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July 16, 2019

Pangkor Laut Resort Review: A Natural Paradise

By Alex Martin

As I walked into my ocean villa at Pangkor Laut Resort, the first thing that caught the eye was a guide to the island’s wildlife. It reassures me that the monitor lizards that roam the beaches pose no threat despite measuring up to five feet long. It also urges me to lock my door properly because monkeys have become adept at opening them. A manager tells me they have taken a particular liking to smartphones and tablets.

The Hill Villas at dusk

Perhaps disconcerting to some, this is exactly the way the resort’s owners YTL wants it, and why many of the guests love this island resort so much. YTL has gone to great lengths to ensure the virgin rainforest that dominates this 298-acre island is more or less undisturbed. The result is exotic wildlife appearing to live in harmony with the resort and its guests. Just walking from my villa to breakfast, I stroll past a sizable lizard basking in the morning sun and a tree-filled to the brim with flying foxes returning from a night of hunting.

YTL has made compromises to ensure the native animals can continue to thrive on the island, but you would not know it from the facilities on offer. This resort, favored by the legendary late opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, boasts the highest standards in luxury. From its incredible outdoor spa to the amazing private estates, Elite Traveler takes you on a journey around one of the best island resorts in the world.

Getting There

As the name suggests, Pangkor Laut Resort is situated on Pangkor Laut Island. It is a four-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur Airport and comfortable transfers can be arranged as part of your reservation. It is then a 20-minute speedboat ride across the Straits of Malacca to the island. The transfer time can be cut significantly by opting for a helicopter transfer. It takes a mere 45 minutes from Kuala Lumpur Airport to the island’s very own landing pad.

Stay

The resort’s accommodation is made up of luxurious villas and expansive private estates. The villas are dotted along the island’s eastern coast. The garden villas sit comfortably among the island’s vegetation and have the appearance of grand treehouses. I stayed in one of the many stilted bungalows in Spa Village. The high ceilings and tall windows gave it the feeling of an expansive space. The balcony offered panoramic views over the Straits of Malacca as well as idyllic views back across the island. A distant steel plant served as the only reminder that I was not living a paradisiacal castaway lifestyle.

The oversized bathtub, rain shower and comfortable bedding would be enough space for most, but the balcony lacked the privacy that many of the resort’s VIP guests require. For that, you must retreat to the other side of the island where the Estates are situated. These properties have been specifically tailored to those seeking privacy as well as those with the biggest budgets (the helipad is located close by).

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Estate 9 is the pick of the litter. Located at the crest of the western ridge, guests must ascend the sandstone staircase to reach it. The reward for this exertion is expansive views across the ocean from the living and dining pavilions. As well as four bungalow bedrooms, it contains three outdoor bath pavilions, an infinity pool, a hot spa pavilion, a geometric fish pond, a natural rock garden and, for good measure, a giant chessboard. All of the estates have been built around ancient rocks and towering palm trees, which not only falls in line with YTL’s sustainability mission but also ensures the utmost privacy.

Estate 9 at Pangkor Laut Resort

Dine

The Straits Restaurant

The resort has seven different restaurants as well as a range of private dining options. The restaurants range from the fine dining experience at The Straits to the family-friendly Feast Village where breakfast is served. The Straights is a spectacular spot set against the rocks overlooking Royal Bay and specializes in Asian cuisine. The menu can be curated based on the personal preferences of its diners but is limited to what can be sourced from the market-fresh ingredients.

Another dining option is Uncle Lim’s Kitchen, which has been a mainstay of the resort since its opening. It is the place to go for guests seeking the very best in Eastern cuisine and specializes in Nyonya and Hockchew Chinese-style home cooking. Although I did not have time to dine at Fisherman’s Cove, walking through this vibrant restaurant each night was a treat in itself. Chef Wai and his team produce some of the most acclaimed seafood in the country. All ingredients are sourced through sustainable practices and most of the fish used are caught in the rich waters surrounding the island.

The island’s top dining experience, however, is to be found in the secluded Emerald Bay. From here, you can dine at the chilled and informal Chapman’s Bar or hire a private table on the idyllic white-sand beaches. The sun sets in the middle of the bay, making this the perfect spot for a romantic meal. The resort offers a five-course menu including a barbecued lobster grilled over charcoal embers.

Private dining at on the beaches of Emerald Bay

Relax

Spa Village

Although there are many contenders, Spa Village is the jewel in Pangkor Laut’s dazzling crown. The sheer size of the area allows for every guest to cut out their own corner of peace. The lap pool succeeds in being a perfect place for both a morning swim and a place to cool off from the midday sun. There are also yoga and tai chi quan sessions held on the beach each morning.

The spa facility was opened by Pavarotti in 2002 and offers a wide range of treatments based on traditions from China, Japan, India, Thailand, Bali and Malaysia. The traditional spa experience (three hours) has set itineraries for men and women and includes a variety of experiences such as body scrubs, milk baths and a Malay massage. All treatments begin with a unique Bath House Ritual, which takes guests on a tour of various bathing traditions from the aforementioned countries.

I took a brief dip in a Malay ‘circulating’ bath before moving onto a Japanese-style cleansing with a ‘goshi-goshi’ cloth and concluded with a dip in the heated Rotenburu pool. Cups of calming tea are never far away and by the time I hit the treatment table I am already in a deep state of relaxation.

Malay circulating bath at the Bath House in Spa Village

Explore

With the two-million-year-old virgin rainforest dominating Pangkor Laut’s interior, it would be a crime not to explore this spectacular ecosystem during your stay. I experienced the island’s jungle trails by participating in the Chapman’s Challenge, a run/swim event held annually (read our review here), but daily guided tours with an expert naturalist will allow you to explore its wonders far more thoroughly. The trek ends at Emerald Bay, so remember your swimwear – a cooling dip in the ocean is highly recommended after a walk under the humid canopy.

For those seeking a more relaxing adventure, the resort’s luxury yacht is available for charter so you can explore the wonders of the Straits of Malacca. Visit the fish markets on the neighboring Pangkor Island or go snorkeling in the Straits before dining under the stars. The resort can also organize deep-sea fishing trips where you will hunt for bigeye tuna, barracuda, giant trevally and queenfish.

Nightly rates at Pangkor Laut Resort start from $350 per night. To book your stay, visit pangkorlautresort.com.

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