In reality, colonial life in Langkawi was never like this. Without air-conditioning, nights would have been fretful.
There would not have been a serene sea view from a three-tiered infinity pool framed by tall white-blossomed frangipani trees. Nor would there have been a beach inspector checking that coconuts were not about to fall on sunbathers. Also, it is unlikely that there would have been champagne served with a vast buffet breakfast every morning.
The Danna does colonial life with a style which would have left Langkawi’s settlers of yesteryear, farming their rubber plantations, speechless. Admittedly, the view across the azure and calm Straits of Malacca has not changed too much over the last century. Well, save for a man-made island out to sea, a water sports centre, that adds to the 99 islands that make up the Langkawi peninsula which sits off of Malaysia’s north-west coast and to the south of Malaysia. Another man-made island brings the tally to 101 islands, some of which are submerged at high-tide.
The Danna, with its soft white sand beaches and cradled by rain-forest draped mountains, sits on the largest of Langkawi’s islands. Translated from the Sanskrit, Danna means the gift of giving generously, which is an appropriate name for a hotel renowned for immaculate and attentive service.
“Check-in” is a very different experience. Although the hotel is a very easy 15-minute transfer from the airport, most travellers have travelled from afar to this tropical haven of tranquillity. Guests are greeted with a neck and shoulder massage and a cool energising shot of clove and apple juice.
It seems that there’s always a red Ferrari or some such dream-machine parked outside, contrasting with the Danna’s expansive white exterior. A doorman, looking as if he’s stepped out of a 1920s Baden Powell scouting manual, puts his hand to his chest, as a salute of welcome, to show service from the heart. He wears long, spotless white socks, perfectly pressed shorts, a light-hued khaki shirt, all topped of course by a pith helmet. Although his dress harks back to a bygone era, the Danna is only celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2020.
Through a high-ceilinged, marble-floored reception, there is a central courtyard of luxuriant tropical foliage and a boardwalk over a pond filled with giant koi fish.
There’s more than a touch of Raffles, Singapore’s tribute to the colonial era, about The Danna. There’s a billiard room and a bar, specialising in cocktails, with deep and numerous sofas. Gin and Tonic becomes an art form, at the last count there were 128 different gins on offer.
Then, and only then, it is time for dinner at Planters Restaurant. A Malaysian Tasting Platter of beef rendang, sea bass sambol, chicken percik, beef rendang, king prawn curry, papadum, Malay pickle and steamed rice is a perfect introduction to some of Planters’ specialities.
More informal is Straits and Co, providing coffee, iced coffee, smoothies, tea and light meals throughout the day. Black and white prints recall Britain’s colonial days in Malaysia.
Again evoking the heritage of the British Empire, room names recall trade and governance from Langkawi’s history: Merchant, Grand Merchant, Viceroy and Grand Viceroy. As well as contemporary air-conditioning there are ceiling fans to cool the dark wood interiors.
Far more contemporary are the beach villas, slightly detached from the Danna Hotel and even more peaceful. There are 10 villas, each with private access to the beach, featuring an infinity pool, two spa beds for private treatments, filigree-curtained day beds and sun-loungers.
Both one-bedroom Princess and two-bedroom Empress suites are spacious, light-filled and cutting-edge contemporary: cream leather sofas and a scattered array of cushions give the aura of a photoshoot at the home of an A – list celebrity.
The Danna offers a quiet and sophisticated serenity. Obviously, it is a favoured destination for honeymooners. Yet a few years later, couples often return with the kids, who are kept busy in the children’s activity centre, whilst their parents head to the spa, beach or pool.
Tell me more about The Danna Hotel and Resort
The Danna, Pantai Kok, 07000 Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
Rooms can be booked from £260 per night.