During my recent trip to Malaysia, I spent a few days in Langkawi to work and split my stays between St. Regis and Westin Langkawi, which are located next to each other. Despite the significant drop in tourism due to the pandemic, both hotels had been operating throughout the pandemic up until May/June this year. Sadly, due to the increasing Covid cases and ongoing interstate travel restrictions, both hotels are now temporarily closed at least until September. As we patiently wait for the day travel resumes, here's a glimpse of how it was like traveling to Langkawi during a pandemic.
4-5 Apr 2021 & 13-15 Apr 2021: The St. Regis Langkawi
With the constant changing travel restrictions and flight changes/cancellations, my post-quarantine travel plan was so uncertain to the extent that I made my flight and hotel bookings only 3 days prior to departure. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and I was able to obtain an interstate travel approval letter upon completing my quarantine in KL, which allowed me to travel to Langkawi.
After spending a night in St. Regis KL, I checked-out of the hotel at 9.30am and walked over to KL Sentral station to catch the train to KLIA. P.S. The hotel used to have a free shuttle that runs between the hotel and KL Sentral station but it was suspended due to Covid.
The walk took only about 8 minutes via a covered walkway, but I was sweating when I arrived at the station. Thanks humidity. =P My original plan was to take the KLIA Express to KLIA but found out that they were not operating due to Covid, and was redirected to the KLIA Transit counter. Even though KLIA Transit had a few more stops, I was lucky that it was still operating back in April, and I was able to catch the 10am train to KLIA. P.S. All train services to KLIA had been suspended since June 4th. The train wasn't completely empty, but was empty enough for me to keep a distance from other passengers.
After a quick 35 minutes train ride, I was back at the empty KLIA airport again after 11 days. This time, I was able to freely roam around the airport. As seen from the departure board, there were less than 20 flights departing out of KLIA on that day. Interstate flights out of KLIA was also very limited as majority of the interstate flights on other airlines were operating out of Subang airport.
Even though my flight was a domestic flight and it was scheduled to depart at 1.20pm, I intentionally arrived 3 hours earlier in case of any delays or issues. Fortunately, the check in process for MAS was quick and easy. The check-in staff requested to look at my interstate travel approval and that was it.
The airside area after going through security was pretty much deserted. Even though I liked not being around any crowd, it was sad to see all those planes parked on the tarmac, and the empty shelves in the closed shops. Some parts of the airport were dark because the lights were off.
I went straight to my boarding gate to wait because everything was closed, including the lounges.
The flight departed on time and we were all given a hygiene kit which includes a non-surgical face mask, a sachet of hand sanitizer, and a sachet of sanitary wipes. Surprisingly, there were more passengers than I expected on our flight. The seat I originally selected had another passenger in the same row so I requested to switch to an empty row. Everyone was required to wear a mask in all public areas in Malaysia, so I'm glad to see everyone wearing a mask in-flight. I was also surprised that they are still giving out peanuts and juice for the short 1-hour flight.
Made it to Langkawi after a short and smooth flight. I took a Grab from the airport for RM41 ($10) including tips and chatted with the Grab driver along the way. He mentioned that him and his wife used to work in hotels but lost their jobs after Covid so he has been making a living through Grab for the past year to support his wife and 4 kids. However, he is positive that travel will return and he wants to get back to a full time job soon so that he can support his son to go to university. It's sad to see so many locals impacted by the pandemic especially since most of their jobs relied heavily on the tourism industry in Langkawi.
After an enjoyable and fruitful 30 minutes Grab ride, we passed through the hotel's security gate and the Grab driver dropped me off at the front of the hotel, where the staff quickly helped with my luggage and ushered me to through lobby to the couch area. The hotel staff brought a bottle of chilled drink and a small pastry while I waited for them to complete the check-in process.
I stayed at the St. Regis on the first and last 2 days of my trip so my stay was split into two and I went through the check-in process twice.
I was the only guest checking in when I arrived. After a few minutes, the staff came back with some paperwork and informed that I had been upgraded to the St. Regis Pool Suite. In fact, I had used one of my Suite Night Awards to request for an upgrade to the St. Regis Pool Suite and saw that the upgrade was already confirmed prior to my arrival.
In terms of the pandemic safety protocols, all guests are required to scan the MySejahtera app upon entering the hotel, which includes separate scans for places like the spa and restaurants, everyone was required to wear masks in all public areas, and the buffet breakfast was served by the hotel staff.
The lobby area is grand (and empty).
After completing the check-in process, the butler guided me to room 107 at level 1 (lobby was at level 3) and provided a quick tour of the room and all the amenities available. I had just completed a stay at St. Regis KL so I was familiar with the St. Regis's butler service. The butler is the main person to coordinate personalized service throughout my stay, which includes providing free coffee and tea service in the room, complimentary clothes pressing daily and shoe shining. I prefer self-service everything so I didn't use the butler service during my stay.
Room 107 for my first night/stay...1-bedroom St. Regis Pool Suite with plunge pool and pool cabana.
View of the plunge pool from the living room.
As a Titanium Elite member, I received a fruit plate for my arrival welcome amenities. The butler also left a nice handwritten welcome card on the bed, but mistakenly thought that I was a Mr. Another Titanium Elite benefit at this hotel is a 15-min complimentary neck/shoulder massage at the spa.
Only in Asia you'll find stationeries like these in a hotel.
As mentioned earlier, I could order complimentary coffee and tea from the butler but I was fine making my own coffee and tea using the kettle and coffee machine in the room. I requested for few extra bottles and they gave me more than enough for a 1 night stay.
My own deck with a large plunge pool and a cabana. Even though there were leaves covering the top of the plunge pool, guests at the 2 levels above are able to see the deck so there may be a lack of privacy. However, nobody was staying at the rooms above me so it was fine.
As you can see, I spent most of my time in this pool and didn't use the main pool at all.
Certainly not complaining about the view from this 'office'.
The pool looks pretty at night too.
For my 2nd stay (last 2 nights of my trip), I wanted to try out a different room type so I did not use my Suite Night Award to request for an upgrade. I got the room I booked, which was the 1-bedroom St. Regis Suite with partial sea view and balcony. Room 304 was at the same level as the lobby and was located on the right end of the hotel.
My room for 2 nights...1-bedroom St. Regis Suite with partial sea view and balcony. The room layout is pretty similar to the pool suite, just without the pool.
Instead, I have a balcony that overlooks the Andaman sea.
Partial sea view from the room and the balcony.
Can't complain about the view from this 'office' either. =)
The hotel compound was nicely maintained with lots of tropical plants and flowers.
My 2nd stay coincided with Ramadhan (fasting) month so the occupancy was so low I hardly saw any other guests around the hotel during my stay. I seriously felt like I was the only guest in the hotel.
Night view of the hotel compound.
This was one of my favorite photo spots in the hotel
Day and night views of the pool. I'm not a fan of during but the durian sculpture by the pool was pretty unique. =)
Having just returned from the Maldives, the beach at the St. Regis Langkawi was certainly nowhere near the same standards and I wouldn't get into the waters either, but it's still nice to just sit on one of the many beach chairs and enjoy the views of the Andaman sea from my 'private' beach.
The hotel extends out to the sea on both sides, with the overwater Kayuputi restaurant on the right end and the overwater villas on the left end.
Unfortunately, Kayuputi restaurant was closed temporarily due to Covid. The hotel had also emailed me prior to my arrival to inform that all facilities were available except for Kayuputi.
Well at least I was still able to take photos of the restaurant.
Beautiful sunset views from Kayuputi.
There are 3 over-water Sunset Villas and the Sunset Royal Villas on the left end of the hotel. I was actually surprised to see that the Sunset Royal Villa was occupied during my first stay. This villa costs RM11K per night so this Malay family must be rich. But honestly, after staying in an overwater villa in the Maldives, these overwater villas are not as attractive anymore.
For my Titanium Elite benefit, I opted for the complimentary breakfast for my welcome gift, which was undoubtedly the best option. The buffet breakfast spread at the L'Orangerie was lavish and I was spoilt for choice. They even had a Nasi Lemak station. This was certainly one of the best buffet breakfasts I've ever had. Better still, breakfast was served till 11am so I was able to turn it into a brunch. This awesome breakfast was one of the main reasons why I opted to stay at the St. Regis instead of the Ritz Carlton.
Apart from the buffet breakfast, there were also a full menu of ala-carte items that I could order for free. During my 2nd stay, only the ala-carte options were available probably due to the low occupancy during fasting month. As you can see from the photos above, I was the only guest and had the entire restaurant all for myself so it made total sense to offer only the ala-carte options.
My complimentary breakfast was actually for 2-person so it was a bit wasted that I was the only one enjoying it this trip. For 3 breakfasts, I had Nasi Lemak, Teh Tarik, iced cappuccino, champagne, mimosa, infused lychee iced tea, sushi, smoked salmon, steak and egg, roti murtabak, dim sum, and seafood curry mee...yums!
The St. Regis Athletic Club opens 24/7 and looks really nice and empty. And no, I did not work out. =P
Last but not least, here are the room rates...my 3-nights stay would have cost RM 3,210 ($760). I used a 35K and two 40K Free Night certificates for these 3 nights so the total cost was RM15 ($4). =D
That's a wrap for my stay at the St. Regis Langkawi. I'll share more about my stay at the Westin Langkawi in the next post. Overall, I've enjoyed my stay at the St. Regis Langkawi and it's sad that they are now temporarily closed due to the Covid. Let's hope that the government will loosen the travel restrictions soon when more people are vaccinated so that the travel industry can recover from this pandemic aftermath. I would certainly like to revisit this hotel with hubby and/or the family in the future. But for now, let's stay cautious, stay safe, and stay healthy.
It was really sad to see first-hand how this pandemic has impacted the travel industry so badly and the livelihoods of many people who work in the hospitality industry. It's also a good reminder for all of us who still have a job (especially those who have been able to work from home) over the past 1.5 years to count our blessings, and be thankful for what we have. As compared to the hardships and struggles that many people are going through, little things like getting vaccinated, wearing a mask, social distancing, and following SOPs are simple actions we take do to help the country and the world get through these difficult times. Most importantly, be courteous and be kind to each other. Stop seeing the world through the media headlines, see the world through the people around you. We can all do our parts to make this world a better place.