Checking in: The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi
A romantic escapade
Paradise is sometimes defined as "a place or state of bliss, felicity, or delight". It's a word suitable for describing my stay at The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi. A 15-minute ride away from the airport, the resort's location can't be any more convenient and yet, the desire to venture outside is but a flicker. While some of the other hotels on the island emphasises the beach and the sea, The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi is, at first glance, a secluded rainforest resort; and looking further, one with uninterrupted views of the breathtaking Andaman Sea. It's a beautiful combination with just the right mix that makes it almost akin to a world of its own.
Built within the 10-million-year-old rainforest, the design for all 114 guest rooms (which includes 15 suites and 29 pool villas) takes its inspiration from traditional Malay palaces, such as the gabled roofs and intricate woodwork, which blends seamlessly with the natural surroundings. But enter through the doors of any one of those rooms and you'll find modern influences in the classy interior with a splash of art, as well as all the luxurious comforts you'll need and want. The unobstructed view of the jungle (with glimpses of the sea from the balcony's side) in my Rainforest Junior Suite was much appreciated but the rest of the spacious room also effortlessly called for my attention.
The suite had four sections: the bedroom, the lounge area, the balcony and the bathroom. Of the four, the last one was a photo opportunity waiting to happen. Decked in speckled green marble walls and countertops, floor-to-ceiling windows that boast a view of the leafy rainforest outside, and a vast egg-shaped bathtub in the centre of the space, it's where you'll want to take a considerable time to soak in bliss. I know I did. A word of advice: Bring your own bath salts as it's unfortunately not provided in the toiletry kit.
If you're there on a Wednesday, you'll be able to join the 'Nature in A Glass' mixology class at the Horizon Bar where you'll learn how to create a cocktail (or a mocktail if you're not keen on alcoholic drinks). During my session, we learnt how to recreate The Hornbill, a signature cocktail that represents the bird that it takes its name after which can be sighted at the resort. A blend of vodka infused with star anise and cinnamon, Campari, triple sec and citrus juices, it's not for those who prefer drinks on a sweeter side (like me). But order it for its novel presentation: Enclosed in a birdcage.
You can also work out at the gym, join a yoga class, go paddle boarding or kayaking, play tennis; or join one of the crafted experiences such as a treetop zip-line tour, a Rainforest After Dark trek, a pottery class, batik painting and more. See what we meant by the lack of desire to venture outside? For the less adventurous, the beach and two swimming pools (one is an adults-only infinity pool) await you. The Ladies and Gentlemen (as the staff are affectionately called at The Ritz-Carlton) are friendly, enthusiastic and ready to make you feel as comfortable as possible—all the sun care products, cold towels and refreshing drinks are brought to you (a whole fresh coconut was brought to me while I lazing on the sun chairs at the private beach).
For those with kids, note that the resort is family-friendly and has curated locally-inspired activities for the little ones as part of its Ritz Kids program.
It's no surprise that the overwater spa (the only one on the island) is the poster child of The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi. Designed to resemble Malay Bubus (intricately woven traditional fish traps used by local fishermen), the sight of the five cocoon-shaped pavilions is distinct, more so with the clear, turquoise waters as its backdrop. Treatments and rituals here are rooted in tradition, taking a leaf out of ancient Malaysian healing and beauty ceremonies meant to restore your body, mind and soul. Lovebirds can opt to do it together in the couples room which comes with a view. Be sure to stop by 30 minutes before your appointment to enjoy the steam and sauna rooms.
Dining options are aplenty on the resort grounds. Breakfast is at Langkawi Kitchen where you'll find a decent variety of traditional Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine, as well as the usual fare of English breakfast classics. However, the change in the variety of dishes between my two days there were minimal.
Then, there's The Beach Grill and the adults-only Horizon, which are open for both lunch and dinner. The former offers a humble menu of western and local favourites (order the mee goreng!) while the latter gave me a crab curry (and a glass of Curry House cocktail to pair - sweet and so easy to drink) I'm still thinking about till this day. Perched on a natural rock, Horizon serves Thai food, unusual wines, an intimate ambience at night and a romantic sunset (with the possible sightings of otters). I have nothing but praise for Horizon. The dishes here surprisingly (and personally) topped the ones at Hai Yan, the resort's fine dining restaurant that serves authentic Cantonese cuisine.
Perhaps I had very high expectations for Hai Yan. Overlooking the Andaman Sea, the restaurant is another hotspot to catch the golden hour and the interior is indeed warm, inviting and luxurious—and even romantic. Guests can opt between the two set menus or go for a la carte. Feeling adventurous and hungry, my partner and I decided to try the Eight Treasures Degustation Menu.
The flavours are generally bold and strong with some of my favourites being the braised bird nest superior soup topped with salmon roe (heartwarming); wok-fried Andaman lobster marinated with a black bee honey pepper sauce (very seductive on the palate); the homemade X.O sauce that accompanied the egg white fried rice (perfectly spicy); and the boiled papaya and snow fungus soup for dessert (refreshing with the right level of sweetness). I'd have to say, however, the signature freshly baked egg custard tarts (flavours: original, caramelised, and topped with bird nest) was a tad disappointing. The crust was hard and thick, in contrast to the barely-there layer of custard. Definitely needs work.
The resort is gorgeous and while you can get a buggy to visit each of the facilities or restaurants, it's lovely to also go on foot and bathe in all the surrounding greenery. Sightings of wildlife such as monkeys, lemurs and hornbills can be expected but seemingly rare during my three-day stay. I checked out of the resort feeling rejuvenated and refreshed, but with a heavy heart to leave.
For more info, or to book your stay, visit The Ritz-Carlton Langkawi's website.