My favourite part of traveling is discovering completely unique places, especially when they have a good charitable cause tied to them. The Bon Ton and Temple Tree Resort on the small island of Langkawi, Malaysia is such a place.
The resort is composed of numerous original imported bungalows from all over the region, with each one having its own character and backstory. However, what makes the Bon Ton so incredibly special is their on-site dog and cat rescue sanctuary called LASSie, short for The Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary. After a few short days, both the resort and the animal rescue found a very special place in my heart, and in this review I’m excited to share my experience with you!
The original Bon Ton was a restaurant found in an old colonial building in Kuala Lumpur, and expanded to a restaurant and art gallery on Langkawi in 1994. It eventually evolved into a boutique resort, and they imported 8 antique “Malay Kampung” houses between 1995 and 2004. Importing these houses was no small task, as each one was between 60-120 years old, took 2 weeks to dismantle, and up to 3 months to reassemble on Langkawi! The owner Narelle later opened the Temple Tree, a 2nd property next door to Bon Ton, with an additional 8 authentic villas for guests to stay in.
During my visit I stayed in the “Black and White” house, one of the larger options offered in Temple Tree. This house was built in the 1940’s in Negri Sembilan, located south of Kuala Lumpur. It’s an entire house elevated from the ground, complete with a living and dining area, a great outdoor porch, a large master bathroom including a gorgeous all wooden bath tub, and a separate smaller bedroom with 2 additional beds! The attention to detail was as impressive as the room size itself, as there is beautiful colored stained glass windows throughout the villa.
The other rooms throughout Temple Tree are equally as authentic and impressive. There is the Chinese House, which is 100 years old and originally built as a farmhouse near Singapore, and exudes Taiwanese influences in the upstairs and downstairs suites. The Penang House is imported from the popular Gurney Drive area of Penang, complete with two entrances and beautiful colors throughout. Each of the 8 houses are incredibly unique and walking through the grounds of the Temple Tree and Bon Ton feels like a museum!
The Temple Tree has 2 very nice lap pools, with the main pool situated among tall trees in the back of the hotel to provide a very calm vibe. There are plenty of sun loungers at both pools, and given the small number of guests you will never have an issue finding a spot to relax in. The helpful staff immediately brought us water and fruit when we sat down, and it was easy to imagine what the area would have looked like hundreds of years ago as we gazed into the distance. There are also plenty of books and DVDs available in the Temple Tree common area in case you forgot to bring ample reading material from home.
When staying at Temple Tree you are also free to use the facilities at the Bon Ton, which is conveniently located next door. There is a very cool gift shop, filled with local goods and books to bring home keepsakes, along with a large pool and Jacuzzi which faces a lotus lagoon. Be sure to keep an eye on the lagoon, because we saw some rare birds and even a monitor lizard going for a late afternoon stroll! The sunset over the lagoon is absolutely breathtaking, especially when viewed from one of the small tables or the open balcony over the lagoon. It was great being able to take advantage of both properties and we frequently found ourselves going back and forth for meals and drinks.
RESTAURANTS AT THE RESORT
Both the Bon Ton and Temple Tree have their own high quality restaurants. Bon Ton’s restaurant, called “Nam”, was the original restaurant for the hotel. It offers amazing views onto the lagoon and mountains, and some very inventive house cocktails! You can sample the daily house cocktail with your meal, which included favorites like a “White Lady” or a “Dark and Stormy.” The food is also excellent, and is a combination of Western dishes with Eastern spices. All of the food is locally sourced from nearby fishermen and local markets, and the freshness is obvious. Be sure to get there around sunset to have a pre-dinner drink and enjoy the outstanding view!
The Temple Tree restaurant is a smaller and more intimate affair. Named “The Straits Club”, the restaurant offers some fixed menu items along with a rotating list on the blackboard at the front of the restaurant. During my stay there were some great items, including the Twice Baked Chicken and high quality desserts, so definitely try some of these rotating specials. Like the Nam restaurant, the Straits Club offers only the freshest ingredients with a large portion of the profits going directly to support the on-site animal rescue center LASSie!
THE ANIMAL SHELTER “LASSSIE”
The Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary, or LASSie for short, is one of the most heartwarming charities I’ve ever come across. As a huge animal lover, the owner of Bon Ton and Temple Tree, wanted to give back to the local community and setup the animal clinic 10 years ago. Langkawi and Malaysia in general have a large problem with stray dogs and cats, especially with overpopulation. To help combat this problem, the animal clinic at LASSie would take in stray dogs and cats for free sterilization.
The clinic evolved over time and is now an entire foundation to rehabilitate and care for stray dogs and cats in Langkawi, especially those that are neglected, abused, and needy who would have difficulty finding a permanent home. When I visited, a volunteer told me they had approximately 170 dogs and 130 cats on site! Guests at either hotel are welcome to help walk the dogs each day, and I was able to take 3 puppies around the grounds and get them some good exercise. The sheer number of animals is overwhelming, but it’s so amazing that the Bon Ton is helping so many needy animals. A large portion of profits from the hotel and restaurant go directly to supporting the animal shelter, so I made sure to eat all my meals on site and not feel guilty about adding in that extra glass of wine.
For more information on LASSie and to see how you can donate or volunteer, please visit their website at http://www.langkawilassie.org.my/.
The Bon Ton and Temple Tree was one of the most special places I’ve come across in all of my travels. The rooms and hotel grounds are incredibly unique and make for some incredible pictures. Plus knowing that my stay was directly benefitting hundreds of needy animals made it even better. I am already planning a return trip to volunteer my time with the animal shelter and strongly encourage you all to do the same!
I was welcomed as a guest by Temple Tree, as always all opinions are my own and reflect my experience at this truly unique and special resort.