Sun, 15 Jun 2003

Fine dining and a trip to the spa

If the outdoor activities are a bit too energetic for you, then the spa village may be more your speed.

The treatments are pretty pricey, but according to those who have spent more time in this class of establishment, they are good value because you get the "whole" experience, including a Chinese foot pounding and Malay bathhouse. There's a full range of scrubs, soaks, herbal baths and massages, all in private spa pavilions.

Fully refreshed, there's a wide choice of bars for a predinner drink. For dinner you can grab a minibus and head back to Emerald Bay for the four-course extravaganza "on the rocks". Or at the main resort, there's the family friendly Royal Bay Beach Club or the Samudra restaurant, overlooking the marina, with a great Malaysian menu.

But my pick of the dinner options is Uncle Lim's. The stroll around the boardwalk past the sea villas to the restaurant is enough in itself. As the moon rises and the stars emerge, you round a rocky headland to see a mass of red Chinese lanterns on the top of a rocky outcrop. It takes a few moments to see the lanterns frame the outline of a beautiful, almost spherical restaurant perched on top of the rocks.

The restaurant is named after the chef, who has been with the resort since 1986, and is staff member 001. Uncle Lim goes to the mainland daily to chose seafood for his evening creations.

There's no written menu, just waiters who run through what uncle's decided to do with, say, scallops, shiitake mushrooms, fresh asparagus and a unique cross-cultural blend of sauces and spices, with a central theme of Hockchew Chinese cooking. And yes, all included.

For an extra payment, you can take a sunset dinner at sea in an antique Chinese junk, dining at the captain's table. There's also the wonderful looking open kitchen of Fisherman's Cove restaurant, with seafood, grills and Italian food, but this is restricted to those staying at the spa village. If you feel like staying in, you can order in a steamboat.

Tomorrow? You can have a picnic lunch as you go island-hopping or take a fishing trip. Or you could just settle for more of the same, with variations on the flavor of muffins and new selections from the menu. With Pangkor Laut's particularly relaxed luxury, the repetition is not tedious but rejuvenating.

-- Megan James