Anthony Wong, owner of Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa, shows R. Gowri what he’s done to implement green measures in the hotel
THE sun, high above my head, seems intent on boiling me alive. I feel I’m about to dissolve into a pool of fatty oils as I stare down a grease trap at the back of a hotel kitchen in Langkawi. Perhaps my fats could be recycled, my over-heated brain hisses.
I am in the midst of the most unusual hotel tour I have yet taken. Usually media are taken to the most sublime spots in a hotel but here I am, being guided through the kitchen’s seven separation bins, walked to the sewage area, asked to skirt a stream with waste and shown a refuse heap and storage room filled with old furniture.
It might seem downright weird if not for the fact that our guide is a pioneer in recycling in the hotel industry.
Anthony Wong introduced a whole litany of green measures when he bought over The Frangipani Langkawi Resort and Spa (www.frangipanilangkawi.com) in the Pantai Tengah area a few years ago. His responsible tourism endeavours have won the hotel several awards, including the Asean Green Hotel and the Europa Awards, and the Aseanta Best Conservation Effort (2010), also the Tourism Malaysia Best Four Star Resort in 2009.
Wong’s enthusiasm in reducing carbon footprints and implementing green measures have secured him a formidable reputation in the region, and a speakers invite in the upcoming Rio+20, United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June.
So here I am dripping like a soaking towel as I walk through the hotel’s 10-hectare grounds, dotted with some 650 trees. (I am convinced Wong is stopping at each to explain its medicinal uses, widening my knowledge of botany cosmically in a single afternoon). I learn that water dripping from air conditioners are collected to water the plants, fish bones from the tables are buried deep in the soil as fertiliser, that the buildings are designed to maximise on natural light and that only energy saving bulbs are used.
There are more complicated green implementations as well, like that for the stream flowing behind the staff quarters. Water plants and other biological processes are used to clean up the grey water. The clean water which flows into a pool is tested by an international lab, Wong says, and the water is proved to have a 99.9 per cent bacterial reduction. It is a standard that has yet to be achieved anywhere in the world, he tells us with pride, as he scoops up some water from the pool and sips it.
The hotel backyard and vegetable garden is a place of rustic beauty. Wong pulls down a branch of a cashew nut tree to let me taste the raw nut. The trees around us are heavy with fruit — belimbing, drumstick, cherries... As we walk past, a mother duck cuts across, leading her brood to the stream. Hens are running around scratching the dirt and rabbits peer from their pens. I can almost hear the nursery rhyme Old MacDonald whistling through the trees.
Vegetables and fruit here are not tainted by pesticides. The animals are only given natural feed, and yes, they do sometimes end up on the dinner table for guests who request organic meat.
Getting touch-me-nots (mimosa pudica) to shrink in fear was a favourite childhood past-time. I never imagined that I would be actually eating this weed as a culinary starter in a four-star hotel restaurant one day. In many traditional medicines, including ayurveda, the mimosa pudica is believed to nourish the nerves.
The chef has mixed strands of the mimosa from the hotel garden with shredded mushroom, cabbage and carrot and dipped the lot in chickpea batter. Not bad at all, but it’s a bit of a job fishing the stems out from my mouth.
I leave this for the soup that’s just arrived. The kangkung (convolvulus) soup is a creamy concoction full of surprising flavour. The first mouthful itself sends a soothing wave of pleasure through me. Gentle on the tummy, I could have easily downed three bowls. It’s served with the hotel-baked wholenutfarmer bread made with walnuts and rye bread. Both have great texture.
Our meal today is the fully organic variety, which is priced a little higher. The organic chicken has been done Thai style, with crispy fillets in a tangy sauce with mango kerabu. There is also duck, which I usually avoid because of its strong odour but here, it’s stir-fried duck rendang. The dark gravy is rich without being overly spicy and has completely soaked into the meat. This dish will make a great meal even on its own, with steaming hot rice.
The barbecued talapia fish wrapped in banana leaves is a disappointment. The fish is too bony. The fish are reared in a sweet little pond with a bridge over it, near the restaurant.
The mixed vegetables platter of carrot, snowpea, broccoli and cauliflower, all shiny and replete with organically grown goodness, are wonderfully crunchy and tasty. There is also homegrown ulam of selom (water parsley), pucuk ubi (cassava leaves) and pegaga (pennywort).
The evening meal at the hotel’s Mentari Grill, which overlooks a good stretch of the South China Sea, ends with caramelised banana with ice cream. The fruit is from the hotel garden.
After such a heavy meal, there’s only relaxation in mind. Mentari offers live music nightly. If you prefer the sound of the waves, walk along the 400m beach front or stroll back to your villa to sit on the verandah and devour the moonlit landscape.
Back in my villa, the fan and air-conditioner are moving too sluggishly so I head for the semi-outdoor shower in my room. It’s a welcome relief. With the night sky above me, the scent of pandanus hangs heavy in the air as I am drenched in a blast of cool water.
The villas either overlook the garden or the beach. There are altogether 118 rooms, including villas and suites.
Apart from dining in Mentari Grill, guests can request for a private dinner at one of the five Sala’s or retire for cocktails at Tree House Beach Bistro.
The spa offers massages and beauty treatments but there is also an anti-oxidant rejuvenation sauna recommended for anti-ageing benefits and general well-being. The sauna is engineered to release millions of negative ions to help the body fight free radicals.
By air. Firefly has three flights daily between Subang and Langkawi and two daily from Penang-Langkawi. The hotel is situated some 10km from the Langkawi airport at Pantai Tengah, the longest stretch of beach in Langkawi, and a 45-minute drive from Kuah Town.
The 11 herbal teas at Coco Jam Beach Bar. They include frangipani tea and cinnamon tea. For the men, there’s also Tongkat Ali tea.