in 2023, as we commemorated 30 years of The Datai Langkawi, we also celebrated the age-old rainforest that has nurtured us. Over millions of years old, this primaeval forest has been the source of our inspiration and one which we have endeavoured to respect and protect. When we first opened our doors to guests in 1993, we set out to create a luxurious sanctuary with experiences in nature, culture, dining and wellness as peerless as the spectacular natural surroundings that inspired it. We derived our hospitality style of warmth and authenticity from the generosity of nature and the multi-cultural harmony of the people of Malaysia.
Forging a thriving symbiotic relationship with the rainforest, mangrove and ocean, as well as the wildlife of Langkawi Island, was the centrepiece of the resort’s vision and its creators, the late visionary architect Kerry Hill and interior designer Didier Lefort. Utmost consideration was given to ensure minimal impact on nature: trees were felled sparingly, and those removed were used in construction or replanted. The biophilic design concept aimed to foster a closer connectivity with nature.
When The Datai Langkawi was refurbished in 2017/2018, this vision was further advanced under the design leadership of Didier Lefort. We improved the sustainability of our operations and introduced zero-waste facilities. We created The Lab, a hive for sustainable craft workshops, and The Nature Centre, hosting nature-immersion experiences. We also launched The Datai Pledge in 2019, a ground-breaking conservation and sustainability programme, working hand in hand with like-minded NGOs and the local community.
To augment our signature dining experiences, we introduced The Chef Series, gastronomic events hosted by the world’s most talented chefs. 2023 also marked the launch of Serenity – The Datai Well-being Series, with a curated line-up of residencies by celebrated wellness practitioners.
Arnaud Girodon, CEO of Datai Hotels and Resorts, summarizes the resort’s ethos: “Heraclitus, the ancient Greek philosopher, wrote that the only constant in nature is change; ‘you can never step in the same stream twice’. Yet there are values that have endured since the advent of mankind: nature’s power to heal and regenerate, the strength and shared wisdom of community, creativity’s potential to innovate and connect, and the desire to leave a positive, long-lasting impact on future generations. In a world of constant change, we have sought to uphold these values, and our commemorative activities around nature, culture, dining, and wellness embrace them.”
Read more about the celebrations around our 30th anniversary below.
Kicking off celebrations from 10-19 March 2023, Chapter 1 of the anniversary celebrations was feted under the theme of ‘Celebrating our Community’. Green Growth Asia Foundation (GGAF), NGO partner of The Datai Pledge, hosted presentations and games facilitated by volunteers working with the foundation, highlighting the risks of climate change and microplastics. Guests were also invited to join artists the resort has partnered with over the years including community project partner KanshaLife to learn about their craft during interactive workshops. Malaysian fashion brand Kapten Batik, who have partnered with The Datai Langkawi previously on an exclusive Capsule Collection, hosted a pop-up at The Boutique to showcase their new 2023 Lebaran Collection.
Another highlight was the launch of the interactive gallery along the resort’s main corridors, showcasing photographs by the award-winning photojournalist SC Shekar who is a pro bono contributor to The Datai Pledge. The exhibition ‘The Grandeur of Monochrome Malaysia’ poetically captures the natural beauty of Malaysia and its indigenous people. Along with this gallery, The Datai Langkawi hosted an exhibition about the luxury resort’s origins and development throughout the years at The Lobby, detailing the construction process and inspiration behind the resort, as well as the full refurbishment that carefully preserved The Datai’s DNA in 2017/2018. View the e-brochure of the exhibition here.
The chapter concluded on 18 March 2023 with an artisan food festival at The Gulai House that showcased cuisine from Langkawi prepared by the resort’s culinary team as well as representatives of the local community, accompanied by traditional Malaysian live entertainment.
Photo courtesy of SC Shekar
Commemorating the best in fashion, craft and dining, The Datai Langkawi invited the best designers and partners across South East Asia for a series of inspirational events. Guests were able to walk through an exhibit detailing the history of Batik and explore the many facets of craftsmanship. Workshops were lined-up for guests, including a batik workshop with Suria Artisan Batik & Kapten Batik, wood upcycling workshop with Harith The Green Carpenter, glass bottle upcycling with Beatrice Hew, custom designed minaudière masterclass with Neil Felipp, jewellery sculpture demonstration by Jonathan Yun and also jewellery designing with Ranong.
Guests were able to meet the representatives of the wider artisan network across the resort, brought to Langkawi by Dia Guild. The variety of pop-up events and artisan-led workshops throughout the week took place across The Atelier, The Beach Club and The Lab. This included a relaxing evening by the beach with an open mic night for local musicians, poets and entertainers.
The closing event on 1 July 2023 featured an elegant fashion show by Khoon Hooi and FERN in collaboration with Dia Guild starting with a cocktail reception and ending with a silent auction of exclusive artisanal creations, with proceeds supporting initiatives under the umbrella of The Datai Pledge. Guests enjoyed a memorable evening as we invited a talented local live band – Mix N Match, and guest DJ Amy Margerax. All this, alongside a special 6-hand dinner that saw our very own Senior Chef de Cuisine, Chai Chun Boon, whose technical mastery combined with experimental flair has thoroughly impressed guests since his appointment in 2022, paired with two outstanding culinary talents from Malaysia, Chef Shaun Ng from Hide in Kuala Lumpur and Chef Kim Hock from Michelin-starred Au Jardin in Penang.
Commemorating our unique natural setting and raising awareness of the work of our partner NGOs, Chapter 3 of our celebrations hosted a range of workshops, talks and nature excursions.
Sessions were led by 'Wildlife For The Future' pillar partner Gaia, a social enterprise dedicated to the conservation of wildlife, and especially the increasingly endangered hornbills; and by 'Fish For The Future' partner MareCet, the only NGO in Malaysia focused on marine mammal conservation that conducts ongoing research in the waters around Langkawi on its populations of Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins and other cetacean species; their decade-long efforts have since led Langkawi to become internationally recognised as an IUCN Important Marine Mammal Area. Save Wild Tigers, the global tiger conservation charity, hosted a fundraising gala, while celebrated wildlife photographer Peter Ong showcased some of his stunning captures in an exhibition and led guests on bird watching excursions, and famed, passionate naturalist Irshad Mobarak imparted his wisdom on the challenges Langkawi faces as an island historically rich in biodiversity.
The chapter concluded on 29 September 2023 with a sophisticated fundraising gala event featuring live performances by Mix N Match, Sean Ghazi and Ida Marina, with dinner hosted by star guest Chef Lewis Barker of one Michelin-starred Sommer in Singapore, and a live auction with all proceeds going to Save Wild Tigers, RIMAU Malaysia and Habitat Foundation Malaysia.
Photo courtesy of Eric Martin
We commemorated the finale of our anniversary celebrations with a compendium of events around dining, nature, craft, and culture, in addition to a variety of artisanal bazaars, showcases and workshops.
The year-long celebrations concluded with a gala event on 16 December 2023, featuring the return of Sébastien Bras, holder of a combined five Michelin stars at Bras and Le Suquet in Laguiole, France (together with his father Michel Bras), who also honoured the grand re-opening of The Datai Langkawi after the refurbishment of 2017/2018 with an exclusive dinner for guests. The evening saw live performances from local and international talent, including Mei Lin Hii, one of Malaysia’s most renowned pianists, and musical quartet Stringfever from the United Kingdom, while Harith Iskandar, considered to be the ‘Godfather of Stand-Up Comedy’ in Malaysia and Daphne Iking, Malaysian television personality, acted as joint Master of Ceremonies. For the closing, local songstress, Asia’s Divette and the inaugural winner of the first Asian Idol Jaclyn Victor stunned guests with her vocals, aptly wrapping up the night with her winning song Gemilang.
Photo courtesy of William Watt