Pangkor Laut – Malaysia’s Island Luxury Resort Par Excellence
It was 16 years ago when we last visited Pangkor Laut. It has always been a long-standing dream to return to this island resort, where we first experienced its famous South East Asian luxury and charm. Our older daughter was only 3 months old when we were last there, and our younger daughter has patiently listened to our seemingly endless stories over the last decade.
The island comprises over 300 acres, but only a small portion has been developed, and only for the Pangkor Laut Resort facilities. We left the tiny port on the mainland with anticipation. As our launch rounded the cove we had sight of the resort and we were soon grinning. We were met with the seemingly obligatory tropical drinks and cool washcloths. Our daughters have always wanted to stay in rooms on stilts over tropical waters, but we did not reveal that would be the case at Pangkor Laut. When the hostess led us to our rooms on stilts the grins were largest on the trip. The cool temperature of the rooms against the heat and humidity, coupled with the simple yet gracious design, confirmed we were very near paradise.
The service at Pangkor Laut was uniformly discrete throughout our stay. Bottled water was available everywhere, so we were never thirsty whether at the beach, at the infinity pool or dining.
The food offered at various restaurants was consistently fresh, tasty and delightful. At Uncle Lim’s Kitchen we had arguably our best Chinese meal ever. The restaurant without walls is set out over the water, and is cooled by the prevailing sea breezes from the Straits of Malacca. We were delighted by a variety of chicken and seafood dishes as suggested by our intrepid waiter Ong. The vegetables were crisp and fresh, and the fruits at dessert cleared the palate beautifully.
A few nights later at sunset we were served a thoroughly memorable meal on the beach at Fisherman’s Cove. To celebrate our daughter’s upcoming birthday, the staff prepared a white linen dinner with candlelight at the only table on the otherwise deserted beach. With our toes in the warm sand we watched as our waiter brought us myriad courses. The entrée was grilled lobster and filet, both of which were delicately prepared to perfection. The gently lapping waves and the fading twilight had us each gently shaking our head in wonder. A deserted tropical beach, a superb meal and my happy family…paradise indeed.
The resort takes great strides in successfully preserving the lush jungle, through which we were guided one morning. The hike was led by the resident naturalist, who provided us insights about the indigenous flora and fauna. By the time we descended into Emerald Bay, we were ready to plunge into the tropical waters and relax in the hammocks stretched between the tree trunks. The trees just beyond the high tide line provide all the shade required, so the beach is free of umbrellas. Rarely can you find such a lush beach setting absent manmade shade.
One evening we observed the natural contours of the island on a sunset cruise. The teak junk circumnavigated the island while we enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and beverages. Back on shore, we realized that the crisp right angles of the walkways, pool decks and trim were very pleasing to the eye, especially against the textures of the wood and fabrics on the chaise lounges.
We have been treated to a variety of spa experiences over the years, but we may have reached the pinnacle at Pangkor Laut. A decade ago it was voted #1 spa in the world by Condé Nast Traveller UK in 2003; it is hard to determine what could possibly be keeping it from that slot in the interim.
The Spa Village was opened in 2002 with a performance by Pavarotti and features a blend of Asian traditions. In that Malaysia has three indigenous cultures, the society is infused with a blend of Malay, Chinese and Indian traditions. This is manifested in religious celebrations, cuisine, architecture, attire and attitude. At the Spa Village, the best components of the South East Asian healing and rejuvenating arts are presented. The Spa Village features various specially built structures designed to facilitate an extensive range of treatments from China, Japan, India, Thailand, Bali and Malaysia. These include eight treatment pavilions, 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.
Of the resort’s two glorious infinity pools, the one in the Spa Village is incrementally better. We relaxed there before our treatments commenced.
One of my generally unattainable goals in travel is to lose a sense of time. At the Spa Village, that happened. I knew we were scheduled to start our treatment at 3pm but when it was over at 6pm I was delightfully confused. The various showers, baths, oils, scents and treatments were a feast for the senses. The seemingly endless massage was a blend of Thai, Malay and Chinese techniques. We emerged refreshed, relaxed, vibrant and drained of any lingering stress.
The monitor lizards slither through the coves and sand, never a threat to anything. On our last evening we sat on the balcony of our sea villa sharing a Cabernet from Chile. The sun began to set on our last day in paradise. We marveled at the perfect balance of luxury and natural beauty attained at Pangkor Laut.