An afternoon spent at The Datai Spa is one of the most enjoyable things you could do while staying there. Located a short walk from The Beach Club and deep in the midst of the rainforest, this healing and rejuvenating sanctuary draws from the ancient Malay concept of Ramuan which utilises traditional herbal remedies and medicinal plants to treat the body, mind and soul. The spa four open-air villas which come complete with indoor and outdoor showers and a soaking tub overlooking the Datai River. The spa menu is concise and well-thought-out and consists of body massages, facial treatments as well as manicures and pedicures.
The receptionist talks me through the popular ones – The Tongku Batu which uses hot stones to alleviate aches and pain and improve blood circulation, the Ramuan Body Treatments which include the Malay Body Scrub or Body Wrap or the pièce de résistance, the Ramuan Ritual, a 180-minute odyssey which includes a coconut milk foot soak followed by a soothing head massage and blessing, body scrub, full-body massage and a Hibiscus bath.
I opt for the hour-long Kuat or Hard massage, a deep-tissue massage using ginger essential oils to warm and strengthen the body. Using pressure points and friction techniques, my masseur expertly manipulated all the tight knots and tensed areas located around my neck and shoulders to release deep-seated tension and release toxins while improving my circulation. I felt immediate ease and the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders. What I found endearing was before the massage, she asked me for my choice of music, “instrumental, vocal or nature” the last one coming courtesy from the crickets and cicadas in the rainforest.
After this pleasurable experience, it was time to get ready for a sumptuous dinner, Chef Wan’s A Royal Feast held at The Gulai House. Recreated like a traditional Malay ‘kampung’ or village house, The Gulai House is a culinary gem in The Datai’s crown. Friendly staff dressed in traditional Malay costume greeted me as I ascended the stairs and entered the place. Built on stilts this rustic and charming restaurant is spacious and is divided into several sections. Pre-dinner drinks were held in the inner part of the restaurant where low wooden tables and floor cushions placed on woven mats provided a cosy ambience. When it was time for dinner, I was lead to the open-air section, with our table placed in a private balcony. A nice touch was a dried Bodhi leaf used as a place setting card with my name written on it. In the middle of dinner, between the Rendang Udang Galah Perak (King Prawn curry) and the Urap Sayuran Desa (stirred friend Malay greens) Chef Wan, ebullient and filled with jokes, came out to join us. All of us retired with a full tummy and a happy frame of mind.
Waking up early for a nature walk is a must if you stay at The Datai. As a resort which prides itself on its utter respect for nature and the environment it’s located within – from its environmentally-conscious architecture to its green initiatives – the Rainforest Awakening, as it’s called must be an activity worth setting you alarm-clock to. Breathing in the fresh and cool morning air and being enveloped in morning mist is only part of the fun.
With our knowledgeable guide Shakira, we were shown the flora and fauna and explained how they survive in this ecological haven, home to Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO Geopark. Birds, monkeys, squirrels were all seen by us and even a wild boar who didn’t seem perturbed by our presence.
But the nature walk is only one of the myriad of activities and excursions which is organised by The Datai. Row on a mangrove tide while observing the birds and the bees in the Kayak & Swimming Adventure or explore the Kilim Karst Mangroves and 400-million year old limestone caves in the UNESCO Geopark Cruise, there ought to be a tour or excursion which will tickle your fancy. At dusk, I joined the Beach and Reef Walk with The Datai’s very own resident marine biologist, Jonathan Chandrasakaran who easy-going manner and friendly demeanour made him a hit with both adults and young children. Pointing out the various beach creatures and microalgae which survive on the shifting sands and rolling tides, I guarantee you will never look at another shore in the same way after this enlightening and enjoyable tour.