After two relaxing days at The Ritz-Carlton, Langkawi, our resort-hopping journey continued in earnest as we checked out of the Ritz at noon and caught a Grab taxi up to The Andaman, a Luxury Collection hotel on Langkawi’s northern shores.
Named after the expansive Andaman Sea, whose waves crash along its pristine white-sand beach, the Andaman is a nature-inspired retreat tucked away at the very northern tip of the Malaysian island paradise. I had redeemed two free nights here for 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, which I thought was a good deal compared to the cash rates of US$400 for our dates shortly after New Year’s.
The Andaman’s remote location can only be accessed via a single mountain road, and accordingly it’s a long drive of about 20–30 minutes from the central parts of Langkawi to get there. Thankfully, with the spectacularly low Grab prices on the island, you’ll still only pay at most about RM 30 ($10) for a one-way journey.
As you can see on a map, the road splits off Langkawi’s main drag somewhere near the middle of the island, and then simply continues north for miles and miles with very few points of interest in sight, save for the Andaman perched at the very end of the road.
While the road is elevated on the mountain ridge, the property itself sits down by the shoreline at sea level, so there’s another few minutes’ worth of winding mountain roads after you enter the property grounds before you finally find yourself in the presence of the resort’s main lodge. Suffice to say, by the time you finally arrive at the property, the anticipation will have been building for quite a while.
That anticipation reached a climax with the sound of the hotel’s gong, which is rung whenever a new guest arrives, and I was soon invited to take a seat in the Jentayu Lounge, a bar attached to the main lodge overlooking the resort grounds, and wait for my check-in associate.
As I walked over, I took note of the sheer size and grandiosity of the welcome lodge. It’s certainly an impressive space, a feeling only accentuated by the decorative items on display, like the traditional Malaysian bridal house or the scaled-down model of Langkawi’s geographic features made out of sand.
Taking our seats by the railings, we were handed a welcome drink to sip on as we surveyed the resort landscape where we’d be spending the majority of our time for the next two days. First impressions: the resort was certainly significantly larger, more communal, and more family-friendly than the Ritz-Carlton from which we had just arrived.
Our check-in associate, Natasha, came by to introduce herself and walk us through the formalities. For this stay, I had decided to use two of my Suite Night Awards to request the highest-tier suite available through these upgrade instruments: the Executive Pool Suite with 1.5 bathrooms, direct beach access, and a private pool.
I was delighted to see that the upgrade request had cleared a few days before my stay, and Natasha confirmed that we had indeed been upgraded to “one of the best suites in the house”.
Unfortunately, since we had arrived well before the standard check-in time of 3pm, our suite wasn’t yet available, so Natasha invited us to have lunch at one of the restaurants later while we waited for our room to be ready.
She then proceeded to let us know about a hugely impressive suite of elite benefits that we’d get to enjoy on account of my Platinum Premier Elite status (now Titanium Elite) with Marriott Bonvoy. Thanks to my loyalty to the brand, we’d receive:
Complimentary daily breakfast for two
Complimentary drink vouchers at the bar for two
Complimentary daily “elite appreciation gathering” happy hour at the Jentayu Lounge, between 4–5pm
Complimentary snorkel, kayak, and canoe rentals from the watersports lodge
20% discount on all onsite dining as part of Members Dine More (a benefit which is found at many Marriott properties throughout the Asia-Pacific)
Seriously, this was one of the hotels with the most comprehensive elite treatment that I’ve ever encountered, and I was looking forward to taking full advantage of them over the course of my stay.
Natasha then introduced us to the complimentary activities available to all resort guests, as well as the many onsite dining options. I’ll talk about these in detail later in the review.
After going over all the details of our stay, Natasha walked us down to the Tepian Laut beachside restaurant, where we treated ourselves to a quick lunch while we waited for our suite to be ready. About an hour and a half later, we saw Natasha return to bring us over to our suite.
The majority of the Andaman’s rooms and suites are housed within a single four-storey building, with two separate wings branching out from the resort’s main lodge. The upper floors generally consist of standard guest rooms, while the specialty suites, which feature direct beach access and private pools, are all lined up along the ground floor.
As you walk to the end of the wing, these suites are named according to the letters of the alphabet. Our quarters for the next two nights, named the Zezeeria Suite, was accordingly situated at the very end of the building.
(I have no idea what “Zezeeria” means, by the way. It seems to be a completely made-up word, though it sure rolls off the tongue.)
The entrance opens up to a large foyer, followed by the living and dining space. The furniture consists of a couch, coffee table, dining table, and television set, providing us with ample space to move around during our time in the room.
The room’s decor incorporates light-coloured accents against a backdrop of ebony furnishings, making use of mirrored surfaces to make the space feel even bigger than it is.
While the furniture was mostly in good condition, you could tell that some pieces were beginning to show their age a bit. Indeed, as I learned from a resort associate later on, the Andaman is a 20-year-old property dating back to 1999, so I imagine it would benefit from a round of renovations sometime soon.
From the living area, a set of sliding doors provide access to the bedroom, which is itself designed in a very interesting way. The king bed is placed in the very centre of the room, with its headboard not against a regular wall, but rather a half-wall which acts as a countertop for luggage storage.
Then there’s a long bench, carved out of a single slab of wood, running along the side of the room.
Just like the living room, the bedroom uses mirrored surfaces to expand the sense of space. There are even mirrors on the ceiling itself, which was a very intriguing design choice indeed.
The most striking feature about the bedroom, though, would have to be the open-concept bathroom that lies behind it. Once you’ve entered the bathroom by way of the doorways on either side, you’ll find a set of double sinks, a large bathtub standing in the middle of the room, a vanity surface in the corner, and separate mini-rooms for the shower and toilet.
With the standalone bathtub taking centre stage, the bathroom certainly looks very visually appealing, though again there are a few signs of old age beginning to show, like the slightly loose shower head, the splintered edges of the wooden table, or the watermarks on the marble floor from many years of repeated use.
Also inside the bathroom is a closet containing the safe, ironing board, tote bag for bringing your belongings around the resort, and a few other items.
Of course, the suite is listed as having 1.5 bathrooms, and the half-bath is located near the entrance to the room. There’s a sink, mirror, and toilet here, but no shower or bathtub.
The room’s pantry is located in the living room close to the doorway to the bedroom. There’s a small wine cooler as part of the minibar, which is something you don’t see too often (although we had it back at the Ritz as well). Then there’s also your standard coffee maker, kettle, and Nespresso pods, and I was also delighted to see that they carried Singapore’s TWG 1937 Black Tea, one of my favourite brands of tea.
Enough about the indoor spaces, though, because the true highlight of the Executive Pool Suite is, of course, the massive patio and pool that’s waiting for you immediately outside your living room.
The patio furniture consists of two lounge chairs and a daybed a few steps down. After that, another staircase leads down to the beach level, where a door leads out to the walking path on the outside of the building, and the beach further beyond.
Meanwhile, I was delighted to find that the outdoor pool is large enough to swim a few laps, unlike the “plunge pools” that you’ll find at many resorts that only have enough space for taking a quick dip. It goes without saying that this was by far our favourite part of the suite, and we spent lots of time in or around the pool to fully maximize our enjoyment of it.
We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the pool either – indeed, the monkeys are very active here at the Andaman, and we caught them coming over to take a few sips of chlorinated water quite a few times!
The wood panel walls enclosing the patios of these ground-floor suites do provide some measure of privacy, although you’ll probably still be visible by beachgoers when you’re relaxing on your patio. On the plus side, the Zezeeria Suite is the furthest suite at the eastern end of the building, so gets relatively limited foot traffic compared to the rooms closer to the main resort lodge in the middle of the property.
Now that we’ve finished touring our suite, let’s exit from the patio door and explore the rest of the resort grounds, starting from the beach only a few steps away.
Here at the Andaman, the beach is definitely an improvement over the Ritz-Carlton, with softer and whiter sand, easy-going waves, and fewer mysterious sea creatures washing up on shore. However, what really sets the beaches in this part of Langkawi apart from elsewhere is the significant coral population around these parts, which make for excellent snorkelling views during high tide.
Bright blue lounge chairs are spread out across the beach, with resort staff members on hand to distribute towels as well. After walking along the entire length of the beach, you’ll eventually arrive at the watersports lodge, which is where you can rent snorkels, kayaks, and canoes to take out onto the water.
While I didn’t get any pictures of the experience, Jessica and I rented a kayak and paddled out to one of the mini-islands about 100 meters from the shore. Some of the coral there was simply gorgeous, which made the journey well worth it.
Speaking of coral, one of the more interesting features at the hotel is the coral nursery, a large pond where the hotel has cultivated its own coral for many years. One of the activities that you can do at the resort is the guided snorkelling, where the staff members lead you around the coral nursery and point out the interesting features about every variety of coral you see.
Following the path, we arrive at the resort’s swimming pool, which is a large shared facility at the very centre of the resort grounds, with lounge chairs and mini-cabanas spread out across all sides.
To be honest, we never ended up spending much time in the pool, because it seemed to be mostly occupied by young children every time we visited. I definitely couldn’t resist going on the waterslide a few times, though.
In addition to the main pool and the small individual pools attached to the ground-level suites in the eastern wing, the other form of pool access here at the Andaman is by booking one of the ground-level suites in the western wing, which each have access to a shared lagoon pool directly from their balconies.
The centrally-located swimming pool is only a few steps away from the resort’s main restaurant, known simply as The Restaurant. This is where breakfast is served every morning, so this seems like a good time to talk about the resort’s breakfast offering, which is extremely impressive.
While it doesn’t quite reach the same heights as the veritable breakfast buffet extravaganza at the JW Marriott Singapore South Beach, it certainly comes close. There are three made-to-order live cooking stations: eggs, noodle dishes, and pancakes and waffles.
There are hot dishes, both Asian and Western, with a particularly emphasis on local Malaysian fare.
There are cold cuts, salads, fruits, and cereals. There’s an entire room (“The Patisserie”) dedicated to all sorts of carbohydrates, and a kids’ corner, full of donuts and cupcakes, to match. To wash it all down, there’s even a juice maker, complete with an attendant on hand to whip something up for you using a custom blend of fruits and vegetables, depending on how you’re feeling for the day.
I thoroughly enjoyed the breakfast on both mornings of our stay, consuming far more portions of food than was healthy for someone who was planning to simply sit by the beach all day!
Besides The Restaurant, there are a few more dining locations on the property:
The Japanese Restaurant, open for dinner only, serving Japanese cuisine (clearly, the resort has a penchant for keeping their naming conventions simple)
Tepian Laut, serving casual Malaysian cuisine for lunch and Western fine dining for dinner
Jala, open for dinner only, serving specialty seafood
Jessica and I went for dinner at Jala on the final night of our stay. The restaurant boasts quite a unique setting, as it’s essentially situated in a giant sandbox, so you can either wear flip-flops or go barefoot. It’s a great way to retain that added connection to the sea as you gorge on delicious fresh seafood, and I appreciated Natasha booking us a table with a nice view of the sunset as well.
Jala allows you to choose your own seafood fresh off the ice, along with your own cooking methods and sauces, and your dish will be prepared exactly to your liking. Jessica and I chose the mangrove snapper, the tiger prawns, and a handful of side dishes. The Langkawi green chilli sauce left a very good impression as an accompaniment to both dishes – definitely a must-try for those of you who like spicy food!
As tends to be the case with these customized seafood dining concepts, though, I did find Jala to be slightly overpriced. The final bill for our meal came to about RM 360 ($120) after the Platinum Elite 20% discount (Gold Elite members get 15% off, while Silver Elite and regular members get 10% off). I was content with paying that price, but it felt expensive by Langkawi standards, especially as the portions weren’t the largest.
What’s just as plentiful as the onsite dining options are the daily activities at the resort. Besides the guided snorkelling that I mentioned above, another one of the resort’s most popular activities is the nature walks, which take place every morning and evening, except for on Mondays.
Sadly, one of my biggest regrets from our stay was that we didn’t manage to go on one of these nature walks – the opportunity to explore the centuries-old rainforest surrounding the resort sounded quite fascinating!
Then there’s the yoga sessions, the fish-feeding activity (mostly geared towards the kids), the watersports rentals, and many more.
If you’re a Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite member or above, though, make sure to drop by the Jentayu Lounge between 4–5pm every day for your “elite appreciation” gathering!
Everyone attending will be treated to unlimited complimentary alcoholic beverages, as well as a handful of light sweet treats being passed around by the staff.
Given its sheer size, the Andaman has additional facilities and amenities hidden in every nook and cranny. While the resort’s main lodge is located on the fourth floor of the building, and The Restaurant taking up the equivalent spot on the ground floor, the intermediate floors are home to facilities for all sorts of occasions, like the Young Explorers’ Club, a dedicated place where the children of the resort can play…
…the Game Room, which presumably fulfills a similar purpose…
…the Andaman Boutique, where you can pick up a few souvenirs from the resort…
…the business centre, which is fully equipped with a coffee maker and two computer workstations…
…or the V Integrated Wellness spa and fitness centre. Trust me, there’s simply no way you’ll ever get bored here at the Andaman; in fact, given the long drive into town, you’ll probably end up wanting to spend most of your time at the resort instead of heading out to do other things in Langkawi!
The Andaman was definitely a change of pace compared to our stay at the Ritz-Carlton that we had just completed previously. The hotel’s emphasis is less on the luxury side and more on delivering an all-round enjoyable resort experience, and it did so successfully through its spacious and well-appointed (if a little dated) Zezeeria Suite that I had secured via my Suite Night Awards, its abundance of onsite activities, facilities, and dining options, its exceptional elite treatment, and its unified focus on achieving wellness through interacting with the breathtaking natural surroundings.
I would compare the Andaman to one of the higher-end family-oriented resorts that you might find somewhere in the Caribbean, with a distinct Malaysian and rainforest-themed twist. If that sounds like something that’s up your alley (and particularly if you’d like to bring the family along for the trip), then the Andaman would be an extremely good use of 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy points per night, and I can definitely see this resort (justifiably) going up in category in the future.