Unplug and unwind on Pangkor Laut private isle in Malaysia

Lounge on a beachchair by the sea (left) or enjoy the sea breeze from the villa (above). Pangkor Laut Resort is set on a private island filled with lush rainforests.
Pangkor Laut Resort is set on a private island filled with lush rainforestsPHOTO: YTL HOTELS
Lounge on a beachchair by the sea (left) or enjoy the sea breeze from the villa (above). Pangkor Laut Resort is set on a private island filled with lush rainforests.
Lounge on a beachchair by the sea.PHOTO: YTL HOTELS
Lounge on a beachchair by the sea (left) or enjoy the sea breeze from the villa (above). Pangkor Laut Resort is set on a private island filled with lush rainforests.
Enjoy the sea breeze from the villa. PHOTO: YTL HOTELS

Disconnect from your devices and escape to Pangkor Laut private island where pristine beaches and rugged rainforests beckon

I have been lying on the massage tablerelishing what feels like my nth body treatment. Any time now, my Balinese masseuse will tell me I have to leave paradise.

Instead, Suryani asks me to dip in a pool filled with pandan-coloured water and sprinkled with rose petals, and sip a cup of hot tea. She suggests that I relax and do nothing. The wired urbanite in me starts to protest, but in the last 24 hours, I have allowed myself to slip into a slower pace of life.

You see, the sun, sand and sea are happiness triggers for some people. But I am a city girl. Being stuck without a Wi-Fi signal for a weekend is a legitimate fear of mine.

But Pangkor Laut Resort, which was voted one of the Top 25 Hotels in Malaysia on TripAdvisor last year, upends my preconceptions in the two days I spend on the private island. It is the only resort here and is owned and managed by YTL Hotels, a hospitality arm of Malaysian group YTL Corporation.

Fresh off the plane at the Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in Ipoh, my party of three is whisked into a van for a 11/2-hour ride to Marina Island Pangkor, the private jetty for resort guests.

Possibly accustomed to guests who are uninitiated in the rustic lifestyle, our van driver immediately hands us a Wi-Fi password as we settle in for the ride that passes through Ipoh's dusty town. We pass a night market just starting up, with stall owners hawking mangoes and firing up the barbecue. It is a gentle introduction to the easy life that is to come on the island.

We reach the jetty in time to catch the sun going down. Cameras are whipped out to catch a sundown so perfect with its tangerine glow, it will put fancy Instagram filters out of business.

We are then escorted to a waiting boat. One 15-minute salty speedboat ride later, I am convincing my inner city girl to give the luxury resort a chance. As the speedboat barrels through the night, lights from the hotel rooms fronting the hills glitter in the distance.

 

It is a hot, muggy night and resort staff are ready at the lobby with juices and cold towels.After 20 years of running a luxury resort, they are attuned to every guest request.

I forget my need to connect to digital civilisation at dinnertime. It is hard to be distracted by the digital realm when natural beauty surrounds me.

The renowned tenor Luciano Pavarotti, who has a suite named after him at the resort, called Pangkor Laut Resort the most beautiful place in the world. And he was not exaggerating too much.

Even at night, the island's beauty, with huts set against a backdrop of luscious greenery and gentle hills, is a view to be experienced in the moment - instead of through the lens of a smartphone or camera.

The wonder is that it is a mere three hours away from Singapore. The island's exclusivity, 1.6km off the west coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is a huge draw for those looking for a quick getaway.

Some places within the resort have a no-under-16 policy, such as the Spa Village, Spa Villas and Fisherman's Cove restaurant.

Indeed, our dinner of maguro sashimi and ocean trout confit at Fisherman's Cove is child-free and accompanied by a cool breeze and the sound of crashing waves.

If Fisherman's Cove is the tantalising appetiser, the Spa Villa where I am put up for two nights proves to be a banquet. Modelled after huts built on stilts over the water, each villa has been updated to look like a private bungalow.

Open the door and an inviting king-size bed commands attention. The bedroom opens up into a huge en suite bathroom with a stone tub set by the window overlooking the sea. The tub is so large that it can comfortably hold four people.

My surroundings are quiet and I love the isolation. I fall asleep to the sound of crashing waves.

The waves are a constant soundtrack as I roam the island the next day. I decide to make the 15-minute trek to the breakfast lounge instead of waiting for the shuttle service. It pays off. I spy a monitor lizard sunbathing on the pristine beach and hornbills flying between the palm trees. The island, which is big on conservation, has built birdhouses for hornbills to roost and populate.

There are also fitness enthusiasts up and about at 8am for a yoga session with an instructor. Yoga is among the myriad sporty activities available, which include jet skiing and sailing.

One popular activity is to explore the island's rainforest. So I join a nature trek after breakfast.

If I was craving for the information deluge that I usually get from my phone, the resident naturalist, Aris, is a walking encyclopedia of the island's rainforest, which is said to be about two million years old.

He takes the trekking group of 10 on the 525m Northern Perimeter trail, the easier route of two, which cuts through the island and passes through the rainforest.

  • GETTING THERE

  • Tigerair flies direct from Singapore to Ipoh four times a week on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. A transfer service to Pangkor Laut Resort from Sultan Azlan Shah Airport in Ipoh can be arranged by the hotel.

We go deep into the rainforest - a very small part of the 121ha island is taken up by the resort, the rest is natural terrain - and climb hills. The path is well maintained and it is not a difficult one-hour trek.

Arif points out a termite nest and wild boar markings and regales us with tales about rambunctious monkeys breaking into hotel rooms and getting away with prized cigars.

Later, as I lunch on the beach at Chapman's Bar, I soak up the chilled-out vibe and beautiful vista, rather than whip out my camera to Instagram the moment.

A lazy afternoon beckons and the Spa Village is the place to unplug completely. For three hours, I am kneaded, rubbed and washed down with fancy treatments.

As the day winds down and I am taking in the last sunset from the balcony of my hut, I am mentally calculating my bank balance to see how and when I can return. Room rates start at $360 for a Garden Villa and dinner bills at any of the seven restaurants can cost at least $144 (RM400) without drinks.

If you crave the ultimate privacy, there are The Estates to check out - eight houses built in various styles, such as Indonesian-style villas, are set away from the main area. They are so exclusive, they are not listed on the island's map. Room rates start at USD2,300 (S$3,146).

I rue returning to the city and am eating my words about being bored. If Pangkor Laut Resort can change the mind of this Internet-addicted city dweller, it is worth breaking the bank - occasionally - for.

•The writer's trip was sponsored by YTL Hotels and Tigerair.

•For reservations and inquiries, call YTL Travel Centre on +60-3-2783-1000 or e-mail travelcentre@ytlhotels.com.my

There is a Residents' Package, available to citizens of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, and its expatriates. Rooms start at RM772 (S$277) a room a night for a minimum of two nights. Daily breakfast, lunch and dinner are included in the price.

This story first appeared in the August 2015 issue of The Life e-magazine in The Straits Times Star E-books app


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'Unplug and unwind on private isle'. Print Edition | Subscribe