Monday, March 26, 2012

Penang 2012: Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa

View of Batu Ferringi beach, from the grounds of Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa

Hey hey! I hope you've all been enjoying my posts about Penang!  Although we did stay with my lovely Aunt for four days, we also splashed out and booked two nights at the gorgeous Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa, on Batu Ferringi.

Garden Wing

Lamp in the same shape as the roof of the resort

The Rasa Sayang is actually my favourite hotel in the whole world - when I was a teenager, my family would spend a couple of weeks here every Christmas, thanks to my awesome Dad.  (I know, super-lucky, right?)  Over the years, my brother and I made heaps of friends from all over the world and generally had loads of fun!  So apart from just being a great hotel, it's got a lot of sentimental value for me as well.  Even though I wanted to fill my holiday with eating and sightseeing, I wanted to do a proper relaxing beach holiday as well, even if only for a couple of nights!

Grounds of the resort
Fountain

It's been about nine years since I last stayed at the Rasa, and it has changed quite a bit in that time.  I heard that it closed for a couple of years for renovations, and re-opened with upgraded rooms, a new pool, and a big spa centre.

Grounds of the resort

The health club

When researching the trip in detail, I had a look on their website and realised they'd opened a new wing, the "Rasa Wing".  There was a mention of larger rooms, afternoon tea and cocktail hour, and an exclusive swimming pool - at a greater cost than rooms in the standard "Garden Wing", of course.  From the website, I couldn't tell if the extra expense would be worth it, and given that I'd always enjoyed my holidays at Rasa without any of those extra perks, I decided to book a room in the Garden Wing.

But when we checked in, we were told that we'd been upgraded to the Rasa Wing!  Oh wow!  How lucky was that?  I actually have no idea why we were upgraded - we were just normal paying customers who'd booked via the website.  I guess we were just incredibly lucky!

The room itself was a Rasa Wing Premier Room, which was absolutely massive and super luxurious!  (For anyone who has stayed at the hotel pre-renovation, it was actually two of the old rooms, converted into one.)

Super-comfy massive bed
The massive bed was amazingly comfortable and cocoon-like.  When you close those curtains, it's perfectly dark and quiet in there - such relaxation!

Desk and lounge area - complimentary fruit platter on arrival

The room also had an amazing marble bathroom, with  L'Occitane toileteries, a double sink, and a huge shower with three different shower heads!
Bathroom awesomeness
However, there wasn't a bathtub in the bathroom... and that's because it was on the BALCONY!
Balcony bathtub

Now, let me show you some of the extra inclusions that came with being in the Rasa Wing.

The Rasa Wing Pool - which was newly added in the renovation - is reserved exclusively for Rasa Wing guests.  Enclosed by trees and with no children allowed (bliss!), it's incredibly relaxing and quiet.  When you walk in, a super-nice staff member will set up your deck chair for you with towels, and bring free-flowing complimentary soft drinks, coffee and tea, all day long!

The Rasa Wing Pool

You can also order lunch (not included in room rate) and have it brought to your deckchair - below we have fish and chips, and a soft shell crab po' boy with a coconut milkshake.  Decadent, yes, but we were on holiday after all!
Fish and Chips
Soft Shell Crab Po' Boy, Coconut Milkshake

They also brought around fresh fruit on skewers for us to enjoy.  Don't mind if I do!
Dragonfruit, watermelon, canteloupe

For old time's sake, one day I did take a very brief dip in the Garden Wing pool, which I remembered from my previous holidays here, but as you can imagine, once I got set up each morning, I really had no reason to leave the Rasa Wing pool.

Garden Wing Pool - accessible by all guests

Every afternoon they serve a complimentary High Tea for Rasa Wing guests in the Rasa Lobby - scones with cream and Bonne Maman jam, little cakes and sandwiches, all served on a cute three-tiered cake stand.

High tea in the Rasa Lobby

They also mix up the selection of tea items every day, so you won't get bored.  On our first day there were honey & toasted oat scones, vanilla raisin scones, chocolate eclairs, raspberry crème brûlée tarts and white chocolate mango truffle cream cakes.  The sandwiches were avocado & crab, chicken & pesto on herbed focaccia, and roasted pepper & sun-dried tomato.

And for tea on our second day, which you can see was enjoyed in the outdoor area, there were walnut & coconut scones, chocolate & strawberry tarts, tiramisu, and sachertorte.  (Having realised how generous the servings were, we decided to skip the sandwiches on our second day).

Afternoon tea
My favourites here were, unsurprisingly, the scones!  I loved the mini scones, all crisp and crusty on the outside, and fluffily soft within, perfectly bite-sized.

In the evening, the Rasa Wing lobby is the setting for cocktail hour.  (Incidentally, I love how the below photo looks like it was created on a computer.  I have no idea why it turned out like that; it was just the Auto setting on my DSLR!)

Outdoor seating section of the Rasa Wing lobby
Again, included in the room rate for Rasa Wing guests, the cocktail hour offers free flowing wine (including Barossa Shiraz!), beer, and cocktails, as well as delicious canapés.

Cocktails and canapés

There's no drinks list as such, but they do a full range of cocktails, and the friendly staff were able to guide us through what was on offer and make suggestions based on the flavours we like.  I had to order a Long Island Ice Tea (again, something I wanted for old time's sake!), and over the stay we also had Bellinis, sparkling wine, and a fruity little number based on blue curaçao.  The canapés were a mix of local and international items: deep-fried popiah, pandan chicken, meatballs on skewers, grilled scallops, salmon mousse puffs and more.  Despite the canapés being done in high volume and in a limited time window, I was impressed with how flexible the staff were.  One evening, all the canapés happened to be served cold (intentionally!), and when Sandra, who only likes savoury food hot, asked if they could bring out some hot ones instead, the waiters happily and speedily brought out a plate with hot items on it.  So nice of them!

(I believe I may have exclaimed: "Oh my god, they're bringing us free deep-fried food. This is the best holiday ever!" -  but let's not tell anyone, ok? Hehehe.)

In terms of night-time activities, there didn't seem to be a huge amount going on - when we used to visit each Christmas, the lobby lounge was a hive of social activity, but these days it seems a lot quieter and relaxed.  (This could also have been because this particular trip wasn't during a peak period).

We did stop in for a drink one night at the resort's Ferringi Grill restaurant bar - I really needed a drink in a calm setting after braving the craziness of the Batu Ferringi night market!


My negroni was fabulous, and I loved that the barman automatically included a little pitcher of soda water in case it was too strong.  The complimentary cashews and chocolates were a lovely touch!
Negroni, Coke, Cashews, Chocolates

One thing I would recommend doing is having the balcony bathtub filled for you.
Bathtub filled at night
At the time of my visit, it was RM60++ to have the bath filled with aromatic bath salts, which of course is a real luxury - but it was such a treat to come back to the room and have a hot bath with rose petals and mineral water ready and waiting!  And you can have it done any time you like - I asked for the bath to be ready at 11pm.  How indulgent!

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that when it comes to hotels, I love the little touches that make your stay special.  (You know, the lit fireplace at Barolo Lodge in the Yarra Valley, the apple on the pillow at Launceston's twofourtwo).  These are things that might not cost the hotel a lot to implement, but that make you feel so welcome!  At Rasa, the little touch that impressed me the most was the bed-turndown service.  Imagine coming back to your room after cocktail hour or dinner, to find a pair of slippers and a mat waiting for you, and a little bottle of water and glass on your bedside table!  (There were, of course, lots of other little touches that I loved, but this post is getting quite long, and I'm sure if you do end up staying at the hotel you'll have lots of fun discovering them for yourself!)

Bed Turned Down

Although buffet breakfast is included with all rooms, Rasa Wing guests get to choose between the buffet breakfast at the Spice Market Cafe (available to all guests), and the one at the Ferringi Grill restaurant.  The Ferringi Grill buffet breakfast is quite a bit smaller than the standard one, but you get the benefits of shorter wait time, a much quieter atmosphere, and the option of ordering items à la carte as well (these items are included in the breakfast, and do not attract an additional charge).

The Ferringi Grill breakfast buffet and a la carte menu
The buffet here has all the Continental items you'd expect - pastries, cereal, cold cuts, fruit etc.  I love eating fruit when it's all cut up and prepared for me!
Fruits! Dragon fruit and mango (in the cup), papaya, pineapple, blueberries and raspberries
But lest you think I was having a healthy holiday (hardly!), here are the à la carte items we ordered: waffles and chocolate French toast!  So yum!
Fresh waffles - whipped cream, chocolate sauce, berry compote, pistachio powder
French toast - cinnamon and chocolate, with maple syrup and dragonfruit

The Spice Market buffet breakfast, in contrast, has an absolutely massive range of options to choose from!  Waffles, pancakes, cereals, breads, dim sum, curries, roti, noodles, cakes, juices, cold cuts, pastries... it was almost overwhelming!

Spice Market Cafe buffet breakfast

Whilst the variety of food on offer is fabulous, the downside to the Spice Market Cafe breakfast is that it was quite noisy, and at peak times there seemed to be quite a long wait to be seated, with many guests queuing up outside.  (I shudder to think what it would be like during a very busy period, say, Christmas or Chinese New Year!)  Both breakfasts were great in their own way, so I suppose it really just depends what you're in the mood for!

I am a total spa junkie, so I couldn't not visit the Chi Spa.  I was surprised by how popular and busy it was - I couldn't get a booking at all on our first two days at the hotel.  I'm lucky I managed to squeeze in an appointment on the morning of the day we checked out!

Entrance to the Chi Spa
With eleven private villas set amongst, lush greenery, the spa is a tranquil, truly peaceful space.  (Please note, I asked permission before taking photos within the spa complex - I would have hated to disturb any guests or practitioners!)
Path to the individual suites
I booked a Rasa Asmaradana treatment, which went for a heavenly seventy-five minutes.  It started with a lovely foot bath with rose petals, followed by a warm linen pouch of local herbs, lemongrass and pandan leaves being applied with gentle pressure on the shoulders.  Finally, there was a full body massage using aromatic oils.  My practitioner was very professional and highly-skilled - she did an excellent job.

No photos of the individual villa itself - as much as I love taking photos and exploring, I do take my relaxation very seriously, and there comes a time when you must put the camera away!  Believe me when I say the individual villas are absolutely gorgeous, and the design of the villas is totally conducive to a wonderfully relaxing experience.  Mine had a lovely private shower, with all the little touches you'd need to make the experience more comfortable: a fluffy robe, slippers, lots of towels, a safe for valuables, and even things like deodorant, hair-ties and high quality cloth disposable underwear. (Apologies for the overshare folks, but as any fellow spa-junkies will know, no-one can truly relax in those cheap plastic disposable underpants that some spas provide!)

My treatment cost RM330++, which is very pricey by Malaysian standards, but extremely reasonable by Australian standards.  I can't think of a place in Melbourne where you could get as high quality a treatment, in such a beautiful setting, for a comparable price (approx. $100AUD).  I can guarantee you, the next time I stay at the Rasa, I will be saving my pennies beforehand and booking a treatment every single day!

The Yoga Pavillion
Walking out after my treatment, I realised that the Yoga Pavillion was located in the spa complex as well.  When we arrived at the hotel initially, I had considered booking a yoga class, but I had assumed it would be held in the indoor health club, and didn't think it would be worth it to pay extra for a yoga class in a similar setting to my gym back home.  (From memory it was priced at around the RM100 mark, and you need at least two participants for classes to run).  If I'd realised that the yoga class would be in this gorgeous setting, I would have happily paid the extra cost and booked a class straight away!  Oh well, next time!

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We had such a fabulous time at the Rasa, and I'm glad to say that it's even better than I remember it.  Yes, it is a bit quieter now, but at this stage in my life, when I go on holiday, I really want to relax and switch-off, not go out and party!  The staff were so nice too!  When we checked in, the gentleman behind the counter (I believe he was the Rasa Wing manager), personally escorted us to the room and explained all the features in an enthusiastic but not overbearing manner.  Throughout the resort, every staff member smiles and greets you when you walk past, which creates such a pleasant atmosphere.

They also provided free Wi-Fi throughout the entire resort, which was very much appreciated, especially considering that we'd been battling with Maxis the week before to get the Internet working on our phones!  (I really think every hotel should provide this!)

The only negative aspect I wanted to mention was that the check-out process was rather cold.  When we went up to the counter to check out, the lady processed the transaction in a very businesslike fashion, not smiling at all, and didn't check if we needed our luggage to be collected (we did), or if we needed a taxi called.  Once the transaction was processed, she didn't say thank-you or goodbye, and we were just left to organise everything else ourselves.  Whilst it might not sound like a huge deal, it was a bit disappointing considering how welcoming, accommodating and thoughtful all the other staff and processes had been up until then.  However, that was really a small matter and certainly wouldn't put me off staying at the Rasa Sayang next time I'm in Penang!

Now that I've had a chance to experience it for myself, I definitely think that the extra expense for the Rasa Wing is worth it, and would happily splash out for it on my next visit.  I personally loved the premier room, the peaceful private pool, the afternoon tea, the cocktails and the two breakfast options.  I think the Rasa Wing is worth it for anyone who doesn't have young children who require constant supervision.  And please note, despite the glowing nature of my review, I was definitely not paid or sponsored for this post in any way whatsoever!  (The upgrade was just a very fortunate piece of luck and in no way related to my blogging!)

All prices and inclusions that I've mentioned above are correct to the best of my knowledge at the time of publishing this post, and of course are subject to change.  When researching and booking your own holiday, I would recommend contacting the hotel directly for up-to-date prices and information.

This is the sixth and final post in my series: 2012 Trip to Penang.  Other posts in this series: Pulau Tikus; Kopitiams and Hawker Food; Casual Restaurants; Sights of Penang; and Straits Quay.

10 comments:

Sekai Photography said...

I have just 1 question: can we permanently live at the Rasa? I'll learn to speak bahasa if I must!!

Sarah said...

Kamu boleh cakup Bahasa Melayu? BAGUS!!!

nzm said...

Oh man - that's my idea of a perfect holiday! For us, it would be super-perfect if we could add some scuba diving into the mix!

But wait - Sarah - fish & chips AND soft shelled crab by the pool? Don't tell me that Sandra is finally eating seafood? ;.)

Sarah said...

NZM - hahahaha! I'm told that apparently "fish that doesn't taste fishy" is acceptable, so mild tasting deep-fried fish and chips are ok!

Hannah said...

I die I swoon I cry with envy. I can only dream of a hotel experience like this! So incredible. Thank you for letting me at least see how it's possible to live :D

P.s. Love the sound of the walnut/coconut honey/oat scones!

Sarah said...

Hannah - glad you liked the post! :) I'm suffering serious post-holiday blues, hehehe.

Oh yes, the scones were lovely - I loved the sweet toastiness added by the walnuts and oats!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Sigh... I love travelling in Asia! They do luxury to a whole other new level!

Sarah said...

Lorraine - I completely agree! The fact that they're cheaper than Australia are just another bonus! :)

Christian Halfmann said...

Well, I'm nearly speechless! Luvly!

Sarah said...

Hi Schatzi.