Enter Wonderland

30Dec06

as published in the starweekend and star online travel & lifestyle, 30 december 2006. copy of article also found online at malaysia hotel news, 30 december 2006

BY MAJIDAH HASHIM

ABOUT 3½ hours from Kuala Lumpur and 1½ hours from Ipoh, the Swiss Garden Damai Laut in Perak is not the most accessible of destinations. However, the management thinks the resort’s remoteness makes it the ultimate getaway.

Located just a little south of Lumut, the Swiss Garden is located on a staggering 425-acre property, much of which remains undeveloped and home to monkeys and wild deer.

From the turn-off on the way to Teluk Senangin, one drives past oil palm estates, fruit orchards, and lush forests before the road opens up to reveal rolling hills of carefully manicured golf courses. In a sense, arriving in Swiss Garden Damai Laut really is like stepping through a mirror and into a wonderland.

The first thing to capture my attention as I walked to the lobby was the open balcony, with its panoramic view of the Straits of Malacca and Pangkor Island. And the breeze blows right through the lobby.

The resort takes full advantage of the spectacular sea view. After checking in, I was off to lunch at The Garden Terrace, an open-air, Caribbean-styled coffee house overlooking the sea, past a bougainvillea-lined garden.

The Garden Terrace, which boasts internationally experienced chefs with over 70 years of experience between them, offers an exciting range of Malaysian and Western cuisine.

After lunch, my host Katrina Chua, the marketing & communication manager, packed me into a coach bound for the private jetty. Here I hopped on a speedboat to Pangkor.

Now I have always had a weakness for speed, and I dare say there can be no more perfect way to enjoy a beautiful afternoon than to have endless blue sky above you, green water below and the wind in your face. Oh yes, it is good to be alive!

Island hopping is just one of the many activities you engage in while at Damai Laut. Snorkelling trips can also be organised at Coral Island, just off Pangkor.

And then there are the sunset cruises, river cruises, island drops, and fishing trips. From the turn-off on the way to Teluk Senangin, one drives past oil palm estates, fruit orchards, and lush forests before the road opens up to reveal rolling hills of carefully manicured golf courses. In a sense, arriving in Swiss Garden Damai Laut really is like stepping through a mirror and into a wonderland.

The first thing to capture my attention as I walked to the lobby was the open balcony, with its panoramic view of the Straits of Malacca and Pangkor Island. And the breeze blows right through the lobby.

The resort takes full advantage of the spectacular sea view. After checking in, I was off to lunch at The Garden Terrace, an open-air, Caribbean-styled coffee house overlooking the sea, past a bougainvillea-lined garden.

The Garden Terrace, which boasts internationally experienced chefs with over 70 years of experience between them, offers an exciting range of Malaysian and Western cuisine.

After lunch, my host Katrina Chua, the marketing & communication manager, packed me into a coach bound for the private jetty. Here I hopped on a speedboat to Pangkor.

Now I have always had a weakness for speed, and I dare say there can be no more perfect way to enjoy a beautiful afternoon than to have endless blue sky above you, green water below and the wind in your face. Oh yes, it is good to be alive!

Island hopping is just one of the many activities you engage in while at Damai Laut. Snorkelling trips can also be organised at Coral Island, just off Pangkor.

And then there are the sunset cruises, river cruises, island drops, and fishing trips.

If you prefer to stay close to the beach, you can indulge in sailing, banana boat rides, and canoeing, which is harder to navigate than it looks.

As the sun began to set, I met Katrina for dinner at The Gayam Seafood Barbecue and Bar, set on a rock outcrop, and, yes, overlooking the sea. The bar truly is a feast for the senses – the setting sun, a candlelit set-up, the aroma of grilled seafood, and a musical quartet belting out Christmas songs.

Our quick catch-up bite turned into an enjoyable, three-hour dinner. Feeling adventurous the next day, I signed up for the Rope Course in the morning. The six-element rope course comprising obstacles like a beam walk, tyre course, cargo net and flying fox finale was built by the Outward Bound School right smack in the resort’s very own lush forest.

Do not be deceived by how compact the obstacle course looks! An arm tangled in a rope here and a foot stuck in a tyre there, and you’ve worked out quite a sweat.

I had the delightful company of Linda Wong, Swiss Garden Hotel Kuala Lumpur’s marketing & communication manager, and Katrina for lunch at the Noodle House, striking for its wooden finishing and bamboo blinds.

Swiss Garden Damai Laut’s two specialties are golfing and spa.

The Samsara Spa offers various healing and rejuvenation treatments.

Take your pick of essential oils, and indulge in massages, facials, wraps, baths, scrubs and even steam treatments.

The Damai Laut Golf & Country Club boasts an 18-hole (par 72) championship, buggy-tracked golf course.

It was voted the third most scenic course in the country by Golf Malaysia Bi Annual Readers Poll Year 2005/2006.

According to the poll, the signature hole #15 is the second most scenic hole in Malaysia.

Beauty aside, the test of a really good course is in how challenging it is.

The club’s signature hole #13 was rated number three in the prestigious Par Golf’s Super 18 Malaysia this year.

General manager Radzman M. Tajudin said, “We have it all – a beautiful and tranquil resort, an award-winning golf course, an exclusive spa, white sandy beaches overlooking Pangkor Island, unspoilt natural surroundings, a jetty, and, most importantly, our friendly and helpful staff.”

Unwinding at the Blue Chip Lounge later in the evening in the company of the resort’s management team, I felt like I was among old friends.

Even guests who just arrived spoke as if they had known each other for years.

The house quartet belted out nostalgic 80s’ hits as the waves crashed on the rocks below with the onset of the evening tide.

General manager Radzman M. Tajudin said, “We have it all – a beautiful and tranquil resort, an award-winning golf course, an exclusive spa, white sandy beaches overlooking Pangkor Island, unspoilt natural surroundings, a jetty, and, most importantly, our friendly and helpful staff.”

Unwinding at the Blue Chip Lounge later in the evening in the company of the resort’s management team, I felt like I was among old friends.

Even guests who just arrived spoke as if they had known each other for years.

The house quartet belted out nostalgic 80s’ hits as the waves crashed on the rocks below with the onset of the evening tide.

Taking it all in, Radzman said, “What more can I say; I do work in paradise!”

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