The lowdown A one-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur lies the tropical paradise island of Langkawi. From the soft, white sandy beaches if you squint in one direction you can make out the mainland of Malaysia, in the other, Thailand. Langkawi has all the blissful sights you’d expect of an island in the Indian Ocean – warm, baby-blue seas and blazing sunshine, but it also offers a unique habitat with acres of lush rainforest, coral reefs and a mangrove forest packed full with rare and myriad types of exotic wildlife.
The hotel The Andaman itself lies on the sleepy north-west coast of the island, nestled between the 10 million-year-old rainforest and its own divine bay – which makes for rather unique surroundings: get up early and you’ll find the monkeys fishing in the shallows for their breakfast (they’ll also try to nab yours so do keep an eye out when dining outside).
Take your pick from lounging on the private beach (whilst there is another hotel about a quarter of a mile down the beach, you really do feel as if it’s your very own spot in paradise – it is extraordinarily peaceful and quiet), or sitting up by the pool (with its own water flutes and pond-style layout it’s perfect for children – and big kids splashing about, but not really designed for swimming).
Malaysia prides itself on being a melting pot of Eastern influences, which is reflected in the array of food on offer at the Andaman, from The Restaurant where you can try traditional Malay and Chinese cuisine, to their authentic Japanese restaurant, to the Beach Bar where you can snack on wood-fired pizzas and salade nicoise; and definitely try the freshly-grilled chicken satay – it’s beyond delicious. Of course, as you’re by the ocean, it would be insane to not gorge yourself on the fresh fruits of the sea – you can even pick out your own catch of the day from the local fishermen who pitch up on the sand, daily at 4pm – choose your supper right there and then and the hotel will cook it up for you later on.
The hotel rooms are clean, chic and modern with a traditional Malay twist – so lots of dark wooden furniture and floorboards, contrasted with fresh white linen and splashes of rich reds. A small word of warning on your balcony – leave open and you will end up with a cheeky monkey raiding the mini-bar.
In the evenings you can dine out under the stars, cosy up on a sun lounger and watch a movie on their beachside cinema-screen, or head up to the bar and sink a few cocktails whilst being entertained by live music.
The hotel staff are wonderfully friendly and helpful, and work really hard to ensure there is a real sense of a homely, family atmosphere at the hotel – which is not always a given at resorts like this. Testament to this is their admirable care and attention to the surroundings of the hotel. They are actively engaged in protecting the Tsunami damaged coral reef they have found themselves at the heart of – and when the tide is low enough operate early morning coral clearing where guests and staff come down to help sift out the dead pieces of coral so that the living ones can survive. If their consultant marine biologist Dr Gerry Goeden is in town, then you must go on one of his beyond fascinating nature walks (and this coming from a girl who literally used to fall asleep in science lessons – I learnt more from him in ten minutes than the whole of my school years).
The spa The best situated spa I have ever been to. The treatment rooms lie up in the hills, overlooking the bay. And the best bit – they’re all open air (remaining entirely private) – so whilst you’re being pampered (the time traveller massage literally zapped my jetlag away) you can drink in the ridiculously beautiful vista of the Andaman bay, and smell the sweet tropical air. Divine.
Out and about Do drag yourself away from the beach. Take a cruise through the mangrove trees – where you’ll see every kind of eagle, monkey and bat-cave you could wish for. It’s utterly intoxicating. Then follow the rivers out into the ocean and cruise around finding the best, isolated, tiny beaches you can to stop on. You can go diving, trek through the rainforest and visit the hot springs and waterfalls. This is an island which really needs to be experienced and explored. Nature lovers will be in heaven.
If you’re hankering for a bit of night life, then do head into the lively resort of Pentai Cenang – where you’ll find a beach strip full of fun bars and restaurants plus of course tacky tourist shops – it’s basically backpacker-central.
The details Rates start from £155 per room per night for a Deluxe Rainforest room. Visit luxurycollection.com/andaman
Book a package with Travelbag - 7 nights from £1,379, room only; valid for travel 1 February to 31 March 2012; book by 31 January; flying Malaysian Airlines from London Heathrow. Visit travelbag.co.uk
Malaysia Airlines flies from London Heathrow to Langkawi via Kuala Lumpur twice a day.