Thursday, September 13, 2012

Pangkor Laut: An Island Spa Paradise

Infinity Pool and Spa Villas at Pangkor Laut Resort

Pangkor Laut isn't just one of Malaysia's best spas; it's one of the top destination spas in the world according to Conde Nast Traveller UK. It's an island for strolling hand-in-hand in the moonlight, relaxing on the beach and gazing into each others eyes. This place is made for honeymooners looking for a quiet getaway. The romantic forces at this resort are so strong that having three kids with us wasn't a mood killer. Plus, the top-notch, call-me-by-name service made me feel like a celebrity.

The resort encompasses an entire private island separate from the nearby, bigger Pangkor Island. From Penang, it's a 3-hour drive down to Lumut on the mainland and then a 15-minute speedboat journey. Racing over the smooth water, I enjoyed this ride much more than the one on the Thai snorkeling trip I had taken the previous month. Perhaps there's hope for me after all.

On the island, you'll find Peacocks resting in the Library (I'm guessing non-native); Bats squawking in the afternoon;
Hornbills stealing your french fries; and Fish swimming beneath the walkways.

As we sauntered from the pier into the reception hall, I half expected to find Mr. Roarke and Tatoo toasting us with a "Welcome to Fantasy Island." Well, if your fantasy is experiencing the best massage you've had in your life, you've come to the right place. Instead, we were greeted with a tray of fragrant, chilled towels, just the thing for cooling off on a hot day. Seriously, I'm going to start keeping chilled towels in my fridge at home. Then — this is the part that impressed me — the receptionist walked up and greeted us by name to go over the details of our stay. How did she know who we were? Hubby wasn't the only white guy on the boat. Did they surreptitiously take our pictures when we checked in on the mainland and transmit it with our names to the island? Hmmm...

Our room was fantastic and decorated in an upscale, Malay kampung village style. The Spa Villas built over the water (pictured at the top of this post) are reserved for guests over 16 years old, but the other guestrooms are available for families. Natural light filled the bathroom, and the marble tub was enormous. We were told to keep our sliding door locked if we weren't in our rooms because the monkeys could open them and knew exactly where the minibar was. Did we really want to pay for a simian wine party?

One of our Garden Villa rooms with a beautiful view.

The big reason to visit Pangkor Laut is to take advantage of their world class spa that offers treatments from all over Asia. I elected to enjoy a Balinese massage and thought it was the best I've ever had. There are plenty of options for couples and men, including the very manly Bukit Gantang Warrior Treatment. Alas, I left my man in charge of three kids at the beach while I relaxed at the spa.

What really sets Pangkor Laut apart is its Bath House Ritual that takes place before your spa treatment. Considering that I had skipped the shuttle and trekked through the jungle to get from the beach to the spa, I was quite happy to clean up before my massage. It starts out with a Chinese foot pounding historically used to ease the pain of bound feet. Then, they escort you to the dressing room where you change into a sarong. Toss a coin into a well and make a wish before you descend, sarong and all, into a cool Malay bath in a walled garden. With water pouring out of urns, it's quite invigorating. Climb out and inhale the herbal concoctions at four stations — Uplifting, Passion, Calming, and Detox. At the Japanese bath, scrub down with a goshi-goshi cloth then pour water over yourself with the dipper. As soon as you sink into the delightfully warm Rotenburu pool, someone serves you a cold cup of green tea. Is she waiting just around the corner for the moment you're ready? Next up is the Shanghai scrub. Lying down on a table, the attendant scrubs your back with a body brush then throws buckets of heated water over you. You'll feel like royalty with ladies-in-waiting. When it's done, select a dry, batik sarong to change into before your massage and to keep as a souvenir. After your spa treatment, feel free to use the open air shower before changing back into your regular clothes.

I've reached that odd point in life where I pay someone to pound my feet.

The beach at Emerald Bay on the other side of this private island is far prettier than the ones in Penang. During World War II it was the site of a daring submarine rescue of a British colonel who had been hiding in the Malay jungles. True to it's name, the water sparkled with a jewel green hue, and the quiet surf invited everyone young and old in to play. Although, hubby did say he had hoped for bigger waves. A small stand lended out snorkeling equipment and inner tubes, but they forewarned us that the water wasn't really clear enough for good aquatic viewing. At least there were plenty of lounge chairs and bar service.

Secluded Emerald Bay

If the spa and the beach aren't enough to keep you busy, you're welcome to try out some of the other activities. We didn't do any of the cruises but could see the boats setting sail. There are two pools including the one in Spa Village reserved for adults. The Water Activity shack offered kayaks, catamarans, and wakeboarding. It seemed that everyone was in the mood for chilling out because the tennis courts were empty every time we walked by. One morning, I dragged my family on the guided jungle walk which I thought was very informative. But I can just hear them telling their friends about it, "Then, she forced us to march through the jungle..." My favorite area is the Library. With lounges and a couple four-poster beds hung with gauzy linens, it invited us to relax with a good book (or do homework, as I made my kids do during their downtime).

Naturalist explains bird nest ferns on guided walk; Water Activities; Relaxing in the Library; Jungle trek

Food is the other highlight of Pangkor Laut. Since we had the kids with us, I didn't have a chance to try the adults-only restaurants. The breakfast buffet had many cooked-to-order dishes and even a juice bar. Just put the fruits you want liquified on a plate and bring them to the juice man. Since I'm a novice, I had no idea how many apples are needed to make a full glass and had to go back for more. At Uncle Lim's, listen to the waves crashing on rocks while enjoying Nyonya and Chinese Hockchew homestyle cooking. I highly recommend the soft shell crab and the garlic prawns. The open kitchen design at Feast Village invited guests to wander around watching various dishes being made. Their ice cream is some of the tastiest I've had in Malaysia that I didn't make myself.

Garlic Prawns at Uncle Lim's; dinner prep at Feast Village; Making Roti Jala for breakfast; Chapman's Bar by the beach

Pangkor Laut delivered on their promise of a relaxing getaway. Normally, I steer clear from any place advertised as "romantic" when the kids are coming along, but friends' previous visits assured me that it would be okay. They don't really cater to kids (no kids club or pool slides), but they made them feel welcome. Their policy of reserving certain areas for adults kept me from feeling that we were infringing on a couple's honeymoon.

Have I peaked your interest? Check out the Pangkor Laut website for information or if you're in the mood for a little more daydreaming. Just perusing the variety of spa treatments is fascinating. If you live in Malaysia or Singapore, take advantage of the meals-inclusive Resident's Package which is available to both locals and expats.

This post is part of Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travellers Sandbox, Photo Friday at Delicious Baby, "Luxury Getways" at Zigazag, and Friday Daydreamin' at R We There Yet Mom? Check them out for more around-the-world travel inspiration.


  1. Wow, this looks wonderful! The beach looks very inviting and relaxing.

  2. That first photo is so inviting! And I wouldn't mind a massage and having someone pound on my feet right now.

  3. What a great looking resort! Perfect for daydreaming. I love your expat life as I jealously read about your massage, some foot pounding and all the delicious food you're eating :) How cool that it's both family friendly and also caters to honeymooners. I want to jump into the first picture.

  4. Love the look of the food and the Japanese Bath sounds so inviting. Jan

  5. It looks like you had an amazing time at the resort! Beautiful pictures- as always. :)

  6. This looks AMAZING!! For some reason I don't quite put Malaysia and luxury resort together!!! Thanks for proving me wrong!

    And thanks for linking up this week!

  7. How lovely! Malaysia is looking more and more like a country to spend a few months in...

  8. In my previous life as a travel agent, I sold Pangkor Laut as a destination for without ever having been there. I was always envious as I really wanted to go myself! Now I really DO want to have painted an idyllic picture with your gorgeous photos. I can just imagine myself in all of them!

  9. That looks amazing. I'd never seen photos of Pangkor Laut before but wow. A world away from nearby Penang! that bathtub that your daughter is sitting in looks amazing. I think the kids and I would spend most of the holiday fighting over who gets to use it.

  10. Wow, great shots of the wildlife! So glad you enjoyed it. :-)

  11. A very nice resort.
    Those bats looks really nice together.

  12. Paradise is right! Wow, I would love to sit in one of those chairs and just be amazed by the beauty before my eyes.

  13. Great post on Pangkor!! I read this before I went there myself and have just got back and agree with everything you say, it is pure paradise! I have written a post about it on my blog also, it might bring back memories for you so please do have a read if you have time :)



I read each and every comment. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Comment moderation is on, so your comment may not appear immediately.

Web Analytics