Proving once again we have the world's best traveled readers
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler
Set the scene.
Macaques amble past rainforest-villa windows, fist-sized butterflies skitter through the air. A pair of majestic white steeds—150-year-old teak horses found in a Mumbai flea market—stand under a high-vaulted ceiling, guarding the lobby. Behind them, framed by towering pillars, is an open-air courtyard and pond, carpeted with hot-pink lotus flowers and copper frogs—frozen-in-time versions of the real-life critters who provide a baritone chorus.
What’s the story?
When the late, great architect Kerry Hill built The Datai in 1993, he wanted it to blend in with the astonishing surroundings, with rooms set back from an untouched golden swoop of sandy Datai Bay amid thick rainforest. Langkawi was a relatively unknown island at the time, and his idea was considered a little out-there—but it was an overnight hit. It’s changed hands several times over the years, but for its 25th anniversary in 2018, one of Hill’s co-collaborators, Didier Lefort, freshened up the interiors while retaining its original architectural DNA and spirit.
What can we expect from our room?
How wild do you want to be? Entry-level bedrooms have views over the treetops and are close to the forest-side pool. More in the thick of it are the rainforest villas—calm spaces in the midst of the thrum, buzz, and chirp with beds draped in white muslin, deep-brown timber floors, ceiling beams, and pop-open-and-close blinds. Vast windows in the bathrooms keep things light and airy. There’s plenty of seating for wildlife spotting—but lock the door to your patio, otherwise the clever macaques will sneak in to swipe mangoes from the fruit bowl. The rainforest villas would always be our pick, for the sense of being right in the forest, but also consider the larger beachside ones for the lappable swimming pools.
How about the food and drink?
The Pavilion restaurant is set on stilts so you can spot colugos—shy, flying lemurs that glide through the canopy—while snuffling down creamy massaman curries and pandan custard with coconut sorbet. Breakfasts—included in the rate—are a feast of everything from pain-au-chocolat hybrids to rainbow-colored juices and wok-fried noodles. There’s classic Malaysian and Indian plates such as cauliflower masala, palak paneer, and beef rendang at the Gulai House restaurant; head to the poolside bar to graze on Wagyu burgers and chocolate and coconut sundaes.
Anything to say about the service?
Many of the staff have been here since the very start and go to great lengths to make things memorable—whizzing guests off golf buggies if it rains; helping kids set up cricket stumps on the beach. Try and catch at least one talk at the new nature centre: Wildlife guru and TED-talker Irshad Mobarak rhapsodizes about the island’s inhabitants then leads walks to spot flying squirrels and dusky langur monkeys.
What sorts of people stay here?
Tropi-cool families in a parade of brightly-printed sarongs, wide-brimmed hats, and Orlebar Brown swim shorts. Teens dodge hair-ruffles from family friends, then race to the beach to paddleboard and kayak in the shimmering waters; younger siblings watch while licking vanilla ice-cream cones and dipping their toes in.
How does it compare to others hotels on the island?
Langkawi’s hotel scene has come on leaps and bounds in recent years—with heavy-hitters including Four Seasons, St. Regis, and Ritz-Carlton rubbing up against smaller, more established favorites such as Bon Ton and Temple Tree—but The Datai’s jungle-beach setting and attention to detail sets it well apart.
Anything we missed?
Conditions on the turquoise-teal warm waters of the Andaman Sea range from mirror-flat—making swimming, kayaking, and paddle-boarding possible—to a little more rough and ready. Of the three pools, one is serene and adults-only, the other two have families splashing about with balls and floats. The dinky five-room spa is good for Bastien Gonzalez pedicures and forest-view massages that begin with traditional Malay floral-cleansing rituals.
Is it worth it—and why?
Yes. It’s a seriously smart eco-hotel (permaculture garden, on-site water plant) that gives you access to Langkawi’s prettiest beach and makes its awe-inspiring rainforest your own, along with various furry/scaly/feathered inhabitants. And the service is second to none.
Irrigator: The Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal. But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committee’s decision that Vadim Mikerin — the main Russian overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion inside the United States — was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009. Then-Attorney General Eric Holder was among the Obama administration officials joining Hillary Clinton on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States at the time the Uranium One deal was approved. Multiple current and former government officials told The Hill they did not know whether the FBI or DOJ ever alerted committee members to the criminal activity they uncovered. Spokesmen for Holder and Clinton did not return calls seeking comment. The Justice Department also didn’t comment.