Escape to private island hideaway Pangkor Laut for the perfect luxury hotel getaway. Just don’t blame me if you never want to come home.
Private Island Paradise
Approaching anywhere by boat is generally impressive, but nothing had prepared me for the approach to Pangkor Laut. It’s the quintessential luxury island getaway. Wooden villas on stilts perched over the water, strips of white sand next to the azure ocean. All backed by dense rainforest rising high into the interior of the island.
Just four hours previously, I’d been in the hustle and bustle of capital Kuala Lumpur, the hub of any Malaysia travels. It felt worlds away from the quiet beauty of Pangkor Laut.
Pangkor Laut was the original escape destination of the eighties and nineties. Set on a private island amidst some of Malaysia’s oldest rainforests you can see the appeal. Add some gorgeous villas on stilts over the sea and you have the final word in luxury. Not many resorts could maintain the aura of a dream destination for over three decades, but Pangkor Laut has.
My initial impression of the resort only improved when I was shown into the villa. Set on the end of a long wooden pier, the villa had a view straight out onto the ocean and a private balcony. I spent many an hour doing nothing but staring at the picturesque view and I don’t regret it.
Not Just a Luxury Beach Hotel
Each morning I started the day with a yoga class on a pavilion by the sea. It became so much a routine I couldn’t imagine how I’d ever started a day otherwise. The calm lapping of the water on the rocks as I worked my way through the sun salutation routine helped me to appreciate yoga in a way I’d never been able to when practising in the sweaty confines of a dark, mirrored room at home.
Although Pangkor Laut is an island escape, don’t think you’re confined to sun-worshipping on the sandy beaches (heavens forbid). There’s more than enough variety to occupy visitors for any length of time. Guests can kayak around the island, or snorkel to see the many species of fish that have made the island’s waters their home.
One of the highlights of my trip was the trip with the resident naturalist into the island’s rainforest interior. We spied snakes (EEK), termites and the island’s rather boisterous monkeys.
Another evening I took the sunset cruise where we were lucky enough to witness one of the most stunning sunsets I’ve ever seen. A matter of five minutes and the sun had completely disappeared behind the horizon but I won’t forget it.
Restaurants and Dining
There are several restaurants dotted around the island, and each one offers a different style of cuisine. If you’re looking for fine dining in a magnificent setting, head to the adult-only Straits restaurant. The restaurant creates special tasting menus tailored to your preferences for a memorable dining experience. Plus its location overlooking the Royal Bay doesn’t hurt either.
Fisherman’s Cove dishes up the catch of the day. Watching the talented chefs whipping up your food in the open kitchen is an experience not to be missed. Jamu Bar serves up salads in the Spa Village area. Perfect for satisfying your appetite after a “rigorous” treatment. Located on the far side of the island, away from most of the villas, Emerald Bay is postcard perfect with its white, sandy beach and piercing blue waters. The sunset view is pretty wonderful too.
Alternatively, head to my favourite, Uncle Lim’s to try some of the regional Nyonya food. Nyonya is a fusion of Malaysian, Chinese and Portuguese cuisines and a real taste of the region.
Spa & Wellness
One of the draws of the Pangkor Laut Spa is the bath house experience that precedes each treatment. My therapist wrapped and pinned me into a traditional sarong, then led me to a parlour where she practised the age-old art of Chinese foot tapping.Your feet are lightly tapped with a wooden hammer, which is surprisingly relaxing.The ritual was originally devised to restore circulation in the feet for girls whose feet had been bound. Your feet are lightly tapped with a wooden hammer, which is surprisingly relaxing.
After the tapping, I continued with a short spell in a traditional Malay plunge pool and some time in a Japanese-styled washing room where I scrubbed down with a goshi goshi cloth. I was led to a warm pool and given some ginger tea, after which the therapist exfoliated my skin with a glove. All this before the treatment!
I wanted to try something a little different and had booked in for a traditional Chinese massage, which focuses on your pressure points to stimulate the body’s healing and overall health, followed up by a traditional facial. It was as wonderful as I’d imagined.
Pangkor Laut hosts a variety of guests. Local families on a short weekend break, honeymooners, people just looking to escape from it all — all can be found in the quiet and friendly resort. I understood the appeal; the island’s laid-back and friendly demeanour is paired with a five-star luxury.
My five days were soon over, and I was on the boat again, this time watching as the island got smaller and smaller as we sailed back to the mainland. My thoughts as we headed back? “Next time I’m booking for ten days at least”.
Love this but it’s a little far from home? Read about YTL Hotels’ first luxury hotel in the UK, The Gainsborough Bath Spa.