- The Washington Times - Friday, November 25, 2005

PERAK, Malaysia — After the 15-minute boat ride across the Straits of Malacca to Pangkor Laut Resort guests feel they have landed in heaven on Earth instead of a private island off the west coast of the Malaysian Peninsula. This may have been a long flight from home, but it is worth the journey.

Pangkor Laut Resort has received many travel-industry awards since it opened in 1993, and they’re well merited. There’s something for everyone. Some choose it as the ultimate spa vacation; for others it’s a Buddhist retreat where they go to get in touch with their spirituality; others are taken with the many aspects of nature and spend the days walking and exploring.

Or they can simply enjoy being spoiled and consider it the vacation of a lifetime.

If the guests live in this part of the world, they tend to return repeatedly since it’s impossible to be bored at the 300-acre resort. Although it’s one island and one resort, everyone can experience it differently. It’s impossible to board the returning launch without leaving a bit of your soul at Pangkor Laut and taking away some of its enigmatic beauty.

When I visited, a wedding was taking place. The radiant bride and groom, plus friends and family members, flew in from the United Kingdom for the occasion. It was a spectacularly beautiful ceremony in which vows were exchanged at sunset. The hotel had arranged for a minister and for everything to be picture-perfect. Couples can obtain wedding licenses within a day so this is the ideal location for a destination wedding.



Despite being one resort, there’s nothing homogenous about the getaway. There are 126 deluxe villas and suites, but the settings differ enough that it is like being on more than one island. The constant is the view of the emerald-green water lapping against a coastal fringe of palm trees and low vegetation or beaches of white sand.

The 21 Sea Villas are built on stilts; Beach Villas have private outdoor bathtubs; Garden and Hill Villas are selectively placed throughout the property, blending into the tropical environment. All materials used in the villas are natural and indigenous to the area — from the wood to the fabrics.

I stayed in one of the 22 Spa Villas and was continually overwhelmed by the beauty of the interior design. It was sumptuous in an elegant and understated way. After a day of various therapies from all parts of Asia, I felt so relaxed and rejuvenated that I’d return to the room and promptly fall asleep on the bed or the chaise overlooking the water.

This island isn’t a place where you’ll find TVs or high-speed Internet connections (but music CDs and players can be borrowed from the hotel). This is tranquility; it feels out of place to speak much above a whisper. Each day, guests are given batik sarongs to wear from their air-conditioned temporary home to the spa area. In the evening, the room’s plantation fan is all that is needed in the bay breezes.

Guests can always find massages, but the treatments at Pangkor Laut are more of a healing process. All of my aches and pains were addressed. I met with a Chinese physician at the Ayurvetic Hut; he looked into my eyes, took my pulse and asked questions and then prescribed treatments that he felt would be appropriate for me.

I reveled in the hour-long encounter with hot stones as a restorative aid. At another time, a two-hour massage session included herbal steaming and a Malay-style whirlpool strewn with flower petals. Afterward, my body was caressed with oils (I chose lemon). I then gravitated to the Yoga Pavilion to meditate and stretch. Each spa treatment began and ended with a cup of tea.

For the more active, there’s a fitness center, tennis and squash courts (wear white, please), swimming pools, a water sports center for sailing, water skiing, fishing and more. There also are water and land excursions for those willing to leave the resort for even a few hours.

The fitness crowd can choose three jungle trails that meander through 350 acres of forest. Don’t be surprised if you encounter a snake. I was assured that snakes are more afraid of me than I of them, but I opted for the chauffeured golf carts between longer destinations.

What would a resort such as this be without restaurants varying from extremely casual to more formal? The five restaurants offered different cuisines. I especially liked the Fisherman’s Cove that specializes in seafood taken daily from local waters.

I would return in a heartbeat. I have a significant birthday approaching in a couple of years and hope I’ll be able to afford the private complex that is composed of three bedrooms, a living area, a dining room, a private pool — not to mention a personal butler. I would want my family to come to celebrate and experience the beauty of this oasis. This dream vacation and celebration is already a fantasy.

• • •

Pangkor Laut Resort, 32220 Lamut, Perak, Malaysia; 800/9899-9999; e-mail, [email protected], or visit www.pangkorlautresort.com.

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