x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Luxury getaway that’s now fun for all the family

A luxury getaway that’s now fun for all the family.

A Lower Melaleuca Pavilion room. Ken Seet / Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts
A Lower Melaleuca Pavilion room. Ken Seet / Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts

The welcome

Driving through the gates of Four Seasons Langkawi is like entering an oriental palace protected by high ochre walls. I’m escorted through a bare, sand-filled Moorish courtyard with tall date palms out onto a cool veranda furnished with rattan sofas, looking out over a long lake with an ornate pavilion rising out of the water on stilts. Once the check-in is complete, I’m taken by electric buggy through acres of lush gardens.

The neighbourhood

With a private, one-mile-long white sand beach at one of the furthest tips of Langkawi, this is a deliberately remote bolthole where few guests explore the surroundings. At the end of the road there is the Tanjong Rhu beach, with a few street stalls selling fiery local curries, then the Kilim River jetty, a bustling departure point for boat safaris. To discover the livelier side of Langkawi, it’s a 30-minute drive to the funky boutiques and bistros of Pantai Cenang.

The scene

Four Seasons Langkawi is no longer just a paradise hideaway for the rich and famous. Using its location next to South East Asia’s first Unesco geopark, the resort, opened in 2005, now offers a host of adventurous excursions, from boat trips through the steamy mangroves to jungle treks and expeditions to watch sea eagles swooping to catch fish. The Geo Spa, with its private pavilions criss-crossing ornamental ponds, has a new set of treatments based around natural healing, using unique Malay herbs and oils. The resort has become a lot more family-friendly, with innovative kid’s programmes that take in yoga, cookery, batik painting and kite-making.

The service

Charming and almost sultry.

The room

I begin in a standard room in one of the two-storey Melaleuca Pavilions, hidden away in sprawling gardens. There’s a lot of space, a huge bed with delicate linen and an inviting bathroom, with jars of perfumed oils and a tempting terrazzo marble soaking tub for two. The outdoor terrace is secluded, but very few have sea views.

That changes completely when I move over into one of the Beach Villas. It’s right by the sea and there’s a private 12-metre pool. Inside, the villa spreads over 220 square metres, including an elegant lounge looking out over the beach, a spa treatment room, an outdoor shower garden and a practical workspace.

The food

The bright, airy Seria restaurant is where the sumptuous buffet breakfast is served, and then transforms into a casual Italian diner specialising in freshly made pasta and risottos. My favourite spot is the Kelapa Grill, right on the beach, where the American chef Billy Akunna serves up delicious comfort food like fish tacos (70 Malaysian ringgits [Dh82]) and grilled prawn quesadilla (75 ringgits [Dh88]), while in the evening, watch the sun set while locally fished green lobster tail (180 ringgits [Dh210]), yellowfin tuna (150 ringgits [Dh175]) or a juicy Australian T-bone steak (149 ringgits [Dh174]) slowly cooks on the barbecue grill. For a romantic dinner of gourmet Malay cuisine, reserve in Ikan-Ikan, which means “fish”. Try the seriously spicy udang cili karipole (wok-fried tiger prawns; 145 ringgits [Dh169]).

Loved

The 55-metre adults’ quiet pool, with eight private cabanas.

Hated

The picture-postcard view from the resort’s long white beach is spoiled by an ugly cement factory.

The verdict

Malaysia’s most luxurious resort has been reinvented as an eco- and family friendly destination.

The bottom line

From 2,320 ringgits (Dh2,710) for a double room in the Melaleuca Pavilion, including breakfast. Beach Villas start at 6,032 ringgits (Dh7,047).

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