New beachfront villas for Langkawi’s The Datai

The resort is set amid acres of lush Malaysian rainforest

The Datai resort on Malaysia’s Langkawi island
The Datai resort on Malaysia’s Langkawi island

When it opened in 1993, The Datai (www.thedatai.com; from about £310), on lush Langkawi island, set a luxury benchmark for Malaysia. With exemplary architecture courtesy of Kerry Hill arrayed across several hundred acres of littoral rainforest (unchanged in its essential make-up for close to a million years) and a kilometre-long beach, this resort’s fetching natural attributes could have allowed it to rest on its laurels and still probably make a killing. But when I visited last spring, it was clear someone here is still sweating the details after 23 years. I saw it in the pristine state of the whitewashed corridors, the vibrant modern Indian cuisine served in a traditional Malay house in the jungle and the smashing new beachfront villas (from £800), where dusky leaf monkeys cavort in the trees and lanterns light your garden at dusk. A special shout-out to Irshad Mobarak, the deeply charismatic on-site naturalist, who deserves the Malaysian correlate of a knighthood, and whose brilliant guiding has probably steered more than one young mind into environmentalism.

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