I’m pretty lucky to have stayed at some really amazing hotels when travelling but an invitation to stay at the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort in Penang has introduced me to a whole new level of luxury. This can only be a dangerous thing for my wallet.
It’s the little things at the Rasa Sayang that are truly impressive. Like chilled bottled water in the car that picks you up to take you to the hotel, a fruit juice and wet towel on arrival, skewers of fresh fruit served pool side, free wifi that actually works everywhere in the resort and a turn down service at night time.
The Rasa Sayang is celebrating 40 years in the business this year and after a complete overhaul in 2006 this is one grand old dame that is still sparkling. Set in sprawling 30 hectare gardens complete with ancient rain trees alongside the Andaman sea we didn’t even swim at the beach once because the pools at the resort were so extensive.
Normally I like to stay in the cheapest room at the best hotel I can afford. But even though the Rasa Sayang is a five star hotel with no “bad” rooms, there are quite a few advantages to splashing out on a room in the Rasa Wing. For a start, the rooms are the size of my old apartment in London. There’s a lounge area, dressing area, bathroom and bedroom area. The bed is the biggest, softest cocoon and there’s even a pillow menu. But best of all is the huge balcony which has an outdoor marble bath tub on it. With a click of a remote the blinds come down and the balcony is completely private and for RM60 staff will come and fill the bath for you with mineral salts and rose petals for an extremely decadent experience.
Staying in the Rasa Wing also gives you the perks of your own private pool area with no children allowed, afternoon tea every day and a complimentary cocktail hour every evening.
If you love food this is the hotel for you. Each morning we had breakfast in the Feringgi Grill or Spice Market cafe. The Feringgi Grill is for Rasa Wing guests only and is a more intimate setting with table side service of dishes like fluffy Belgian waffles with berries or eggs anyway you like them. Spice Market has a huge buffet including everything from banana roti to an omelette station and freshly made doughnuts with hot chocolate dipping sauce.
For lunch we tested out the hotel’s club sandwich (RM 33) while pool side. For me a good club sandwich is a great test of a luxury hotel and Rasa Sayang’s delivered. The sandwich was made with thick, juicy chicken breast, actual bacon (hard to find in Malaysia which usually serves “beef bacon”) and was big enough to share between two easily.
But lunch was almost superfluous given we still had afternoon tea complete with a tiered cake stand of sandwiches like a beef and eggplant roll, a sweet tier of flourless chocolate cake, raspberry bavarois and of course tiny fluffy scones with jam and cream. Then it was almost time for cocktail hour. The Rasa Sayang made a decent caprihina and in case you were feeling the slightest bit hungry there was also a selection of canapes ranging from sushi to a spoonful of slow cooked beef rendang.
After all that eating it was all we could do to drag ourselves out of the hotel to the night markets for dinner – which are five minutes walk away. I’m really struggling to think of anything that could be improved at the Rasa Sayang. The only downside for some people would be the sheer size of the resort. And of course that Rasa Sayang has really spoilt a lot of luxury hotels for me.
Details: Rasa Sayang, Batu Feringgi Beach, Penang, 11100, Malaysia (Ph 604 888 8888)
Damage: Budget Breaking. Room rates start at RM770.
Gourmet Travel Tips
- We flew to Georgetown from Langkawi and then on to Singapore with Air Asia. Flights were the equivalent of $50 and the flights took less than an hour from Langkawi.
- The Shangri-La Rasa Sayang is on the outskirts of Georgetown which is a world heritage listed city with lots of crumbling old Colonial buildings and amazing street food (more to come on that later). We did a cooking course in Georgetown with Pearly Kee.
- There’s a small golf course at the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang, a beach and a spa which I didn’t get to try out.