Life at The Andaman, Langkawi

When I arrived in Langkawi, Malaysia that little voice inside told me to go online and book myself into a 5 star resort… so I did. . .I went from a comfortable backpacker B&B for $45 a night to a 5 star resort in the middle of a rainforest for $220 a night. The experience at The Andaman, Langkawi was one of the most luxurious and restful experiences I’ve ever had. They had an online deal for 50% off and the location looked gorgeous. It was tucked away between a 10 million year old rainforest and the breathtaking beach of Datai Bay.

National Geographic rated Datai Bay #9 of their top 10 beaches the world. It’s clean, white sand and quietly tucked away between The Datai and The Andaman resorts so it’s never crowded. Langkawi is filled with beautiful 5 star resorts and a place people dock their yachts. 

Before I clicked the button online to confirm the reservation, the voices inside my head were screaming…”you are CRAZY to be spending this money…it’ll be all couples and families, you’ll be alone, it’s too expensive…” and I had a slight headache. I ignored all of it and just listened to that little voice.

What did I experience? Probably the best 3 nights and 4 days I’ve had on this trip. I have experienced some amazing scuba diving. I’ve stayed at sweet B&B’s and then some for $20 a night just for flavor.  This time, I made a new friend, Jamie. We met at the Spa (of course). She was there with her boyfriend because she found the same 50% online deal while they were on holiday in KL. Jamie’s Mom lives in Kuala Lumpur and when she told her about the deal, her Mom decided to come from KL with her partner. They were all lovely.  They gave me a list of places to stay, restaurants and a little map of where to shop in KL.

The hotel was fairly empty, which was lovely. It’s the slow season and the beginning of the rainy season, so it rained for an hour or two most evenings. I had a drink in the bar with the Executive Assistant Manager, James Lim, he even met me the next day to talk with me more because I was so fascinated with the resort. A couple of big groups were arriving that weekend so the week I was there was the calm before the crowd. Each day when I’d go to one of the restaurants, someone would always come over to my table and say, “Hello Miss Baxter, would you like to something to read?” I loved it. I know only 1% of the world that lives that way. I just wasn’t completely aware what that experience is like.

What makes this place such a special experience? The staff is always the key ingredient. They all felt genuinely happy working there and it’s a very unique and beautiful place. The environment is some of the most precious rainforest on the island and possibly the world. The hotel management works hard to stay in alignment with the environment and their  green practices are outlined on their website. What’s impressive environmentally is from the beginning both The Andaman and its sister resort, The Datai, were built using minimal machinery. For The Datai the materials were carried by elephants. Both resorts kept the rainforest as wild and undisturbed as they could.

Now I realize that statement is paradoxical. I was staying at a 5 star resort in the middle of a tropical rainforest. Maybe I’m romanticizing it all, but it felt a bit magical.  Just walking around the grounds was like being in an episode of Wild Kingdom. We didn’t even leave the resort to spot things I’ve never heard of, let alone seen.

The hotel offers guests nature hikes in the morning and the evening. They are home to species of rare gilding mammals called the Colugo. They also are home to flying foxes, flying squirrels & flying snakes. National Geographic has been there to video and take pictures of most of it. They have a family of wild boar that roam around the roads outside of the hotel. They also have dusky leaf monkeys living all over, which isn’t quite as romantic, because they are clever and if you leave your window open apparently they know how to get into your mini bar.  One staff member told me some monkeys will tap on the window so a guest will unknowingly open it because they look cute and it’s just enough room for the monkey to jump in and get into the mini bar before the person even realizes what’s happening.

Set in this exotic location, the hotel offers a variety of excursions like jungle trekking, kayaking, bird watching, wildlife photography tours and a mangrove cruise. I did the mangrove cruise on James’ recommendation. This was outside of the resort and it’s been named a UNESCO Geopark. We took a 4 hour boat ride around an insular mangrove forest. A mangrove forest is a variety of species of trees that grows in saline swamp. They give off more oxygen then most trees and take in more carbon dioxide. Around the area, our guide showed us limestone hills dating back over 400 million years. We stopped briefly at a fish farm where trevallies and snappers are caught to sell, (not my favorite thing to see) but this farm also housed juvenile sting rays and mantas to care for them until they are big enough to release back into the ocean. I got to feed a juvenile manta and pet it.

The resort runs a “Heal the Reef” Coral Conservation program. This is one of the few places in the world that can offer a tropical rainforest and a coral reef within 100 meters of each other. This coral reef is estimated between 6,000-8,000 years old. They have a coral farm where they take cuttings from unhealthy coral, encourage them to continue growing on a new substrate and then return them to the reef after about 4-12 months in the farm. They say if growth is rapid and the success rate is high, it will be possible to add about 5,000-10,000 small corals to the Andaman Reef every year. They have coral clearing activities where guests and staff can volunteer at low tide time to remove or clear the dead corals from the reef and the dead corals are “recycled” to the coral farm.

Last but not least…the Spa. The V Botanical Spa is an integrated wellness center. (would you expect anything less?) They provide juice cleanses, an integrated fitness consultation and program as well as spa treatments. It’s set with the breathtaking backdrop of the Datai Bay from each treatment room. I had to try a unique treatment called Chi Nei Tsang.

The contemporary form of Chi Nei Tsang, seems to combine three different traditions: Classical Taoist Chinese Medicine, Traditional Internal Medical Thai Massage , and Western holistic medicine It combines sound to work the energy for the internal organs with gentle touch massage on the abdomen to aid the organs in digestion. The aim is both physical and emotional digestion, meaning that not only do we have undigested food that creates toxins in the body, but we also have undigested emotions that create similar toxins and blocks. This therapy is recommended to do at least 3 times to allow both the physical detoxification and the emotional detox to take full effect.

Do I have to say more? If you’ve been reading this blog and you know me at all…of course I had to try it… three times. That experience is a completely different post.

I know all this sounds a bit “magical” and you’re probably wondering…. was it really that great?

Did she really find a deal online and end up in some tropical rainforest, spa, shangri la type place? Is she for real? What about the food and the rooms?

These are good questions and why I need to write about these things, they seem fantastical to me sometimes.

The food was excellent, the breakfast buffet was amazing. I am biased because the breakfast buffet had challah bread, smoked salmon and soft brie cheese. (sorry, no cream cheese) Just to give a different perspective from Jamie, who has made eating out her favorite past time. She even has a great blog about restaurants she’s been to and loved all over the place. It’s called 15,000kms of Food! She seemed to feel the food was very good, but because the Andaman is a bit remote, (remember we’re in a rainforest) after a few days it seemed to lack the variety she needed. They have a Japanese restaurant, a beach bar and a reciprocal arrangement with the Datai Resort so you can go to any of the 4 restaurants there. That was plenty for me, but Jamie wanted to head out and explore other cuisines. The quality of the food was great, perhaps you may need more variety and it gets expensive always eating at the resort.

I found the rooms cozy and the bed really comfortable. The room was a little dark but I didn’t mind.  There was so much natural beauty to see and experience all over the resort. The Wi-Fi was great and I could use it anywhere. (always important)

The bottom line is not only was this a 10 out of 10 experience for me, but it was also a 10 for my own “jumping into the unknown” and doing something I wouldn’t normally do. In the process I discovered a place in a part of the world that I would have never known about and had an experience that will stay with me for a lifetime.

Thank you to everyone at The Andaman, Langkawi who made my stay so special. 

Wandering to Malaysia

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My 30 day tourist visa for Thailand expired… so now I’m sitting on the beach in Langkawi, Malaysia. I had no intention of visiting Malaysia originally, but at some point last week it felt like a different adventure. Spending a day on a boat on the Andaman Sea sounded infinitely more interesting than taking a boat to Krabi Town and paying immigration to extend my visa another 15 days. So I booked a ticket with Tigerline Ferries…and they brought me here in true Thai style with that classic Thai smile.

The ferry brought us close to Koh Lippe, but instead of docking at the pier and driving us to the immigration point, we were shuffled off the ferry and jumped into a peeling wooden longtail boat and driven to shore. Our luggage was left on the beach, our passports were stamped at the immigration point on the beach and we were told we could hang out at a closed and somewhat deserted bar on the beach called the Monkey Bar. (it made for interesting pictures) Our speedboat arrived in 30 minutes to take us to Langkawi, only an hour away. We collected our luggage on the beach and jumped into another longtail boat which drove us out to the speedboat taking us to Langkawi.

I made it to my hotel in Langkawi, Malaysia just in time to catch the end of the sunset with a glass of wine.

I think this one is more interesting in pictures…and I was inspired this week by someone called the Blissful Adventurer ~ Adventures in Eating, Living & Photography, as he has been taking photos with the Hipstamatic app on the iPhone for his blog lately. I decided to make that my media of choice for this journey…

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