Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands off the northwestern coast of Malaysia. It’s a dream destination with an old-school island vibe. Beaches are picture-perfect – long white strips of powdery sand, deep greeny-blue water and bobbing speedboats tied up to jetties – and, beyond them, is unspoilt nature; waterfalls, jungle and mangrove forests.
The St Regis resort sits in an idyllic cove on the southern tip of Puala Langkawi, the largest island in the archipelago. The beautifully rambling space is made up of 85 suites and four private over-water villas. The design of the hotel is deliberately eclectic, mixing European and Middle Eastern influences with local art, and the indoor and outdoor spaces flow between each other.
The main body of the resort houses sea-view suites and the main restaurants and bars while an annexe houses pool suites (each has its own pool and a gate opening straight onto a private 600-metre white sand beach, merging into a natural salt lagoon that’s perfect for swimming). Every room comes with the St Regis 24-hour butler service, which includes complimentary packing and unpacking, ironing-on-demand and hot and cold drinks whenever thirst strikes.
Breakfasts here are epic. Served in the resort’s airy L’Orangerie restaurant the buffet-style offering takes in every imaginable option. Think freshly pressed fruit and veg juices, sushi, a dim sum station, laksa, rendang, noodle soups, as well as more familiar western options such as an omelette station and a pile of perfect breakfast breads and pastries. Oh and an ice cream and sorbet bar, should you fancy a scoop of tangy mango sorbet to start the day. There’s also an a la carte menu with specialities like local lobster omelette, croissant French toast, wagyu steak and eggs and shakshuka. No one is going to go hungry here.
L’Orangerie also serves lunch and dinner but the star attraction here is the beautiful Kayaputi restaturant. Accessed by a wooden walkway from the hotel entrance, the restaurant stands in the sea on stilts. Step out onto its terrace bar and you have a choice of low sofas or suspended hammocks to lounge on, enjoy a cocktail and watch another incredible sunset.
Inside, the whitewashed, wood-slatted walls evoke a New England beach house kind of vibe but with beautifully plush furnishings (including white chairs with huge peacock plume decorations) there’s more than a hint of super-luxe.
The food is equally high-end, some of it inspired by local flavours – dishes like sambal skate fish with rice cracker and coconut flakes and kecap manis glazed wagyu steak with wasabi cream are presented in delicate, perfectly crafted, portions.
After dinner the glitzy St Regis bar (all polished granite and sparkle) in the main hotel can whip you up a mean cocktail. The signature Bloody Mary here is the ‘Lang Mary’ which uses pandan-leaf infused vodka and lemongrass in its mix. Or, if you prefer fizz, the bartenders are experts in the art of champagne sabering – for the uninitiated this involves taking the whole cork-end cleanly off a bottle of champagne by sliding a sabre sharply up under the neck.
If idyllic beach-lounging isn’t enough the St Regis offers a bespoke Geo Forest Safari adventure. This thrilling afternoon-long trip takes the form of a speedboat ride down the local Kilim river to Jurassic Park-like mangrove swamps. En route wildlife – including native white-bellied eagles and extremely tame monkeys – comes close to the boats. Then the safari continues on foot through caves of stalagmite and stalactites before reaching a huge cave which houses hundreds of bats. It’s not for the faint-hearted but the connection to nature is an important part of island life and it’s a privilege to witness it first-hand.
Written by Janine Ratcliffe, October 2016