Temple of Charm

  • Share
  • Read Later
Courtesy Temple Tree

LIVING MUSEUM: Antique houses make up the resort's accommodation

At the Temple Tree resort, www.templetree.com.my, in Malaysia's Langkawi archipelago, purring cats are ready to trail you everywhere. If you allow it, a friendly four-legged fur ball will curl up at the foot of your bed, or rest on your shoulder as you make yourself a cup of tea. And if you get really attached, you can sponsor the little cutie for as little as $14 a month. Australian resort owner Narelle McMurtrie's 15-year-old animal shelter, the Langkawi Animal Shelter & Sanctuary Foundation, has grown so enormous — yielding, at last count, 130 dogs and 150 cats — that she opened Temple Tree, her second hotel, to help finance her all-consuming charity project. (See pictures of high tea in Malaysia.)

The property lies on Pulau Langkawi, the largest of the islands. Like McMurtrie's Bon Ton resort next door, Temple Tree is a collection of antique timber houses from all over the country, and its 2.5-acre (1 hectare) compound looks somewhat like a museum of traditional Malaysian architecture. These nine houses, mostly derelict and abandoned when McMurtrie saved them, have been painstakingly disassembled, moved and reassembled in what was once a field thick with reeds. Original features have been lovingly restored. (See 10 things to do in Singapore.)

Every house is idiosyncratic. The most stately is the five-bedroom Colonial House built by Arabian goldsmiths in the 1920s. The sexiest is the two-bedroom Penang House with a wooden bathtub parked in the living room. The most compelling is the richly decorated, century-old Chinese farmhouse overlooking the mountains and Temple Tree's 110-ft. (33.5 m) pool. There are also five "estate rooms," built into a 1940s longhouse from a rubber plantation in Ipoh. It used to house Indian workers, but not, one surmises, in the same style that guests now enjoy.

A 1920s Eurasian house that once stood on Penang's York Road is the location of the resort's reception and restaurant. You can also book yoga and culinary classes here (McMurtrie is a great cook and her desserts are legendary). And if you need to escape this leafy idyll for a while, your cat will walk you to reception, where you can charter one of McMurtrie's yachts for a sunset cruise.

Rates at Temple Tree start from around $135 a night.

See 10 things to do in Hong Kong.

Got an awful travel gripe? The Avenger may be able to sort it out for you. Click here to tell us your problem.