As the plane rolls to a stop on the tarmac, I slowly prise my fingers from the armrest and take a deep breath. Never mind that I’m headed for an idyllic escapade, plane rides for a nervous passenger like me seem to be the necessary sacrifices for my sojourns.
A mere 45 minutes after leaving behind the lights and smog of a distant city, I emerge from the plane feeling inexplicably happy into the bright island sunshine. After all, what’s a little turbulence and a bumpy landing in comparison to an idyllic getaway with beach, sun and glorious food? My friend who’s travelling with me rolls her eyes in exasperation as she points out that barely twenty minutes ago, I was sitting in cold sweat, clutching the armrest and praying aloud as the plane descended.
Still, there’s something about the ixsland air that lifts our spirits the moment we walk out. The balmy breeze that caresses our faces and the puffy cumulus clouds building up overhead signal that it’s time to kick off our big working-girl shoes and morph into beach slugs for the remainder of the weekend.
This is Langkawi’s special charm. Time slows down into an interminable stretch of nothingness. There’s no rush, no sense of urgency — just a lull that implies that once you step on her soil, your busy lifestyle grinds to a halt as if pressed perpetually on the snooze button.
Dominating an archipelago of more than a hundred islands and islets, Langkawi is synonymous with golden beaches and breath-taking vistas of jungle-cloaked valleys and hills. Of course, the 478.5 square-kilometre holiday-haven has been duty free since 1987. The latter puts a spring to my step as I picture myself holding a pretty little cocktail with an umbrella in it.
The gleaming Bentley that’s to be our ride to the exclusive Andaman Resort stops us in our tracks. I could get used to this atas lifestyle, I say in awe. “Welcome to Langkawi,” our friendly driver announces while we sink into the plush seats with sighs of contentment. He informs us that it would take 40 minutes to reach the resort which is located at the north-western end of the island.
The landscape gradually shifts from the bustling Langkawi International Airport in Padang Matsirat to a sea of trees that stretches on both sides of the winding road. The Andaman boasts a sense of seclusion far from the madding crowd with its location tucked in the middle of an ancient rainforest facing the pristine Datai Bay beach which overlooks the Andaman seas. As we get further away from civilisation, pockets of sunlight that pierce through the overhanging trees bathe the narrow road in varying shades of green. “We’ve reached the resort,” announces our driver as he turns the car into a narrower road that slopes downwards towards the yawning entrance of the resort.
An Andaman welcome
Stepping out of the Bentley into the vast lobby, we’re greeted by our host and resort marketing manager, Shawn Lim. “Welcome to The Andaman!” he says, breaking out into a warm smile. As secluded and remote as The Andaman is, it looks to be hugely popular with holidaymakers.
However, while there are a lot of guests milling around, the sounds are generally muted. No one is rushing about or talking loudly; in fact, the rustle of trees and birdsong surrounding the resort seems louder than the conversations taking place within the building. It’s the island air, I think to myself.
There’s a certain old-world charm that adds to the ambiance of the resort, coupled with the fact that the building itself doesn’t seem out of place with its surroundings. It’s remarkably unostentatious and feels organically seamed into the entire natural backdrop. Both trees and building appear to be cohabiting peacefully together.
Built in 1996, the resort is located on the fringe of a tropical rainforest that’s estimated to be around 10 million years old. “It’s designed to be in harmony with the forest,” explains Lim, pointing out to the structure’s elongated shape that runs from north to south.
The giant tall white pillars that tower right up to the wooden ceiling coupled with the rustic wicker sofas that beckon for us to sink in, pales in comparison to the Balai Nobat replica in the centre of the lobby. The replica showcases the traditional structure built for Kedahan royalty. The Balai Nobat was used to house the traditional instruments of The Royal Orchestra while serving as a platform from which the orchestra would perform during official ceremonies. It forms part of the resort’s distinctive features that pay respect to the culture and tradition of the island’s home state, Kedah.
“Let’s have some lunch,“ invites Lim with a grin and I perk up immediately. As we weave our way through the cobbled paths and steps around the vast lagoon-style azure pool, Lim tells us that the resort currently offers six different dining options for guests. “You’ll be spoilt for choice!“ he remarks, chuckling.
There are four distinctive restaurants along with The Jentayu Lounge located at the lobby and Beach Bar, which offer a variety of local specialties and international favourites. On the surface, the names of the restaurants are plain and obvious. You have The Jala, which (as its name implies) specialises on seafood dishes, the Japanese Restaurant that serves Japanese favourites including the ever-popular sushi, sashimi and tempura, the Restaurant that serves both continental and American breakfast buffets, aside from the usual ala carte menus, whileTepian Laut is located by the sea. “It’s a lot easier to remember and figure out what they offer,” explains Lim with a grin.
“I think it’s fitting that you begin your stay by having lunch by the beach,” he cheerfully announces, leading us to the Tepian Laut restaurant. Featuring beachside dining at its best, Tepian Laut is wedged between the pool and the stunning Datai Bay. The glistening azure sea provides a breathtaking vista, which is captured from every angle of the wooden deck.
As I dawdle over the menu, my friend quickly picks the pan-seared marinated sea-bass fillet with wok-fried vegetables, crispy shallots and curried mashed potato. “I love my mash,” she admits of her choice. I finally settle for the grilled lamb rack with citrus salad, baby potatoes and mint yoghurt. The food doesn’t disappoint. My lamb is tender and juicy, and my plate is emptied within minutes. “It’s the island air,” I sheepishly mumble.
But there’s more to come. Lim orders the restaurant’s signature chicken satay with peanut sauce and soon after that’s polished off, asks us if we’d like dessert. Dessert? I can barely move. A few hours into my escapade and I’m already channelling a comatose sloth.
Room of delights
We’re checked into the Executive Pool Suite, one of nine units in the resort, with each suite named after a butterfly species found in Langkawi. Boasting of 178 luxurious rooms and suits, Lim informs us that the resort joined Starwood’s The Luxury Collection Hotels & Resort back in 2009. “The Luxury Collection curates our guests’ extraordinary experiences through exceptional service, perfect location and indigenous personal offerings,” he says.
He gallantly sees us to our room and discretely leaves the minute we open our door. It’s a good thing he’s not there because after gaping for a good 10 seconds at the vast room bathed in warm earthy tones, we run around giggling and exploring at length like a pair of curious toddlers.
The room is simply, well, luxurious. Floor to ceiling sliding glass doors open up to a patio complete with a private plunge pool, a cabana daybed and a private garden at the lower deck. Dark wooden floorboards complement the open airy room, which features both indigenous and contemporary design details. The living room (yes, we have a living room!) has two plush daybed sofas completed by solid teak furnishings. A futuristic tray of test tubes containing pineapple, lime and coconut juices is placed on the dining table as a welcome gift. There’s a little thoughtful welcome note by Lim with instructions on how to mix the juices. ‘It’s the perfect little tipple for you to enjoy’ he writes in his note.
My erstwhile friend in the meantime is fascinated with the bathroom. “There’s a bathtub!” she points gleefully at the free-standing tub in the middle of the wide space. I’m more interested in the king-size Luxury Collection pillow-top bed framed by floor-to-ceiling windows that offers a partial glimpse of the Andaman Sea. We’re close enough though to hear the sound of waves crashing onto the shore.
There’s a busy itinerary ahead of us at The Andaman. From experiencing a wellness session with the resort’s resident yoga guru, going on a morning nature walk through the rainforest, exploring The Andaman’s coral nursery and its conservation efforts to lying supine under the practised hands of a masseuse — it promises to be an unforgettable weekend.
But for now, I’m content to put my watch away, kick off my shoes and lie on the cabana daybed. Time moves differently over here, and if you do find yourself lulled into a nap at odd hours with the wind rustling through the trees and the sound of the ocean waves not too far away, don’t worry too much about it. You can just blame it on the island air.
The Andaman, a Luxury Collection Resort, Langkawi
Jalan Teluk Datai, Langkawi
For further details, go to www.theandaman.com