Why The Datai is so special and holds a place in my heart
There are so many luxury hotels out there these days, in so many destinations, all of which claim to be 5 star luxury, have won awards and have all of the facilities that you would expect that it becomes exceptionally hard to choose. Do I go east to Dubai or Abu Dhabi or even further afield to the Far East with Thailand or Malaysia, or do I go west to the Caribbean or Baja California?
I made this decision myself back in 2002, when I chose the hotel that has become such a special place to me - The Datai, on the island of Langkawi in Malaysia.
In those days, Malaysian Airlines flew into Langkawi direct from London Heathrow twice a week (via Kuala Lumpur on the return) so it was easier to get to. However with Qatar Airways launching connecting flights via Doha, accessibility has suddenly become easier again.
Although I had seen pictures, I simply wasnt expecting the aura of the place when I arrived. The hotel has its own transfer service, where upon arrival you are whisked into air conditioned vehicles, complete with chilled towels and ice cold bottles of water to refresh yourself during the 30-40 minute transfer to the hotel.
As you get closer, you start climbing into the 10 million year old rainforest, backed by mountains, and wonder where you are going. As you arrive you are greeted by the most welcoming of smiles, whether it is your first time or whether you have become one of the 80% plus repeat guests.
Check in is done in the Lobby Lounge whilst you have a cooling welcoming drink and enjoy the panoramic views of the main pool, Andaman Sea and Tarutao island.
There are 121 rooms, suites and villas although you would never imagine it as the resort just seems to absorb it all and yet give you absolute peace and solitude. Having recently regone a 12 month renovation project which has seen the original architect who designed the property 25 years ago brought in to assist, the newly revamped Datai has a refreshed feel, whilst still preserving the very soul of the property which has brought so many back over the years.
The main pool located on the top level is adult only with another pool at the beach club being open to all. In between the two in the middle of the rainforest is the amazing spa, where you can hear the monkeys chattering in the trees and the call of the hornbill as you relax during your massage.
With 6 restaurants to choose from (including private beach dining - you must give it a go), there is no shortage of options when it comes to eating, from the Dining Room with its extensive wine list and fine dining to the treetop signature Thai Pavilion restaurant and the award winning Gulai House tucked deep into the rainforest.
You really can do as much or as little as you want here. The beach (if you can drag yourself away from the pool) was voted in the top 10 beaches in the world by Conde Nast readers and its easy to see why. They are sympathetic to nature here and the reef has an amazing spectacle of brightly coloured fish (watch the kids shout for Nemo!). If you want a little more action, then the Els Club Teluk Datai is an award winning, championship golf course.
Of course you have the spa, the resort also offers yoga and pilates classes and a beachside gym but the traditional offerings are the best here. Irshad, the resident naturist, takes regular walks along the beach, mangroves and rainforest pointing out various animals that you can hear but not always see or delight in the Dapur cookery class where you can experience making the local food.
It is easy to list all of the offerings the hotel has, but I still havent answered the question as to why it is so special. It's very simple - the staff. I returned in 2016 after a 10 year break and they remembered me as though it was yesterday. The smiles, the hugs and the fact they even remembered my favourite drink truly stands out. Along with all the hotel has to offer, adventurous or not, active or not, it is so easy to fall in love with this truly special place and all the people I have taken or sent there all come away with their own special memory.
What will be yours?
The Datai promotional video