There is something to be said for the soothing calm that villa-living affords. For those of us who do not have a villa to call our own, the easiest way to experience a slice of the high-net-worth life would be a holiday rental. Traditionally, Bali (and increasingly Phuket and Koh Samui) are the destinations of choice when it comes to a villa holiday but Amran Ahmed, one of the founders of family-owned Ambong Pool Villas, has recently put Langkawi on the map for a closer-to-home and equally splendid option.
Opened in December 2017, Ambong Pool Villas sits on a hill just off the main thoroughfare of Langkawi’s bustling Pantai Tengah. Comprising a cluster of just nine villas, each is named, fittingly, after a mountain peak on the island, including Kemarong, Kuang, Machinchang, Malut and Sawak.
The holiday property itself takes its name from the local Merambong tree or Scaevola Taccada, which is native to Langkawi as well as other islands in the Indian Ocean, from the South Pacific all the way up to Hawaii. “The plant is important to the ecosystem as it prevents soil erosion into the sea. Also, many cultures believe in the healing properties of Ambong-Ambong,” says Amran.
I checked into the expansive 224 sq m Temoyong, one of the loftiest villas there. For those wishing to be introduced in style to the property, Temoyong would be an excellent choice as it offers simply stunning views of the rainforest and the bright blue sea beyond. As you sunbathe or swim, gaze out onto the islands of Pulau Tepor in the foreground and Pulau Rebak, where the Vivanta by Taj property is located. Those with a penchant for sundowners and sunsets would be well pleased with Temoyong as it offers a perfect vantage point for the latter, with Langkawi’s famous egg-yolk-like sun dipping nightly behind Pulau Tepor at around 7.30pm.
A one-bedroom property, Temoyong has a kitchen annexe and a 12m x 3m lap pool. There is also a wooden ofuro in an enclosed garden for outdoor soaks. The main bathroom, attached to the bedroom, boasts a separate door that leads directly to the pool — a design that thoughtfully eliminates dripping post-swim trails and offers the expedited pleasure of nipping from cold water to hot surging shower within seconds.
Sweet dreams are gently encouraged under the canopied bed and the only noise one might be disturbed by would be the constant hum of the cicadas or perhaps a gecko come nightfall. The flooring is warm to the touch, a mixture of terracotta tiles and wood and with several beautiful carpets scattered throughout. Every attention has been paid to ensure that harmony between man and nature is preserved. In the bathroom, a special glassed-in airwell ensures that an existing tree is able to maintain its graceful arch towards the sky.
“I wanted to develop a villa market in Langkawi,” says Amran. “We are still lagging far behind our neighbours, Thailand and Indonesia. But I didn’t want to just copy their concept and design but, rather, develop our own unique concept.” To do so, it was imperative for Amran and his team that there be minimal impact on the land with the lush surrounding jungle preserved as much as possible.
“I worked with Zhin Teng from ZTD,” he adds. “He is a family friend whom I’ve known for a long time and, as this was my first project, I needed an architect who would be able to dedicate his time to it. It was also important that we understood the site before trying to come up with any design.” He adds that life was practically lived on-site during the construction, which took around 15 months. “We had to modify the buildings as we accommodated trees as well as minimised earthworks so the villas would follow the natural contours of the land. It was a painstaking approach but I wouldn’t have worked any other way. Taking all this into consideration, it was important to have worked with someone I was comfortable with and who understood the philosophy behind our approach.”
All wood used in Ambong’s development is either sustainably grown, like rubberwood for the indoor flooring, or recycled, like cengal batu, a hardwood, for the outdoor decks. Sustainable wood was also used for the indoor furnishings, including the rubberwood kitchen cabinets and acacia wood bed headboards.
Design touches also abound to gently remind guests they are in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia specifically, by way of a mish-mash of decorative accents, with each villa boasting unique items, all lovingly sourced from around the country and south Thailand by Amran’s mother. They include carved wooden birds, enamel tiffin carriers, an antique sewing machine that has been repurposed as a sideboard as well as pretty bakul sia, traditional wood and bamboo baskets synonymous with the Straits Chinese and Peranakan communities.
Although there is no access to the beach directly from the villas, all it takes is a quick drive down the hill (the management has cars on standby to help you do just that). Breakfast is delivered directly to your villa or, should you so wish, served at the main Rimba Restaurant that is enveloped by the surrounding treetops. A rooftop sky bar is currently being readied for the year-end holiday season. Massages may be arranged in the privacy of one’s own villa or, if you prefer a full sybaritic escape, the Ishan Spa is just a minute’s drive away. As we said before, Ambong Pool Villas takes its name from a plant that has healing properties. You can’t help but feel better after just a few days here.
This article, first appeared in issue no 89, Autumn 2018 of Haven, has been updated in the digital version.