Shangri La's Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa – the jewel in the crown that lies beneath a majestic canopy
Centuries-old rain trees rise up above us. Majestic and lush, the foliage reaches for the ground, like falling rain suspended in the form of vibrant green leaves. The natural beauty accentuate the grandeur that surrounded us at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, Penang.
Bask in the water’s edge, my wife and I savoured refreshing drinks at Pinang Restaurant and Bar located at the main garden pool side.
The resort is replete with a sense of history, place and tradition. Its intricate Minangkabau roof has been internationally hailed as an architectural masterpiece that seamlessly integrates traditional and modern design elements that reflect an aspect of the character and charm of Malaysia. The dark brown treated timber roof stretches over the entire complex, creating a magnificent image of a traditional Malay palace rising from a tropical paradise.
Inside the breezy resort, giant wooden pillars complete with intricate carvings inspired by exotic plants native to the island abound. Colourful paintings of birds and swaying native betel nut palms adorn the walls as long flowing batik fabrics are playfully teased by the cool sea breeze designed to encapsulate the spirit of Penang, The betel nut (Pinang in Malay) palms that dot the surroundings tell of how the state got to be known as the “Betel Nut Isle”.
With a unique name, Rasa Sayang means a “feeling of love” in Malay (by the way, it is also the name of a popular local folk song).
We stayed at the child-friendly Garden Wing that evoked understated elegance which is balanced with vibrant informality. Tastefully appointed room, impeccable service and genial staff allow us to experience welcoming hospitality that surpassed all our expectations. To boot, the view from our balcony overlooking the pool, beautifully-landscaped gardens and the blue ocean beyond was simply awe-inspiring.
Next to the Garden Wing is the exclusive Rasa Wing, a private retreat with luxurious benefits for discerning guests. It is the resort’s indigenous beauty that kept us grounded and connected. Set amidst soothing landscapes, the famed CHI, The Spa, invited us to continue our sojourn into our inner self. CHI has a well landscaped garden within each rustic villa, bringing nature into the interior and harnessing its nurturing aspects.
I had once experienced their signature treatment, Rasa Asmaradana and it was a truly rejuvenating encounter. Rasa Asmaradana helps the blood system in the body flow fluidly and robustly, in order to help ease lethargy and revitalise one’s health. This traditional Malay treatment involves a deeper form of massage using fingers, thumbs and the palm of the hand, and is applied with the essential oils of herb extracts. Alternating between invigorating and calming techniques, a dynamic balance is created which releases tension from tired muscles that cause many stress-related health problems. CHI has a selection of tailored spa programmes for guests to select from, each with its own unique qualities from the age-old healing practices and philosophies from China and the Himalayas.
Within the resort grounds, you could head for the Par 3 pitch and putt golf course for a game or two or the well-equipped Health Club with state-of-the-art gym’s cardiovascular equipment and a aerobics studio for a good workout. Separate men’s and women’s changing room have saunas, steam rooms and jacuzzi/hydro pools.
Later that evening my family and I sat down to a scrumptious buffet dinner at the Spice Market Café. The theatre kitchen concept at the Spice Market Café allowed us to chat with the chefs and literally see them in action. "We are very fortunate indeed to be able to get some of our locally sourced ingredients fresh from our very own spice garden", a chef noted as he continued to dazzle us with his entertaining wok action.
My wife turned forty and fabulous at Rasa Sayang. I had to mark this momentous occasion with a memorable affair that we can look back on with fond memories. And an escapade to Rasa Sayang was the perfect plan. We could indulge in the finer things in life and remind ourselves that it is the simplest things like peace and love that are key ingredients in a remarkably happy life. As she blew out the candle on her birthday cake at the Spice Market Cafe, I hope her birthday wish would come true.
The staff at hand in unison sang a joyous birthday song and were very attentive to our need. Their sincere smiles made us feel at home and among friends. We ate to our heart's content and could not take in any more. That is what good buffet dinners do to you – encourage you to indulge and enjoy.
We had to retire and as we left the restaurant, we stopped at the Spice Boutique. Recalling the days of the old spice trade, the spices on display at the shop were as enticing as ever. Guests could buy some to take home from a selection of over 100 dried herbs and spices.
The next morning, we had a hearty breakfast as we enjoyed a breathtaking vista of the Andaman Sea. After a satisfying breakfast, my wife and I took a blissful stroll among the resort's 30-acre sprawling landscaped garden nestled between the sea and Penang emerald green hills of Batu Feringgi. We felt that we were walking hand in hand in paradise, soft green grass at our feet, cool sea breeze caressing our faces and the sound of gentle lapping waves.
Since its inception in 1973, the resort has received numerous awards and recognition over the years for its architecture, infrastructure, products, services and its green approach to sustainability. Despite winning almost every major award in the hospitality and tourism industry, the resort took a bold leap forward in December 2004, investing approximately RM 100 million (USD 26.316 million) to re-develop the entire complex. It re-opened in September 2006, introducing an even higher standard in luxury accommodation, offering international class facilities and legendary hospitality in an exclusive sanctuary.
In 2013, the resort celebrates four decades of hospitality excellence and continues to be the leading resort in Penang. With its irresistible charm, lush gardens, elaborate décor, friendly staff and award-winning restaurants, the five-star resort is truly a delightful sustainable oasis that must be visited. It will hold you spell bounded as you enjoy the best life has to offer. We did and we hope you will too.
© Written and photographed by Adrian Cheah. All rights reserved.