Booked: A Luxury Hotel World Tour
|Review: The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi|
|View all: Reviews • Travel Talk|
After three days in Singapore mostly spent wandering amidst the awe-inspiring structures of Marina Bay Sands and frequenting the cheapest Michelin-starred restaurant in the world, it was time to jet off to the Malaysian island paradise of Langkawi for some casual resort-hopping.
First up was a two-night stay at The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, a newly-opened property on the western side of the island not too far from the airport, after which we’d head to the densely forested northern shores for another two nights at The Andaman.
Langkawi’s other Marriott-branded options include a St. Regis and a Westin, and all four resorts are very reasonably priced at either Category 5 or 6, thus costing either 35,000 or 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night. I wanted to try the Ritz-Carlton in particular because it had opened only in late 2017, and its redemption rate of 50,000 points per night made perfect sense given that the rooms were going for $700+ a night during our stay shortly after New Year’s.
Using the Grab transportation app that’s ubiquitous throughout Southeast Asia, we made the 10-minute journey from Langkawi International Airport for only 9 RM (about $3). The exterior of the resort consists of a large archway with a sloping gabled roof in the signature dark oak of the Ritz-Carlton brand.
Immediately after passing through the gates, the resort’s event space lies to your right, and it’s a short drive down the road ahead until you get to the Arrival Lodge.
The driveway to the Arrival Lodge branches off to the right of the main road just before it begins sloping downwards into the resort grounds. Most taxi and Grab drivers will deliver you straight here, and will also pick you up from here as long as you inform the staff at the Arrival Lodge of the vehicle’s license plate number.
The Arrival Lodge is mostly open to the outdoors, overlooking the quiet, serene forest that covers much of the property. There’s a smaller air-conditioned interior space, where the front desks are formally located, but guests are invited to sit down in the outdoor seating area and soak in their surroundings while a hotel associate personally helps them with the check-in procedures.
That’s exactly the treatment we received upon our arrival. The friendly associate brought us our welcome drinks – pear and lemon juice with a hint of hibiscus – before sitting down with us and walking us through the details of our stay. The base rooms at the Ritz-Carlton are known as Rainforest Deluxe Rooms, and I was happy to hear that we had received a complimentary upgrade to a larger Rainforest Junior Suite.
Of course, I had reached out to the hotel in advance to ask about a potential upgrade to a villa, but I had been informed that only cash upgrades – at a minimum of 1,400 RM ($450) per night – were available. Oh well.
Note that as per the terms of the Marriott Bonvoy program, Ritz-Carlton properties are only required to upgrade Titanium Elite members to suites, and not Platinum Elite members (this is unlike most other Marriott brands, where Platinums do enjoy suite upgrades). As a Titanium Elite member, I was pleased to benefit from a suite upgrade, but this is something to keep in mind if you’re deciding between a Ritz-Carlton and another brand for an upcoming stay.
And speaking of benefits that Ritz-Carltons think they’re too cool to offer Marriott Bonvoy elite members, the brand also doesn’t participate in the complimentary breakfast perk, meaning that the breakfast buffet at this property would cost us 135 RM ($43) per person per day. At that rate, we held off on adding breakfast to the reservation in advance, and decided to play things by ear instead.
After the arrival formalities were complete, our associate asked whether we’d like to be shown to our room or given a tour of the grounds, and we opted to head to our room and get settled in.
Given the rather hilly terrain of the resort, buggies represent the primary mode of transportation used by guests, and our associate then personally took the wheels of a buggy and drove us down to Building 8, the Dahlia, where Room 383 up on the third floor would serve as our home for the next two nights.
Upon entering, we couldn’t help but utter a quiet wow! under our breaths. Here at the Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, the Rainforest Junior Suite is absolutely gorgeous.
The suite is open-concept in design, and makes use of sliding doors to partition the space into separate living, changing, and sleeping areas. The “Rainforest” name is certainly very fitting, since the exposed planks of wood flooring, warm colour palette, and nature-inspired works of art evoke a strong sense of being at one with the stunning natural landscape around you.
Down a short hallway after the entrance is the bedroom, which faces out towards the rest of the resort and the glimmering Indian Ocean beyond.
A small chaise longue provides a space to relax, while a wall-mounted television swings outwards to satisfy all your in-bed viewing needs.
There were universal power ports on each bedside table, as you’d expect from a new property. You’ll also notice an adjustable screen door in the wall above the bed, which can be opens up to the walk-in closet and bathroom in the space behind the bedroom.
Off to the side of the bedroom is the working desk, where the usual spa and in-room dining menus had been arranged alongside a few Malaysian decorative items. Surprisingly, I actually didn’t use the desk too much during my stay – I finished up whatever work I had down by the pool! 😉
Walking past the desk, you arrive in the sitting area, where a set of twin armchairs sit opposite another flatscreen TV, with another full-width couch along the back wall of the room. Truthfully, we didn’t have much of a use for this space – we mainly used it to eat the in-room breakfast that we had ordered on both days – but that’s the whole point of having a suite, isn’t it?
The other special thing about this area is that it provided access to the balcony. While giving us a tour of the room, our associate had warned us to keep the balcony doors locked at all times, because the local monkeys were known to enter guest rooms and commit petty theft. We never ended up seeing any monkeys on the property, but we did heed her advice just in case (we ended up seeing more than our fair share of the monkeys over at the Andaman!)
The balcony features two well-padded deck chairs, a daybed, and some nice views of the surrounding ocean (albeit a little obscured by the large trees growing in front of us).
In the walkway between the bedroom, sitting area, and the walk-in closet is where you’ll find the pantry. Snacks and beverages are available here, with a wine cooler acting as the central feature. There’s also a coffee maker and kettle, along with coffee pods that were refreshed daily.
That brings us to the delightfully spacious walk-in closet area, which connects over to the hallway near the entrance as well. A large vanity desk, whose mirror is mounted on the back of the screen doors opening up to the bedroom, is flanked by two chests-of-drawers.
In keeping with the tropical environment in which the resort is situated, light bathrobes are provided in place of plushy ones, and the slippers are made of wood instead of cotton (so you can wear them out to the beach and pool as well).
Turning 180˚ from the walk-in closet brings us to the bathroom of the suite. The hotel advertises its bathrooms as being “oversized”, and they’re certainly not exaggerating.
Twin sinks and a massive full-length mirror occupy one side of the bathroom. A large soaking tub, easily big enough for two, occupies the other.
Then in the corner of the bathroom is the gigantic rain shower, which is controlled through a standalone control panel that rises from the ground to meet your touch.
Lastly, a separate door provides access to the Japanese-style smart toilet.
Seriously, the chestnut finishes of the suite itself already feel luxurious, but how stunning are those slabs of green and white marble in the bathroom? You can travel far and wide, but I don’t think you’ll find many hotels in the world that feel posher than a newly-opened Ritz-Carlton.
After putting our stuff down, we quickly changed into our beach clothes and headed down to explore the resort’s oceanfront. When we returned, we had discovered that a delightful welcome amenity consisting of several sweet treats had been delivered to our room, along with a handwritten note.
Let’s go for a tour of the grounds, shall we? The guest rooms and suites are housed within two- and three-storey buildings, which are accessible via the road leading downhill from the Arrival Lodge.
Also along this road is the main Ritz-Carlton Lodge, where a host of onsite facilities are located. These include the Concierge & Activities Center, where you can arrange to participate in watersports or go on tours of Langkawi; the Langkawi Kitchen, the resort’s most affordable dining option, and the site of the daily buffet breakfast; and the resort’s retail boutique, where you can buy souvenirs, select items of clothing, and sundry items like sunscreen.
(But don’t make the mistake we did of paying for overpriced sunscreen despite there being free sunscreen down by the pool!)
As you proceed down the road and arrive at the lower reaches of the premises, a fork in the road awaits. The main pool and the beach is on your right, while Horizon, the smaller, adult-only pool, is to your left.
Let’s first venture to the right, where we’ll pass by some perfectly manicured gardens, the Ritz Kids playroom for your children, and the hotel’s fitness centre.
I did drop by the gym on a few occasions to work on my beach body (read: get some cardio for the first time in weeks), and found it to be pretty up-to-standard in just about every way, with ample space for many guests at the same time (although we actually very rarely saw other guests at the resort, as I’ll touch upon later).
You’ll also find several of the beachfront villas as you walk down the road to the beach, and I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of jealousy as I walked by. Using points to treat myself to luxury resorts like this is one thing… but getting those amazing villa upgrades – that’s the next step, isn’t it?
At the end of the road is a small poolside lodge, where towels and sunscreen are available for guests to use. Poolside attendants are also stationed here, and they’ll prepare one of the lounge chairs for you either by the pool or on the beach, along with some ice water, some wet towels, and a basket consisting of two coloured stones – red for “do not disturb”, and blue for “service please”.
The main pool looks out over the ocean, but there’s a glass fence to keep everyone penned in. Since the other pool is adults-only, the main pool tends to get rather crowded throughout the day with families and their children, so we didn’t end up spending too much time here.
We took a quick gander on our first foray to this part of the resort, but quickly decided to head to the beach instead.
There’s about two dozen pairs of lounge chairs stationed here on the beach, and the attendants can help you move the chairs to be either underneath or poking out of the umbrella’s shadow, depending on your tanning preference.
Here at the Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, the beachfront villas all have direct access down to the glistening white sand, as well as private infinity pools overlooking the beach as well.
Oof, that tinge of jealousy – next time, next time…
While the beach made for a nice place to relax, the sand quality itself wasn’t the best in terms of resorts I’ve visited. The sand was a little rocky on your feet, especially down by the water where large amounts of coral and ocean wildlife could be found on the shores. In particular, a slightly alarming amount of jellyfish had been washed ashore, so Jessica and I never really ended up swimming in the ocean.
Instead, we spent most of our time over at Horizon, the adults-only pool. And it’s not hard to see why – just take a look at that…
Horizon must be hands-down one of the best swimming pools I’ve ever experienced at any hotel or resort around the world. That infinity edge blending seamlessly into the Indian Ocean, those gentle whirlpools caressing the wading area, that spellbinding sunset view…
As far as we were concerned, whenever we were at the resort but weren’t doing anything in our room, Horizon was the place to be. I could sit in those cabanas, drink in the afternoon sky as it ever-so-gradually takes on that luscious shade of pink, and listen to the water cascading over the infinity edge all day long.
The sheer brilliance of Horizon is perhaps why we didn’t end up fully absorbing all aspects of the resort, like the spa, the daily activities, or the onsite dining.
I do apologize for that for the purposes of this slightly incomplete review, but if I’m being honest, I have absolutely no regrets at all. Horizon was simply that good.
For breakfast, I did contemplate paying out-of-pocket for the buffet, but in the end I couldn’t justify the price, especially since ordering a decent-sized breakfast via room service would only come to about 100 RM ($30) for the both of us.
On the first day, I ordered the Eggs Benedict while Jessica went with a fruit plate…
…whereas on the second morning, we swapped the fruit plate for some Belgian waffles with Nutella.
While we didn’t dine at the hotel’s restaurants (instead taking our meals while we were out exploring Langkawi), I’ll briefly introduce you to your dining options at the resort as well. Besides Langkawi Kitchen, which serves the daily breakfast in the mornings and Malaysian cuisine during the rest of the day…
…there are also two beachside restaraunts – the Beach Grill by the main pool and Horizon by the eponymous infinity pool – which serve up fresh seafood, fine wines and cocktails, and killer views of the sunset.
Meanwhile, the resort’s premium restaurant is Hai Yan, which serves up Chinese-style seafood in a tranquil space perched by the water’s edge. Of course, more frugally-minded guests will be happy to know that several local restaurants, serving up seafood that’s just just as fresh but at a fraction of the price, are only a cheap Grab ride away.
The Ritz-Carlton is a true sanctuary within Langkawi’s lush tropical rainforest, exuding luxury, tranquility, and serenity no matter where you look. The Rainforest Junior Suite is spacious and strikingly well-designed, with the oversized bathrooms being a particular highlight; however, the base-level Deluxe Rooms aren’t that much smaller and look equally beautiful as well.
Of course, the real highlight of the resort is the Horizon infinity pool, which is one of the few settings where I was able to fully let myself go as I drank in a sunset view over the ocean, one of life’s simplest pleasures. I would recommend staying at this resort – at the very competitive points rate of 50,000 Bonvoy points per night, no less – for the infinity pool alone.
Compared to The Ritz-Carlton, Bali, where I had stayed the previous year, this property certainly felt more exclusive and intimate, with virtually everyone calling buggies to get around and very little in the way of interaction with fellow guests. A private, romantic getaway would therefore be perfectly suited to this resort, although a livelier occasion might be better celebrated elsewhere.
I definitely plan to return to Langkawi one day, and I might well check out the St. Regis next time, purely to try something new. That’s not to rule out a return to the Ritz-Carlton, though – indeed, one day, when I have far more disposable income, I will very likely have one of the higher-tier villas at this beautiful resort set within my sights.