Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa with its white sand beach, more than a kilometre long, sits on the shoreline of the Malacca Straits, in Malaysia’s Kedah province, just south of the border with Thailand.
Home for this sophisticated five-star hotel is on one of the 99 islands that make up the Langkawi archipelago. Two recently created man-made islands – one a water sports heaven – tip the archipelago over the century mark, to a count of 101 islands. It’s a prime location, resting between Pelangi’s landscaped paradise – even the beachside casuarina trees are sculpted into sun-shade umbrellas – and the lively bars, restaurants and shops of Cenang.
Exuding dignified Malaysian tradition, the Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa charmingly channels the architecture of a Malaysian Rumah Panggung House built on stilts, boasting airy high-ceilinged rooms, gabled roofs and long verandas.
Spaciously spread over 15 hectares of immaculate tropical gardens and wide beach, the deceptively serene Pelangi is an action-packed resort to keep even the most active family busy. As well as a spa built in natural materials, there is a sea-view fitness suite, steam room, two lagoon-style pools, archery, mini-golf and tennis. Children are catered for with a small water park featuring dinosaurs and a petting zoo, too. So extensive are the Pelangi’s grounds that some families opt to hire bicycles to get around.
There is a civilised aura of colonial times to the Club Lounge, a deliciously air-conditioned sanctuary for cucumber sandwiches, scones and strawberry jam, gin and tonic.
Rooms are grouped together in low-rise Malaysian style houses, with stairs leading up to rooms on the first floor. There are 355 rooms, but ask for one with idyllic sunset views out over the ocean and the isles of the Langkawi archipelago.
Décor blends traditional local dark wood furniture with the colonial elegance of crisp, cream bedding. Whirring fans and clinical air-conditioning comfortably defeat Langkawi’s sticky tropical climate. Large-scale photographic artwork, featuring a natural palette of fertile greens and browns, delivers a sense of place to the spacious rooms.
In the en-suite bathroom both bath and rainfall shower are generously spacious, ideal recuperative territory if your muscles ache after Indiana Jones heroics amongst the flying snakes and prehistoric hornbills of the rainforest.
At the heart of the resort, the vast Spice Market Restaurant exudes complex aromas of cinnamon, galangal, ginger, lemongrass and at least a dozen other spices. Buffets for breakfast, lunch and dinner offer a rainbow of Langkawi colour. For centuries, the Spice Route passed through Langkawi, leaving a culinary tradition of curries, noodles, rendangs, rice and satays.
Beachside, Cba, pronounced C – Bar, unsurprisingly specialises in cocktails and wines for sipping as the sun goes down and long after, too. Dining on the beach, enjoying the freshest of Asian-fusion seafood, is popular with the honeymooners. Though for breakfast, Cba’s buffet offers egg, bacon, muffins and pancakes for western tastes.
If you acquire a taste for Malaysian cuisine you can sign up for cookery lessons at the Spice Market Restaurant.
Taking a half day guided jet-ski safari with Mega Water Sports through the islands of the Langkawi peninsula is a thrilling experience. The first stop is usually at the island of Pulau Dayang Bunting, which, because of the contours of its hills, is known as ‘The Isle of the Pregnant Maiden’. Legend has it that swimming in the island’s lake boosts fertility.
A sunset dinner cruise through the archipelago is a more leisurely way of getting to know the craggy limestone islands with trees perilously growing from the cliffs. Walk through some of Langkawi’s subterranean charms, in caves where hanging bats devour up to 400 mosquitoes an hour on a mangroves river cruise where you can watch sea eagles swoop for their dinner and snakes basking on tree branches.
Also, it is just a quick drive to the Umgawa Legendary Adventures Zipline which flies through the rainforest and wildlife: dusky leaf monkeys, long tailed macaques, giant squirrels and flying snakes can all be spotted in the UNESCO recognised geo-park. Though a stroll across the glass-bottomed SkyBridge provides a slightly less hair-raising viewpoint.
In a nutshell
A spacious beach resort, perfectly positioned for Langkawi’s many attractions on both land and sea, yet quiet enough for blissful relaxation, too. There’s a serene Malaysian vibe created by authentic architecture, authentic cuisine and smiling service.
Qatar Air fly from the U.K. to Doha, then a quick touchdown in Penang before the final leg (40 minutes) to Langkawi International Airport. Finally, it is a mere 15-minute taxi ride to the Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa.
Rooms can be booked from £110 pn.
All photography courtesy of Pelangi Beach Resort and Spa