If you visit Langkawi, one hotel you have to stay at is the Ambong-Ambong Rainforest Retreat – in fact, I’d go as far as saying it’d be a crime not to spend at least one night here!
Secluded in the treetops of a rainforest without being isolated, if you’re after a unique experience and want to experience true Malaysian hospitality, it’s one not to miss.
A couple of years ago we booked a spontaneous month-long trip to Asia less than two weeks before we left, and so we didn’t have a lot of time to research hotels as thoroughly as I normally would. As you may have figured by now, I love finding unusual places off the beaten track, but Jass found this hidden gem online and took a gamble considering there weren’t many reviews for it at the time.
If I’m completely honest, I was slightly apprehensive after hearing about the resident monkeys – because, I’m scared of everything (animals in particular because they can be so unpredictable) but I didn’t have time to dwell on it.
All I can say is that very few hotels
meet exceed my expectations and I can honestly say that this is actually the best Jass and I have ever stayed in!
This retreat; named after the medicinal plant Ambong, which is native to Langkawi and the surrounding area of this resort, offers an adult-only getaway amidst tropical surroundings as it is set within a tropical rainforest.
There are 11 accommodation units in total, all located on a steep winding hill within the rainforest and the rooms are only accessible via long staircases. It is incredibly steep; enough to make the avid hiker want to pause to catch their breath every so often, which is why the staff provide you with a mobile phone to call a driver to transport you from your room to the lobby/bar/restaurant area.
The mobile phone has three numbers programmed into it; one for your driver who also provides a drop off service into the town centre free of charge, one for a local taxi company to bring you back (which is very useful) and the last one is an emergency number in case you get attacked by monkeys! True story – that’s how close you can potentially get to the monkeys!
Let’s be honest. You never quite know what to expect when a description on Booking.com reads something like ‘situated within a rainforest amidst tropical surroundings and it’s resident monkeys’ and when there are only 5 pretty useless tripadvisor reviews because the hotel is relatively new! *inserts shocked face emoji!*
I remember being sat in the restaurant/bar/lobby area when we arrived with my welcome cocktail in one hand and the sound of the monkeys in the trees above while Lee (our driver) went through the check in process with us – and I was terrified! Also, cursing Jass under my breath for booking something with far too much greenery for a city girl like me.
Like I said, I’m scared of everything and all I could picture was the monkeys somehow getting into my room because I forgot to close a door or window! It sounds ridiculous, but the bar staff were telling us about how the monkeys often walk through the breakfast area as the windows are permanently open, and on occasion, they’ve even managed to open the fridge and help themselves to the drinks!!
So, I’m sure you can imagine the huge smile on my face when we opened the door to our room. It was huge – and no monkeys in sight! They’d also very kindly decorated the bed with beautiful fresh flowers, towels shaped like swans and a box of Fererro Rocher – so thoughtful!
Considering we’d only booked a standard studio, we had everything you could ask for and more; a big clean bathroom, fully equipped kitchen area complete with a microwave and a balcony offering forest views. You can however, book a suite or a cottage; one of which has their own private outdoor bathtub – the photos look incredible!
The retreat is located around a 15 minute walk from Pantai Tengah beach and the property has an outdoor pool available, on-site spa that you can book into and a Japanese restaurant at the foot of the entrance. We didn’t make use of the spa or pool as we’d spent 3 days before this relaxing on a private island and so we wanted to use the rest of our time here exploring the island.
Breakfast was provided with decent vegetarian options and the bar staff make a mean cocktail – not only that, they’re extremely fun to hang out with in the evenings and monkey-watching (from a distance) provides some great entertainment too!
Overall, Ambong-Ambong was an absolutely delightful place place to stay. The staff were super friendly and accommodating; they really go above and beyond. They exceeded our expectations with their warmth, hospitality and helpfulness when planning day trips; they advised us to hire a car to get around the island as hiring a driver for the day is a lot more costly, and so they arranged it all for us. They even helped us park the car as the winding steep hill up to the property is so narrow, it takes some serious skill and experience – even the local taxi drivers struggle!
Yes, there are five star resorts all over the island, but the way I see it is that you can stay in a resort anywhere. You won’t get the same experience as staying in an actual rainforest, and you most likely won’t experience true Malaysian culture and hospitality. We split our time in Langkawi with three nights at the Vivanta by Taj, Rebak Island followed by two nights here and I couldn’t recommend both places enough!
I should point out that I also escaped without any monkey-related injuries! Bonus!
It’s worth noting that Jass and I stayed here in April 2017 and at the time, the owners were building a sister property down the road, which is now open; Ambong Pool Villas. This looks even more incredible – I know where I’m staying next time I’m in Langkawi!
Sadly, I didn’t take too many photos during our stay here as I was so caught up in the moment, but if you’d like a closer look, you can watch my vlog from our stay below.