With lusciousness all around, Kerry van der Jagt transforms from city-slicker to heavenly creature.
You can tell a lot about a resort by the type of clientele it attracts. As the sun sinks into the ocean, families emerge from their siestas; grey-haired dusky leaf monkeys bicker in the branches; macaques stretch out near the pool, belly up like teenagers on Bondi Beach; hornbills hang out in the trees; buffaloes cruise the beachfront.
The Four Seasons Resort Langkawi is a Moorish-inspired retreat at the edge of the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park on the remote northern tip of Malaysia's Langkawi Island. In 2007, this mountainous region, with its ancient forests, waterfalls and beaches, was recognised by UNESCO for its "outstanding geological landscape" and assigned Global Geopark status.
Once a hideaway for pirates, Langkawi is now known for its unspoilt beaches, jungle wilderness and luxury retreats. Comprised of 68 pavilions and 23 villas, the Four Seasons Resort is fringed by voluptuous rainforest, bone-white sand and the Andaman Sea.
A narrow courtyard festooned with hanging lanterns gives way to an Alhambra-inspired garden that leads to a "floating" open-air pavilion where guests check in.
Instead of a traditional front desk, I am shown to a cane lounge overlooking the pond, handed a ginger tea and given a shoulder massage while my paper work is dealt with. The transition from stressed city-slicker to island goddess begins.
The transformation continues in my upstairs "melaleuca" pavilion, where a sarong and a beach bag have been laid out on my bed as gifts. The spacious 68-square-metre room is a composite of Malaysian and Moroccan decor. With twin wash basins, a terrazzo soaking tub for two and walk-in wardrobe, the bathroom is big enough to swing a macaque - one in each hand.
The resort grounds are equally spacious (of the 400 staff members, 80 are employed as gardeners). Wrapped in my new sarong, I stroll through the tropical gardens, breathing in the perfume of ylang-ylang trees as native squirrels bound across the lawn. Walking is the best way to get around, although guests can book a golf cart or borrow a bicycle. The downside is that the bikes are popular and sometimes I waited a long time for one to be delivered, but the golf carts were always punctual. The resort boasts eight categories of accommodation including upper and lower pavilions, one- and two-bedroom beachfront villas, and family beach houses.
The hero of the resort is the beachfront family pool, all brass sculptures and spitting water features, but the adults-only "quiet" pool is better suited to a goddess in-training. The indigo blue of the infinity-edge pool melds with the aqua of the ocean, while a row of private cabanas graces one side.
The cabanas are well equipped with twin sun lounges, plump cushions and an esky with bottled water and refresher towels, while complimentary plates of tropical fruit and water sprays are offered every hour. An attendant will polish your sunglasses if required, plus there's a gong for summoning heavenly snacks.
Food is a highlight and there are three restaurants to choose from; Serai for light Mediterranean meals, Kelapa Grill for fresh seafood and steaks and Ikan-Ikan for traditional Malaysian meals. On the first night, my party of five dine on a Malay banquet that includes wok-fried spicy tiger prawns with a fiery chilli paste, chicken and beef skewers with peanut sauce and grilled Andaman Sea bass with spiced grated coconut.
On another evening, in a bid to elevate my goddess status, I book a private Arabian Nights-style barbecue on the beach. Under a billowing white tent my female companions and I lounge about on oversized cushions, feasting on lobsters and champagne as our personal chef regales us with folklore and legends; from wailing temptresses to adulterous maidens, Langkawi has long held a reputation as a hotbed of love, lust and longing.
But this goddess, temporarily released from domestic responsibilities, longs only for an early night. The next morning
I decline sunrise yoga on the beach, opting instead for a swamp tour of the adjacent wetlands. "It's a mangrove safari," says an indignant Aidi Abdullah, the Four Seasons' resident naturalist.
We glide past sheer limestone cliffs before entering the cool mangroves, where Abdullah points out some of the spectacular swamp creatures: fiddler crabs with pink claws, blue-spotted mud skippers and brown-ringed kingfishers with crimson beaks.
Emerging like a creature from the black lagoon, I head to the spa for an appointment with a loofah and body scrub. Afterwards, as I relax in the open-air meditation pavilion, I notice a female macaque sprawled like a Mughal princess in one of the trees. As I shift from side to side, I swear she is mimicking me.
The writer was a guest of Tourism Malaysia and Four Seasons Resort Langkawi.
Where The Four Seasons Resort is on the northern tip of Langkawi, a 25-minute drive from Langkawi International Airport.
How much Rates for Upper Melaleuca pavilion rooms start from 2645 ringgit ($807) a night. fourseasons.com/langkawi.
Top marks The wide range of complimentary activities: Kids for all Seasons club, yoga and meditation classes and water sports.
Black mark Room service trays not being removed quickly enough when left on the verandah encourages the macaques to drop in for some monkey takeaway.
Don't miss Pasar Malam night markets are held every evening at a different location around the island, but Friday's bazaar takes place at Air Hangat, a short drive from the resort.