YTL Pangkor Laut: Is to Malaysia what the Petronas Towers is to KL. The Spa Village inaugurated by Luciano Pavarotti is perhaps the world’s most sophisticated spa operation featuring water villas on stilts, sea-front landscaped gardens and a Bath House Experience with feet hammering (erstwhile predilection of Chinese noblemen’s concubines) and an extravaganza of Malay, Japanese and Shanghai bath rituals. Ancient Chinese facials incorporate Bird’s Nest, AKA “Oriental Caviar,” an imperial Chinese delicacy. Be that unaffordable, relish Thai cuisine at Straits, where dining pockets project onto the waters, as waves lap with the yearning plaintiveness of Mahler’s 5th Symphony.
|The Pangkor Laut spa (above) and (below) Tanjong Jara spa village. Pix by S.K. Mody
YTL Tanjong Jara: Expect vistaed verandahs of placid lotus ponds, Rosella fruit spa treatments, luxurious dark wood villas, sunrises over terraced breakfasts and a quirky Chef Anne who serves personalised Asian cuisine after “consultation” (Di Atas Sungei restaurant has no menu). This ethno chic resort is sadly less renowned for exceptional classical music channel Opus than for its diving and snorkelling offerings at a private island reached after a James Bond ride. Guests bare bikinis whilst I type furiously registering an inferno of billowing Rainforest Trees towered over turquoise tranquillity. Takes a bikini to create a sensation? Try a laptop next time!
YTL Cameron Highlands: Colonial splendour amidst Jim Thomson spy mysteries, suites with four-poster beds and terraces overlooking picturesque golf courses etched against lush chilled hills. Malaysians head here for high teas and the Fresh Strawberry Escapade, a scrumptious spa treatment with indigenous specialities strawberries and tea. After ablutions in warm strawberry tea, strawberry body polish of warm oatmeal, yogurt and fresh strawberry puree drool over you like molten lava. So delicious the fragrance I almost ate off the application.
But I suspect that’s why the therapist invigilates to check such voracities and offers post-treatment homemade biscuits and strawberry jam.
YTL Majestic Malacca: My favourite, this converted 100-year-old mansion in UNESCO World Heritage Site Malacca was voted Asia’s Best Boutique Hotel whilst their four-hour tripartite head-body-face Heating and Cooling Treatments were adjudicated the most innovative spa treatments. High Tea is the finest of my experience with the crumbliest scones I’ve had since Oxford, flakiest pies and virtually sugar-free pastries (excuse for bashless gluttony). After ample Chef Rafizan and lean sous-chef Nizam (Laurel and Hardy-style) present local Baba Nonya supper I inform the GM I shall have to kidnap his chefs. The GM says I shall have to outsmart his security.
Eastern & Oriental Hotel: Listed amongst “Places to See Before You Die,” this Grand Dame of Asia turned 150, gifted herself a lavish face lift and new wing and got her Penang Suite a romantic film debut. Situated in UNESCO World Heritage Site Georgetown, swooning to the symphony of seas she stretches by in majesty. Malaysian-born Jimmy Choo’s favourite hotel is a quaint enchantment that Herman Hesse, Rudyard Kipling and Somerset Maugham patronised and Gordon Ramsay upset. Afternoon teas unfurl in delicious languor. The 1885, ashimmer in candlelight at supper, cajoles the toughest palates with delicate creations.
The Datai: This exotic three-tiered property cascading to the beach sits in soaring ancient rainforests. Doleful staff depresses, although their ignore-the-guest policy tickles some. Chef Donny Hemna prepares addictive Thai salads at The Pavillion. I saw more tropical fauna from my villa which frames a live wildlife panorama than during the nature walks. But then, I learned more about Nature and her philosophy from fascinating naturalist Irshad than from science lessons. These nature walks are a must-do, although one reluctantly extracts oneself from one’s villa on whose terraces monkeys throw wild parties and battle over bananas.
Four Seasons: “Our monkeys are better behaved, but then this is the Four Seasons,” quips young steward Louis Stacher. “And our monkeys are fussy, they only pick the best bananas, as one does at the Four Seasons.” Apparently their monkeys also queue for the spa monopolised by entire families getting group-massaged (including babas who pop out of Baby Dior). The private beach is where the Mittals staged a wedding and Ikan Ikan’s Chef Shukul executes cabana dinners with intricately presented gastronomic Malaysian dishes. Shukul wanted to teach but cooks because “thinking is much more difficult than cooking.” Food for thought.
Mandarin Oriental: Is where Aishwarya Rai stayed whilst shooting for the world’s most expensive film, Robot. The multi-award winning hotel with unrivalled views over the Petronas Towers regularly hosts VIPs in the Presidential Suite, apparently beyond the budget of Tony Blair, spotted dining with the Crown Prince at sexy Mandarin Grill where Cherie Blair processed past in a white salwar kameez. Sultan Lounge (with poised pink pool table) is the hippest club. With my Park Suite came free laundry services (nice). Tea-tle tattle over adventurous all-lemon Afternoon Tea with lemon scones. Zes-tea!
YTL Ritz-Carlton: Has suites to accommodate unbridled purchases from YTL’s Starhill Gallery, the city’s classiest shopping arcade (attached to the hotel). Elle Macpherson, Lionel Ritchie and Roger Federa adore penthouses enormous enough for even Paris Hilton’s ego. The girl is launching a KL mall but no hotel wants her. The Ritz-Carlton boasts the world’s best city spa (terraced exotica and meandering waterways against high-rises) besides gorgeous breakfasts at Cézar, brunches at Feast Village’s Shook! which feeds the international elite and KL’s best Chinese restaurant Li Yen. Sea stars (not yet Michelin) chez Chef Ken Hoh’s gastronomic Third Floor Restaurant adjoining.
The Club at Saujana: Seclusion in sophistication. Swishest suites come with epicurean elegance at The Restaurant to which new F&B manager Pranav Patel imparts panache. If Chef Nancy’s forte is fine dining, The Trattoria’s new Italian chef Giovannii Ricci does regional cuisine including homemade agnolotti, gesuiti and baulletti. Be this too bewildering, his pizzas and tiramisu have you shrieking Mama Mia! But the stunner spa leaves ones speechless. When you have napkins bigger than tablecloths, towels longer than carpets and a sculpted Balinese rock for a spa bath, you know this is the pinnacle of luxury.