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Destination Langkawi: Get away for a short break to this island in Malaysia for a weekend holiday

By: Leanda Rathmell

Gorgeous Lankawi
Gorgeous Lankawi

Occupying a mile-long beach on the north shore of Langkawi’s eponymous main island, Pulau Langkawi, Four Seasons Langkawi takes up a hefty 48 acres of beachfront bliss. With the neutral shades of Malay- and Mediterranean-inspired architecture complementing the natural elements, the resort is grand without being garish. Most impressive, however, is the abundance of space, from the villas’ high ceilings, wrap-around verandahs and sprawling gardens to the huge expanse of white-sand beach.

With 68 Melaleuca Pavilions, 10 Beach Villas and 10 Family Beach Houses, the resort is ideal for any kind of getaway. Guests are tactfully lodged so that couples and honeymooners are divided from families and big groups, and facilities include an adults-only pool and a seamlessly run Kids’ Club. We would never have guessed that the resort was full to capacity during our stay, and we easily went entire afternoons taking strolls on the beach without meeting another soul. This is a real treat when you come from Singapore.

Especially welcome was the hospitality and guidance of the staff. The team of mixed nationalities at Four Seasons Langkawi includes many who have been with the resort since its doors opened in 2005. Their allegiance and enthusiasm are testament to what the resort, and the island in general, have to offer. I asked four of them for their recommendations on making the most out of a Langkawi holiday.

Fancy a bit of rock climbing?
Fancy a bit of rock climbing?


#1 Feasting

As I’ve mentioned, there’s a lot of ground to cover at Four Seasons Langkawi; this is an enormous resort. A buggy is always at your beck and call, but if, like us, you opt to go everywhere by foot or by bicycle, you might find that the hunger pangs are quick to arise.

Happily, there are plenty of dining options. A beachfront breakfast is served at Serai every morning; the same space transforms into an Italian eatery by night. Also overlooking the ocean is Kelapa Grill, serving Asian and Western fare. Our favourite, though, was Ikan-Ikan. Multiple winner of the Malaysian Tourism Board’s “Best Restaurant in Malaysia” award, its famed red snapper fillet in a tamarind, honey and chilli sauce was a particular highlight – I can remember every mouthful. Executive chef Billy Akunna and sous chef Adee Affende Bin Sudin work closely with the local community, sourcing ingredients from independent fishermen and neighbouring organic farms.

Recommendations from Billy Akunna, Executive Chef

Hometown: Houston, Texas, US

Years at Four Seasons Langkawi: 8

Itinerary essental: The romantic four-course dinner in the Rajasthani tent on the beach is great for couples. This four-course meal consists of freshly grilled meats and barbecued seafood, followed by a private bonfire by the crashing waves.

Top tip: If you’re with kids, be sure to check out the Activity Guide for dates and times when you arrive, as there are lots of opportunities like cooking classes, fish-feeding and even a chance for their own bonfire with s’mores.

Venturing outside the resort: Book an ATV trail ride through the rice paddies and rubber tree estates. If you have the time, camping out at Gunung Raya (Mount Raya) is a great way to experience the sunset and the equally amazing sunrise.

Heyyyyy, monkey!
Heyyyyy, monkey!

#2 Feathers and Fins

When it comes to spotting wildlife in its natural habitat, it’s often a case of luck. Even with eyes peeled and patience unwavering, sometimes the best you get is the glimpse of a tail (arguably a twig) or a warm dropping to signify that the furry friend in question was there. That’s certainly not the case in this teeming wonderland, where nature is at its best. Home to Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO Geopark, Langkawi holds a proudly protected wealth of wildlife spread across the rainforest, mangroves, and towering rock formations and caves.

Recommendations from Aidi Abdullah, Naturalist

Hometown: Kuala Lumpur

Years at Four Seasons Langkawi: 10

Itinerary essential: The Mangrove Safari. It showcases the true face of Langkawi and offers an excellent opportunity to witness the complex ecosystem. Kids love it and there are some wonderful photo-opportunities, especially with wildlife such as monkeys, eagles, crabs – even fish that walk!

Top tip: If possible, head into the mangroves when the tide is on the rise, about an hour after it has reached its lowest point. You will have a chance of watching the crabs closing the “doors” to their burrows.

Venturing outside the resort: Head south and take a boat tour to the island of Dayang Bunting. Bird enthusiasts should drive up to Gunung Raya early in the morning to catch the mesmerising hornbills and raptors as they fly around, looking for food.

#3 Fitness and Fun

Three shades darker and three pounds heavier; that’s my usual score from a beach weekend getaway. The tan is always a win, but the extra baggage I could do without, so I was open to breaking a sweat and trying something new. During our four-day stay we managed to fit in a lot: sunrise yoga, a game of tennis, and wall-climbing on the resort’s natural limestone outcrop. We even had a go at archery, and let me tell you, Robin Hood and Katniss make it look misleadingly easy.

The selection of water sports is just as varied. There’s complimentary use of the catamarans, windsurfing boards and kayaks, while those looking for more of a rush can try wakeboarding or head out on the jet skis.

Having fun on jetskis.
Having fun on jetskis.

Recommendations from Indran Santhirasekaran, Recreation Manager

Hometown: Port Dickson, Malaysia

Years at Four Seasons Langkawi: 10

Itinerary essential: Explore the surrounding islands with our luxury speedboat. Most regular boat trips only go on fixed routes to the popular tourist attractions; we avoid all that, and will instead design a customised private excursion to unspoilt islands, ocean channels, sea arches and untouched beaches.

Top tip: If you’re an adrenaline junkie who also loves nature, take the Jet Ski Adventure to Kilim Karst Geopark and the limestone cliff formations along the north-eastern coast of Langkawi.

Venturing outside the resort: Langkawi is known for its beaches, but the rainforest is just as breathtaking. There are many experienced guides to take you jungle-trekking at Mount Mat Cincang to explore the flora and fauna. Keep your eyes peeled for flying lemurs, elusive mouse deer and flying green snakes.

Aiming to get spot on in Langkawi
Aiming to get spot on in Langkawi

#4 Feel-good Factor

I consider myself a fit person. However, after a wall-climbing session with Indran, not to mention a high-speed, high-humility tumble off my jet ski, my muscles were begging for some R&R. So while the boy cozied up to his GQ mag on our hammock, I made a beeline for The Geo Spa.

Propped against the towering limestone cliffs with an open-air assembly of floating pavilions, the spa complex is an impressive setup; one where I would gladly have stayed well past my welcome had I not had a post-treatment dinner reservation. Employing the healing elements and natural ingredients of the island, the spa’s selection of treatments is comprehensive.

Recommendations from Stephanie Baron, Director of Spa

Hometown: Nice, France

Years at Four Seasons Langkawi: 1.5

Itinerary essential: A must-try for honeymooners is the Raja & Ratu treatment (120 minutes). This ritual focuses on three specific chakras – sacral, heart and crown – to maximise emotional and sexual connection through the use of locally sourced ingredients. This journey of love concludes with a traditional blessing ceremony. Early risers should also join our sunrise yoga at 7.30am at the Lotus Pond; the budding lotus flowers are a beautiful sight to start the day.

Top tip: The best time of day to book a treatment is from 1pm to 3pm, when it’s the quietest. Stick around and relax in our cabanas afterwards, and you may catch sight of dusky leaf monkeys passing through the spa to get to the higher trees.

Venturing outside the resort: For great local food, check out The Fish Farm. Voted Best Restaurant during the most recent Langkawi Innovation Travel Awards (LITA 2014), this place has a great ambience. Yellow Café at Cenang Beach has great European food, particularly the French baguette salads. The sweet-toothed should head to The French Factory next to Cenang Mall. Made just like in Brittany, the traditional crepes are delicious. My favourite is the caramel salted butter crepe.

 

Fact File

  • AirAsia and Malaysia Airlines fly from Hong Kong to Langkawi with a pit stop in KL.
  • Four Seasons Resorts Langkawi is a 20-minute drive from the airport.
  • For more information or to book, visit fourseasons.com/langkawi.

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