Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Pandemic Trip 2021 ✈ Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa

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.

5-13 Apr 2021: The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa
As mentioned above, my Langkawi trip was split between 2 hotels. I had stayed at the Westin back in 2017 and had good impression of the hotel during my last visit (especially with the complimentary upgrade to the swanky One-Bedroom Ocean Front Suite) so I was looking forward to stay here again. Spoiler alert, the hotel outdid themselves again this time around. Read on to find out more...

After checking out of the St. Regis at 4pm, I requested for a hotel buggy to give me a ride over to Westin next door. The buggy ride took only 5 min and I was dropped off at the front of the hotel. After a quick temperature check and scanning my MySejahtera, I was ushered to the check-in counter and the hotel staff brought me bottle of chilled refreshment while they checked me in.

In my email communication with the hotel prior to my arrival, I had asked if there were any suites available for upgrade and specifically requested for a room with an ocean view and a balcony. I was actually hoping to get an upgrade to the ocean front suite like the last time but knew that the chances were low as I was staying for 8 nights. 

The hotel staff informed that I had been upgraded to the 1-bedroom Superior Suite with partial ocean view and a balcony. Even though I didn't get the upgrade I had hoped for, this upgrade was still a good one because Suite 3402 was conveniently located right next to the lobby and was closer to the restaurants.

This suite had more than enough space for just myself so I'm certainly not complaining. As I was spending 8 nights here, I unpacked all my things and set everything up to make myself comfortable, which includes setting up my workstation. 

I was provided with a list of perks available to Titanium Elite Member, which includes:
- 20% off for all Food & Beverage outlets except breakfast, in room dining and minibar
- 20% off for all à la carte spa treatments at Heavenly Spa
- Extended check out
- 1,000 Welcome Points OR Daily Buffet Breakfast for 2 Adults OR F&B Welcome Amenity
- 1 time 10 minutes complimentary Head & Shoulder Massage– applicable for 2 guests only
- Daily 2 complimentary drinks at Breeze Lounge from 4pm to 6pm

Day & night views from my balcony. In normal times, I would have complained that this balcony lacked privacy but because there were so few guests in the hotel, it wasn't a problem for me.

During breakfast on the 6th day, I received an email from the front office manager, Mr. Kuvandran, informing that they'd like to upgrade me to the villa so that I could experience the villa for the last 3 days for my stay. OMG...I was certainly not expecting it at all...what a great surprise for the weekend! 

I went back to my room after breakfast and packed up all my stuffs. The hotel staff came around 1.30pm to help move my luggage, and took me to my villa with a buggy. The villas are located in a separate area of the hotel, which was slightly further away from the main building.

Exterior of villa 6004. The walls surrounding the villa was pretty high so it certainly felt 'private'.

My amazing villa for 3 nights...1-bedroom villa with partial ocean view and private pool. As you can see from the photos above, the villa was huge, especially for just one person...hahaha! The villa also has a full kitchen, which I didn't use. 

The private pool was nice but I spent only 15 minutes in the pool before I hastily jumped out of it when I spotted some monkeys swinging on the trees around the villa. I quickly gathered all my belongings and went back inside because I was afraid that they'd snatch my stuffs. I heard that the monkeys usually come out only in the evenings but I didn't want to risk it. For the rest of my stay, I only used the cabana and did not bother getting into the pool .

My villa did not have direct access to the beach, but I could see the beach and the sea from my pool.

3 of the 4 pools in the hotel...the Infinity Pool, Ocean Rock pool, and Kid's pool. I didn't use any of these pools during my stay because I've had enough of tanning from Maldives. =P

View of the pool and Andaman sea from the Breeze Lounge. As you can see from the photos, the pools were empty the whole time I was there.

Similar to St. Regis, the beach at Westin is decent but certainly not the best on the island. As compared to the beach at St. Regis, this beach is much longer and stretches all the way to St. Regis. 

My 'private' beach with nobody, nobody but me! =D

Jumpshot checked....gotta do one with the mask to commemorate this pandemic stay. =P

Sunset from the beach. I had a dinner by the beach the last time I was here, but it wasn't available this time around due to the low occupancy. It was sadly too quiet around the hotel compared to the last time I was here. 

I chose the daily complimentary breakfast for my Marriott Titanium Elite welcome amenity and had breakfast at the Tide restaurant for all 8 days. Breakfast was served till 11am so I slept in everyday and had brunch instead. The last time I was here, buffet breakfast were served at the Seasonal Tastes restaurant but unfortunately, this restaurant was closed temporarily due to Covid. 

Breakfast was ala-carte and I could order anything from the menu. They served a fruit platter with yogurt every day, and some of the items I ordered over 8 days included miso soup, congee, dim sum, noodle soup, roti canai, capuccino, guava juice, orange juice, pastries, quinoa avocado and goat cheese bowl, smoked salmon, and egg and mushroom toast. 

Good food, stunning views of the Andaman Sea, and ocean breeze to start the day....what a bliss! 

Another Marriott Titanium Elite perk at the Westin is the daily 2 complimentary drinks at the Breeze Lounge from 4pm to 6pm. The Breeze Lounge was conveniently located right next to the lobby so it was a 1 min walk from suite to the restaurant for the first few days before I moved over to the villa. There were a few beverage options to choose from the 'Bonvoy' menu, and I consistently ordered a Tiger beer and a Rejuvenate mocktail (lychee, lime, blue caracao and 7 up) everyday. They also served some snacks together with the drinks.

I preferred to sit at the outdoor terrace most of the time, apart from one day when it was raining. There were 1 or 2 other guests some days but it certainly felt like I had the restaurant all for myself. 

My office for the week. =)

The one and only time I ventured out of the hotel during this trip was to go to the police station for my interstate travel approval and a quick stop to the duty free shop next door to buy some snacks.

I spent the last 2 nights of my stay in Langkawi at the St. Regis and took a Grab to the airport after checking out at 11am. The airport staff requested for my interstate travel approval at check-in, and was asked for it again at the security. Initially, the police didn't want to let me enter the departure area yet because it was still too early but she let me in after I told her that I had access to the St. Regis/Westin private lounge at the departure area. This was another nice benefit for suite guests, villa guests, and Marriott Platinum/Titanium Elite members. 

I initially booked Airasia to fly form Langkawi to Penang, but 5 days before my scheduled departure, I received an email informing that the flight was cancelled. I had to scramble to figure out alternative options to get to Penang. Firefly and Airasia were the only 2 airlines with direct flights to Penang but both airlines cancelled their flights when the government extended the interstate travel ban. I was left with 2 options, take a ferry and hire a driver from Kuala Kedah or fly through KL. The cost for both options were almost the same so I decided to book a flight on Malindo as it was easier. 

You'd think that there wouldn't be any more changes since I booked my flight only 2 days before departure right? Wrong. The 2nd leg of my flight from KL to Penang was cancelled the day before departure. Fortunately, they automatically put me on the next flight to Penang. So instead of a quick 40 min flight, my journey took 7 hours in total. =.= This pandemic is certainly testing my flexibility and last-minute-trip-planning skills.  

I flew over Penang and was able to see Penang bridge from the flight. So close yet so far...literally!

I had a 4.5 hours transit at Subang Airport and I thought I'd have to find somewhere to wait, but I randomly spotted a banner for the Sky Lounge and was excited when I saw the Priority Pass logo. With all lounges being closed in KLIA airport, I certainly wasn't expecting to have access to any lounges, not especially in Subang airport. I quickly checked my Priority Pass app and confirmed that I can actually access the Sky Lounge with my Priority Pass and they were open! What a surprise! 

The lounge wasn't anything fancy but I'm happy just to have a quiet place to sit and use the internet for a few hours. Once again, I was the only person in the lounge. =) It was about 3pm when I got to the lounge and it had been a few hours after my brunch at the hotel so when the staff asked if I'd like to have some Nasi Lemak, I gladly said yes and she went into the kitchen to prepare this warm plate of nasi lemak with curry chicken for me. This transit isn't too bad after all!

After chilling for a few hours, it was time to board my 7.10pm flight to Penang. The police at the security screening looked at my interstate travel approval and that was it. The flight was probably half full but I managed to get a row of 2 for myself.

Last but not least, these are the room rates. My 8-nights stay would have cost RM 7,510 ($1,818). I used my 7-night travel certificate and paid cash for 1 night so the total cost was RM436 ($106). =D

That's a all for my stay at the Westin Langkawi. Big thank you to the hotel staffs for the warm hospitality and shout out to Mr. Kuvandran for the opportunity to experience the awesome villa!! Even though I enjoyed having the hotel for myself most of the time, it was sad to see how empty and quiet the hotel was as compared to my last visit pre-pandemic. Now that the hotel is temporarily closed due to Covid, I hope that all the staffs who may have lost their jobs are getting some support and assistance to get them through these difficult times. 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. 

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