When I stayed at the Westin Langkawi Resort and Spa I discovered a hotel’s price doesn’t always guarantee its quality, and that, for some travellers, sometimes a boutique hotel may be the better option.
I’d heard great things about the Westin chain of hotels, so my expectations were high when I arrived at the Westin Langkawi Resort and Spa for our weeklong stay.
As lovers of affordable luxury, a stay at a Westin was at the top end of our budget, but having saved cash on other parts of our main holiday that year – such as my epic boutique hotel find in Kuala Lumpur – we decided to splurge the rest of our holiday budget on our first stay at a Westin.
Perhaps as we got more and more excited about the idea of staying in a Westin our expectations had become unrealistic, but I have to say that this trip wasn’t all I’d hoped for. It wasn’t that the hotel was bad in any shape or form, it just wasn’t as good as I expected for the price we paid.
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Luxury hotels in Asia don’t have to break the bank
I’ve stayed in lots of luxurious hotels in Asia that didn’t break the bank, including the Victoria Phan Thiet in Vietnam, Lone Pine in Malaysia and Cinnamon Lodge in Sri Lanka. These were all much cheaper, but no different in quality to the Westin – in some cases I’d say they were even better.
A superior room at the Westin Langkawi
For example, it felt like as guests playing basic rates (for a superior room) we weren’t entitled the same level of luxury in our room as other Westin guests.
Again perhaps I was unrealistic in my expectations, but as had been the case in every other Asian beach hotel I’d stayed in, I expected a balcony. Sadly not here. Instead our room’s main window looked over the road up to the main entrance and was quite dark as the buildings blocked most of the natural light. This really disappointed me, as having my morning cuppa out in the sunshine is always one of my holiday highlights.
We quickly asked at reception if we could move to a room with a balcony, which are classed as premium rooms. Sadly none were available for the next few days, unless we wanted to pay a few hundred pounds to move to a one-bedroom suite. However, we asked them to let us know when a (more affordable) room did become available.
On the plus side, the room we’d been given was very spacious and well decorated, with the most comfortable bed and bedding I’ve ever experienced.
But there were little things that I just did not expect from such a renowned hotel chain – a wobbly toilet, loose shower rail and a hit and miss turndown and housekeeping service – you never knew if they’d bother preparing your room or leave you fresh water.
I understand these are tiny things overall, but I guess I expected everything to be ‘perfect’ and with lots of special touches, like I’d experienced at other hotels (bed time cakes and stories anyone?!)
One of the things that also disappointed me was the large groups at the hotel during our stay. Before we arrived we weren’t aware that the hotel has an on-site conference centre, which had events on most of the time we were there.
This meant that even with the large grounds and multiple pools the place was crowded and quite rowdy – again I’d expected a very quiet, peaceful resort, but didn’t feel there was anywhere we could escape for some R&R.
I appreciate this sounds unnecessarily negative and I’m coming across like a right miserable anti-social bugger, but again I think its comes down to my expectations being very different from reality. Also perhaps the fact that many of the groups didn’t have much courtesy for other guests – and for two nights in a row we were woken up a 1, 2 and 3am by drunken guests who were happy to loudly mess around in the corridor outside our room!
Thankfully, the duty manager managed to move us a couple of days into our trip to a quieter area (also a premier room with a balcony) at no extra cost, but sadly I think my views were already tainted.
Highlights from my stay at the Westin Langkawi Resort and Spa
It’s clear that overall I was disappointed with the Westin, but the hotel also does have a lot going for it. For one, the breakfast spread is epic!
An island at the centre of the restaurant was a cornucopia of fresh fruit, breakfast treats and even bucks fizz, whilst up at the kitchen you can peruse the large selection of hot breakfast options. Cereals, salad, fry ups, curries, congees and baked good – everything you could possibly want was there. They even had a juice bar, where they’d make you your own smoothies from any ingredients you requested.
But the absolute best part was the wildlife I got to saw. One morning, in my first room, I was woken up by hornbills. Hornbills! I was so excited that I didn’t even need caffeine to wake up properly!
Minah birds would always flit around the bar at dusk, but the biggest treat was getting to see a rare dusky monkey enjoying a mid afternoon snack off one of the grounds bushes. This will always make me remember the hotel with a smile.
I’ve ran you through the highs and lows from my stay at the Westin Langkawi Resort and Spa, but for those who’d like to know more, here’s some of thoughts on other aspects of the hotel.
The bars and restaurants
One of our regular evening haunts was the hotel bar, where we’d head for an hour or two before heading out for dinner. It has amazing views of the Langkawi coastline and islands, and from 5.30-8.30 was ‘Happy Hour’ which, at buy one get one free, made the drinks more cost friendly – roughly £8.50 for a Diet Coke and two large Tiger beers.
Very talented lounge singers would perform most nights, but we found the projection showing episodes of Mr Bean (without sound) very, very weird!
I also loved the in-pool bar, which you’ll find in the main pool. It’s so decadent sipping your drink in a cooling underwater seat in the tropical sunshine!
The hotel’s restaurants have a very good reputation, but as we like to find local places to eat we only ever had breakfast in the hotel. I did look at the menus though, and found the prices unsurprisingly expensive, especially when there was some really tasty food available a short drive away for ten percent of the price!
We actually found it quite hard to work out what activities were available at the resort, but eventually we discovered there’s quite a lot on offer.
Hilariously we only discovered the recreation centre on our last day, where I uncovered hidden away jacuzzis (one for men only and one for women only), squash courts, a pool and ping pong table.
Water volleyball takes place in the main pool and you can also hire out kayaks and go exploring the uninhabited island that dot the cost.
Although I pointed out some negative aspects regarding the room service, overall in most circumstances service at the hotel was very good. In the reception, bar and around the pool the majority of staff were outstanding – the manager helped resolve the problems we had regarding our room whenever possible, and I made some lovely friends from the breakfast crew!
However there were odd moments – for example, when we saw a drink spilt in the bar at least two members of staff saw the situation but just decided to walk past.
Disabled guests can get about the hotel, but in my opinion, not very easily. I may not be wheelchair-bound, but due to my condition I can struggle in the heat and at times I felt overwhelmed by the amount of stairs I had to navigate to get about.
There are lifts but not as many as I think a hotel of this size needs – you have to go quite far to reach one. Plus it is possible for wheelchair users to go out into the resort grounds, but again there are challenges getting close to some of the pools and exploring due to small steps all around. Therefore, regarding accessibility I’d say it could be better.
What I learnt from my stay at the Westin Langkawi Resort and Spa
The biggest thing I learnt from this trip was to do in-depth research! Sure, I always research the hotel we’re staying in, but only look for certain types of things. Landscape (for my legs), bath/pool (again for my legs) aircon, location etc. Now I know I need to factor in the type of hotel it is and who it is aimed at (conference centre, families, couples etc).
As I discovered by how upset I was about the lack of balcony, I’ll also recommend that people think about the features, services etc that are really important to them. Like me, do you want a quiet, private space to relax away from the main guests? Are you someone that that loves the decadence of a jacuzzi in your pool? Yes they’re little things – and real ‘first world problems’ if you don’t get them – but in the end you’ve worked and saved to make this holiday happen and it should be everything you want it to be.
So my takeaway from this trip was to think about what it really is you want from a hotel and make sure they tick those boxes before you book!