In my years as a traveller and a travel journalist, I can say one thing for certain: absolutely nobody in our part of the world does authenticity and luxury the way Temple Tree in Langkawi does. In terms of authenticity, I would place Temple Tree Langkawi in the same category as multi-award-winning The Old Bell Hotel (rumoured to be England’s oldest hotel) in the hilltop town of Malmesbury, two hours outside of London.
Temple Tree Langkawi is a beautiful resort less than a kilometre from the vast, pristine Cenang Beach at the western end of the Island, and a ten minute’s drive away from Langkawi International Airport. It is divided into Heritage Houses, each between 80-1oo years old (from the time it was first built), and each with its own unique aesthetic, history and character. The Houses are Plantation, Estate, Penang, Negeri Sembilan, Colonial, Johor and Straits. Each one of these can be booked in their entireties, or as individual rooms within the houses. Depending on the room, each room can accommodate 2-4 persons, and is fully stocked with amenities such as hot water, air-conditioning, coffee, tea as well as local Malaysian snacks at the pantry.
The lobby and restaurant are housed within Ipoh House, and the latter serves a delicious mix of traditional Malaysian International and Fusion cuisines. Temple Tree Langkawi also boasts two elegant pools: one for all guests between the property’s main restaurant and its spa, and a private one for those staying in the Straits House.
It achieves authenticity due to one very simple fact: it takes its Heritage Houses directly from the source, dismantling them, shipping them to Langkawi and then reassembling them on the property. So the Penang House, for example, was taken apart plank-by-plank, tile-by-tile in Penang, shipped over 120 km to Langkawi, and then meticulously reassembled such that it looked exactly as it did three states away. This contributes to its authenticity and gives the property its sense of culture and history. In many ways, it combines the best of old and modern Malaysia.
Langkawi is also the perfect island to house Temple Tree. The island is known for its association with legends and myths and history, something perhaps encapsulated perfectly in tourist attractions such as the truly enchanting Dream Forest Langkawi.
It is indeed the perfect amalgamation of legend, history and luxury, and this is best epitomised in four of the Heritage Houses: Penang House, Colonial House, Johor House and Straits House.
Penang House was, of course taken from Penang Island. It was built in the 1930s in famed Gurney Drive by a Chinese contractor, but while adhering to the kampong-style architecture found throughout the Malaysian peninsula. It offers plenty of space, at 140 square meters with four bedroom suites. The original white-and-green exterior has been beautifully maintained, as well as the interiors, painted white with turquoise shutters and touches of raspberry & lime green.
Next to the Penang House is the Colonial House, which is the very embodiment of old world charm. Formerly owned by an Arab gold merchant family back in the 1920s, the Colonial House was reflective of its former owners’ inclusive, accepting natures they combine Malayan and Asian sensibilities with a Western style, shown in architectural touches such as the cornices, floor tiles and fishscale design canopy over the porch.
The two downstairs bedrooms both have separate entrances and outdoor private gardens with wooden tubs and sunloungers. Upstairs, Colonial 3, is a large space with bedroom and living space as one and a separate bath hall with a wooden bathtub. Colonial 4, at the front, is the showpiece of the villa, with a shutter veranda, a separate living space, and 2 separate bedrooms both with ensuites.
It is marketed as the ultimate party house for five sets of friends or a large family or corporate gatherings, with the ground-floor Colonial Hall featuring a bar, dining table for 10 and lots of lounge spaces, combined with two bedrooms downstairs and three upstairs, making it a perfect space for a private venue for meetings or brainstorming sessions (the Colonial Hall can accommodate maximum 20 persons).
The over-100-years-old Johor House, which faces the resort pool, immediately stands out among the different houses due to the uniqueness of its design and its views of the pool and the lush, verdant land beyond the property. There is an understated magnificence about the House, with its intricate Taiwanese influences, Chinese motifs and large size. It was built by a wealthy Chinese family (you can see their family portrait on the second floor) in Batu Pahat, Johor . This therefore makes it the House that has travelled the furthest to relocate to Langkawi.
It’s smaller than the others at 86 square meters, but its layout is such that the House feels much more spacious than it seems. Its views are also magnificent – from the second floor balcony, guests get a view of the long swimming pool and the lush, verdant fields beyond the property.
The 200 square metres, four-bedroom suite Straits House is perhaps the most impressive of Temple Tree Langkawi’s Heritage Houses. This magnificent 90-year-old House, once belonging to an Eurasian family from Penang, retains its original charm, and combines it with modern sensibilities with an interior doused in sunflower yellow and vibrant sky-blue walls in the bedrooms.It also has a living room, spacious veranda with dining table, private pool and lush gardens.
Temple Tree is luxurious and versatile – it doesn’t try to focus on being a family-friendly or adults-only destination, though both travelling goals can nevertheless be achieved here. Booking out an entire house can be perfect for a bachelor’s party, or a holiday with the extended family. This versatility is one of the things that makes Temple Tree so appealing. What underscores this appeal, ultimately, is both the sense of history and the sense of luxury that permeates the property, giving guests an unforgettable experience, basking in the aura that comes with the nebulous yet profound, storied spirit of Langkawi.
Perhaps the one drawback about Temple Tree Langkawi is that there isn’t much in the way of activities, save for a fun, hands-on batik art classes and cooking classes. But Langkawi is not a place for a villeggiatura, by virtue of the island’s sheer appeal and dearth of experiences. There’s water sports at nearby Cenang Beach, hiking trails, a plethora of food choices (we recommend The Cliff Langkawi, a beachside restaurant with spectacular views of the sea), and visits to wildlife and natural reserves.
In short, Temple Tree is the perfect place to use as a luxurious HQ, a base of operations from which you explore every nook and cranny of the legendary island of Langkawi.