It’s a country of contradictions. Kuala Lumpur is the fast paced mega city where food & shopping are a national obsession, a few hours away the lush rainforests of Langkawi and the Orangutans of Sabah provide escape. From the capital of consumables to the islands of conservation, you don’t need to trade luxury for intimacy with nature. Here's our guide to lavish stays.
Mandarin Oriental – Best luxury city hotel
Last time you heard a pianist on a baby grand, it may have been mooching around the Molton Brown section of David Jones; but here in the Club Lounge 24 floors up, glass of Moet in hand the scene is serene. Tonight it’s chicken Rendang and calamari sambal, the night before was an Italian banquet. You’ll like being member of the ‘Club’ where thanks to a 5 item a day allowance PJ’s come back ironed, your virtual office in the sky has a comfy armchair and billion dollar views. Cities often feel souless, not here.
The two bedroom apartment is a homely haven; comfy couch, large screen TV, floor to ceiling windows and two enormous bedrooms both with ensuites. The corner bedroom has paparazzi views onto the Petronas Towers, the greenery of KLCC park plus a nightly show of illuminated fountains. Hit the spa for a massage, then the gym which is a maze of tech equipment. One machine has so many straps it’s more like a contraption from Fifty Shades of Grey; so just how do you work out feet, arm and torso arrangements?
Instead of lunch at Lai Po Heen where Peking duck carved at the table is upstaged by the prawn with salted egg, head to Spain’s acclaimed Aziamendi88. Creating a stir across Asia, its Malaysia’s first three Michelin star pop up! Dining commences in a recreated Spanish courtyard as a picnic box opens to reveal a trio of tastes. A bonsai tree sprouting tomatoes at the table is joined by a silver spoon of egg yolk injected with hot truffle jus. ‘The garden’ is a masterpiece of edible beetroot soil, tomatoes emulsion and carrot.
No wonder you need to shop to work it off! A sightseeing bus connecting to over 12 locations awaits at the grand entrance. Alternatively, connecting tunnels to the convention centre and the skyline walkway to enable your purse to have its own freeway journey without any time spent at traffic lights or wrong turns.
The Datai, langkawi – Best Luxury Villa Eco Hideaway
How do geckos climb walls? This is one of the many things you will learn (it’s their 200 million electromagnetic hairs, not suckers!). If you want to understand the rainforest, you have to live in it. We are not talking mossie nets and hammocks, but luxury suites and villas created by the visionary Kerry Hill. Twenty years ago he took the lead in sustainable architecture crafting structures compassionately shared with its environment of a private sandy bay, 10million years of forest and 200 million year rock formations.
Elephants may have helped build this hideaway but the latest beach villas have more tech than Tesla cars. Yellow wrist bands replace keys in the two pavilion hideaway. The main bedroom opens onto the pool with skinny dipping opportunities a-plenty if you don’t mind your inquisitive dusky monkey neighbours! A stunning stand-alone bath with delicious ‘I-can’t-see-my-toes’ fluffy matts and a range of indoor/outdoor shower options. You may choose to curl up with a book in the lounge pavilion (despite its tempting entertainment gadgetry), raid the complementary minibar of Moet or grab your binoculars, a Datai nature book and step through your back garden door straight onto the beach. Dining experiences provide new opportunities to connect to nature such as The Gulai House, the traditional Malay kampong house or canopy dining in The Pavilion 30 metres above the ground.
Bats swoop whilst you munch on pandanus wrapped thai chicken and roasted duck curry. A massage has never been more perfect as you doze to songs of the forest, more soothing than any sleep app. Yet the most extraordinary moments are those with Irshad, the globally respected resident Naturalist who has gained an international reputation for his work. He glazes over with love at soaring Sea Eagles, snoozing colugo’s or simply a stingless honey bee. His infectious and encyclopedic knowledge of life, existence for survival and balance are the lessons we can all learn.
Connecting war, religion and politics into the existence of nature and the ignorance of truth. This is a stay which changes you in a way that 1000 count bed linen never will.
The DANNA, Langkawi – Best for Service
It’s difficult to know if you’ve been zoomed back in time to British-India Colonial times or had one whisky sour cocktail too many. For a hotel which has won more awards than servings Char Kway Teow it’s terribly, Britishly understated. Sunshine pours through the French windows in the Viceroy suite revealing views over the glistening swimming pool and the sandy beaches. Luxury yachts bob around the islands. Its beguilingly pretty, wonderfully seductive and full of moments that surprise.
Who has ever seen bed adorned with the cutest towel art of Deputy Dog? Dining at Planters is a highlight. The room sparkles from 15 tier chandeliers and music from the grand piano in the corner with a menu big enough to replace your dining companion. Dishes such as kafti prawns with mango, snapper jukedar or slipper lobster risotto rotate with event nights such as an alfresco BBQ showcasing the team of chef’s technical skills from across Asia.
Nature lovers will relish a journey on the highest cable car in Asia reaching the peak of Mt. Machinchang, where the view of the surrounding islands is spellbinding. Flashes of yellow from the great hornbill helps detract from dizzy heights below. A day trip to the mangroves reveals swimming macaque monkeys, sea snakes, white bellied sea eagles, cave bats and life aboard a floating fish farm. Like a blossoming Mills & Boon romance novel it’s hard not to be spellbound.
It might be due to the massage on arrival, a wonderful afternoon tea of tiered delights in the tiled courtyard, the private cooking class in the garden or your relaxing massage in the spa overlooking the marina but it’s none of those things, it’s the level of warmth and friendliness and genuine care from the Danna team which creates memories far more meaningful than any awards.