Lounging in Langkawi

Lounging in Langkawi
An aerial view of Rebak,
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Experience luxury and peace at the Rebak Island Resort in Langkawi, Malaysia

Nayantara Patel
August 08 , 2014
03 Min Read

If you're flying into Langkawi, you'll see the Rebak Island Resort even before you get there. It's a pleasing first encounter, having the hotel brochure come alive beneath you. The resort is set on Pulau Rebak, a private island that is part of the 99 islands that make up this beautiful northwestern corner of Malaysia.

I arrive, expecting a luxurious welcome from a liveried chauffeur. There's no one to meet me, the hotel has no idea I'm arriving. But in this touristy part of the world, 'miscommunications' waft away in the sea breeze before you're even sure there's a problem — an unidentified gent sees me looking lost and calls the hotel car, the hotel chauffeur informs the reception, a puzzled front office manager emerges, various people look apologetic, and I'm shown to my room after a nice tall drink.

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Now comes a crucial moment for a hotel reviewer; the first glimpse of the space that her readers will pay a lot of money to occupy for a few days. My Deluxe Sea-Facing Room on the first floor of a timbered villa proves to be large, airy and lovely. I let out a delighted squeak, forget to tip the bellboy (but my bag's light), and throw open the French windows that lead on to a balcony overhanging a garden that's no more than five metres from the beach. The room is really a suite — the comfortable sitting area is positioned in front of the bed, but it's spacious; and there's a separate dressing area with wardrobes, dressing table and a (smallish) bathroom.

It's 11.30am and I've endured two flights without breakfast, so I guiltlessly call room service. The food arrives surprising quickly, considering it's walked across acres of garden, and I scoff the grilled tuna sandwich (excellent) and the coffee (instant). I flop onto the bed (nice and firm) and sleep in spite of the drone of drill machines.

An hour of sleep and a few things begin to make themselves clear. The most immediate issue being what to do—I slip on the hotel Hawaii chappals, put on my sunglasses, pick up one of three books I intend to read here, and walk a few steps to the beach. It's empty and the sun is soft on the blue-green water. When daylight finally fades, I'm one book down. I dine on beef rendang, grilled prawn and salad at 7pm. Voluptuousness a girl could get used to.

The next morning, I understand the second aspect about staying here — that you can do: 1) luxuriously nothing, in the manner of my previous evening, or 2) very active and/or educational things, and leave feeling edified as well as exhilarated. So I take a speedboat to Langkasuka jetty, get into a car and am then driven 40 minutes through the countryside, to another speedboat for a tour of the famous mangroves, one of the reasons Langkawi was declared a 'Geo Park' by Unesco in 2007. It's a stunningly beautiful trip, but an impossibly long story. Before I leave, I gain one final insight on the resort: that it's a work in progress.

The sense had been growing — helped along by the drill machines and the instant coffee and the temporary spa — but it took Mahendra Dev Dass, always known as Dev, to clarify it. The Singaporean has been running a nature tour outfit for a while in Langkawi (the excellent mangrove trip was conducted by his team), and as we take a short tour of Rebak, he explains how there's “huge potential” to make this an ecologically sensitive, exciting resort. Dev is only a month old here, brought in by a responsive and also-new management. The Rebak Island Resort, earlier the Rebak Marina Resort, is now managed by the Taj Group.

Your dilemma: whether to go soon, while the beach is still empty and you can read three books without jostling for lounger space, or whether to wait till the resort is functioning spiffily, with a new spa and more extensive ecotours. Then again, maybe you could go twice.

The information
Location: Rebak Island, Langkawi, Malaysia
Accommodation: 16 garden rooms, 10 deluxe garden rooms, 32 sea-view rooms, 10 deluxe sea-facing rooms, 10 deluxe one-bedroom villas, 4 deluxe two-bedroom villas
Tariff: $200/$220/$260/$285/$345/$410
Contact: +604-9665566, 1800-111-825, www.tajhotels.com


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