When it comes to South-East Asian island retreats, Bali captures most of the limelight, but savvy connoisseurs of sun, sea and sand will know that just a few hours farther north, the Malaysian isle of Langkawi is a tropical jewel set against ancient rainforests and the Andaman Sea. And sitting pretty in the midst of this natural splendour is The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi.
Hotel Review: The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi
Beachfront luxury hardly begins to describe the resort. Certainly, the hardware ticks all the boxes from the peak-roofed villas furnished in handsome Malaysian hardwood, stone and soft fabrics – say hello especially to the feather beds draped with 400-thread count linen – to the private infinity pools in the one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas with their direct beach access. But regardless of the room category, the real star here is the setting. Turn your head one way, and be treated to a tableau of turquoise waters and domed sky. Turn it the other way and take in a living wall of dense 10-million year old rainforest. The best rooms in the house feature both views. Here, it’s easy to imagine spending your entire vacation sprawled on a daybed or poolside, just staring out at the panorama and daydreaming. And needless to say, the service is both flawless and invisible – there when needed and discretely absent at all other times.
Whether honeymooners or families with kids in tow, if it’s one thing The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi does well, it’s to create a resolutely relaxed mood. The resort’s diktat seems to be, do as much as you like, or as little as you need. While the kids are occupied with scavenger hunts organised by the resort, the temptation is to slip off the grounds of the resort to explore – a mildly strenuous hike to a nearby waterfall, for instance – but it might just be as sensible to stay put, feet up and struggle with the dilemma of choosing between a soak in a bath strewn with therapeutic flowers and herbs redolent with essential oils, or a lunch of grilled seafood by the infinity pool. Set within timber-clad pods atop a rocky promontory, the spa and hammam deserve special attention for a detox menu inspired by indigenous Malay traditions and healing therapies practised by local shamans and midwives.
The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi seems to labour under the delightful impression that its guests are all malnourished and require urgent sustenance. How else do you explain the moveable feasts laid out at every turn? For inveterate gourmets, this translates into a number of dining options. At Hai Yan, for instance, the name of the game is classic Chinese fare paired with ocean views. At Langkawi Kitchen, in a dining room inspired by the longhouse architecture of indigenous Borneo tribes, indecisive diners can pick their way through a mix of Malaysian, Chinese and Indian standards, including popiah, beef rendang, and lamb keema. The Beach Grill & Bar features dining pavilions shaped like local fish traps, and an eclectic menu of curry bisque, grilled tenderloin chateaubriand, and lobster gratin. If grand romantic gestures are part of the holiday plan, the resort will pull out all the stops in staging candlelit dinners on the beach, in a private gazebo, or a full-blown BBQ in the secluded comfort of your villa.
THE FINAL WORD
Getting away from it all may be the mantra of the millennial traveller, but few execute the mission as well as The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi. Here, in a relatively unheralded corner of the world, as far from the madding crowd as you could get, the resort raises the bar high for the quintessential idyllic island retreat.
Deluxe Guest Room rates start from RM2,300. ritzcarlton.com