At Datai Bay in Pulau Langkawi, PUTRI ZANINA is caught in a slice
of paradise between two luxurious resorts — The Datai and The
Andaman — set against the natural attractions of the forest and the sea
GENTLE surf ripples toward the shore and hits the white sand beach lined with lazy chairs under tall trees. As the waves roll to my knees, I splash through the rippling water at the edge of the beach at Datai Bay in Pulau Langkawi.
I am all alone, enjoying the mild surf, the blue sky and the bright morning sun in this absolutely beautiful, deserted bay on the northeastern part of the island.
The bay is set against the deep blue waters of the Andaman, fringed by a coastal rainforest that stretches to the rolling range of Gunung Mat Cincang. The 550-million-year-old mountain guards the bay that opens to the sea and the horizon is dotted with the islands of Tarutao in the waters of neighbouringThailand.
There are only two resorts in Datai Bay – The Datai and The Andaman. Both straddle the land sandwiched between the beach and the forest. And it’s not just any forest – it’s a virgin beauty that has remained relatively untouched for 250 million years.
The Datai is named after the bay near the fringe of the forest, and The Andaman, after the sea. Two luxurious resorts set against two gorgeous, natural attractions – the forest and the sea. You’ll simply have to split your time there between walkabouts in the lush forest and hours on the secluded beach. Not too difficult though as they are just perhaps 100 paces from each other.
Although Datai Bay is just a 45-minute drive from the main town of Kuah, it isn’t overcrowded with locals or tourists.
The road leading to it starts near the Langkawi Crocodile Farm, then passes the Pasir Tengkorak Beach and the man-made Langkawi Waterfall (which I feel is an eyesore in the pristine natural surrounding). Approaching Datai Bay, the road winds uphill and from there, you’ll see one of the most stunning vistas of the island. The sea, the coves, the forest-clad mountain and the entire view across the bay to Thailand are simply spectacular.
I love the feeling of being cocooned in a forest at The Datai. It’s the kind of place that will immediately make you go “ooooh”. In its airy lobby is a pool where lotus flowers and leaves float gently on the water surface. At around 9.45 every night, the pink petals will open to reveal the pure beauty of the blooms. The petals unfold to the croaking of frogs and you can even see these amphibians leaping about in the water garden, bathed in soft candle light coming from candles placed around the pool.
Seeing the lotus reminds me of the famous saying by Confucian scholar Zhou Dunyi who said “I love the lotus because while growing from mud, it is unstained”.
Allow me to rephrase this: “I love The Datai because while built in the forest, the forest remains intact.”
Like the unfolding petals of the lotus which symbolises the expansion of the soul, The Datai untangles the knots in your muscles and relieves the stress in your mind as you soak in the pure freshness of the forest that envelopes the resort.
Centuries-old trees, many with huge buttress roots, and jungle plants cloak the chalets on the forest floor. Rooms on the upper floors of the main building are linked by corridors that pass palm trees, fruit trees and flowering trees and trees with branches covered with tiny creepers.
Birds and squirrels live in the trees. Monkeys are permanent residents too. Beware: If you leave your room door open, these long-tailed macaques will rummage your room for food.
It’s a natural zoo out there. You need little else for entertainment. Then again, you are not here for the modern trappings although the resort offers all modern luxuries like super large beds, en suite twin vanities and bath, and verandahs that open to the forest. Music comes from the forest, courtesy of twittering birds and humming insects.
Walking around the resort reveals its understated elegance. Unpolished natural woods for pathways and poles, muted earth tones, soft lighting and candle light add to the ambience. The architectural style is mainly Malay with a mix of Thai and Indonesian. Yet, you can’t miss the Japanese zen-like feel and European classiness that pull in the fairly sizeable European and Japanese clientele.
Stone walls flank the “100 steps” (tangga seratus to the local workers) that lead to the jungle pathway. Along the way is the spa house, tucked in the forest with a little stream that flows from the mountain nearby. And you won’t need the taped sound of water as you surrender to the healing and rejuvenating touch of the therapists. A stream gurgles naturally right next to you and, a few paces away, the waves pound the white sand beach.
The Andaman stands closer to the beach than The Datai. Both share the beach which runs some 2km in the gently curved bay. A rocky headland to the right of The Andaman leads to a water passage that opens to Pulau Anak Datai.
At low tide, you can walk across to this tiny island but I give it a miss, preferring instead to soak in the warm sea water that early morning.
Imagine being all alone in the deep blue sea with no other human in sight. The silence is disturbed only by the sounds of hornbills soaring in the sky.
Later, relaxing in a lazy chair under a tree, I watch squirrels scurrying among the trees, making loud noises but they are music to my ears.
By late morning, the tide rises and the waves reach almost to the edge of the shore. The body of water swells and the fingers of the white water hit the lazy chairs lining the beach. By now, other guests are astir, enjoying the breeze under the sun.
Like The Datai, the rooms in The Andaman are linked by walkways that overlook the forest. Verandahs open out to the pristine bay. Inside, you are lulled by gentle gamelan music and if you leave the verandah door open, you’ll hear the insects adding to the tune.
In the lobby, the bellboys tell me to look out for a colugo in a tree just outside. I have not heard of this animal before though it’s found in our country, The Philippines and some other parts of Southeast Asia. I learn later that it’s also called (though incorrectly) the Malayan flying lemur. It’s not a lemur and it doesn’t fly — it merely glides through the air with the aid of skin-wings. Spotting the colugo, the size of a house cat, takes some effort as its greyish, brown fur offers perfect camouflage among the tree branches.
Craning my neck, I finally see it perched on a branch. “It’s almost always there at the same spot,” says a bellboy. The colugo has large eyes, a curvy body and claws that give it a good grip.
While spotting the colugo is a thrill, meeting the resort mascots – Atan and Timah, the monkeys — delights resort guests even more. Alas, neither show up when I’m on the walkabout.
Other animals commonly sighted include various butterflies and birds, monitor lizards, long-tailed macaques, dusky leaf monkeys and squirrels. Leave them be and they won’t disturb you.
The secluded location is perfect for some spa magic. The spa house is perched on a hill overlooking the bay. It’s a journey of body, mind and soul that takes you soaring to a pleasurable high.
Now in such a serene setting, it puzzles me why people come here for meetings or seminars though such facilities are provided. Perhaps an isolated surrounding helps bosses tap the best from their staff or they simply want to reward the staff for good performances. Personally, I feel The Andaman is more perfect for doing nothing or for couples getting married to take their vows.
The likes of Formula One racers, the Schumacher brothers, F1 bosses Sir Frank Williams and Eddie Jordan, South African leader Nelson Mandela and Hong Kong star Andy Lau have all taken sojourn at The Andaman. Even Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen has been seen here several times.
I may not be a VVIP but I’m here and I feel truly special. And if I can camouflage myself like the colugo, there’s nothing I’d love better than to simply lose myself in the wilderness.
The Datai, Jalan Teluk Datai, Langkawi. Tel: 04-959 2500. Website: www.ghmhotels.com.my
Five-star resort with 112 rooms including suites and villas. Rates (Nov to mid-Dec): from RM1,745 nett. Current promotion for Malaysians and Singaporeans: RM925 nett for Deluxe room.
Dining: The Dining Room (Malaysian and Western), Beach Club Restaurant (al fresco dining), The Pavilion (Thai for dinner), The Lobby Lounge (snacks & refreshments), and the stand-alone The Gulai House restaurant (Malay & Indian).
Other facilities include the spa, two swimming pools, a gift shop, a health club and meeting facilities. Guided nature walks, non-motorised water-sports and other tours and activities are available. For golf, go to Datai Bay Golf Course next door.
The Andaman, Jalan Teluk Datai, Langkawi. Tel: 04-959 1088. Website: www.ghmhotels.com/www.theandaman.com
Five-star resort with 185 rooms in traditional Malaysian style with modern touch. Rooms include the Lanai Deluxe with deck, Seaview Deluxe and suites. Rates (up till Dec 19): From RM990 nett for Deluxe room. RM1,675 nett for Deluxe room from Dec 20-Jan 15, 2010.
Dining: The Restaurant (Continental and Asian specialties), Japanese Restaurant, Pool Side Terrace (refreshments and light food including wood-fired pizzas), Beach Bar and Lobby Lounge.
Other facilities include the hilltop spa, swimming pool with islands of tall trees and waterslides for kids, gym, games room, kids club, gift shop, ballroom and function halls. Romantic beach front dining, themed functions, guided nature walks, non-motorised water-sports, golf at the nearby Datai Bay Golf Course and other activities can be arranged.