The Datai Langkawi
Photography by Moritz Lips
Written by Oliver Lips
April 17 - 20, 2016
Nature usually gets the short end of the stick, big areas of pristine nature have to disappear for farmland, industry or housing. It is rare that nature is taken into account and willingly being preserved. An excellent example of a life in symbiosis with nature is The Datai on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia. Well hidden behind steep hills lies the Datai Bay, a seemingly untouched ten million year old rainforest that ends in a white sandy beach – ahead of it the outlines of Ko Tarutao, which already belongs to Thailand.
Built in 1993 by Australian architect Kerry Hill, The Datai is definitively not just another five star hotel. There are many beautiful hotels in the world, but what truly makes it special is its character. The stunning and secluded location, the realization of the hotel and philosophy behind it, the rainforest and its habitants, the unobtrusively luxurious interior, the friendly and helpful staff as well as the fresh and delicious food are what brings this hotel to life.
The main building is set on a forest ridge 300 meters back from the ocean and features – besides stunning views into the rainforest – the Lobby Lounge, The Dining Room (mainly for breakfast, but also for lunch and dinner), the Canopy Collection (guest rooms), the legendary pool and rising on 30-meter high stilts and almost floating into the rainforest, The Pavilion. From the pool area you can walk down the grand staircase as the rainforest and in the far distance the Andaman Sea spreads in front of you and leads you right into the jungle. As you walk along the wooden path to the beach chances are high that you’ll meet some of The Datai’s long-time guests, such as the Dusky Leaf or Macaque monkeys, hornbills, wild boars, monitor lizards and many others.
We were staying at one of the very spacious Rainforest Villas that feature a combined bedroom and living area, huge bathroom and balcony with a view into the rainforest. One of the things I loved the most was falling asleep and waking up to the sounds of the rainforest. It is like an unorchestrated orchestra.
Since some of the villas are further away from the main building, The Beach Club or The Gulai House they offer a complimentary buggie service, meaning that you could call the reception and they would come and pick you up. Because even in the evening you don’t want to walk up the grand staircase as by the time you reach the top you might as well walk down again and take a shower.
In terms of food you are given four, actually five choices when you count in Room Service as well. We started off our days with a rich breakfast at The Dining Room with a gorgeous view on the pool. The buffet really leaves no wishes and we indulged in fresh fruit, omelettes, pancakes, freshly baked bread and juices / smoothies. The Beach Club is the perfect place for a light lunch with a direct view at the sea and the sound of the crashing waves. Their kitchen is rather international and we tried the wood-fired oven pizza, the Californian sushi rolls, fried squid and delicious burgers.
Their Thai restaurant, The Pavilion, probably offers the most stunning location. 30 meters above ground and facing the rainforest I enjoyed a spicy green curry whilst listening to a mix of mellow Thai music and the nightly serenade of the nature. Our favorite though has to be The Gulai House. They score with very attentive and friendly staff, delicious Malay and Indian dishes and all set in a rustic atmosphere of a traditional Malay kampung house.
The treatments at The Datai Spa are magical. After you've chosen your treatment at the reception you walk along the wooden path to your private Spa Villa that is open and looks out into the rainforest. Ours had right in front of it a small stream that would give off the soothing sounds of running water while receiving a deep tissue massage. We were even lucky enough that a group of Dusky Leaf monkeys played in the trees above us.
One evening we were invited to join the sunset cruise on the Naga Pelangi. We sailed out towards Ko Tarutao, turned around and watched the sun set while having a cold beer. As we headed back into the Datai Bay the sky turned into an intense purple / rose.
The Naga Pelangi, meaning Rainbow Dragon, is a traditional wooden schooner-replica hand-built by a lovely German couple that offers tours in collaboration with The Datai from December to April.
The Datai is so much more than a hotel, it is a true experience. You can reconnect with nature in a beautiful and comfortable surrounding and despite its seclusion enjoy all benefits of a modern life. One evening while we were sipping a beer by the beach and watching the sunset I told Moritz that I felt like we stranded in an abandoned bay and got washed up in a luxury resort...
A huge thanks to Regina and The Datai team for making our stay so pleasant! It sure was one of the most impressive experiences so far and we're very happy to share it with you guys!
Also don't forget to check out the Instagram takeover we did for The Datai or explore the hashtag #LipsBrothersMalaysia.
Filmed on the Sony Alpha A7S II by Moritz Lips. Watch in 4K and don't forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel.