Expert guide • February 2015
Malaysia’s multicultural capital has plenty to keep you entertained, but Kuala Lumpur is also the gateway to high-end retreats around the country and beyond. Editor-in-chief of Esquire Malaysia, Sam Coleman picks five experiences – from rainforest-clad beaches to Unesco heritage sites – to schedule into your trip
The Unesco heritage city state of Melaka charms visitors with its Dutch colonial architecture and lively culture. And a group of resourceful locals has now started converting heritage buildings into stylish places to stay – such as Lekiu45. This post-war building has been transformed into two suites, (rent both for the price of one night in a five-star hotel...) with chandeliers, artwork and vintage furniture. There’s even a courtyard pool and butler service from the cafe next door.
Penang has been Malaysian foodies’ gastro capital for years, but the rest of the world is beinning to catch on. You could join one of the many Georgetown food tours, but if you’re there at the right time try one run by Robyn Eckhardt, the blogger behind Eating Asia. She’s now a Penang resident and her deep knowledge of the culinary landscape, and what food means to Asians and Penangites, is unrivalled.
While not as famous as Penang or Melaka, colonial Ipoh – a two-hour drive from the capital – has become a town buzzing with boutique hotels. The resort that started the trend is the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat, arguably Malaysia’s first wellness retreat. Located in a valley and taking full advantage of its natural assets (hot springs and rainforest-cloaked surroundings), the resort’s treatments are inspired by the country’s Malay, Chinese and Indian heritage. Its cave wine cellar is one of the best in the region.
With exotic wildlife and landscapes that often grace the cover of National Geographic, Borneo is worth exploring if you have time. Do it in style with a river cruise by Wow Borneo, whose vessel, the Rahai’i Pangun, is kitted out with luxury amenities. You can take a one- to four-night cruise to see orangutans on various islands, passing stilted and floating houses, villages and jungles on the way.
The Andaman is one of Langkawi’s best resorts, mastering luxury and sustainability in equal measure. It’s tucked between a rainforest, mountain range and coral reef in the Andaman Sea. Guests can enjoy five-star facilities, such as a hilltop spa, and help conserve the reef: following the 2004 tsunami, a programme was set up for guests to ‘adopt’ coral, plant it and watch its progress on subsequent visits.