The Westin Langkawi – Paradise found….and lost

8th – 11th Oct 2017

One fine day in July, my dad mentioned to me in the most nonchalant of tones : “I have never been to Langkawi.” From that day onwards, it was my life’s mission to craft the perfect itinerary for my dad to experience the beauty which is the island of Langkawi. And the first step to getting there is to of course find the perfect hotel that could accommodate an 80 year old man, a long time nanny, 2 kids under 5, a husband and a wife. There are plenty of resorts and hotels in Langkawi : 116 according to a booklet with the title Naturally Accommodating : Langkawi Hotel & Resort Guide by the Langkawi Development Authority (LADA) [Published : Nov 2016].

I’m breaking up the whole story into 2 parts – the resort experience and the food & sightseeing experience. Otherwise it will take wayyyy too long to write. Plus we had more drama during the resort experience.

I was ready to write a 5 star review of our stay at the Westin until an unfortunate incident occurred during the last night of our stay which had my whole family shaken up :  my husband and nanny were robbed of cash. However, I feel that this incident does not erase the fact that we received great service from all staff. So, read on if you would like to know our experience at the Westin Langkawi.

Travel brief : We traveled as a family – my husband & I, my daughters (4 year old & 1 year old), my nanny and good ol’ Daddy.

Check-in : Oct 8th
We were greeted by the Westin’s airport transfer staff upon landing and ushered straight into a comfortable vehicle and headed towards the resort. When we arrived, we were warmly greeted by Nor Burton, the Guest Experience Manager. She played with my 2 daughters and gave them each a Cheeky Monkey (a soft toy). She also encouraged me to call her if we ever needed anything. The front desk staff who checked us in (my apologies, I have forgotten her name) offered us an upgrade (for a reasonable fee) from the 2 bedroom suite we reserved to a 2 bedroom sea facing villa. We loved the offer and took it. The villa will only be ready at 4pm so they offered us the suite to rest in while waiting which I thought was extremely generous of them. So, off to a great start!

The Villa – 5009
The villa was a dream come true. It’s huge, at least 4000 square feet and can easily house 8 people. It’s right next to the spa and is the last villa on the beach stretch. It’s marketed as a 2 bedroom, but it has a small “reading room/study” that can be converted into a bedroom with the addition of a rollaway bed (extra a cost : RM190 per night). The study has a bathroom (with a shower) attached to it. Behind the kitchen you will find a maid/butler’s room with a single bed and an ensuite bathroom.

So all in all, the villa had 4 full bathrooms, 2 main bedrooms, 1 study-cum-extra-bedroom and a help’s room.

My husband and I slept in the master bedroom, my kids & nanny in the other main room while my dad slept in the study.

The villa comes with a kitchen with a stove top and fridge as well as a swimming pool facing the beach. The living room was HUGE and comfy, with a large TV with plenty of room for a dining table that can seat 8.

Told ya the living room was HUGE
Look at the smile on my daughter’s face – it’s not for the fruits, that’s for sure

When we arrived at the villa, a baby high chair, baby bottle sterilizer, a plate full of chocolates & candy, a basket of fruit and a bottle of sparkling grape juice was waiting for us. Delightful! The baby crib that we requested was also set up in the bedroom. The villa was immaculately clean with floats and toys already set up at the pool area for the kids.

The villa manager, Mr Zureimy came to greet us at the villa and passed us his card. This proved a blessing when we had to call him 2 days later during the robbery.

Our pool. All the toys and floats were complimentary. You can see the brown door that leads to the beach
View of the beach from the villa
Lawn leading to the front door

The Robbery Timeline – Oct 10th
Our last night at the Westin. We went about our day as usual, leaving the villa at 10am. We came back at 3.30pm and found that they have set up a birthday surprise for me : 2 cakes and my bedroom was decorated. I was delighted! Between 3.30pm and 5.30pm, everyone was in the villa, lounging around.

5.30pm : we decided to bring the children to play by the beach and the main pool. We all went, except for my dad who decided to rest in his room. My husband and nanny decided to leave their wallets in the villa seeing that my dad was in the villa. Only I brought my wallet along to the pool.

6.40pm: I returned alone to the room for a shower and prayers. The living room was dark as my father had switched off all the lights (he doesn’t like to waste electricity). I didn’t think anything was amiss. I took my shower & did prayers.

6.55pm : I came out from my room to make some tea and headed to the pool area to catch the sunset.

7.10pm : my dad alerted me that the turndown service staff had arrived. He saw her in the living room and he was disturbed as he did not hear her coming in. I was surprised as the turndown service usually called first before coming in if no one opened the door when they ring the doorbell. But I didn’t think much of it. My dad told her not to go into his room while I stayed outside at the pool area. Neither my dad nor I saw the staff come into the villa or which rooms the staff went into. The staff stayed for a further 5 minutes or so. Before leaving, my dad requested a laundry bag.

7.18pm : The turndown service staff sent the laundry bag as requested.

7.20pm : My husband, nanny & children came back and we all proceeded to get ready for dinner

7.40pm : My nanny came running to my room with her empty wallet. Her face was ashen and she was trembling. She had put her cash RM950 in her wallet and hid the wallet in between her clothes in her luggage bag (the bag was unzipped). We tried looking for the money in the hopes that she dropped it somehow. That’s when my husband checked his wallet which he put on the vanity table in our bedroom – and his wallet was empty too. He had RM200 in there. Nothing else was taken, his IC & credit cards were intact.

It became clear that we were robbed. 

The Response 
I called the manager Mr Zureimy and he came to the villa within 15 minutes. He brought along the turndown service staff and a security staff. After explaining what happened, we were asked to write a report for The Westin and was escorted to the police station to lodge a police report.

The investigation begins

So instead of heading out for a birthday dinner and some last minute shopping, we spent our last night in Langkawi at the police station.

The head of security for Westin, Mr Manivanan, met us at the police station and we again explained what happened. He assured us that a full internal investigation is underway right now and that they were checking all available CCTV footage and checking all key card logs. He was very patient and courteous throughout and said that he will be meeting us tomorrow morning for an update.

Needless to say, none of us slept well that night.

The next morning, Mr Manivanan and my husband went to the police station to get a copy of the police report. Mr Manivanan then came to our villa to do his site investigation. We allowed him full access to the room. Upon checking, we found that the latch lock at the door of my kids’ room is broken (please refer to the photos). There were some debris on the floor (flecks of the wooden door frame). The door leads directly to the outdoor pool area facing the beach.  We never opened those doors as we were afraid the kids might wander to the pool area by themselves so those doors were not touched by us throughout our stay. I remember turning the door handles on our arrival day to ensure it was indeed locked.

You can see that this latch is broken where the gaping hole is
How the latch looks like in locked position

So now it does seem that there might have been a forced entry. Which means the robbers probably came through the beach and was watching us come and go. Note : this is my guess, the investigation has yet to be concluded. 

As a comparison, here is how the UNBROKEN latch in our room looks like

So, if you asked me today if I would recommend the Westin Langkawi….I really do not know what to say.

This is a CLEAR SECURITY BREACH and must be looked into seriously.

My husband’s wallet might have been an easy picking because he left it on the vanity table. But my nanny made an ATTEMPT TO HIDE HER WALLET and someone actually went thru her bag and personal belongings to steal her hard-earned cash.

If the robbers came in when we were at the pool, I shudder to think what could have happened to dad if my dad happened to walk in on the robber. If it was the turndown service staff, then it was a really brave move to steal while knowing that there is someone in the villa. Either way, we are grateful that my dad was unharmed. My dad is understandably shaken. He kept blaming himself, saying that he should have heard something. I told him it was God’s plan that you heard nothing and it was better that way. We found another Trip Advisor review in Nov 2016 which had a similar theft – her wallet was kept in her luggage bag and cash was taken.So ours is not the first incident. 

The Food 
The breakfast buffet was OK. Not bad but nothing fantastic. Decent variety but our benchmark is the Shangri-la Rasa Sayang Penang so it’s a pretty high bench mark to reach. Service was hit and miss. On our first time there, we were not shown to a table (we were just waved vaguely to the back of the restaurant by the person at the front desk) and once seated we were not offered coffee or tea and were not given any utensils. On the last day, the complete opposite happened i.e. service existed. Weird.

The room service food we ordered was appalling (we had to order room service after returning from the police station). The fried rice was too salty (my daughter refused to eat it!), the chicken rice was completely bland, and the tagliatelle was too creamy making it inedible beyond 3 mouthfuls. And of course it was completely overpriced. So, head out elsewhere for food. We recommend Wonderland Food Store for dinner and Restoran Mat Boon for lunch (food post coming soon!).

It’s such a shame – all staff were warm, friendly and gave us excellent service. The hotel is well maintained and all amenities were great. However, due to this serious security breach, I can’t give it a 5 star rating. I hope the management takes serious action and I hope this doesn’t happen to other guests at the Westin as to not tarnish the reputation of this esteemed hotel. Will we be back? I’m not sure…. [Update Oct 24th : I AM NOW SURE! The answer is NO. I contacted Mr Manivanan (Head of Security) on Oct 23rd and his reply to me was basically that The Westin is washing their hands off this case and it’s now up to the police. WOW. We gave them 2 weeks, didn’t harass them for updates despite multiple reassurances from them that updates will be given, thinking that all this while they have been doing an investigation and it’s just a matter of time before they get back to us. But no. They can’t care less about what happened the moment we stepped off from the hotel!]

It’s really too bad. The resort is the most children-friendly one I’ve ever been to. I would like to praise and commend Mr Zureimy and Mr Manivanan for their swift and professional action during the reporting of the robbery. It certainly was an uncomfortable situation to handle. To Ms Nor Burton and Mr Shahrol Shahidan, thanks so much for your kind hospitality, especially towards my children. My elder daughter asks for them by name and was hoping to see them at home the morning after we arrived back in KL. Bless her heart. To our buggy drivers throughout our stay – you guys are awesome! I’m sorry I didn’t catch your names but thank you for making our daily buggy rides such a delight.

Side note : a lot of people whom I’ve told this story to verbally are asking if the hotel compensated us in any way. The answer is no and we did not ask. For my husband, this was an insult and he says he is never coming back to the Westin Langkawi. He is an SPG Gold member, might I add. Which means he stays at SPG hotels a fair bit and is a loyal customer.

Update : I contacted Mr Manivanan (Head of Security) on Oct 12th to get and update and to request for any relevant CCTV footage. He has replied that CCTV footage can only be seen by the police and that he has sent his staff (unnamed) to the police station for questioning. Despite repeated reassurances that we will be updated about the investigation by both Mr Effendi Ramley (Director of Rooms) and Mr Manivanan, we have not had any update since Oct 12th 2017 (as of this writing it is Oct 22nd 2017). 

It’s a doozy of a mystery. Let me know if you have any theories! I’ve been trying to figure it out lol.

p/s : This review (with slight edits) can also be found on Trip Advisor (where I’m a not-so-regular contributor) under the title 2 surprises : a birthday and a robbery [Update Oct 24th : I sent in my review on TripAdvisor on the same day this blog post. It is still pending review & approval from Tripadvisor. I have also posted a review on The Westin Langkawi’s Facebook page that uploaded automatically]

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