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Monday, January 14, 2008

Recently upgraded Pangkor Laut Resort has much to offer

Having done quite a bit of globetrotting for most of 2007, I ended the year with a three-day visit last month to one of the best resorts in Malaysia, Pangkor Laut Resort.

This multiple award-winning resort is a privately owned island and the gem in the crown of the YTL group. The late Luciano Pavarotti sang there and there is a suite named after him.

The large koi pond in the courtyard with small pavilions for private dining at the resort

It is about a four-hour drive from Petaling Jaya, Selangor. You need to take an hour's ferry ride to the island itself. The first 1½ hours via the North-South Expressway is smooth but the remaining two hours or so from Bidor (after exiting the highway) to Lumut (110km) is along some narrow, winding road that takes you to Teluk Intan and Sitiawan.

It can be a boring drive until you reach Manjung where you can spot several “swift hotels” created from renovated shop offices and stand-alone buildings. My children were intrigued when I pointed to the holes on the walls of these shop offices built to meet the booming demand for birds’ nests.

“Well, you are going to see lots of birds, including peacocks, at Pangkor Laut Resort,” I said, reminding them of our previous visit there three years ago.

Since last September, the resort has been reinvigorated after 10 months of upgrading work that included a yacht marina fronting the reception area.

There is also an extended beachfront stretching from the Sea Villas to the rocky outcrop and a nicely designed walkway to the reception area where guests are greeted with Roselle drinks and a cooling face towel.

Room interiors have also been upgraded and outdoor furnishings have been refreshed, bathroom surfaces refined, and living spaces made subtly larger through intelligent design. Guests can also surf the Internet from five computer stations. Four small pavilions furnished with silk cushion and bolsters offer a cosy environment for a lazy afternoon nap.

Pangkor Laut has also created a variety of serenely landscaped pavilions within an intimate courtyard setting, offering an ideal venue for weddings, ceremonies or an intimate diner with friends. There are also two smaller self-contained pavilions with its own barbeque area and private butler service and surrounded by lush greenery and overlooking a large koi pond.

What do I like best about this 22-year-old resort? It's not so much the white sandy beaches, spa village or chalets on stilts or villas in the gardens and hillside set amidst a two million year old rainforest. Rather it's the food! Yes, its culinary delights and gourmet experience!

The delightful new addition introduced since last September is the Feast Village. The concept is borrowed from the Feast Village at YTL's Starhill Gallery in Kuala Lumpur. It offers its own unique feast village or culinary experiences, replacing the previous Palm Grove cafe and Samudra restaurant.

This integrated dining concept allows guests to embark on a culinary tour of the world in one multi-faceted environment.

There are six different dining offerings, including a Japanese pavilion serving sushi and teppanyaki, a western grill pavilion, a middle-eastern pavilion, and a Chinese, Malay and Indian pavilion.

There is also a bakery, cafe and wine cellar where guests can select wines of their choice for consumption at the restaurant or to take home as a memento.

Like its Fisherman's Cove (with its signature fusion cuisine) fine-dining restaurant, the Feast Village also boasts not one but several open show kitchens, preparation areas and a display kitchen where chefs can mount displays of specific preparations and cooking skills. It can seat 170 people.

We tried out the different restaurants (except the Straits Restaurant, a new restaurant set against the rocks by the beach and serving some of the finest Straits cuisine) including Uncle Lim's, a Chinese-style restaurant serving traditional Hockchew and Nyonya dishes at Royal Bay and the Fisherman's Cove next door. The food and ambience are just great!

With a staff strength of 350 to 150 rooms, it's a ratio of two staff members to a room, a higher ratio than a hotel. It has 40 gardeners compared to three in a city hotel.

“We have 45 chefs in the seven restaurants. We need this number of chefs to provide the wide variety of buffet spread that you see at the Feast Village. We have a world-class product here,” said resort manager Jeffrey Mong.

A skimmer boat was acquired two years ago to clean up any debris floating in the nearby sea and this has helped to maintain the pristine condition of its beaches such as Emerald Bay.

By The Star (by S.C.Cheah)

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