Their gazes are vacant and yet one senses that nothing passes their scrutiny. Like sentries guarding a royal courtyard, the ladies, complete with flowing sarong and tassled umbrella in their hand, loom like slender giants above me.
“Javanese handmaidens.” The thought crosses my mind as I admire the exquisite concrete sculptures that encircle the porte cochere of The St Regis Langkawi, my atas home for this long weekend. The 6-star resort, which opened its gilded doors only last year, is the first luxury resort to set foot on the island of Langkawi in more than a decade.
Tearing my eyes away from their commanding form, I make my way towards the jungle-like lobby entrance, past a massive Beringin tree in the centre where my beaming host, Melissa Mohan, is waiting to lead me into the resort’s inner sanctum.
It’s hard not to gawk when you find yourself in such classy surrounds. And The St Regis Langkawi, located on the southern tip of Langkawi in a secluded enclave of Jalan Pantai Beringin, and just mere minutes away from the bustling town of Kuah, is truly a study in classic contemporary design — if you’re into architecture and design that is. The resort was designed by renowned architecture firm Gensler, with interiors by GA Design and Bensley Design Studio, a team who’s lent their touches to some of the world’s most iconic hotels, resorts, homes and even palaces.
Sweeping my eyes across the expanse of the high ceilinged lobby area, with its grand columns and swathes of white marble and floor to ceiling windows that look out to a mesmerising vista of the Andaman Sea, it’s easy to discern various design influences. Javanese, Moorish and Malay design elements complement each other to create a space that’s simply breathtaking.
“Our owners are Indonesian,” whispers Mohan, acknowledging the look of awe in my eyes. “Hence the Javanese influences. Then you have the Middle Eastern slant, with the symmetrical courtyards, the Islamic arches, the date palms and the mashrabiya screens, which lend the Moorish feel. And of course, all the carvings typical of the Malay world. We just wanted to create a different feel here; something like the Riviera meets rainforest.”
Ushering me to an elegant couch in the drawing room from where we’re to enjoy St Regis’ timeless tradition of afternoon tea, as elevated by prominent American socialite, Caroline Astor, Mohan continues with her detailed explanation: “The St Regis Langkawi has 85 luxuriously-appointed rooms and four private over-water villas that come with their own plunge pools. You’ll get to experience it soon enough. Here, the emphasis is on the experiential and that personal attention, which in turn allows you to enjoy the luxury of time. That’s essentially what the St Regis brand is all about!”
By the time a waiter arrives to serve us with our delectable tea-time treats, I’ve already teleported myself to my suite, which I’ve been told comes with its own private pool and overlooks the emerald waters of the Andaman Sea.
LIVING THE HIGH LIFE
Woohoo! The exclamation of delight escapes my mouth despite my valiant attempts to remain ‘dignified’ in front of my personal English-style butler as he opens the door to my spacious suite with much flourish and leads me in. How can you not get excited when there, in front of you, against a canvas of vibrant greenery, is the most exquisite private pool framed by drapes that billow gently in the wind. In the air, the smell of frangipani permeates. Beyond the pool and down a small pathway lined by Frangipani trees is a rustic wooden door that leads out onto the beach and a seamless view of the Andaman Sea.
I hardly even notice when my butler makes his discreet exit from the suite. He must have seen this kind of reaction countless times before and knows better to leave his guests to the moment. “Don’t forget, we’ll have the sunset mocktail and dinner at Kayu Puti later ya? Our chef Beno is preparing a special spread.” Mohan’s reminder of our appointment for later that day at the resort’s beautiful over-water restaurant, designed by renowned landscape architect Bill Bensley, suddenly rings in my ear. Of course, I won’t forget.
From my earlier research, I’d learnt that Kayu Puti, which resembles an art collector’s beach house, is in itself a sight to behold
with its grand teak columns inlaid with camel bone from India, century-old wooden doors brought over by the owner from the Dutch embassy in Yangon, and some of the most impressive collection of antiques making up the decor. Its picturesque location complete with a sweeping view of the Andaman Sea makes the restaurant a fabulous place
from where to catch the island’s breathtaking sunset. Oh, and a marriage proposal. And
the food? Seductive Asian-inspired haute cuisine.
The St Regis Langkawi features six distinct restaurant and bar venues, including Kayu Puti. For some modern French cuisine infused with Asian and Middle Eastern flavours, head to L’Orangerie, a lovely restaurant located in the lobby whose floor to ceiling windows offer spectacular views of the lush rainforest and the Andaman Sea.
The Gourmand Deli is worth a visit too for its selection of fresh, homemade breads and pastries, and delightful range of iced teas infused with local herbs and spices.
For classic cocktails and canapes, head to the St Regis Bar that looks out to a view of the surrounding rainforest. If you desire something more intimate and refined, the Decanter Wine Bar is where you can savour the pleasures of rare vintages. And of course, there’s the Drawing Room, where I had my afternoon tea. It’s the perfect backdrop for intimate gatherings amidst plush interiors.
A quick glance at my watch and I note there’s still time for a quick wander down the beach before dinner. And a dip in the pool that seems to be calling out to me. The stresses of KL-life seems far, far away now as the only quandary I have to grapple with is whether to jump in the pool first or dip my toes in the warm waters of the Andaman. Unpack? Not to worry. The butler will see to that!
This is the life!
St Regis Langkawi
Address: Jalan Pantai Beringin Langkawi, Kedah.
For details, go to www.stregislangkawi.com
Head to the oasis of calm that is the Iridium Spa located in the heart of the resort to indulge in some luxurious ‘me’ time. Choose from a spa menu that showcases authentic Malay, Indian and Chinese heritage wellness traditions. The signature treatment here is known as the Heritage Malaya, which lasts between two and three hours and is inspired by the royal palaces of the Malay sultanates.
Cooking up a storm
Kids — and big kids — will love this. The resort has what’s called the Little Chefs Programme where your kids get to play chefs for a day as they enjoy hands-on lessons on ingredients, sanitation, organisation and cooking techniques. Under the guidance of the resort’s affable chefs, the young ones get the opportunity to learn how to measure, mix, work cleanly and explore some exciting food items. I leart how to make a pizza while I was there and thoroughly enjoyed the experience!
The Resort works with local tour operators to create exclusive experiences for families, couples or groups. I wanted something outdoors and got the chance to enjoy a mangrove exploration excursion with a local naturalist to the Kubang Badak Mangrove, which is set against the backdrop of limestone karst and mangrove forested landscape. There’s certainly much to discover about our amazing mangrove ecosystem and this excursion was simply perfect.
Alternatively, you can opt to explore nature from a different perspective via the exhilarating zipline eco-journey through the rainforest of Langkawi’s Unesco Geopark. This way you get to enjoy spectacular views of Machinchang peak, Seven Wells waterfalls and the Andaman Sea.