With its sandy beaches, pristine waters and ancient rainforests, Langkawi has long been the destination for sun-soaked adventures and as a respite from the chaos of urban living. While Malaysia is home to plenty of island destinations, it can be said that what sets Langkawi apart is its remoteness that somehow still manages to remain accessible with an international airport and an efficient ferry service.
For the General Manager of Ritz-Carlton Langkawi, Ellen Franke who previously spent almost a decade working in Shanghai, there is plenty of peace to be found here. “It’s a tranquil place to work in,” says Franke who has been at the helm of the property since 2018.
One with nature
Franke worked closely with the local community to create harmony between the resort and the local culture. If you were to take the time to admire some of the unique ceramics and sculptures scattered throughout the resort, you will notice the handiwork of local artisan Mohammad Radzi Ismail, the owner of Ilham Ceramics, a pottery studio based in Langkawi. When Franke first came across Radzi’s work, she fell in love with the designs and made a bulk order of dishes, pottery and tableware for the resort.
The local culture is not the only thing the resort has embraced. Enveloped by ancient rainforests and views of the sparkling Andaman sea, this is a property that is big on its environmental credentials. The resort’s staff go to great lengths to inform guests of the region’s unique flora and fauna.
A much-cherished creature to the locals, the sea cucumber (or gamat in Malay) is the centre of focus at the resort, where guests can get up close and learn more about this mysterious animal that is indigenous to the waters of Langkawi.
As for the facilities, the resort manages to incorporate luxury that blends almost seamlessly into the landscape, whether it’s through the rooms, the cuisine or through the facilities. The Junior Ocean View Suite offers fantastic sea views and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll be greeted by the sound of hornbills as they fly past your window just before the break of dawn.
Eye for detail
As you’d expect from the Ritz-Carlton brand, the rooms are tastefully furnished, but what sets the decor apart from other five-star properties is the attention to detail that highlights the region’s culture. From the use of rattan and wood to the decorative congkak board used as a serving board for sweet treats, these details lend the rooms a distinctive character that is unmistakably Malaysian.
A gastronomic affair
Meanwhile, the island’s produce is a constant source of inspiration for Mattia Salussoglia, the resort’s Executive Chef, who often heads to the pasar (morning market) to get a hold of the catch of the day. Ritz-Carlton Langkawi has earned quite a reputation as a dining destination and has recently introduced a Gastronomic Weekend Affair which FirstClasse had the honour of experiencing during our stay.
Along with resident Chef Salussoglia, Chef Deepanker Khosla of Haoma Bangkok, Chef Johnson Wong of Gen Penang and the maestro behind Reka Bar, Giovanni Magliaro, we were served a special five-course meal that started off with a memorable amuse bouche of marine ‘salted’ ice cream and fried deviled crab. For the first course, Chef Salussoglia offers an Italian rendition of the Asam Pedas using freshly caught local grouper and heirloom tomatoes to create a savoury sauce.
For the next course, we were treated to Chef Wong’s aged duck, a dish that he has mastered and is well-known as his speciality. Meanwhile, Chef Khosla’s main course of the wagyu ribeye korma with Sheermal bread (which he took decades to master and has since succeeded), made for a wholesome meal reminiscent of a thoughtfully home-cooked dinner.
Each dish was paired with Magliaro’s exceptional cocktails, which he created using ingredients such as coconut kefir, passion fruit, mangoes and soursop sorbet. The cocktails worked in harmony to bring out the best flavours that were put together by each chef. The Gastronomic Weekend proved to be a hit and the resort is planning on making the event a regular occurrence, although, we highly recommend you reserve your seats early.
If you can’t make it to the event, fret not, there are plenty of dining opportunities available here, including Hai Yan, the first Oriental fine dining restaurant on the island. With delectable dim sum dishes and classic Chinese cuisine featuring the freshest seafood, Hai Yan is set to become a dining destination on its own. For those looking for drinks with stunning sea views, the adult-only Horizon bar is a spot you’d need to drop by for sunset drinks and a dip in the pool.
While many locals would argue that Langkawi only manages to retain its charm if you’re only here for a short break, Franke proves otherwise. For someone who has called Langkawi home for the past four years, she couldn’t be more at peace here, although she admits to escaping to the city every once in a while when she misses the buzz of urban life.
If anything, this only further proves that Langkawi has the added allure of being just a short trip back to civilization. But for now, we’d rather stick to gazing out to the open sea with a drink in hand and sand between our toes.
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