A backpackers’ paradise, Malaysia is known for being one of Southeast Asia’s cheapest destinations. But that doesn’t mean staying in hostels and dorms; luxury in Malaysia comes with a pleasantly small price tag. While researching the upcoming Rough Guide to Southeast Asia on a Budget, Kiki Deere went in search of the best luxury hotels and resorts for those after some pampering:
Tanjong Jara, Terengganu
This luxurious retreat overlooking the turquoise waters of Malaysia’s pristine east coast is designed to reflect the elegance of seventeenth century Istanas, grand wooden palaces of Malay sultans. The tastefully decorated rooms featuring local timber are set around seventeen hectares of tropical grounds shaded by palm trees. The exclusive Anjung Suite measures 176 square metres and features an outdoor bath set in its own private garden. The resort’s award-winning Spa Village offers therapies based on traditional Malay treatments that have been handed down from generation to generation.
Doubles from US$400. www.tanjongjararesort.com
Tiger Rock, Pangkor Island
Set on twelve acres of lush jungle on Pangkor Island off the west coast of Malaysia, Tiger Rock features eight tastefully decorated rooms dotted around verdant grounds overlooking the sea and the mainland. The buildings are fashioned after traditional Malay kampung (village) houses, and each is individually designed and furnished with the owners’ very own collections of furniture artefacts, books and paintings, as well as intricate textiles and handmade ceramics. Rates include three daily meals, all lovingly prepared by the outstanding chef Bavanni using the island’s freshest ingredients.
US$205 per person per night, full board. www.tigerrock.info
Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi
This unique resort is home to eight antique kampung houses set amid a lush coconut plantation with an inviting swimming pool. A spectacular lagoon dotted with lotus flowers borders the resort and provides the perfect backdrop to the explosion of colours at sunset. The houses, dating back 60 to 120 years, were brought in from around the country and were painstakingly reassembled by local carpenters skilled in kampung construction. Each house is rich in its own history, and individually furnished with wonderful antiques and ornate fabrics from Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Doubles from RM650. www.bontonresort.com
Straits Collection, George Town, Penang
Located in the UNESCO World Heritage Centre of George Town, the Straits Collection comprises four wonderful apartments located in pastel-coloured colonial buildings that were formerly shophouses. All have been fully renovated to reflect the town’s historical past, and are fully equipped with living area and modern amenities. Some apartments can sleep up to five.
Apartments from US$140. www.straitscollection.com.my
Villa @ World Café, Long Beach, Perhentian Islands
The smart villas here are nestled along a stretch of powdery white sand with crystal clear waters. The welcoming rooms, decorated with attractive wooden furnishings, have high ceilings, large windows and plenty of natural light, while secluded outdoor bathrooms offer airy showers set amid sprouting bamboo shoots.
Doubles from US$265. www.theworldcafe.com.my
Bagus Place, Pulau Tioman
This remarkable development of seven unique chalets is located on a beautiful stretch of beach fronted by turquoise waters. Each chalet is individually designed and blends in with the surrounding environment – quirky choices include the Tree House, with an open air living area built around a sturdy tree trunk, and the Boat House, offering accommodation in a mock wooden vessel with its own sundeck. There’s no television, wifi or air-con to break the peace and silence here – only the sound of the waves caressing the shore.
Chalets from US$280. www.bagusplace.com
The Majestic, Malacca
Located in the former mansion of a wealthy business tycoon with a unique mix of Straits and neoclassical architecture, The Majestic retains original fixtures such as colourful stained glass windows dating back to the 1920s. The elegant open-plan rooms appointed in fine silk and teak feature polished timber floors and wooden sliding doors between the bathroom and bedroom. The Spa Village is the world’s only beauty parlour that bases its therapies on the healing heritage of the Peranakans, descendants of early fifteenth century Chinese immigrants who intermarried with Malays. Equally, the restaurant places emphasis on unique Peranakan cuisine, combining traditional Chinese ingredients and cooking methods with Malay herbs and spices.
Doubles from US$300. www.majesticmalacca.com