Saturday, June 6, 2015

Langkawi: The island and the Rebak resort

My wife and I are usually more keen on the place, the journey than the places we stay at. However, Taj Rebak has forced us to make an exception and hence a resort name finds its way into the title.

We landed in this heavenly place called Langkawi in that small ATR. We could see the Taj island from the aircraft when it descended for the Langkawi airport. At that time, it seemed to be an island with just trees and a wonderful bay where a couple of millionaires park their yachts. Err.. Where were the residential structures? Was that it? Were they going to put us up in makeshift shanties? Our worries drifted away when we approached the Langkawi airport. 
We were soaking in the sinking sun over the vast sea, when suddenly a beach appeared. Another second passed, and we could see a picturesque road riddled with trees next to it. We made a mental note to visit this road if time permitted. The next second, there was a fence and another road. So at the moment, the order approximately is: Sea (Infinity to 50 m), Beach (50 m), Road (40 m), Fence (30 m) and another Road (5m). “Wait! Did I just say that road is only 5 meters away?! We are in a plane right? Khalisi’s dragons be doomed! Thisss issss Sparta The Runway!!” Screech, mild shudder, hard deceleration.. We had landed! And still we could see the sea. I am sure there ought to be a lot of runways around the world near the sea, but this one was a very pleasant surprise for both of us. Vividly beautiful. Sometime later, we were riding down the same sea-side road we had dreamt of visiting minutes earlier.

The Taj Vivanta Bay
The Rooms
Sea, Beach and rich green from the room balcony
The Taj vehicle was there to pick us up and we reached the pier in 15 minutes. Speedboats operate at specified frequency for the Taj Rebak island and we had to wait for around 15 minutes for the next. As the boat sped and bounced in the open sea, we could see the tiny archipelagos around us. Finally, we sighted the bay of the Rebak island. As observed from the plane sometime back, there were a number of yachts anchored here and once docked, we hopped on to the electric cart to get to the reception. Even in the limited rays of the sun at dusk, this place looked fabulous. Everything here seemed so natural, perfectly blended into the setting of the forest. Signs of human control over this natural island are difficult to distinguish; the reason why we could not find any ‘buildings’ when we flew over this island. 
The residential complexes are neatly spread across one part of the island, camouflaged by a good amount of foliage, which is why we could not spot anything from the aircraft. Being an island, you don’t have to put a lot of effort to get to see the sea. However, the most glorious beach is located near to the reception and pool area. As for the pool, it offers an ‘in-pool’ bar and gives the sensation of an infinity pool with the sea in the horizon.

On one fine morning, when the tide was receding, we were given a final go-ahead for kayaking by the Activities desk at the hotel. When the hotel personnel enquired about our kayaking & rowing skills, I declared that my skills with organic chemistry and African languages such as Igbo and Yoruba: all combined could very well beat my knowledge of kayaking. (Note: The author has forgotten everything remotely related to chemistry; and has been feeling a lot better ever since). 
Sona on the other hand, had a lot to say about how she single handedly had kayaked upstream a river, climbed up mighty waterfalls in the kayak and conquered formidable glaciers; the name of which she could not precisely remember at the moment. Impressed, the fellow handed us our life jackets, a pair of oars, dragged a kayak to the beach and walked away. Armed with the requisite equipment and Sona’s experience, we made a dash for the sea. 
For a good time, we were adrift: hitting each other with oars, oafing around, moving in circles and tiring ourselves. Thankfully, just before they were contemplating sending search planes in the Malacca Sea to look for a holidaying couple, Sona’s kayaking skills magically returned! She took charge and under her able leadership, we were soon oaring  in a co-ordinated fashion headed to a distant uninhabited island in sight. Docking/ Landing on this island was a dangerous task, with jagged rocks threatening to pierce anything that came their way. Holding the fort were an army of black crabs; certainly larger than what we are accustomed to. We limited our stunts with the kayak until prudence prevailed and we headed back to the Rebak island.

Note: Strongly advise you not to take your cameras on the kayak. There was a good amount of water in the kayak and sprayed on us by the sea to put an end to the life of any electronic instrument.

There is a room and there is a wash. Mein Gott!
Both of us have been overwhelmed by both Langkawi, and the Taj island property. I’ll refrain from commenting on services as I find them as good as others: Sofitel, Holiday Inn, etc. but maybe more seasoned guests can comment. My wife did comment once that the quality may have been perhaps a little short of what is expected of Taj; with this one being under the ‘Vivanta’ brand. Let that be. In a nutshell, the staff here may not swoon over you but will certainly be exceeding your expectations. The main point where I think we need to focus is the place and the experience: It is kind of your own private island. I never dreamt of staying in such a setup. My hopes for staying/ owning at a private island were dashed when I failed to become a Columbian drug-lord or a corrupt politician or an illegal arms dealer; as I considered only these occupations could  afford me such a luxury. However, even as a failure at these quick-buck professions, we could manage a great time at Taj-Rebak. The only sore point is any boat from and to the island other than the pre-defined times may invite bankruptcy for you. Talking about expenses, I have to highlight that Langkawi is a duty free zone and during our entire stay, we felt that we got a lot more for each Ringgit spent.

To the Rebak island, I wish to dedicate these words of George Gordon Byron:

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more” 
George Gordon Byron

(Part 2 Continued.......


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