breeze.
Great news, mamas! The Datai has just announced a “Datai Discovery Package” exclusively for Singapore and Malaysia residents with rates starting from just US$260+ per night. It’s available anytime through 22 December, 2015; just reference the rate when you book and show your NRIC/EP/DP upon check-in.