Home > Travel > Malaysia
Saturday October 26, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Saturday October 26, 2013 MYT 8:41:19 AM
by kenneth chaw
Island-style rejuvenation: As Ambong Ambong is perched on a hill, the writer got to wake up to an expansive view of the Pantai Tengah shore with Gunung Machinchang in the distance. -Photo by Ambong Ambong
Ambong Ambong is more than just a picturesque place to stay; it is a place of total wellness.
IT was around seven in the morning when a loud thud woke me up. Startled, I got off the bed and surveyed the room for irregularities. Finding nothing, I returned to bed. Suddenly, another powerful blow struck and the roof rattled. Then I heard the sound of swift and light footsteps.
“There are two common types of monkeys in Langkawi — the dusky leaf monkey and the long-tailed macaque,” explained Ambong Ambong Langkawi Rainforest Retreat owner Ahmad Cik later in the day.
His wife Joan Shorie chimed in: “Since Ambong Ambong is surrounded by nature, it’s normal to hear them jumping onto the roof and shuffling about in the morning.”
Indeed, these furry early-risers are testament to just how close Ambong Ambong is to nature. The establishment is made up of a group of cozy cottages nestled in a lush green forest off the Pantai Tengah shore of Langkawi. A small road connects the cosy homes — comprising two cottages, six studio apartments and three suites perched on a hill — giving the impression of a tight-knit bucolic community.
I stepped out onto the verandah of my designated cottage and saw an expanse of green before my eyes. Trees and plants of every shape and size enveloped the perimeters of my cottage, with the occasional rustling of leaves indicating a few forest friends had come to play. Beyond the trees, the blue of the ocean caught my eye, and looking further, stood Gunung Machincang, the second highest peak in Langkawi.
This atmosphere of serenity is further enhanced by facilities such as a yoga deck and a swimming pool where guests can meditate or just relax in the middle of the forest. And of course, a five-minute walk away is the less commercial, much quieter Pantai Tengah beach (though, sadly, it was drizzling when I was there and so did not get to check it out).
Being surrounded by greenery is one thing, but keeping it that way is another. Ahmad told me only three significant trees were felled during the construction of Ambong Ambong, as the cottages were built around the existing trees (so much so, even one of its restrooms has a tree in it).
What’s more, the cottages were built using a lightweight building material that not only lessens the strain on the hilly terrain but its insulating properties reduce the need for air-conditioning. Nature lovers will also be pleased to know the establishment is committed to recycling waste water, with nearly 80% of the water reused.
I’ve always loved the idea of living in a cottage, and the interiors of my 106sqm cottage, Beras Basah, did not disappoint.
The single-storey, two-bedroom, two-bathroom cottage has all the amenities of a five-star accommodation – free WiFi, satellite TV, and even a DVD player – yet it exuded the warmth of a charming, rustic home. The former consultant engineer and his wife hunted down pieces of old furniture and restored them to their former glory while others were made of the eco-friendly rubberwood, designed by the owner.
Still, what impressed me most about Ambong Ambong had to be its impeccable service. I was given a mobile phone at the beginning of my stay. So whether I had enquiries about my accommodation or things to do at Langkawi, help was just a phone call away.
As the terrain is rather steep (and slippery on a rainy day), I could call for a driver to take me from the entrance of Ambong Ambong to the doorstep of my cottage, and vice versa. Oh, yes, I was also delighted to find a hearty breakfast left in the refrigerator every evening so I can wake up anytime the following day and enjoy it.
But it was the Penangite couple’s personal gesture that made my stay truly special. Ahmad and Joan made it a point to know my name as well as every guest who stops by their establishment, even taking me out for dinner to get us better acquainted. The two travel to Langkawi every 10 days or so just to engage with guests personally.
Located on-site is Ishan Spa and Unkaizan Japanese restaurant. The invigorating smell of herbs and spices greeted me at the spa. I opted for the hour-long Langkawi Classic full-body massage. The stresses of city life were far behind me as the spa’s signature five-flower oil permeated my skin. I have never experienced a massage treatment before and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.
Spa owner Dr Baskaran Kosthi said a fresh batch of the specially brewed oil – comprising lemon, lavender, sandalwood, camphor and lemongrass – is made each day at Ishan Spa. Baskaran organises yoga sessions at the spa regularly, even partnering with Ambong Ambong to offer yoga and ayurvedic retreat packages.
Feeling soothed, it was time to satisfy the growl in my belly. Unkaizan Japanese restaurant has won the best Malaysian restaurant award by Malaysian Tatler every year since 2005. When asked about the secret to the restaurant’s success, chef Take-san – who as an apprentice, spent an entire year learning to cook rice alone – said it lies in perfecting even the simplest of dishes.
Indeed, as I sank my teeth into Take’s lightly grilled (Aburi) salmon, it tasted crispy on the outside, but soft and buttery on the inside. Each dish that followed – the fresh bluefin tuna, white fish, oyster and deep fried sea bass – were simply perfect.
It’s no wonder that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad once chose to dine here. At the end of dinner, the Japanese chef showed me privately how to make my very own fried ice cream for dessert, which turned out surprisingly well.
Though Unkaizan is the only dining option at Ambong Ambong, guests can opt to dine at a variety of eateries along Pantai Tengah (within walking distance) and Pantai Cenang (just a five-minute drive away), be it Western (Mexican and Italian cuisine) or Eastern fare (Thai, Indonesian and local cuisine).
As my stay at Ambong Ambong drew to a close, I asked Joan the meaning behind the establishment’s name. She replied, “Ambong Ambong (Scaevola taccada), a plant native to Langkawi, has many medicinal properties. In the same way, we hope Ambong Ambong will be a place for our guests to find healing and restoration.”
Tags / Keywords:
Travel, Ambong Ambong, Langkawi, hotel review, travel
Copyright © 1995-2013 Star Publications (M) Bhd (Co No 10894-D)