The Jungle Look
As I lie naked on the table and am exfoliated from neck to toe during the Shanghai Scrub part of my Bathhouse Ritual, I feel liberated and surprisingly relaxed as two buckets of warm water are thrown over my back with vigour and spill down the steps into the surrounding garden.
"The Spa Village at Pangkor Laut Resort has been voted the best spa in the world several times "
I had intended to keep my bikini on, but I was gently coaxed out of the idea – and my clothes - by my polite and professional therapist who has skilfully wrapped me in a sarong and leads me through each stage of the traditional Asian bathing traditions.
The Spa Village at Pangkor Laut Resort has been voted the best spa in the world several times and its unique Bathhouse Ritual is complimentary before each treatment. A soothing foot massage is followed by an invigorating Chinese foot pounding where I stifle my ticklish tendencies to whip away my foot and enjoy the springy hammer beating against my sole. I’m led through an icy waterfall in my sarong and slide through a pool lined with giant water urns creating a line of waterfalls, emerging the other side to breathe deeply over the steaming herbal inhalation pots.
So far this is the best spa experience I’ve ever had and I haven’t got to the treatment yet. I’ve opted for a traditional Malay massage – Urutan Gamelan – a deep tissue massage using oil scented with jasmine and tropical magnolia. It is incredible and I’m half asleep as I emerge from the treatment villa and slouch on one of the day beds overlooking the sea, the occasional speedboat buzzing past.
This 300-acre private island is covered in one of the world’s oldest rainforests, estimated to be a staggering two million years old. The infinity pools, spa, restaurants and luxurious villas only take up 20 per cent of the island, so the resort doesn’t overpower but blends with nature, with jetties navigating around giant boulders and even a hefty grey boulder making an appearance through the wall at Uncle Lim’s Chinese restaurant. The rainforest wraps itself around hill top villas, hiding most from sight, and the sounds of nature are loud and proud as the sun rises – urging you to step outside and watch the early morning light glisten across the water alongside the Sea Villas.
"This 300-acre private island is covered in one of the world’s oldest rainforests...a staggering two million years old."
One of the highlights for many guests is the jungle trek with the resident naturalist. During this walk through the rainforest, spot giant monitor lizards lazing in the sunlight and multiple species of orchid at ground level; or hornbills and cheeky macaque monkeys in the leafy canopy above. Although surrounded by luxury, you are in the wild so be careful to lock your villa door and keep the mischievous long tail macaques from ransacking your room - they like to pretend to be housekeeping with a few knocks to see if you’re in and if the doors part.
The resort is perfect for a honeymoon and total escapism away from technology. There’s no Wi-Fi in the rooms, only in the reception and library, which makes you realise how often you use the internet. Embrace this, wean yourself away from work, emails and social media - this is your time, space to let your brain rest and really appreciate just how beautiful an island this is.
You can choose to rise with the sun during a complimentary yog or tai chi class overlooking the waves; or spend the day relaxing around the infinity pool, gazing out across the water, the wooden overwater Sea Villas creating a picture perfect silhouette.
Catch the shuttle to Emerald Bay on the west of the island, a little slice of paradise where the warm waves gently roll up the shore. Watch the giant hornbills with bright yellow and orange beaks hop along the bending branches, and dine at the beachside Chapman’s Bar, tasting the catch of the day, noodles or Greek salad. The sheltered cove is the place for a swim in the ocean and the beach is the best spot to read a book – simply nab one of the hammocks, lie back and listen to the surf.
The island has seven dining options open at different times during the year, from Uncle Lim’s Kitchen serving Chinese-style home cooking – you may get to meet Uncle Lim himself – to fine dining at Fisherman’s Cove. You can also opt for a private dining experience and my recommendation is to choose Emerald Bay for its privacy, where you’ll be surrounded by flaming fire pits on the beach under a blanket of glistening stars overhead.
The temperature and humidity in this part of Malaysia stay steady throughout the year but the best time to visit is mid-December through to September. As Luciano Pavorotti once said – he has his own suite on the island – “I almost cried to see how beautiful God has made this paradise”. I couldn’t agree more.