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  Destinations >> Luxe Langkawi


It’s the quintessential tropical island – sultry, palm fringed with the feel of Bali or Phuket before the throngs arrived. The main island located off peninsular Malaysia’s northwestern coast, Langkawi has everything the five star family could desire and then some.

WORDS & PHOTOS Sheriden Rhodes

I’m lying, book unread, beside a jade-coloured lap pool surrounded by white sun lounges, umbrellas and a backdrop of coconut palms, lush wetlands and the Gunung Mat Cincang mountain range. Ella, our fouryear- old, floats on her back, little arms spread wide beneath a cloudless tropical sky, before hungrily devouring a plate of satay sticks delivered poolside by a smiling waiter.

We’re staying at Temple Tree Langkawi in the striking Black and White House, one of eight restored antique Malay houses that Australian resort owner, Narelle McMurtrie, scoured Malaysia to find. The white weatherboard, shuttered house on stilts features a fabulous standalone wooden bath, a king size bed and, in a separate room, a single cast iron bed, draped romantically (and practically) in mosquito nets. There’s also a breezy porch where we enjoy G&T’s – all stamped with McMurtrie’s signature style.

Light pours through the coloured glass windows each morning where we have breakfast – some days fresh mango or watermelon and a wedge of housemade cake – before wandering over to the adjoining Nam Restaurant at Bon Ton Resort for perfectly crafted lattes served up by Narelle’s adopted daughter Linda.

The wiry McMurtrie is as passionate about her animals as she is about good coffee and food, which makes the place irresistible for children. The two resorts fund the Lankawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary Foundation, with half of all profits going to LASSie, a dog shelter at the entrance to the resort. You rarely see or hear the rescued dogs, unless of course you have children like Ella, who love the chance to walk them, or to befriend the scores of cats that roam the property not quite believing fate has delivered them to this slice of paradise.

Temple Tree has everything: history, beautiful surrounds, balmy air and possibly the island’s best food on tap. If you never ventured beyond the entrance you’d leave completely content, but if you want more, Langkawi also offers everything from cooking classes, mangrove tours, island hopping and more. Surrounded by lush rainforest in a traditional Malay house, Cook with Shuk will have you and the kids whipping up satay sticks and rich rendangs before you can say di sini. This fabulous cooking class starts with a tour of the garden to see, touch and smell the spices that flavour Malaysian cuisine and ends with a Malay feast around a long table. Shukrie Shafie, a celebrity chef in his homeland, is not a classically trained chef, but rather learned at his grandmother’s elbow. In his inviting kitchen we learn the secret of a wicked satay (it’s all in the spices), make a flavorsome rendang, steam fish in banana leaf and prepare sambal from scratch.


If your family are more the exploratory type, Dev’s Mangrove Adventure is an ecotour, which takes participants either by canopied boat or by kayak, to towering limestone outcrops, bat filled caves, fossil locations, and through lush mangroves. The Langkawi Cable Car meanwhile will whiz you to the top of the imposing Gunung Machinchang (708m), where from the world’s longest suspension bridge you can breathe in the cool mountain air and take in views of almost the entire island, surrounding highlands and Thai atolls beyond.

On the other side of the island, the iconic Datai Resort offers a completely dissimilar type of luxury to Temple Tree. Designed in the early 90s by Australian, Kerry Hill, and Top: Datai Beach Above: Temple Tree’s perfect pool 84 Malaysia T Five star kids built with the help of elephants, the secluded Datai is as special today as when it first opened – setting a new benchmark in luxury Malay resorts. The 126-room hideaway’s layers of grey slate and stone pathways contrast with its lush rainforest setting on a half-moon bay on the island’s ancient north-west tip. Accommodation is contemporary Malay style, either pool rooms or tree-house style, with calming neutrals.

Cheeky monkeys regularly drop by for a visit and there’s a choice of four fabulous restaurants including the renowned Gulai House, which has been relocated to the rainforest to make way for 14 chic, new beach villas. These offer a fantastic proposition for families, with private plunge pools, rainforest showers, views of the Andaman Sea and direct beach access. Part of the Leading Hotels of the World (LHW), the Datai doesn’t do kids’ clubs or children’s programs but is exceedingly family friendly with its own family pool on the beach, excellent children’s menu and two fascinating nature walks – Rainforest Awakening in the morning and Langkawi After Dark – by renowned naturalist Irshad Mobarak who brings Langkawi’s lush, untamed rainforest to life. As we meander barefoot to our room after a morning swim at the almost deserted beach, we spot a family of Macaque monkeys playing in the forest and Ella declares that; “Langkawi is even better than the zoo.” My husband and I exchange glances, and agree wholeheartedly.

Fly: Malaysia Airlines 
 Air Asia
Stay: Temple Tree 
 The Datai
Play: Cook with Shuk 
 Langkawi Cable Car
 Dev's Mango Adventure

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