Living in Singapore has perks especially when it comes to travelling around Asia. A weekend away in Malaysia is one of those perks and when it comes to choosing somewhere to stay, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa is our luxuriate home from home.
Penang Island is connected to the Malaysian peninsula via three bridges and a reliable airport. If flying long-haul to Kuala Lumpur, your connecting flight to Penang is swift. My companion flew in from London with Qatar Airways with a quick stopover in Doha. The spacious A380 aircraft was comfortable with brilliant flight times: morning flights out and late evening flight back allowing maximum time for luxuriate fun.
We arrived in style in a Shangri-La limousine. A word of advice: if you need to use the limo’s onboard wifi, do so during the start of the journey and enjoy the view when the roads north of George Town wind dramatically as they circumnavigate the lush, sprawling, green mountain range that dominates the central part of the island.
On the north side of the island, the waterfront town of Batu Ferringhi was named after the spice merchants who once carried goods from this part of the world towards Europe. They stopped off here to make camp, gather water and plant rain trees, which you can now see more than 150 years later, towering over the tropical beach gardens of Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa.
The five-star Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa was the second hotel ever built by the Shangri-La group yet it still manages to look brand new. You will find that any Shangri-La property you visit is always in the best location in that area. This is the first hotel to take up residence along the mile-long Batu Ferringhi beach, Penang’s most inviting stretch of sand. There are now seven hotels to choose from but the Rasa Sayang offers the highest levels of luxury of all.
When deciding which part of the hotel to book, the Rasa Wing is an adults-only experience that offers privacy, serenity, luxury and includes many complimentary perks to keep you indulged throughout.
So many detailed little touches for extra comfort
We stayed in one of the spacious (62 square metre) Premier Rooms. The Penang Suite at 242 square metres has garden or ocean views and is a luxury one-bedroom suite with a living area and stunning marble bathroom.
Our Premier Room had so many detailed little touches for extra comfort such as a pillow menu, sitting room with a coffee machine and a mini bar filled with complimentary drinks. Our favourite luxury was a high-rimmed, soaking bathtub on our double-length balcony overlooking the resplendent gardens. The bathroom had two sinks which is always a great bonus, L’Occitane products and a shower room that has three jets with enough space for two, if the mood takes you.
Also, local snacks – such as the sweet, powdery kacang tumbuk peanut – are hidden under a tudung saji conical cover each day and when night falls, the blackout curtains and the ubiquitous tranquillity of Rasa Sayang coerce you into the deepest of sleeps and the wildest of dreams.
Complimentary luxuries to add to your daily schedule
As a guest of the Rasa Wing, there are a number of complimentary privileges. You are given access to the adults-only swimming pool and jacuzzi, surrounded by lush foliage to allow more privacy. You may see the occasional monitor lizard paddling in the pool but don’t be alarmed, they are local residents and are here to chill, just like you.
Aside from mandatory pool time, there are a couple of additional luxuries you’ll want to add to your daily schedule:
- Ensure you are peckish at 3pm when afternoon tea is served in the Rasa Wing Lounge. Expect delicate savouries, scones and sweet fancies.
- You then have just enough time for a little more sun, quick shower and a freshen-up before heading back down for cocktails and canapes from 5.30pm. Pre-dinner beers, wines and spirits are also available. If that wasn’t enough, coffee, tea, juice and soft drinks are available throughout the day too.
One of the biggest and best breakfast buffets in all of Asia
You have two options for breakfast: the Garden Wing or the Rasa Wing. The Garden Wing has possibly the biggest range of breakfast items in all of Asia – from pastries, pancakes, eggs, meats, and cheeses, to a noodle station, dim sum, Japanese, Indian, Chinese and Malay breakfast choices. Wake up early, skip dinner the night before and allow at least two hours for this quite incredible breakfast feast.
The Rasa Wing breakfast is a more leisurely affair with a tempting a la carte menu such as nasi goreng with chicken satay; eggs benedict; buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup or Malaysian roti canai – plus a buffet of cereals, fruits, yoghurts and pastries.
For dinner, we love to be outside so a barbecue for two al fresco at Pinang Restaurant & Bar by the beach is always a great option. Otherwise, try the table side made Caesar Salad at Feringgi Grill, a white table clothed affair with vintage wines and fine cigars.
The experience I enjoyed was otherworldly and left me dribbling, blissed out, and unable to finish a single thought that entered into my head
Chi, The Spa is our highlight of this beautiful hotel. If you come here and don’t visit the spa, you will leave feeling that it has not been a complete 5 star experience. As soon as you set foot in the spa, it is like you are in another world.
Be kind to yourself – experience a facial, massage, wrap or scrub treatment and many more options. There are 11 huts (for individuals and couples) staffed by 16 masseuses and even a single masseur on standby in case of visiting Sultans. A herbal Asamaradan massage uses the healing powers of ginger oil and steamed linen poultices containing lemongrass and pandan leaves. The room is filled with soft cushions, soothing music and soporific smells. The experience I enjoyed was otherworldly and left me dribbling, blissed out, and unable to finish a single thought that entered into my head.
RECREATION AND RELAXATION
Depending on how energetic you’re feeling, the hotel has a well-equipped gym in the Rasa Wing, plus its own nine-hole pitch and putt golf course, and courts for tennis and beach volleyball players.
For those of us who are more inclined towards relaxation, the beach bar is a lovely place to head for an evening tipple, sat beneath the twinkling tree lights that sway gently in the sea breeze. Hang around just long enough and you might be serenaded by two singing hotel staff who can take requests (we requested some Elvis and they delivered).
With average temperatures throughout the year in Penang ideally placed at 25-32c, the resort’s raison d’être of relaxation and luxury makes for a rejuvenating holiday. Staff here have your peace of mind in hand at all times and the privileges and treats only help to amplify this Rasa Sayang experience to keep us coming back again and again.
To book and discover more, visit www.shangri-la.com/penang/rasasayangresort
Top 5 things to do when staying at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa:
Batu Ferringhi night market – Find this huge market at the other end of the beach where there are a number of street food vendors worth sampling and local souvenirs, art and loads more to be bargained for. Jalan Batu Feringghi comes alive every night from 7pm as vendors set up stalls along this stretch, perfect for a walk after dinner. Ask at reception for a buggy escort down to the market, then walk back via the moonlit beach.
George Town – The best place to go on a day trip from Batu Ferringhi is George Town, Malaysia’s second largest city and an entire city-wide UNESCO World Heritage site. The town is known for its street food, art, colonial architecture and independent craft shops. Take the free shuttle from the hotel (four times a day) but use the Grab taxi app to go back again. Don’t miss The Cheong Fatt Tze “Blue Mansion”, the Clan Jetty, Buddhist and Hindu temples and dinner at Kebaya which has beautiful Peranakan interior decor. Don’t leave without trying the world famous Cendol (a sweet, milky drink with finely shaved ice drizzled with palm sugar syrup, coconut cream and other yummy toppings) – just look for the biggest queue to find the best Cendol.
Escape Theme Park – If you seek danger and adventure, head for Escape, Malaysia’s top theme park. Here you’ll find a multitude of methods to get your blood pumping such as rope courses, bungee, zip lines, wave pools and the world’s longest water slide which takes four and a half minutes to descend!
Tropical Spice Garden – Nature is given the respect it is due on Penang and within a few minutes by car from the hotel, you have the Tropical Spice Garden where you can take a guided tour with a ranger and Penang National Park, which is home to several hundred species of fauna and flora plus walking trails, natural swimming pools, canopy walkways and a turtle sanctuary at Kerachut Beach. If you time your arrival for 7pm, you’ll be able to release baby turtles into the sea at sunset (as it will get dark afterwards, you’ll need to get a boat taxi back to the hotel).
Butterfly and Fruit Farm – Just 20 minutes from Rasa Sayang, you can enjoy two experiences in half a day. The Penang Butterfly Farm (in Teluk Bahang) is an eight-hectare butterfly sanctuary has more than 4,000 butterflies from more than 120 groups as well as other insects and reptiles. Located within the park is also Penang Tropical Fruit Farm, South East Asia’s largest collection of fruits over 25 acres.
By Christian Rose-Day
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