The Datai, Langkawi

The Datai

Where: The Datai, Datai Bay, Langkawi, Malaysia
What it costs: US$5000 a night B&B for the beach villa (price in November 2013)
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Rain drums on a tensed plastic roof that serves as a sheet. In the torchlight we can see flying ants looking for a hole in the mosquito netting but for the time being at least the voracious Langkawi leeches have stopped trying to sap our blood. This is not The Datai.

We are, metaphorically speaking, a world away from the luxury resort that has earned a name as one of Malaysia’s most exclusive retreats. Narina and I are, in fact, just two days trek up into the rainforested mountains above Datai Bay… and we’re beginning to wonder why on earth we’ve abandoned Beach Villa #8, with its immense acreage of linen sheets and puffed down pillows, to undertake a rainy season jungle trek assignment on Malaysia’s most ancient rock formation. But these sort of radical changes go with the travel writer territory and in this job you just have to revel in the – almost schizophrenic – world of variety.

We can console ourselves with the thought that sooner or later the rain will stop and we’ll break camp for the long trek back down to The Datai. Even before our leech-bites have stopped bleeding we’ll be soaking in our villa’s free-standing bathtub or sipping gin and tonic beside our private pool. Then we’ll kick back for a while on the sofa in the adjoining building that constitutes our lounge area, keeping the espresso machine on overdrive while we check any urgent emails that came in while we were off the radar. After that we’ll head out over the hardwood patio and down the private path to the beach.

Datai Bay has been rated many times as one of the most spectacular in the world. It’s been 10 years since I last stayed on this picture-postcard curve of white sand and little has changed (although I think there were more palms then). The beach is still wild and early morning walkers are often joined by small herds of wild pig, troops of monkeys and flocks hornbills. In the evening giant squirrels frolic in the branches and flying lemurs parasail across the canopy. The Datai offers wonderful creature comforts for humans too and inspires many of its return visitors with the fine dining at The Pavilion (Thai food) and Gulai House (amazing Indian fusion).

A stay at The Datai could well be a highlight of your trip to Malaysia but if you really want to appreciate it to the max why not plan a couple of nights eating instant noodles in a leech-infested jungle camp just to get you in the mood?

PROS: The resort is big and sprawling but buggies are available at all times to shuttle you between the main lodge (and pool) on the hilltop and the beachclub (and another pool).
CONS: There were a couple of snags during our stay that really ought to be unforgivable at a price-tag of US$5000/night: dirty sheets are unacceptable at any budget and, on our last morning, there was nobody to answer phones in reception and we eventually had to give up on calling a buggy to start walking.
TIP: Sign up for several of the complimentary morning and evening wildlife walks with super-enthusiastic Malaysian celebrity naturalist Irshad ‘Jungle Walla’ Mobarak.

The pool outside The Datai's dining room is for adults only.

The pool outside The Datai’s dining room is for adults only.

 PS Do you agree with our tips for small hotels? What about  the ones for luxury and boutique hotels? Please leave a comment on this pages if there’s anything you’d like to add.

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