As young boys in the 1980s, Adam and Amran Ahmed enjoyed idyllic holidays on Langkawi, based at Teluk Baru. They explored the paradise island, made friends with the fisherman and joined them on fishing trips out to sea, sailing between some of the 99 islands that make up the Langkawi archipelago sitting in the warm Andaman Seas.
Through their days of university in the U.K. and then careers in banking and engineering, the brothers felt drawn back to Langkawi. In 2011 they opened the Ambong-Ambong Rainforest Retreat with the name coming from the delicate shoreline flower that binds the sands together. The success of this eco-conscious boutique hotel prompted them to open Ambong Pool Villas, on a separate site, two years ago.
Just nine exclusive villas nestle in this verdant rain-forest resort built into Langkawi’s steep hillside. It is difficult to get any further from the madding crowd.
Though it’s not the humans, whispering in awe at living in the heart of the rainforest, who make the noise. A rain forest has its own soundtrack that changes by the hour, from dawn to dusk. There’s a quiet hum of insects, chattering monkeys and the flapping of Hornbills’ wings: Oriental Pied Hornbills, Great Hornbills and Wreathed Hornbills are drawn to the forest by Ambong’s conservation-conscious provision of nesting boxes.
Designed with integrity to respect the natural topography of the environment, every villa is unique, save for an undeniable wow factor as you step through the front door. Each villa has breathtaking sea views either east towards sunrises over Teluk Baru or west for the sunsets over Pulau Tepor. One villa is even built around a tree incorporated into the layout.
Those 99 islands in the archipelago of Langkawi create spectacular romantic vistas. One uninhabited island, Pulau Dayang Bunting, reclines on the horizon like the figure of a pregnant maiden, which is why the name translates as “Isle of the Pregnant Maiden.” Legend has it that swimming in the island’s spring water lake boosts fertility.
Vast windows seem to bring the forest into the villa. So much so that monkeys, fond of both soft drinks and beer – if they haven’t mastered the art of the ring-pull they just sink their teeth through the metal – are keen to visit. There are locks on the fridge doors in the kitchenette to frustrate their efforts. Cleaners move round large soft toy tigers which help keep the monkeys at bay.
The decor is luxurious tropical chic. Repurposed railway sleepers form steps to some of the villas. Dark woods from rubber trees are another echo from Malaysia’s colonial past contrasting with cool cream bedding. Vibrant cushions and vivid jungle scene photography insert flashes of colour. Sarongs and fisherman’s trousers remind guests that this is a place to kick back and relax. Bathrooms are not just for indoors. There are deep tubs on the patios, exterior showers too. Then every villa has its own infinity pool, usually 12 metres long.
As well as a king-size bed and day-beds for lounging and keeping half an eye on wildlife flying, jumping or scampering through the rain forest. If you really have to rejoin the 21st century there is a 42 inch HD television and a Nespresso coffee-maker.
Leaving the villas is difficult. You can even book for Ambong’s Ishan Spa to come to you. Therapists focus on the use of local herbs, spices, fruit and flowers such as coconut, black rice, cinnamon, ginger and frangipani for the treatments.
Some guests, entranced by the environment, hardly leave their villas. Friendly staff will serve breakfast on your terrace, then in the evening a private chef will cook and serve dinner. Though it is a pity to miss out on a walk – or the shuttle service – to the nearby beach.
The Rimba Restaurant, again constructed with vast windows giving sightlines through the rain forest canopy to the Andaman sea, attracts non-residents probably as much for the views as for its specialities such as the Ambong Signature Skewers, Squid Ink Sambal Spaghetti and Whole Fish Bakar with Air Assam. If guests acquire a taste for Langkawi’s cuisine they can take a culinary class with chefs Aimy and Miza preparing northern Malay dishes, incorporating herbs and spices grown in the organic garden.
Few guests feel the need to ask for a quiet room at Ambong Pool Villas. Peace, serenity and tranquillity come as standard. Ambong Pool Villas is a favourite with honeymooners, second honeymooners and those taking a time-out from frenetic life.
Tell Me More About Ambong Pool Villas
Ambong Pool Villas, JL Teluk Baru
07000, Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
T: +60 (0)4 955 8248
Villas, with breakfast and return airport transfers, start from around £500 per night.
Getting there: Qatar Airways fly from Birmingham, Cardiff, London Gatwick, London Heathrow and Manchester to Langkawi, via Doha. A taxi from the airport takes around 20 minutes.