Arriving at Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa in Penang, we’re initially greeted by Suleiman, the seemingly omnipresent Director of Communications.
He’s followed by Elaine, the convivial General Manager. Then the restaurant manager. And the Director of Marketing. And the assistant wing manager.
I eagerly await the arrival of the head gardener but he’s clearly busy attending to the 12 hectares of manicured gardens surrounding the property.
While cynics may be tempted to dismiss this extended reception as overkill, for me it’s an instant and simple affirmation of what “Rasa Sayang” actually means: “loving feeling”.
Suffice to say the hospitality our group subsequently received was everything you’d expect from a five-star resort which has been a Malaysian standout since it opened in 1973.
Suleiman has been there for most of those 47 years and is proud of the number of repeat guests, some who have been returning for decades.
The hotel has 304 rooms split into two wings: the Rasa and the Garden. I’m in the former and my room (2230) is spacious, scrupulously clean and offers views of the aforementioned gardens that separate the property from neighbouring Batu Ferringhi Beach.
I love discovering new and unique features in hotel rooms and 2230 doesn’t disappoint.
In the huge walk-in shower that would comfortably house a basketball team, there’s a pull-down shower with two mini-heads that looks like something from the space shuttle. The soaking tub on the private balcony is also an especially nice touch.
The bathroom yields further design gold with two large, space-saving mirrors that fold out when required, with a similar technique employed for the TV in the living room. Simple but effective.
Truth be told, the furniture, fittings and design of the lounge/bedroom could do with a refresh and Suleiman tells me such plans are in the offing. Removing the long desk that separates the two areas will free up more space while some lighter tones will definitely zjooshup the overall feel.
Once settled, it’s time to explore the property and while guests in the Rasa Wing have access to a private pool, it’s the beach that’s calling me. A range of water sports are provided and I’m offered my first chance to try paragliding.
Alternating between excitement and abject fear, I’m strapped into my harness and before you can say ‘Mary Poppins’ I’m feeling the wind beneath my wings (actually, a blue and gold parachute). It’s a tremendous experience and I can’t help but belt out a few choruses of ‘I believe I can fly’ as I soar above the Straits of Malacca.
Back on terra firma, I’m now ravenously hungry and Rasa Sayang has plenty of dining options, including the casual Spice Market Café, offering a host of dishes from around the world designed to please all tastes.
Gourmands will make a beeline for the award-winning Ferringhi Grill, considered Penang’s finest restaurant. Here you can enjoy such treats as escargots in garlic and parsley, Wagyu prime beef and Yorkshire pudding (Fridays and Saturdays), traditional Crêpes Suzette and white chocolate mousse.
After all that food, the CHI Spa was a good place to relax, with traditional Asian therapies at its core. Here you can try yoga, or head out onto one of the floodlit tennis courts or health centre for something more energetic. There’s even a par-3 pitch and putt golf course for some family fun.
I thoroughly enjoyed my stay at Rasa Sayang and definitely left with a loving feeling... although that could have been all the Crêpes Suzette.
All images Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa
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