“Stunning rainforest resort with spa and impeccably stylish rooms and villas - perfect for wildlife-cum-beach holidays by the Andaman Sea”
The Datai has 14 glorious, butler-serviced Beach Villas, a range of smart suites and rooms-with-a-view up in the main building; freestanding villas for 2-3 in the rainforest; and 2 Pool Suites (let in pairs) betwixt jungle and sea.
The hilltop rooms and larger suites in the 4-storey hotel building are perched so high that you feel suspended in the rainforest canopy. Most of the rooms fall into the Deluxe or Premium Room categories (the latter tend to be larger and higher) and are beautifully designed with impressive, jungly ornaments, high ceilings and hardwood floors. They have kingsize beds, a daybed and a sumptuous bathroom. Corner Suites and End Suites are virtually twice the size, with a separate living area, a dining table and a more spacious L-shaped balcony with stupendous views.
Ideal for a family or friends travelling together, the Datai Suite is on its own mezzanine, with 2 double ensuite bedrooms separated by a generous living room, dining area and kitchen. Surrounded by a gorgeous sandstone balcony, it looks across the Malacca Straits to the islets of southern Thailand.
For a completely different experience, try a villa sympathetically built into the jungle. Superior Villas have a huge main bedroom with a kingsize bed, a high vaulted ceiling, a cushion-smothered daybed, a small dining table and a desk area. Double doors lead you into a cream terrazzo, party-sized bathroom, with basins and infinity mirrors on either side, a rainfall shower, dressing area and a bath (big enough for 2) from which you can watch the jungle through the hardwood blinds. Outside, you have a veranda with a pair of chairs that are frequently used as vantage points by macaques, sunbirds and even hornbills. Four Pool Villas also have a small private plunge pool, a Jacuzzi and a daybed on their raised terraces. Some have commented that the villas can be a little dark - and damp - in the rainy season, but, when we visited in March, we found them snug, with good interior lighting. Close the blinds at night as buggies pass by your entrance door.
If you're coming as a family or as a group, try to book 2 (or all 4) of the Pool Suites, which enjoy the best of both worlds: beach and rainforest. A short, levelish stroll from the Andaman Sea, they have a Malaysian village feel, with each pair of suites sharing a sheltered walkway to a kitchen and a separate, long-windowed, high-ceilinged living room and dining pavilion. A 15m pool - shared by all 4 suites - is shaded by the high canopy of the rainforest, so you won’t miss out on the wildlife.
International superstars, however, might prefer the stunning glass-walled, butler-serviced 1- or 2-bedroom Beach Villas. Hidden in their own gardens behind high fences, these residences are up there with the best Asia has to offer. Glasshouse bathrooms are a temple to bathing, with theatrical egg-shaped baths, 2 loos back-to-back (but with a wall between), and a pair of altar-like washbasins. Bed to beach is accomplished in 3 easy moves: topple into pool, float across, open gate. Voila.
Wherever you stay on the estate, you can expect elegant design, comfortable beds, a TV (most are flatscreen), WiFi, preloaded iPods and docks. You also get exclusive Plantation toiletries, effective air-con, bathrobes and beach sandals you’ll want to take home. Other in-room extras, depending on what category of accommodation you’ve gone for, include binoculars, DVD players, Lavazza coffee machines, minibars with complimentary goodies, or full kitchens.
The food is out of this world. Breakfasts which melt into brunch are sociable affairs, with long buffet tables spread with shots of detox juices, champagne, dosa, roti channai, plates of pomelo and mango, patisseries, custards, sushi and rice porridge as well as quiches and freshly cooked eggs (but don’t expect any pork bacon).
The Datai and Pools Suites have private kitchens, and the Beach Villas have a butler's kitchen, so these rooms are great for private dining. There’s 24-hour room service as well as 5 dining venues to choose from, all with vegetarian options, and they’re so good that you really have to try them all.
At The Dining Room in the main building, you’ll find local seafood such as crab cakes served on lemongrass, grilled prawns in sweet and sour sauce, or fresh lobster stir-fried with sweet Thai basil and served in its shell. Or western dishes like chicken stuffed with foie gras, truffles and mushrooms that just explode with flavour. Side salads might be carrot, mango and beans on a bed of banana flowers, and you can round off with a basket of coconut cakes and a clay pot of jasmine tea, or a melt-in-the-mouth passion fruit soufflé washed down with the best of European wines.
Built on stilts among the tree canopy, the speciality Thai restaurant, The Pavilion, serves tasty and eye-wateringly authentic dishes. The chef is utterly brilliant: give him fair warning and he’ll cook your catch of the day after a successful day’s fishing, or come up with your off-menu special requests (he prepared the best Mee Krawb for us that we’ve ever tasted).
The Datai’s signature restaurant is Gulai House, which offers delicious Malaysian food such as Chicken Capitan, laksa and Indian curries in an open-air, "kampong-style" setting. Set your own level of spiciness if you like your food ‘pedas’.
For sociable evenings by the shore, The Beach Club offers alfresco themed dinners (not as tacky as that sounds), buffets of fresh seafood and salads and BBQ’s nearly every night.
Perched at the top of the main building, with panoramic views over the jungle to the sea beyond, the relaxing, breeze-cooled Lobby Lounge serves a range of snacks (try the Datai burger), fantastic cocktails and full afternoon tea.
If you're out and about for the day, ask for a picnic basket brim-full of tempting delicacies - so go easy on breakfast that morning. The staff can also magic up a romantic dinner for 2 on the beach, lit by candles with petals strewn over the sand.
Families will find plenty to occupy kids at this tropical delight set on this gently shelving beach with sand crab cities, rockpools, perfect sandcastle sites and soft white sands; the family-friendly pool is just beside the beach. There’s shade for resting under and opportunities to observe the fish-eating monitor lizards and kingfishers, as well as large birds of prey. And of course the nature walks and wonderful jungle will delight older children interested in wildlife. And the staff are charming, local nannies can be hired.
Children under 12 stay for free when using existing beds, and children under 2 are free in a baby cot. Only one bed or baby cot is permitted per room.
Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Superior and Pool Villas are big enough for extra beds and cots (the latter also has a private pool), or, better still, the Datai Suite has 2 bedrooms and space for a baby cot. Older families might want to book a pair of the 4 Pool Suites, where you’ll get 2 separate suites with shared a living pavilion and pool, or the stilted 4-bedroom Villa Hutan Datai which has a garden, huge private pool and masses of space
Available by arrangement
Baby cots can be arranged on request and Stokke high chairs are available in the main restaurants
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Kids Lab facility complete with marine biologist
Children under 16 are not allowed to use the upper pool or lobby lounge, but the pool at beach level is perfect for apprentice swimmers and their parents