Sea otters, monitor lizards, hornbills, fruit bats and macaque monkeys with a background track of enchanting jungle noises played out for us during our morning walk to breakfast – we couldn’t believe how lucky we were – this was our kind of island!
We hadn’t visited this part of the world for over 15 years, so there was an unusual air of excitement before we set off from Scotland. This was also our first big trip of 2018, kicking off a year of special birthday celebrations.
With an almost 27-hour trip from our home in Scotland via London ahead of us, we’d bagged a great deal on Business Class flights, so the journey was a breeze and started as soon as we arrived at the British Airways Lounge at Glasgow Airport.
The James Bond style speed boat trip at the other end of the journey was another story!
Located off the Straits of Malacca, Malaysia, Pangkor Laut Resort is a five star luxury resort situated on its own 300 acre privately owned tropical island.
We arrived shortly after 8pm at the Resort’s reception at the Marina Island Jetty on the mainland. The Resort had arranged private transfers for us from the Airport. Fully air-conditioned, with comfortable leather reclining chairs, the luxury theme of our trip continued, making the 250 kilometre, 3 ½ journey much more enjoyable. A great touch was the mobile Wi-Fi device which meant we could catch up on social media etc. during the journey!
The welcome at the Marina Island reception is what we expected – refreshing drink, cold towel and air conditioned lounge – what came next was not! We were shown to a private jetty where our speed boat transfer was departing.
It was a little dark for any great pictures, however, the experience was exciting and exhilarating with the boat crashing through the waves – only thing missing was Sean Connery! As the bow of the boat began to settle we saw the lights of the sea villas gradually come into focus and the magic of the island began to take hold.
We were given a great welcome on the island and shown to our Spa Villa to the south of the island. A unique and mesmerising walk along the raised boardwalk ended our 27-hour trip from Scotland. It was also the very first resort that our luggage had arrived at the villa before us – simple things make such a difference.
These private villas on stilts over the sea provide access to the Spa Village. Linked by raised wooden boardwalks, they really are the signature accommodation of the Resort and provided us with an incredible level of privacy and exclusivity.
Our villa had an oversized bath, large balcony with padded sunbeds for private sunbathing and a great view of the Straits of Malacca.
One slight negative we had heard about the resort was the number of industrial ships which spanned the horizon of the Malacca Straits, especially in the views from the Spa Villas. While it would have been nice to have had a clear horizon, we would have to say they really didn’t affect our trip at all and at night their lights provided an interesting feature to the sky line. Really not a problem.
One piece of advice is to ignore weather forecasts. Weeks before we arrived these had us worried, with very poor weather predicted. The region has its very own micro climate. For the periods we were there, we had the same poor forecast, which bore no resemblance to the weather we enjoyed. Overall the weather was excellent, but very humid, just don’t move anywhere too fast and you’ll be fine. For female readers, your hair can have a mind of its own and in Linda’s case its own personality – remember those hair clips!
The large oversized bath with overhead shower had shutters that folded back for a real ‘outdoor’ shower experience!
We even had our very own Nespresso machine to enjoy refreshing morning coffees on our balcony. The mini bar was very reasonably priced and the complementary bottled water a great feature throughout the resort.
Complementary WiFi was provided via a small pocket size device, which worked very well. Keep it charged and, except for the jungle trek, you’ll enjoy decent internet speeds across the island. Top tip though, it’s great to leave it back in your villa on occasion and simply enjoy what the island has to offer. There’s plenty time for social media later.
A minor comment was the limited number of power outlets in the villa, so we would highly recommend some form of ‘multiple’ USB charging plug to keep your various devices topped up. A mobile power bank also goes down well if you’re out and about a lot.
The resort is very linear in nature and excellent if you want to work up an appetite or work off your evening meal! Our villa was probably the furthest away as possible from the main lobby area, down at Coral Bay, and took around 15 mins to walk between these points.
Every walk though gave us a different experience with an abundance of wildlife to look out for. Short video here.
The highlight being the sea otters that regularly joined us on our trips to and from restaurants.
Or was it the other way around? Were we joining them on a visit to their restaurants?
Worth saying there were also air-conditioned shuttles available across the resort, but we rarely used them. For the more adventurous there was the ‘jungle trek’ which took us through the 2 million year old rain forest to Emerald Bay, considered by some as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
The short trek is approximately half a kilometre long through the northern perimeter of the lush rainforest, while the longer more challenging two and half kilometre trek offers great views of the sea from the top of the southern perimeter.
On our first day we had planned to accompany the resort’s resident naturalist on his daily trek through the jungle, but we were delayed at breakfast. After lathering up on sun cream and mosquito repellent, we were brave and decided to venture out on our own.
The jungle trek is part of the Chapman’s Challenge an event which celebrates British Colonel, Freddy Spencer Chapman, who made Pangkor Laut his destination for thirty-six hours in 1945. After spending three and a half years in hiding from the Japanese in the jungles of Malaya, he made his way to Pangkor Laut’s Emerald Bay to escape by submarine.
We obviously had much more of an enjoyable and luxurious encounter with the island, than Mr Chapman, but our daily circular trips reminded us of the conditions he must have experienced.
The packing of our walking shoes, digital camera and binoculars were great decisions and a must for anyone with an interest in wildlife. Have patience and you’ll get great rewards, especially at the end when you see Emerald Bay.
We were on a full board package meaning we could enjoy all the dining options from the resort; this really was great value for money. For a 5 star resort the drinks prices were not too bad with a pleasant New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc as one of the house wines.
Situated in the Spa Village, Fisherman’s Cove provided western grill, fresh seafood and Italian cuisine and was clearly our favourites restaurant, dining here five nights during our stay. A great excuse to dress up.
With an open show-kitchen and stunning sea view this really was what we had come to the island to enjoy. Peaceful, relaxing, fine dining and great service from a team of staff to make your evening special.
Highlight of the menu was the Fried Marine Prawn with Citrus Aioli and caramelized walnuts starter and the Banana Crumble dessert, both amazing dishes.
Mains were great, but the Catch of the Day Chargrilled Lobster with garlic butter was something special.
On one evening we were treated to a unique ‘lightning’ show as a storm rolled over the mainland – there’s that micro-climate again. You might be tempted to go for an outdoor table, but the secret is to be one row inside where you’ll get the luxury of a cooling ceiling fan.
Uncle Lim’s Kitchen was another restaurant we enjoyed, although not as exclusive as Fisherman’s Cove. The restaurant is built atop a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea and named after the chef who has been with the resort since it opened.
Uncle Lim’s Kitchen specialises in Nyonya and Hockchew Chinese style home cooking and would have to say it went down very well and we enjoyed a few more casual evenings there.
Perhaps a little rushed at times but make a point in asking for service to be slowed down and you’ll be fine. Certainly a restaurant not to be missed.
The Straits restaurant is another experience not to be missed, set on the rocks by the beach, and only open three nights a week, serving a maximum of 10 couples per evening.
It provides a very exclusive fine dining experience with bespoke personal menus drawn from South East Asian influences. Private dining booths line both sides of the restaurant with one side offering exclusive views of the sea.
Another unique experience for us was the fruit bats flying overhead just metres above our head as we enjoyed our pre-dinner G&Ts.
The overall experience here was first class, however the food on offer at Fisherman’s Cove edged it for us.
The team at the Royal Bay Beach Club were great and helped us enjoy our afternoon lunches. Overlooking the infinity pool, the menu had a selection of Asian and Western dishes and was the perfect setting to cool down with a warm beer or glass (or two) of wine.
The Feast Village featured a patisserie, café, Chef’s table and wine cellar where guests could purchase wines of their choice and is open for breakfast and dinner.
This was the main restaurant and quite busy. Although the food here was good, we preferred the fine dining / leisurely experience at Fisherman’s Cove and the Straits.
The Spa Village located in the south east comprises eight treatment pavilions, a deluxe Belian Treatment Pavilion, three Healing Huts, two Bath Houses, three Thai Pavilions and a Herb Garden really is a unique retreat.
We were able to enjoy the Spa surroundings and use of the infinity pool and sun terrace, but we also tried out the treatments including the bath house ritual. A soothing footbath and an invigorating chinese foot pounding, started off our experience. We were then escorted to respective male or female Bath Houses to enjoy the traditional Malay “circulating” bath.
A Japanese-style cleansing with a goshi-goshi cloth in followed, before a dip in the heated rock pool. An exfoliating Shanghai Scrub then set us up very nicely for our 80 minute Balinese massage. An all-round great experience which really took us into the relaxation zone for the rest of our stay.
Our trip went by at a reasonable pace, not too fast and not too slow. We really enjoyed the privacy and intimacy of our Spa Villa and were able to switch off and just be in the moment for most of the stay.
Our return trip home was pretty much the same but obviously in reverse. It was light enough for us to enjoy the speed boat journey back to the Marina a little more before our journey to Kuala Lumpur and onward flight to the UK.
YTL Hotels owns and manages Pangkor Laut Resort and a prestigious collection of other award-winning resorts, hotels, boutique experiences across the world. This was our first experience with them and have to say it was very special indeed. Their resort management, headed up by Emmanuel, and supported by Stephen and Dashni were outstanding and made us feel so welcome.
We’ll no doubt be visiting more YTL Resorts and when we return to Pangkor Laut we’ve already got our sights on the famous Pavarotti Suite who understandably fell in love with the island!