WESTIN LANGKAWI RESORT & SPA, MALAYSIA
WORDS BY KRIS ABBEY, PUBLISHING EDITOR SPA LIFE MAGAZINE
As I open the plantation shutters of my room and step out onto the balcony, I am almost blinded by the glitter from the diamonds dancing on the turquoise water. I catch my breath as Mother Nature’s beauty slaps me across the face…
The brilliant blue water, pristine white sand and emerald green bush provide a stark contrast. Throw in a clear blue sky, with the odd cotton-ball cloud, and I wonder whether Claude Monet could paint a prettier picture.
Blessed with breathtaking natural beauty, the island of Langkawi is off the western coast of the Malaysian peninsula. ‘Lanka’ means beauty in the Sanskrit language, and it could not be more apt. The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa is a sanctuary of sandy beaches, the beautiful Andaman Sea and lush tropical foliage.
The still-as-glass infinity pool blurs the boundary between its turquoise surface and the endless stretch of deep blue sky. I think I will start my day there. The umbrella-shaded lounge by that incredible pool beckons. As I lay back on the lounge, it is a race to see what arrives first – the poolside waiter or a state of complete relaxation. Relaxation wins.
THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WELLBEING PHILOSOPHY DEFINES THE STARWOOD SPA COLLECTION:
1. BEAUTY – TO ADDRESS THE AESTHETIC: RESTORE THE YOUTHFUL FLOW AND SUPPLENESS TO YOUR SKIN WITH NO LESS THAN SEVEN UNIQUELY INSPIRING OFFERINGS AT EVERY SPA IN THE COLLECTION, INCLUDING FACIALS, EXFOLIATIONS AND BODY WRAPS.
2. LIFE BALANCE – TO ADDRESS THE SPIRITUAL: PEACE OF MIND AND A FIT BODY IS THE ESSENCE OF HEALTH. EACH SPA IN THE COLLECTION OFFERS A MINIMUM OF TWO TREATMENTS TO HELP RESTABILISE THE BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT.
3. HARMONY – TO ADDRESS THE BODY: GUESTS DESIRING RELIEF FROM SORE MUSCLES, STIFF JOINTS OR STRESS CAN CHOOSE FROM AT LEAST FIVE REJUVENATING THERAPIES TO RETURN HARMONY TO THE BODY.
4. AQUA – TO ADDRESS THE QUALITIES OF WATER: THE HEALING, PREVENTATIVE AND CLEANSING PROPERTIES OF WATER ARE AVAILABLE TO GUESTS WITH SAUNAS AND STEAM ROOMS, PLUS A VARIETY OF WATER-BASED OFFERINGS TO PROMOTE LONGEVITY, SERENITY AND CONTENTMENT.
5. VITALITY – TO ADDRESS AEROBIC ACTIVITY: RELIEVE TENSION AND STAY FIT, WHETHER AT WORK OR PLAY, WITH A SWIMMING POOL, WORKOUT FACILITY AND SKILLED FITNESS PROFESSIONALS TO INSPIRE AND GUIDE YOU.
6. NATURE – TO ADDRESS THE SENSE OF PLACE: EXPERIENCE THE ENVIRONMENT AND UNIQUE CULTURE OF EACH PROPERTY WITH ACTIVITIES SUCH AS JOGGING, POWER WALKING, HIKING AND GOLF.
7. NUTRITION – TO ADDRESS BALANCED HEALTH:GUESTS ARE OFFERED HEALTH-CONSCIOUS MEAL OPTIONS TO NOURISH THE BODY AND SOUL.
FOOD FOR THE BODY & SOUL
Langkawi is a unique fusion of several cultures, mainly those of its exotic neighbours – India, China and Thailand. The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa replicates this influence, from the food menu to the Spa menu. It simply adds a twist of laid-back style that you might find at a luxury resort in Queensland, Australia. You appreciate this to full effect when you relax in the open-air lounge bar, Breeze, which is luxurious, yet without a hint of pretension.
There is nothing like the lapping sound of the ocean, a gentle breeze (thankfully cutting through the tropical heat) and a pool-side snooze to help work up a healthy appetite. Luxury resorts often foster a decadent lifestyle, making it hard to really embrace wellbeing while away from home, which to my mind is incongruous. You take time out to recharge, so why not properly refuel your body at the same time?
“As we live in a more advanced environment, eating healthily becomes another vital element in our lives. It’s not merely about what we eat, but also how we eat, in order to feel totally renewed inside and out. Good Spa treatments are meant to let you rejuvenate, while good Spa cuisines play a crucial role in complementing everything, further elevating your senses and making you feel brand new. Spa cuisines, which emphasise organic food and a balanced diet, are designed to detox, as well as feed the body and nourish the soul,” says Executive Chef Chandran of The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa.
And now food for the Spa. Where to start? Very few Spas are located right on the beach and the Westin certainly use this aspect to their advantage. The exquisite building gives new meaning to the term open plan. Rustic timber contrasts beautifully with the white walls, and beautiful plants and flowers throughout the Spa provide the colour and aroma. As you walk through the glorious front doors, you look straight out to sea. Another infinity pool blends in with the beach and some of the Spa suites have an open-air courtyard for treatments under the palm trees or beneath the stars. It is a true sanctuary, bringing the outdoors in. I wonder if that is a sign… as I begin to feel at one with nature and at peace within my skin.
Langkawi has long been regarded as a destination for healing. Early traders travelled through the area from nearby countries, sharing their secrets in health and longevity. As a result, the Spa menu is abundant with wellness offerings with many treatments derived from Malay, Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Thai, Turkish, Swedish and Indonesian modalities. There are plenty of options and something to suit everyone. Anti-ageing facials, divine body treatments and a selection of global massages complete the multicultural feel of the many choices. So many choices, so few days!
A sucker for Legend and Romance, I choose the Mahsuri & Darus Romance by night. This two-and-a-half-hour treatment is usually for couples, but what the hell. It honours the legend of the love affair between the beautiful Mahsuri and the warrior Darus (see sidebar for a quick bedtime story). The treatment begins at dusk and goes into the night, so you experience the sky turning from blue to pink to black, with a dusting of those sparkling diamonds. It begins with a vigorous soap scrub on an outdoor heated marble plinth inspired by the traditional Turkish Hammam. This is followed by the most aromatic soak made from Water Lily and Hibiscus. Outdoors under the stars, this is about as sensual as you can get. I suspect this is the ‘beauty’ part of the treatment, representing Mahsuri. Then comes the massage – strong and soothing. Darus.
The time goes all too quickly, but the result lingers after for days. This has to be one of the most all-encompassing treatments I’ve ever had. Every sense is awoken, then put back to rest. I loved that it also had a sense of fairy tale and tradition. On a warm summer night, on the beach of Langkawi, starry sky overhead, the romance is not lost on this loner. I feel like I can conquer all… in a slow and relaxed kind of way. That is Langkawi!
AS PART OF THEIR ONGOING COMMITMENT TO PERSONAL RENEWAL, WESTIN ARE TEAMING UP WITH SUPERFOODS PARTNERS LLC, OWNERS OF THE SUPERFOODSRX BRAND, TO BECOME THE FIRST HOTEL BRAND TO CREATE A SUPERFOODS-FOCUSED MENU. SUPERFOODS – FRUIT, VEGETABLES, GRAINS AND PROTEINS RICH IN ANTIOXIDANTS AND PHYTONUTRIENTS WHICH ARE KNOWN TO IMPROVE WELLBEING AND LONGEVITY – ARE THE MAIN INGREDIENT IN WESTIN SIGNATURE DISHES. BUT THE WESTIN SUPERFOODS MENU IS NOT RESTRICTIVE, NOR IS IT A DIET. RATHER, DISHES THAT CONTAIN THE SUPERFOODS ARE MARKED WITH THE SUPERFOODSRX GREEN LEAF. THIS LOGO SIGNIFIES THAT THE MENU ITEM HAS BEEN APPROVED BY SUPERFOODSRX’S TEAM OF NUTRITIONISTS AND DOCTORS, AND THAT THE SELECTION CONTAINS NUTRITIONALLY SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF ONE OR MORE OF THE SUPERFOODS.
KEY TO THE SUPERFOODSRX PHILOSOPHY IS ‘FOOD SYNERGY’. EMERGING SCIENCE SHOWS THAT CERTAIN FOODS PLAY OFF EACH OTHER. WHEN PAIRED TOGETHER, THEY ARE EVEN MORE NUTRITIOUS THAN WHEN EATEN SEPARATELY. FOR EXAMPLE:
• AVOCADO INCREASES THE ABSORPTION OF ANTIOXIDANTS IN OTHER SUPERFOODS, SUCH AS SPINACH AND TOMATOES.
• SPRINKLING SPICES, SUCH AS BLACK PEPPER, ON YOUR FOOD CAN INCREASE THE ABSORPTION OF NUTRIENTS FOUND IN SUPERFOODS SUCH AS SPINACH, BEANS, BERRIES, GREEN TEA AND BROCCOLI.
• CINNAMON AND WHOLE GRAINS, SUCH AS OATS, WORK TOGETHER TO CONTROL BLOOD SUGAR, A WIN WIN FOR YOUR BODY!
• EATING A HANDFUL OF WALNUTS WITH ANY MEAL HELPS BURN FAT AFTER YOU’VE LEFT THE TABLE.
• HONEY PROVIDES FUEL FOR THE HEALTHY BACTERIA FOUND IN LOW FAT AND NON-FAT YOGHURT.
• BLUEBERRIES, WILD SALMON, AVOCADO AND SPINACH ARE ALL ‘BRAIN FOOD’, EACH SUPPLYING A DIFFERENT COMBINATION OF NUTRIENTS WHICH WORK IN SYNERGY TO PROVIDE AN OPTIMUM CELLULAR ENVIRONMENT FOR YOUR BRAIN.
THE LEGEND OF MAHSURI
Mahsuri, the most beautiful in all of Langkawi, married the warrior Wan Darus, who was required to go to war. While her husband was away, Mahsuri befriended a young man named Deraman. The wife of the village chief was jealous of Mahsuri’s beauty, so spread a rumour that Mahsuri was having an affair with Deraman. As the rumours grew, the villagers openly accused her of adultery. Mahsuri pleaded her innocence, but no one believed her, and she was stabbed to death with her family’s dagger. However, when she was stabbed, white blood flowed from her wounds, signifying her innocence. As some birds flew above her to cover her body, with her dying breath Mahsuri cursed Langkawi to have seven generations of bad luck… which continued until the birth of the seventh generation child.
Langkawi is known officially as ‘the Jewel of Kedah’. An archipelago on the Andaman Sea comprising 101 Islands, Langkawi is part of the Malaysian state of Keda. Ancient historical Chinese records indicate that Langkawi may have been founded as early as the 1st century AD.
Langkawi remained a sleepy backwater until 1987, when the island was granted tax-free status with the intention of promoting tourism and improving the lives of the islanders. A spectacular boom followed (thanks to the lifting of Mahsuri’s curse after the birth of her seventh generation descendant!) and Langkawi is now on the radar of travel agencies around the world.
For those who want to do more than lay by the pool or enjoy the many Spa treatments, there are ample activities and water sports to enjoy, but my tip is to take a bike ride around the surrounding villages. Immerse yourself among the locals and get a feel for the area. There is a rich culture with many legends, best told by locals. Unlike many Asian countries, the traffic isn’t too bad and pushbikes are a very acceptable mode of transport on the roads, which aren’t great, but certainly rideable. Enjoy a refreshing roadside pit stop with local fruit juice or cold fruit slices.
If you just can’t tear yourself away from the resort, Yoga and a walk along the pier at sunset are a must. And you must, must, must do a cooking class with Chef Chandran! Previously Head Chef for the Sultan of Brunei, he is passionate about food and can teach you a thing or two about multi-tasking and multi-skilling. In his presence, you will feel like you too are a master chef!