A hotel with a sea view in Langkawi, The Danna is surrounded by beaches and tropical hills, making it the perfect hotel for a luxury getaway in Malaysia. Leading travel writer Michael Edwards checks in to see what all the fuss is about.
Imagine Raffles’ colonial elegance, then locate it on a serene soft sand beach on Malaysia’s Langkawi archipelago, which fringes the Andaman Sea, between a marina and towering rain-forest draped mountains. Then throw in a paradise scene of white frangipani flowers floating on a three-tiered infinity pool and you have The Danna Hotel.
The five-star hotel lies on the largest island of the Malaysian archipelago of Langkawi’s 99 islands, just a 15 minute easy transfer from the airport and just shy of the northern border with Thailand. Quietly distanced from the bustling hub of Cenang Beach, this is a destination for honeymooners and those wanting a break from life’s fast lane, with most guests having travelled from afar for such luxury.
Its expansive whitewashed architecture often contrasts with a red Ferrari or other vibrantly coloured sports car dropping off guests, while welcoming doormen – sporting a Baden Powell scoutmaster look of light khaki short-sleeved shirt, pressed shorts, long spotless white socks and pith helmet – signal that guests are stepping back into a bygone era, a contrast to the fact that The Danna is only celebrating its 10th birthday in 2020.
Inside, a tall dark wood frieze, behind reception, contrasts with natural hues and classical marble flooring, with guests relaxing on rattan sofas and sipping water, before or after challenging the tropical humidity. Check-in has been deconstructed and reconstructed into an oriental wellness welcome; expect a relaxing neck and shoulder massage and an invigorating shot of clove and apple juice on arrival.
Room names recall the important governance and trade of a British Empire upon which the sun never set. Merchant, Grand Merchant, Viceroy and Grand Viceroy evoke the decor of cooling fans, veranda style balconies and dark wood furnishings. Bathrooms have rainfall showers and shutters that can be opened so that even from the deep, deep baths guests need never miss a second of the sea or rainforest view.
The beach villas, featuring contemporary architecture and stylish interior decor, are the place to stay, boasting a private infinity pool, two spa beds for private treatments and touch-button living. Set away from the hotel, each of the 10 villas has private access to the beach if guests should ever tire of their shaded day bed or array of sun loungers.
The average hotel room size in the UK is 32.5 square metres (and shrinking), while in contrast the two bedroom Empress beach villas are a vast 1080 square metres and, proportionally, one bedroom Princess villas are equally spacious.
Floor to ceiling glass walls light designer lounges, appearing ready for an interior design magazine photo-shoot. Cream leather sofas, with a muted rainbow of cushions, are strategically placed to focus on the view beyond the pool, beyond the beach and to the islands on the horizon. If you had A-list friends, it’s the sort of place where celebrities would feel cool airing their new track on the sound system or watching their latest movie on the immense screen.
Food and drink
Room service operates 24 hours a day but it’s worth a stroll along to the Planter’s restaurant for the Champagne breakfast. Maybe an extra glass of bubbly, to take the edge of the nerves, is recommended if you plan to take the Umgawa Zipwire through the dense rainforest, which has the best views of the waterfalls.
Throughout the day there is coffee, iced coffee, smoothies, tea and light meals at Straits and Co. and both of the eateries’ decor, with black and white prints of Britain’s stylish colonial days and a British-Malaysian menu, celebrate Langkawi’s heritage.
Afternoon tea, a preprandial cocktail or a G and T from one of the 128 gins on offer, with a book from the library and a game of billiards, recreate the relaxed rhythms of colonial life, while a spa, with nine treatment rooms, is a modern addition to indulgent living.
The Planter’s menu introduces Malaysia’s rich culinary heritage. For over a millennium Malaysia has been on trade routes, on spice routes between east and west, assimilating Chinese and Indian influences into its cuisine. Such diverse influences and tastes may account for the intense controversy of how best to cook the national dish of beef rendang, every family passionately arguing for their recipe.
That beef rendang is just one of the dishes making up the Malaysian tasting platter of sea bass sambol, chicken percik, beef rendang, king prawn curry, papadum, Malay pickle and steamed rice. It is a perfect guide to some of Planter’s specialities.
In a nutshell
In Sanskrit, Danna is a word that represents the virtue of giving generously – very appropriate for a hotel with such attentive and welcoming service.
Rooms can be booked from £260 per night.
Address: Pantai Kok, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
Phone: +60 4 959 3288