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SHANGRI-LA'S RASA SAYANG
 

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Shangri-la Rasa Sayang
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Extra Photo Gallery: Rooms & Suites | Pools & Garden | Chi, The Spa | F&B Outlets

LOCATION:

Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa is located on the eastern stretch of Batu Feringgi. There is pretty much only one route from Georgetown that gets you to Batu Feringgi which passes through suburban areas of the island such as Tanjung Tokong and Tanjung Bungah before a meandering dual-lane road takes you through the hills, capes and isolated beaches of northern Penang. The distance from downtown Georgetown to Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang is about 15 kilometres and driving journey often takes anywhere between 20-30 minutes.

DESCRIPTION:
Gracing a portion of Malaysia’s most well-known beach of Batu Feringgi, Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang has trudged though the multi-faceted elements of the tourism industry as early as the 1970s, just as Malaysia herself began her journey towards a tourism powerhouse in Asia as she is today. The resort is easy to be identified by almost anybody who are familiar with the happening scenes of Batu Feringgi and it is not an understatement to say that it is beloved by many (after all, rasa sayang does take on the meaning of heart-felt love). Hence, its 21-month closure for a RM100 million redevelopment took many by surprise. There were not many resort managements that could stomach total closure of the hotel operations, hence we often see partial renovation programmes that run parallel with the daily business, often much to the guests' discomfort. Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang, in its endeavor to reposition itself as one of the most premium resorts in Asia, took a giant leap of faith with a massive redevelopment project that ended in late 2006. Upon re-opening, it continues to dazzle every visitor who steps in its lushly-landscaped ground with its legendary hospitality and personal attentiveness. Soon enough, accolades started to pour in from every direction of the globe, notably by Conde Nast Traveler magazine which placed Shangri-la Rasa Sayang as the 4th best resort in Asia – Indian Subcontinent. Similarly in Conde Nast’s top 100 best hotels in the world, the resort was placed at the 22nd ranking. In short, it is business as usual at Shangri-la Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, circa 2006 onwards.

One interesting aspect in its redevelopment is the decision to retain the resort’s renowned Minangkabau roof design. Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang could have easily opted for modern designs of zigzagging steel beams, bling-bling crystal lights and glassy sun-roofs which uncharacteristically have become the in-thing for newly-refurbished hotels, what more with the relatively generous budget for the redevelopment initiative. The reason, unsurprisingly, is plain enough; Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang wants to be seen in the forefront of Malaysia’s tourism hegemony with its traditionally exquisite roof architecture that can easily be identified with. The play-up on the cultural heritage of Malaysia certainly does not stop at the externals as the interior of Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang boasts an impressive ensemble of traditional crafts and art forms that could easily rival those kept in a museum (more on that later). The resort is probably among the few that boasts two separate lobby and reception areas. As Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang intends to distinguish its multitude of products to different market segments in form of the exclusive Rasa Wing and the tropical-themed Garden Wing, patrons who are staying at either wing shall need to check in at the reception desks of the designated lobby. While I could not make a direct comparison between the newly-renovated lobbies with the old one (as I unfortunately have never been to the ‘old’ Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang), the lobbies of the Rasa Wing and the Garden Wing are impressively decorated with soothing tropical ambiance and inspiring cultural art forms. For example, the Garden Wing lobby takes on a traditional Malaysian theme while the Rasa Wing lobby emanates a subtle oceanic theme if you peruse carefully. Each of the art forms and sculptures carries a meaning or a purpose although it is not immediately visible to the glancing eyes.

In totality, Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang consists of 304 guest rooms and suites spreading over the Rasa Wing and the Garden Wing. Out of these, 115 units are located in the Rasa Wing and each comes with extra perks that are not available in the Garden Wing. The room categories are Rasa Superior Room (40 sq m), Rasa Deluxe Room with private outdoor garden (44 sq m), Rasa Premier Room (62 sq m), Rasa Deluxe Suite (84 sq m), Rasa Premier Suite (119 sq m) and Presidential Suite (262 sq m). In general, each room or suite in the Rasa Wing is fitted with colour TV, IDD telephone, writing desk, mini bar, shower stall, long bath tub, DVD player and others. There are some variations in the amenities depending on the room categories; for example, the Rasa Deluxe Room comes with a private balcony and an additional 26-sq-metre of exclusive outdoor garden while the Rasa Premier Room comes with separate living and bedding areas partitioned by an extended writing desk, a flat-panel LCD TV and a spacious sea-facing balcony with an outdoor bath tub. The resort tries to segmentise its Rasa Wing offerings by facilitating each room category towards more family-oriented or private honeymoons. For example, all Rasa Deluxe Rooms are located on the ground floor with direct access to the outdoor gardens and the swimming pool, which make them more suited for small to mid-sized families, while the Rasa Premier Rooms are generally catered for honeymooners in search of total seclusion amidst superior indoor and outdoor amenities. Regardless of the room categories, patrons residing in the Rasa Wing are able to enjoy some extra perks such as exclusive access to the Rasa Wing swimming pool where no children under the age of 16 are allowed, free flow of light and alcoholic beverages at the Rasa Lounge, option for a la carté breakfast at the Feringgi Grill, specialised hi-tea at the Rasa Lounge from 1500 – 1700 hrs daily, personalised butler services and complimentary wireless internet access at the Rasa Lounge.

After my overview of the extras that patrons can enjoy by staying in the Rasa Wing, it is quite clear that the Garden Wing rooms and suites are of a lower premium and rightly so. Truth be told, the rooms and suites at the Garden Wing are definitely more affordable, hence making them appealing to certain market segments. There are 189 guest rooms and suites in the Garden Wing and each features basic yet modern amenities commonly associated with any Shangri-la’s brand name. The room categories are Deluxe Seafacing Room (42 sq m), Deluxe Seaview Room (42 sq m), Studio (66 sq m), Executive Room (76 sq m), Garden Terrace Suite (114 sq m), Junior Terrace Suite (100 sq m) and Penang Suite (105 sq m). The Garden Wing prides itself for being in close proximity to the lush greeneries with a special mentioning for a number of century-old rain trees that create a soothing foliage. The swimming pool at the Garden Wing is arguably nicer with opulent landscaping and unobstructed views of the ocean.

The recent redevelopment also saw the introduction of Chi, The Spa complex which is located adjacent to the Rasa Wing. It is hard not to be impressed with the unique and exquisite setup of the spa complex which features distinctive architectural style of the Tibetan and Himalayan splendours. While it may seem to be out of place in a Malaysian-themed resort commonly associated with sweltering tropical heats, one has to step aside to realise the origin of Shangri-la’s brand name itself from a mystical Tibetan concept of heavenly qualities. Entering the unique spa complex is like finding one’s own shangri-la, pun intended. The inner sanctum of Chi, The Spa connects to eleven individual spa villas and it consists of a spa reception centre as well as a spa boutique where essential oils, aromatherapy burners, Himalayan shawls and others can be purchased. Chi, The Spa offers numerous standardised treatments that utilise various Asian- and Himalayan-inspired healing methods by utilising the best natural ingredients. While these standardised packages can also be found in any other Chi, The Spa outlets throughout selective Shangri-la’s hotels and resorts worldwide, Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang has also introduced its in-house treatments, Rasa Nyaman and Rasa Asmaradana, that are unique to the resort. According to the Director of Communications for Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang, the resort is also trying to formulate another in-house treatment by using the essential oil extracts from the flowers of the century-old rain trees, which in a way, will elevate the prominence of these giants that have withstood the test of time for so many years.

Shangri-la's Rasa Sayang features six F&B outlets within the resort complex. The main dining outlet and arguably one of the most exceptional in town is the Spice Market Café located on the ground floor of the Garden Wing. While most restaurants are often randomly named without much reference to anything, the Spice Market Café is thematically introduced to signify a multitude of Penang delicacies as a former trading entreport for the spice commodity. Its uniqueness, without a doubt, goes to the adjoining Spice Market Boutique where more than 100 exotic spices and dried herbs are on display and they are also available for purchase should one feels like to. Taking the spice-market concept to a next level, each dining table in the restaurant features a spice bowl that contains various types of spices. The outlet is put together in an open-kitchen concept where patrons are able to witness the cook live in action. There are indoor and outdoor dining options at the restaurant, with the latter boasts a wonderful al fresco ambience with views of the expansive gardens, the towering rain trees and the Garden Wing swimming pool. Another restaurant at the resort, the Feringgi Grill is located one floor up from the Rasa Wing lobby. This fine dining outlet is only open for guests staying in the Rasa Wing and has won numerous awards throughout the years, with the latest one being the ‘Best Six New Restaurants in Asia’ by Travel + Leisure's (USA) in June 2007. Adjoining the Feringgi Grill is the Feringgi Bar which opens in the evening until just after midnight and serves numerous beverages, cocktails and champagne together with live music. For those fancying an outdoor dinner by the beach (often with dazzling hues of sunset), the resort offers two beach-side outlets, namely Tepi Laut on the Rasa Wing and Pinang Bar on the Garden Wing. Both outlets are arranged amidst the expansive tropical gardens and are just yards away from Batu Feringgi beach. Lastly, for a relaxing drink throughout the day, the Lobby Lounge at the Garden Wing lobby provides a soothing and calming ambiance to enjoy your tea, coffee or cocktails.

As promised, I would like to mention a little bit on the resort’s effort to portray the rich legacy of Malaysian cultural elements with the generous display of traditional art forms, patterns and artifacts. Entering the Garden Wing lobby, for example, one shall be greeted with a sizeable feature item called the Tree of Life, which is culturally an important symbol of a mere mortal’s linkage between sky-reaching heaven, the earth and the underworld. Meanwhile, at the Rasa Wing lobby lies an artistic emblem of traditional Malay fishing boat that is carved based on oceanic natural elements. Throughout the resort, various art forms and crafts are sparsely displayed as an embodiment of rich Malaysian heritage that constitutes various influences from the Malay, Peranakan, Chinese and Indian cultures. Artistic items like cucuk sanggul (hair pin), pending (belt buckle), kerongsang (three-piece brooch), jewellery pieces, coral sculpture, pitis (money tree), batik cap (printing moulds), gunungan (secret mountains), birds of paradise, gold flower basket, kukur kelapa (coconut scrapers), acuan putu (biscuit moulds), tepak sirih (betel nut sets), tempayan (clay vessels for water storage), traditional kitchen utensils, gayung (water ladles), lesung batu (pastel & mortar) and acuan kuih kapit (love letter moulds). To describe each and every traditional arts and crafts will probably take more than I can chew, hence I strongly suggest the guests to obtain an informative booklet entitled ‘Art and Tradition at Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa’ for a better grasp and appreciation of all the exquisite displays. The booklet can be requested from the Communications Department of the resort.

There are more unique things that I wish to write about the resort but I rather leave the rest for the guests to discover by themselves when experiencing the total hospitality and attention to details as rendered by Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang. In fact, I had the hardest time to begin writing as the amount of information worthy of a mention is just one too many and it did feel like an impossible conquest to justify my cause. As I end this article, on behalf of malaysiahotelreview.com, we would like to express our heartiest thank you to Suleiman Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Director of Communications for hosting our visit.

For more information and the latest room rates, kindly visit the official website of Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa.

REVIEWED ON:
January 2008

MY VERDICT:
Exquisite cultural embodiment of Malaysia, well-appointed rooms and suites, great F&B outlets, unique spa concept and top-notch guest services. The beloved has reawaken to even greater heights. Congratulations to Shangri-la’s Rasa Sayang for a successful redevelopment program and for setting a new milestone in Malaysian hospitality industry.

MY RATING:

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