Roving Reporter’s favourite hotel in the world has been the Datai in Langkawi for a long time. So much so that this was his tenth visit to the hotel! He had been wanting to introduce me to his favourite hotel for quite some time but unfortunately, the Datai had been closed for over a year to completely refurbish the hotel. Fortunately, it worked nicely with our recent tour around Asia using my BA Amex 2-4-1 voucher to fly in First (B787 First review coming tomorrow).
RR had originally been booked to go in September but due to the late reopening, he had ended up at the Ritz Carlton Langkawi instead (see his review here). The original plan was that we would do an anonymous quick review in September and then on our joint trip we would do a full review with the hotel’s knowledge so that we could see all the different room categories. Obviously, this didn’t work out and the hotel did know that we were writing a review. We, therefore, did get spoiled by the hotel as compensation for RR’s last-minute cancellation experience and as they were keen to show off the hotel. I will indicate in the review any items that were complimentary but we paid for our rooms ourselves.
The Datai is situated on the north-west coast of Langkawi on Datai Bay which is part of the Straits of Malacca. It has lovely views of mountainous islands in the distance but surprisingly these actually turned out to be part of Thailand which I hadn’t expected. The Datai sits on the edge of a 10 million-year-old rainforest and is around 40 minutes from the airport.
Arrival and check-in
We were offered complimentary transfers from the airport and we were greeted at arrivals with a board with our names and two uniformed staff. Outside the terminal was a very nice Mercedes E Class and we were welcomed with cold towels and bottles of Evian water. One of the unique things about the journey was the soundtrack played which as you approached changed to sounds of the rainforest which we both loved and got you in the right mood for relaxing at the hotel. We also saw lots of monkeys along the side of the road which I always love!
Check-in was being done at the Beach Club as the main building was still closed but we were given a warm welcome as we arrived.
We had both been upgraded to Rainforest Villas as the category we had booked, the Canopy rooms were still not finished. Once we had completed the formalities we were invited to have a cooling welcome drink in the beach bar. This is made to their own recipe and was exactly what is needed after a hot and sticky journey from Kuala Lumpur!
Once we had finished these our rooms were still not ready as we had arrived at 11am in the morning. We obviously decided that a drink was in order to celebrate our arrival and looked at the Datai’s own bespoke cocktails.
I had a LangCooler which was a bit like a mojito but had a variety of Asian ingredients such as lime leaves and lemongrass as well as mint. It was delicious and the perfect beachside drink. All the cocktail came with novel straws such as bamboo or metal as the hotel prides itself on being sustainable and having minimal waste.
I also tried the spicy When in The Datai later on with chilli which had a lovely little kick to it but was well-balanced with some sweetness from grenadine and honey.
The resort has plenty of buggies to ferry you round as the hotel is set over quite a wide area with the main building high up on the hillside and the beach club down below. It is also prone to torrential downpours being in a tropical location so the buggies came in handy at times! We were escorted to our rooms in a buggy and as RR was a returning guest he had a name plaque outside his door which was a lovely touch. We also had a bottle of champagne in the rooms (again usually for returning guests).
The Rainforest villas are as the name suggests set on the edge of the rainforest. This makes the rooms a little on the dark side but the lighting was good in the bathroom which is the most important area. The villas consist of two rooms – a bedroom with a small seating area, huge TV, daybed and two desks plus a huge bathroom and dressing area.
Every evening the room would be turned down with a gift of a few chocolates left next to the bed. I loved the large candles they lit around the bath as part of the service.
Complimentary Evian mineral water was readily available with bottles in the room and in the bathroom. The mini bar was also complimentary including beer, soft drinks and snacks although the miniatures of alcohol were sadly not though I thought they were reasonably priced at about £5 for a premium spirit.
Next to the mini bar was both a kettle and a good coffee machine so if the rain started coming down you wouldn’t starve or go thirsty here whilst you waited for it to clear.
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
The villa style reflects the surroundings with a lot of wood and natural colours. It is a different approach to many luxury hotels but I feel that it fits The Datai’s persona. The bed was one of my favourite features – I loved the four poster look and wow was it comfortable! The beds have very high-quality Egyptian cotton sheets which you could really tell the difference with. I would say it ranked into my top 3 hotel beds for comfort along with The Corinthia in London and the Four Seasons in Las Vegas. It was such a struggle to get out of it every morning to meet RR for breakfast!
The highlight of the trip for me was found on the large balcony at the back of the villa which had chairs and a daybed. I sat out there on a couple of mornings with a coffee watching two different types of monkeys – Long-tailed Macaques and the Dusky leaf monkeys leaping through the trees and grazing on leaves right in front of me, It was a really wonderful way to start the day!
The bathroom definitely had the wow factor for me in its design and it was clear a lot of money had been spent during the renovation on this area. The toilet and shower cubicles were lined in beautiful marble and the massive bath was very impressive.
Post from RICOH THETA. – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA
The bathroom featured twin sink areas and was absolutely huge with a bench in the middle. There were wardrobes as well but I felt this was an area that could have been improved as there weren’t really any shelves or drawers to put clothes in. They did have them in the main bedroom but I would have much preferred to have everything together.
In the wardrobes were both slippers and very smart flip flops as well as nice lightweight silky robes which you need in the hot climate rather than towelling.
The toiletries were in large stone containers to reduce waste and were the Datai’s own brand. The shop wasn’t open whilst we were there but I would gladly buy some when I go back as I loved the spa liked fragrance. I did find the dispensers a little fiddly though as the pumps only dispensed a small amount at a time.
Other room types
Our original room category the Canopy rooms are where Roving Reporter usually stays. Situated in the main buildings, the Canopy Deluxe and the Canopy Premium (higher floor) have stunning views and award-winning architecture. They are perfect if you would prefer to be near the main pool, The Dining Room and The Lobby Lounge. The Canopy Suites offer spacious verandas, a king size bed and a separate living room and dining area.
Rainforest pool villa
These were similar to my villa but with a private pool
These are located directly on the white-sand beach of Datai Bay. The One-Bedroom Beach Villa and the Two-Bedroom Beach Villa are fully enclosed with serene garden views and a private swimming pool. The beach villas are very private with a personalised service from a butler. You can have food for any restaurant at the Datai delivered to eat in your living area which has a large table.
This would be my choice for a romantic getaway although RR did find that they spent so much time in the room with the service on tap that they had to force themselves to go out to seek some human company!
Pools and beach
During our visit only the Beach Club family pool was open but I will cover the main pool as well. The larger of the two pools is adults only and situated at the edge of the main building with fantastic views of the forest canopy with the sea and islands in the distance.
We used the family pool which also has a toddlers pool adjacent too it. The pool had lots of loungers and day beds around it as well as overlooking the beach. If you wanted shade there was plenty of choice as the sun can be very fierce in Langkawi.
The beach was spectacular with the islands in the distance and the sand was soft and white. Lots of tiny crabs scuttled along the beach and you walked out to what has to be the warmest and calmest sea I have ever been in! The visibility varied but on the last day it was exceptionally clear although a little cooler and you could clearly see the fish darting around your feet as you stood in the shallow water.
Service at the beach and pool was generally excellent with lots of extra touches. Once you arrived the staff would set up your beds for you and bring a flask of cold water and cold towels. Throughout the day little extras were provided such as fruit, ice cream cones, a cool water mist or sunglasses cleaning. You were definitely pampered as much as you wanted!
I am a real spa lover and have visited many around the world and I have to say this was the most unique one I have ever been to. We were very lucky to be offered the change to try one of the Ramuan journeys – “seaweed and pearl” for free. Nearly all the spa is open air and in the rainforest which leads to a very tranquil atmosphere. The spa treatments are based on the rainforest with its age-old traditions and philosophies of the Malay culture known a Ramuan. A unique Malay concept, Ramuan is referred to as the gathering of medicinal plants in its purest essence. There are 5 treatment villas and they also use products by Bastien Gonzalez and Phyto 5.
We were greeted in the spa reception with their chilled signature drink which was very refreshing. Once all the formalities had been completed we were escorted to out individual spa pavilions.
Once you enter the pavilion there is a changing area, shower and toilet and then through the doors the main “room” which is completely open on one side to the rainforest. Mine overlooked a small stream and this was an amazing place to have a relaxing treatment. You didn’t need music like other spas as the sounds of the rainforest were good enough. I had wondered whether being open sided would make the treatment room too hot but it was actually just about right and they can adjust the temperature if needed.
The treatment started with a flower bath and as I sat that there with a fresh young coconut drink and some fruit, a huge monitor lizard went past in the stream! You can’t get much more unique than that. During the rest of the treatment, I could often hear the tell-tale signs of monkeys moving through the trees too. The treatment included a body scrub and mask, hair treatment, massage and mini facial. It was definitely the ultimate treatment although after 3.5 hours I sadly didn’t look 10 years younger!!
The treatment finished with the most delicious fruit cake I have ever had and I am not normally a fan of fruit cake. The pastry chef at the Datai truly does have ‘golden hands’ as they have nicknamed him!
Food and drink
As the hotel was not fully open the main Dining room restaurant was not yet open but we did manage to sample the other three restaurants all of which I loved. Each has a unique setting and the food and drinks were of a very high standard. One thing that really surprised me was the prices of the drinks. Although Langkawi is a duty-free island I had still thought that a luxury hotel would hike the prices up to the usual Asian extortionate rates but the cocktails and wines were very reasonable with a good bottle of wine being around £25-30 a bottle.
The Beach Club restaurant and bar
We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at the beach house but I will cover breakfast separately. The service was a little patchy but as it was a soft opening with lots of new staff that was to be expected. However, there was one really outstanding member of staff who really stood out – Hafiz. He was very friendly and professional and always went above and beyond what was required to make us happy.
During the day you could get a wide selection of food in the restaurant or by the pool or beach. This included local specialities like satay (we ate a LOT of satay…) and more international staples like burgers.
I loved being down at the beach club looking at the stunning beach with islands in the distance. As well as the main restaurant there is also the bar and the beach/pool service for food and drinks.
On the night we dined we started out outside on the terrace but sadly the rain started and we were amazed to see the staff carry the whole table inside for us! The food at the Beach Club is more international. I had a lovely delicate starter of seafood tortellini with a light broth followed by a fillet steak.
Breakfast was served until a very civilised 11am at the Beach Club overlooking the sea. When they came to pick me up one morning the driver helpfully informed me it was full and the other location at Gulai house was available. Fortunately, Roving Reporter had already secured us a table at the Beach Club. Breakfast is definitely a special event at the Datai and well worth making the effort for even if you only crawl in at the end of it to get a mimosa.
They had a small buffet with cold options such as fruit, yoghurt, salmon, meat etc and then a menu to order from as well as Roti Canai. If you visit Malaysia you must try this delicious flaky layered flatbread! At breakfast, it was served with dal but you could also have it with sweet accompaniments such as honey.
There were more international choices as well such as the Eggs Royale I had. The other highlights of the breakfast for me were the Mimosa trolley with freshly squeezed orange juice and Moet Champagne prepared to order (you could also have a Bellini or Kir Royale) and the pastries. The Datai’s pastry chef really is a serious talent. I am not really a big pastry fan but his were some of the best I have had anywhere particularly the light and flaky apple turnovers! There was an interesting selection of breads too.
The Gulai House
Set deep in the rainforest the Gulai house is modelled on a traditional Malay kampung (village) house. You can either sit on the floor in traditional Malaysian style or at the rustic dining tables.
This was the clear winner for me in terms of dining although I did love the beautiful candlelit atmosphere down at the Beach Club too. We were hosted at the meal by the lovely Melissa from The Datai and our meal was paid for by the hotel.
We sampled a wide range of Malaysian dishes and I have to say it was one of the best meals I have had in Malaysia. Everything was beautifully presented and had a great balance of flavours without being overly spicy. We sampled a variety of classics and more adventurous things including mixed satay, sea cucumber salad, beef rendang, whole fish and spicy prawn sambal. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was my first taste of sea cucumber which whilst it was good to try I would not particularly want to repeat it but I guess the squishy texture is an acquired taste…..
We finished with some ice creams and sorbets presented in beautiful ice bowls to cool us down after the spicy food!
We dined at the Thai restaurant on the first night that it opened so some allowances have to be made for that. Our waiter was very charming and helpful which added to the experience although things were a little slow at times, particularly with the wine. We started with som tam (green papaya salad) and crispy soft shell crabs which were both delicious.
For the main course, we had a chicken Penang curry, a basil and chilli Lobster stir fry and Pad Thai. The Pad Thai was a bit of a disappointment being one of my favourite Thai dishes as it was a little bland although as you worked your way into it, it got better. The other two dishes were both excellent and as good as you would find in Thailand. I particularly loved the stir fry with the lovely Thai basil flavour.
One of the big draws of the resort is the nature surrounding it. As I had not packed my trainers, RR had a tour around the new nature trails and nature centre.
“As Roving Reporter, I was very lucky to have a private tour of the new nature facilities under construction at the Datai. I was met by Nicole, an in-house Marine Biologist who is a member of the Nature team at the hotel. We strolled along the beach and after a short distance cut through a gap in the forest.
Nicole explained the differences from the vegetation in the Forrest on the shore to the inner Forrest and finally the dense cover. We walked along a newly constructed wooden bridge which at low tide showed the mangrove forest to it’s best. At high tide it is possible to kayak up this stream and the hotel is planning on offering this as an activity.
We then walked a few hundred metres up a slight incline (the path was slightly slippy but I understand that there are plans to make it more robust). I had been given some poles to help but yes you definitely need decent shoes for this (something I suggest the hotel invest in for guests who may not have thought to bring adequate footwear).
We then came across an impressive staircase which after a 12m climb led to a wooden skywalk. This then leads to a 15m platform (maximum 7 people) from which the canopy can really be enjoyed.
Throughout this time Nicole was a wealth of information and by the end of it I was hooked. The noise of the Forrest was absolutely intoxicating. There are already wi-fi cameras along the beach villa line which are helping the team understand nocturnal activity. There are plans to employ this type of technology in the Rainforest canopy as well. It was a real privilege to have this experience and I urge you to do it should you be at the hotel. You cannot see any of the hotel facilities at all (apart from one area of the footbridge where if you look really really hard you can see a few tiles roof of Spa Villa 4!). You really could have been in the middle of nowhere.
We then went on to have a look at the New Nature Centre. An impressive structure, nearing completion located where the old Malay Kampung house was, to the left of the Beach Club. Here the resident nature staff, including visiting academics and lecturers, will work. There is an impressive lab, where guests will be encouraged to visit and lounge areas (inside and out) where weekly talks will take place. An in house tea expert has already blended 3 types of tea, using ingredients found within the estate itself. I sampled 2 of these at the spa and they were delicious. There will be a particular emphasis on getting children involved in all aspects of nature. There are also plans to rehabilitate the fishing reef and a garden is being created. Coral is being cultivated and will be transferred back into the Datai Bay.
Adjacent to the nature centre is a yoga deck within a kampung house-like structure with stunning view of the beach and water.
There are also morning and evening nature walks. In addition to these, a butterfly garden is being established along the walkway from the grand staircase to the spa. Particular planting has been done to encourage butterflies and other animals to make this their home.
Michele was lucky enough to have a private display from some monkeys from her Villa balcony on two mornings and I was lucky to see a fairly decent sized monitor lizard in its natural habitat near my Villa
Even if you are not into nature in a big way I fail to see how you cannot become hooked after a stay here. The site, created with stunning vision, with the use of elephants all those years ago is still astounding. There are many more types of wildlife here but I won’t spill the beans so you can enjoy hearing all about them when you stay.
- The Els Club Teluk Datai – Golf legend and course designer, Ernie Els launched the scenic golf course in 2014 with a 18-hole par 72 championship golf course
- Cookery Class – Learn Malay, Thai or Indian cuisine at The Dapur (Malay for kitchen). There’s an introduction by the chef about the recipe of the day, a visit to the herb garden, followed by the cooking session and lunch.
- Permaculture – originally ‘permanent agriculture’, guests can learn gardening techniques by using free, sustainable energies and resources.
- Water sports – snorkelling, kayaking, windsurfing or sailing.
- Well being – classes in yoga, Pilates and Tai Chi
The Datai is definitely a very special and unique place. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit and if I wanted to return to Langkawi this would be my no 1 choice. It is a very peaceful and relaxing resort with a luxurious but unpretentious feel to it. I loved sitting on my balcony in the morning with a coffee watching the monkeys which really was a magical experience. Being fairly remote there was enough food choices to make a weeks stay feasible especially since the resort is next to The Andaman by Luxury Collection which adds another place to go for a change of scene.
Overall I loved The Datai and I can see why the beach there is so highly rated with its stunning scenery and warm waters. I shall definitely be back as soon as I can to see the fully finished product.
How to stay at The Datai cheaper
There is currently a special offer for 20% off the best available rate until 15 March 2019 during their soft opening phase. The offer includes:
– Daily signature breakfast for 2 persons
– Guided morning and evening nature walks led by our resident experts
– Complimentary minibar (excluding alcohol)
– Complimentary Wi-Fi
You can find more information and prices on The Datai on their website here.
The Datai is also part of the Leading Hotels of the World so it could be worth investigating the Leaders Club program for your stay.