Most of us, whatever our incomes, are only visitors to luxury. Sure, some of us may have maids, gardeners, drivers, guards even but bottom line, the trash always needs taking out and the milk needs buying. Nasty reality helps to keep our feet on the ground and our imaginations in check. If the kids aren’t yelping then the boss invariably is. Which is why oases such as Langkawi’s Tanjung Rhu, exist. Reinvented since its Radisson association, the Resort has taken itself very upmarket, and is currently battling head-on with heavyweights the Andaman and the Datai.
Easily accessible from Penang by air, there are also several daily express ferry crossings between the two islands if you’re happy to spend a couple of hours at sea. Whatever way you decide to come, advise the Resort staff of your arrival and departure details and they will handle the rest. Making the most of its surroundings you arrive along a tree-lined avenue before getting your first glimpse of the 2.5kms of white sand and blue sea from the hotel’s open-plan, pond-filled lobby.
Tanjung Rhu, however, asserts that its occupancy rate is on the rise and it is having a better year than most, with as many as 30% of its guests repeat stays. Speak to any of the staff and you’ll understand – many of them have been there since the resort first opened its doors seven years ago and serve as a constant to those guests that return year after year. One British couple we met had been saving for the last two years to come back.
The Resort lays on a fleet of Rover cabriolets for guests to shimmy about the island in (no, they aren’t free, but there are affordable) and if you’re given to regal pretensions you can also opt for a chauffeur driven Daimler, but you’ll probably feel more preposterous than potent as you pull up outside a roadside stall for your beer and fried rice. Having said that, we didn’t actually manage to leave. In our defence, it was a short stay – we could have happily stayed a month or so – and we were tempted with things like massages and beach walks, compounded by the fact the resort is nicely isolated at the island’s northern tip, which acts as a further gentle discouragement against leaving. Voluntarily imprisoned we sought solace in the lagoon beach pool.
Sculpted and shaded from the sun’s evil glare, the water is chlorinated and slightly salted with a sand floor for those wimps who like the sea but not the idea of the things that live in it. The pool also had the advantage of being largely ignored by the majority of hotel guests who preferred to bask, in true European lobster-like fashion, in the full glare of the midday and afternoon sun around the far more exposed main pool. The price of their sun worship? They missed the ultimate luxury – a pool that does the swimming for you, requiring nothing more of you than floating in the shade of the many trees.
We stayed in the ‘basic’ Damai room, which at 50 square feet is better sized than many studio apartments. The rooms come equipped with a VCR and CD system in addition to the usual like TV, kettle etc. The bath is easily big enough for two if you’re into that kind of thing and the bed is simply huge. In addition there is a comfortably large dressing area and a living area with sofa and table. Staffs move around discreetly, slipping in and out to perform their various functions according to the vagaries of your ‘Do Not Disturb’ usage. About the only thing the rooms lack is a ceiling fan for those who aren’t too fond of air-conditioning.
Whether by accident or design, the resort does everything in its power to make leaving your room surplus to requirements. There is a well-stocked video library (although stocked with a surprising number of action flicks) that also lends out books and CDs. For those that opt for the all-inclusive packages (exclusive of alcohol), room service is ‘free’, so you can have breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks delivered to your bedside. Unsurprisingly, it’s a choice that a majority of guests opt for.
And for good reason. They take their food very seriously at the Tanjung Rhu, where, despite the relaxed atmosphere, certain standards that have to be maintained. To eat at the fine dining Rhu restaurant you will require a set of long pants and a shirt. Having dutifully carried long pants to resorts around the world only to remove them from my suitcase creased and unworn at the end of each trip, I didn’t bother with them this time around, earning the eternal ire of my partner whose eyes had locked on a menu that included such delights as watercress soup with Thai lobster and marinated scallops with horseradish potatoes with mouth-watering glee. The menus of all of Tanjung Rhu’s outlets are surprisingly extensive, presumably because they hope to cater for their guests for the duration of their 10 to 14-day stays. In any case, I was more at home with the laid-back beachfront ambience and Mediterranean cuisine of Saffron.
Peace and quiet is one of the defining factors at the resort. Local ordinances have banned motorized sea sports along this stretch of the coastline, so your tranquillity is unlikely to be wrecked by jet skis, speedboats and the other accoutrements of the water moron. It also helps to make this cove a haven for eagles and kites which swoop and weave ceaselessly overhead. Take a late-afternoon walk to the beach’s northern-most tip, where the Sungai Air Hangat spills into the bay against a chillingly spectacular backdrop of mountains and you can watch as several pairs of the birds hunt and vie amongst each other for territorial supremacy. With the sun slowly receding and only the cries of the birds and the sea, it’s almost horribly romantic. The resort is very big on activities. Not in a ‘forced way, but just casually to while away your time. To this end they have an RM40k digital telescope bought from the National Observatory for their twice-weekly sessions.
There are also cookery demonstrations, a low tide walk across the sandbar to the nearest island, canoe lessons, mangrove and eagle feeding tours, archery, batik painting and loads more. Some are free, some aren’t, but there’s generally something going on somewhere. One area where the artisans have certainly made their mark is in the Tanjung Rhu’s newly built spa.
Tanjung Rhu promises a full range of treatment’s when the spa becomes fully functional in April/May this year. These will include traditional Malay and Thai treatments, but the major focus will be a comprehensive ayurvedic consultation and treatment centre that they hope will become a second focus for the resort that they hope will rival their reputation as a honeymooner’s paradise.
And then it came to an end. The hotel has a flexible check-in and check-out policy and they guarantee that no guest will sit jet-lagged in their lobby waiting for rooms to be readied. Similarly, they realize that guests want to make the most of their time there and are fine with late afternoon check-outs as long as occupancy is not too high. A collection of staff assemble to see you off and as the van took us back through the avenue of Rhu trees after which the resort is named to the airport we felt like institutionalized inmates: after doing our ‘bird’, how would we cope with the outside world again?
Tanjung Rhu Resort, Mukim Ayer Hangat, 07000 Pulau Langkawi, Kedah Darulaman, Malaysia.
Learn more and/or book at Tanjung Rhu Resort here
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