Experiencing the highs and lows of a country is my job and in this case the highs were high and the lows were high too?
Let me explain a little more, well the highs of Malaysia for me were enjoying a hot spring retreat in the Cameron Highlands but also having a wonderful time at sea level at a highly rated five star hotel on the beach in Langkawi. Plus even they’re reaching great heights by riding to a mountaintop on the island on the steepest cable car in the world!
My return to Malaysia after some 30 plus years was a real eye opener, this country part of the ‘Asia Tiger’ economy had changed in many ways in terms of it’s infrastructure but its warm charming polite friendly people had not.
Arriving into KL as it nearly always seems to be referred to and hardly ever Kuala Lumpur on one of Malaysia Airlines brand double decker A380’s the very much expanded capital was laid out below as was the network of modern two and three lane highways running in all directions. Those roads had change somewhat from the days when I drove from Singapore through Johor Baharu to KL on single lane snaking roads in a hired Ford Capri.
With a brief plane change it was off to Langkawi Island a tourist tropical haven in the Andaman Sea 16 miles off the Western coast of Malaysia.
The destination hotel was ‘The Danna’ a white stone rectangular four storey colonial style building with lush gardens, fountains and palm trees at its central inner courtyard. A white sandy beach lies beyond the multiple interwoven rectangular swimming pools with their network of Jacuzzis and multiple water jets built in.
The calm interior and décor give you the hint that this hotel is well suited to the 35plus or certainly a location for honeymoon couples requiring a more peaceful environment. ‘Banging’ in terms of modern slang parlance is not how I would describe ‘The Danna’!
The rooms are all styled in the same contempory colonial way and in addition sumptuous bathrooms with deep baths, double sinks and rain showers. These showers have the ability to deliver a refreshing tropical downpour, if by chance a real one, outside hadn’t caught you as they do from time to time in the tropics.
Beach view, marina views and garden views are all available with a small number of larger suites too at key locations in the complex.
Catering for tastes in this East meets West location the choices of food and variety are extensive, you can breakfast with US style eggs over easy to Japanese sushi or tackle Malaysian noodles as a full grand piano in the corner of the restaurant is played lovingly by the resident musician to provide real music and not musak as you dine!
Although the hotel is located in a quieter part of the island if you are looking for that ‘Banging’ club or party atmosphere well that is possible with a 20 minute taxi ride into the busier resort area around Cenang where the night does come to life with music, neon and crowds. Close by is the 5 star Meritus Pelangi Beach that could be a good choice for a more family orientated stay, with its ly refurbished Malaysian styled chalets and suites, a kilometer long beach and in a perfect location to watch a romantic sunset.
Back at The Danna it is not bereft of entertainment in the evening but it is more of a lounge style type. A short walk from the hotel there are a selection of bars and restaurants in the adjacent marina complex, this harbourside location is a popular choice for visitors and guests, much quieter than at Pantai.
Getting high on the island is easy, just a half mile from The Danna and you can find yourself riding the Sky Cab cable car to the top of Machincang Mountain, the steepest in the world. It will have you flying over the forested jungle and whisk you skyward to a fabulous view over much of Langkawi with even views to Thailand on very clear days.
Leaving Langkawi and returning to KL my next stop is the much talked about and visited hot spring retreat called The Banjaran.
With only 25 villas and 16 acres of grounds the spa hotel are never going to be busy or seem crowded. Set in the valley of a steep lushly forested limestone canyon in the Cameron Highlands close to the town of Ipoh. The retreat is centered around a huge natural hot spring lake that is gently being filled by naturally heated water to a temperature of between 50C and 60C.
Having all that heated water to hand means that there is a natural steam cave for treatments and a large swimming pool being fed by the spring and mixed with cooler to provide a pool that is more akin to a warm bath and is such heaven to swim in.
The natural setting of the whole retreat does put it in such a wonderful position so of course the owners have developed it into a perfect wellness centre along with the hot spa benefits there are also Yoga classes, Tai Chi and very many other spa treatments to be had. I would highly recommend their ‘Signature’ massage, 90 minutes of delightful relaxation at the hands of their team of highly trained masseuses and therapists.
Treatments such as colonic irrigation are also available at the spa.
At places in the grounds and I really mean in the ground, as there are refuges set aside for meditation both are in caves formed millions of years ago by water action and now are perfect havens for quiet reflection. The main meditation cave and a much smaller crystal cave both cool get-a-ways from the either tropical heat or hot spring heat outside.
There are two villa types, water villas and garden villas, I was staying in a garden villa and noted that the private pool in the garden villas are very much larger than the plunge types in the water villas. If you would like to do more swimming then go for the garden villas. Both have extensive outside seating, air-conditioned bedrooms and a private Jacuzzi outside too.
Healthy eating does go with the overall ethos of the retreat but the chefs will pamper you as well as the spa staff here, who are attentive, experienced and make you feel welcome.
If you get the chance do ask the hotel if you can visit Jeff’s Cellar a troglodyte dining and entertainment area set aside for business, wedding and a general function suite.
This very extensive cave has been fitted out for top flight dining and entertainment plus you may be invited to view the owner’s private wine cellar full of rare vintage wines and spirits. Such as Petrus a highly regarded Bordeaux wine from near the St Emilion area of France, now lying in the cool of a Malaysian cave at a perfect temperature.
However you too could be lying at a perfect temperature in the grounds of this idyllic retreat. Where instead of being a cave dweller you could be sun bathing around the pool or dipping your body into the outside hot water spa’s or swimming in that perfectly heated swimming pool where I spent much of my time whilst there…ahhhh!
The Danna Hotel
The Meritus Hotel