Malaysia is a destination with it all. Idillic sandy shores, tropical landscapes and a bustling city bursting with life.
From the culture of capital city, Kuala Lumpur, to the relaxing tropical paradise on the island of Pangkor Laut – Malaysia is all about the beauty of diversity. Here’s how to see the best of it.
WHAT TO PACK
CITY: Ritz Carlton Kuala Lumpur
After a long flight to Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur, checking in to an oasis of calm amongst the city’s foggy hustle and bustle is exactly what the jet-lag doctor ordered. Located downtown, in the city’s Golden Triangle district and just a short distance by car from the airport, The Ritz Carlton, Kuala Lumpur is at the centre of a flash boulevard, one lined with designer shops from CELINE to Cartier. The hotel’s enviable address is exactly where you’ll want to be for the sights and sounds of the city – even if just for a pit stop.
If you’re booked into a suite, a private butler will be at your service making the settling-in process a seamless experience. The spacious rooms feel tranquil in the midst of a hectic but exciting city, and are stylishly decorated in elegant neutral tones complete with lavish marble bathrooms. Timeless luxury is the best way to describe the interiors, quietly opulent but with essential modern details. The beds command attention, and an indulgent night’s sleep.
THE FOOD + DRINK
Li-Yen restaurant, its design reminiscent of a blossoming garden, is where you want to book for dinner. Serving up award-winning traditional Chinese dishes – such as deep-fried enoki mushroom rolls – for over 20 years, they have masterfully crafted Cantonese dining. Dishes are delicious; made with the finest seasonal ingredients and served with exceptional service. For breakfast, head to The Cobalt Room set within a marble dining hall and offering an impressive buffet of local and international flavours. Here, diverse food stations with hot and cold dishes ranging from the traditional Roti Canai to in-house blended fresh juices, clamour for your attention. On days when you’re not rushing from attraction to attraction, take time out with an indulgent afternoon tea, served in The Lobby Lounge daily.
THE TO DO LIST
Book into the Spa Village for the ultimate post-flight relaxation. Set amongst lush green vegetation, it offers an oasis of regeneration with traditional healing practices notable to the region. The Sensory Sound Bath – 80-minutes of heaven – is ideal for easing jet-lag: lying under a ceiling of stars, your body is lulled by relaxing vibrations emanating through the specially-designed floor before the treatment continues with a full-body deep tissue massage inspired by Thai and Tui Na techniques and a sound bath that envelops the body with the frequencies of a Symphonic Gong. If you’re an early riser, the two outdoor pools burrowed below the city’s skyscrapers open at 8AM, so a swim pre or post-breakfast will kick start your day.
For those looking to balance luxury with culture, the Petronas Twin Towers are a short drive from the hotel and are the city’s top architectural landmark. At 452-metres they were once the tallest buildings in the world, before Dubai’s Burj Khalifa took over in 2009 at almost double. But it’s the Batu Caves that boast the most Instagram-worthy scenes, with a series of caves and temples located at the top of 272 brightly-coloured stairs, and a colossal gold statue shrine. The limestone that forms Batu Caves is said to be around 400 million years old. Be prepared with modest clothing – and expect to see a flurry of cheeky monkeys.
BEACH: PANGKOR LAUT RESORT
WHAT TO PACK
Saying goodbye to the city, buckle up for a four-hour drive from the capital to Pangkor marina where a further 20-minute boat ride transports you to the heart of paradise; the private island of Pangkor Laut. You’ll be greeted at the pier with friendly faces, and refreshingly-fruity ice-pops await in reception. This two-million-year-old jungle, originally uninhabited, was discovered by the late Sultan of Perak, HRH Sultan Idris Iskandar Shah II, in 1960, but he kept the secret to himself for twenty years. It wasn’t until 1980 when Tan Sri Francis Yeoh, Managing Director of YTL Hotels, suggested building a resort that honoured the islands’ pristine beauty. Pangkor Laut Resort takes up only 20% of the island’s 300 acres, and blends seamlessly into the surrounding jungle, with wooden buildings and villas set within. Wherever you look you’ll be engulfed by white sandy beaches, tropical plants and emerald waters. The picture-perfect scenery here is almost too beautiful to be real.
The resort is spacious, with two large swimming pools, beaches, gardens and the impressive Spa Village giving a sense of freedom as well as plenty to experience during your stay. There are regular shuttle buses that will ferry you between the villas, restaurants and private beach club, Emerald Bay, if you don’t want to walk (temperatures can reach into the late 30s in the summer months). Expect to see a variety of wildlife too, from long-tailed macaques to oriental pied hornbills and large monitor lizards sunbathing on the island’s rocks.
Here you can choose from four categories of villas: Garden Villas – set within lush gardens and close to the hotel’s main pool; Hill Villas – in amongst the hills with breathtaking views; plus Sea Villas and Spa Villas – both on stilts above the tropical waters, the latter located in Spa Village. All are decorated elegantly and warmly with traditional Malay high-wooden ceilings, wooden floors and slatted windows. Both the Sea and Spa Villas have wooden decks for sunbathing on or sea-gazing the emerald ocean from. Large, en-suite bathrooms have a marble, oversized bathtub that rivals a jacuzzi and doubles up as a rain shower.
For an extra-special stay or for larger families, The Estates are private sanctuaries which house between one and four bedrooms, and have their own dining pavilions and private pools with dramatic views. Joan Collins has been a resident. Or there’s the Pavarotti Suite, named after one of the island’s most famous guests who was a regular and declared of the island: “this morning when I woke up, I went out, I was really moved, almost crying…because this is really paradise.” He’s not wrong.
THE FOOD + DRINK
The food and drink options are broad, with six restaurants to choose from. Breakfast is included and served at the Feast Village in the centre of the resort, where you’ll find a diverse offering from the Asian region, alongside a Western cuisine of patisseries, meats, cheeses and fruit. For lunch and dinner a buffet of local delicacies and flavourful Malay cuisine is served here too. If you’ve perched yourself at the hotel’s infinity pool for the day, visit Royal Bay Beach Club for lunch and choose from both Asian and international favourites, or if you’ve staked out a spot at Emerald Bay, visit Chapman’s Bar. Jamu Bar is a peaceful spot by the Spa Village serving healthy salads and juices, and you can’t leave the resort without a visit to Uncle Lim’s Kitchen; Chef Lim Fang Tat has been with the resort since it opened in 1985. Seamlessly blending indoor and outfit dining, Uncle Lim’s Kitchen is set against the rocks and serves authentic home-cooking inspired by Lim’s hometown of Penang, using ingredients available locally. A special spot for dinner is seafood restaurant Fisherman’s Cove; this fine-dining concept for adults only is as romantic as it gets, with waves crashing as background music.
THE TO DO LIST
If you can pull yourself away from the crystal-clear waters for the afternoon, the Spa Village is an experience not to be missed – and a common thread between all YTL properties. You’ll find eight treatment pavilions plus: a deluxe Belian Treatment Pavilion; three Healing Huts which include Chinese Herbal, Ayurvedic and Malay Huts; two Bath Houses; three Spa Huts; three Nap Gazebos and a Spa Boutique. Impressive. Offering a 360-approach to physical and spiritual health and well-being, choose from Rejuvenation and Longevity, Relaxation and Stress Reduction, Detoxification or Romance. All treatments start with the unique Bath House Ritual where you’ll experience a soothing footbath followed by an invigorating Chinese Foot Pounding, a traditional Malay ‘circulating’ bath, a Japanese-style cleansing with a ‘goshi-goshi’ cloth, followed by a dip in the heated Rotenburu pool and a Shanghai body scrub with a cup of calming tea to finish. And this is before your treatment of choice. If you are looking to go all in, and want to indulge in hours of pampering, the Royal Secrets of Puteri Lindungan Bulan – specially formulated for women – will be the most extensive spa therapy you’ve ever had. Expect a traditional Malay massage, a hair mask, face and body scrub, a fragrant milk bath and a full body steaming.
Emerald Bay is the crown jewel of the resort. Sun beds and hammocks are lined up under the palm trees and you’re faced with nothing but the namesake emerald waters and a white sandy beach. Order Piña Coladas to your bed, or eat lunch at Chapman’s Bar – named after a famous British Colonel who sought refuge at Emerald Bay before his dramatic escape by submarine in 1945. The banana leaf curry here is not to be missed – and nor is the sunset for the best view on the island. Guests can opt for private dining here too, popular for engagements or anniversaries.
With seas swum, meals savoured and views captured to memories and phones – it’s the staff at Pangkor Laut Resort that will make the trip so exceptional, their commitment and smiles are second to none. Many have been at the resort for over 30 years, and there are generations of families working within the grounds. Saying goodbye to the idyllic property is difficult, but combined with emotional goodbyes to your new Malaysian family, it will likely be a tear-jerker. It certainly was for me.
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