Tranquility in Malaysia: Banjaran Hotsprings Resort
Unraveling The Enigma to Tranquility and Serendipity in Malaysia at Banjaran Hotsprings Resort
By Ian Poh Jin Tze
As the world emerges from isolation as a result of a raging pandemic, travelers take on a new perspective when searching for a holiday destination. Search criteria such as secluded and exclusive which initially took a back seat now take center stage.
I was personally guilty of such and embarked on a quest in search of a destination that would unravel the enigma to tranquility and serendipity.
It was deep within a luxurious 22.7-acre valley, alongside Palaeozoic limestone hills that I sought refuge at The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat.
It is part of the Sunway Group and is located in the city of Ipoh, Malaysia, 247 km from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (3-hour’s drive).
The Legends Whisper at the Hotsprings
I read articles on my journey to the resort that ancient legends whisper of a mysterious location, deep within the mountains of Perak and located on the grounds of Banjaran.
One is a Meditation Cave known to retain meditational powers that a master once harnessed.
It is known, that he who enters the cave leaves with a renewed sense of tranquility and peace. The other is a magical field of hot springs with the ability to cure sicknesses and leave others feeling recharged and re-energized.
The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat
The resort consists of 44 luxurious villas with 3 villa types for guests to choose from. Each villa boasts a geothermal hot water tub and plunge pool.
The Lake Villa (81 square meters)(prices begin at RM 1,850 per night), the water villa (155 square meters)(prices begin at RM 2,250 per night) and the garden villa (260 square meters)( prices begin at RM 2,500 per night).
It is also good to note that the resort adopts a policy of only accommodating adults and guests 12 years of age and above.
The Mystical Caves
The resort houses four caves, the meditation cave, steam cave, crystal cave, and Jeff Cellar, the fine dining restaurant built within a cave. They are accessible to guests via relaxing strolls minutes apart from each other.
Eager to uncover the legends behind the Meditation cave, I began there. As I entered, I stood paralyzed within the dimly lit cave, mesmerized by the therapeutic cool breeze which brushed gently past my cheek as I soaked in the rustic decor.
Although the Banjaran Hotsprings staff whispered to me that the cave had the ability to lift one’s troubles and worries, I approached it with initial skepticism.
Here I was, within the dimly lit prehistoric crevice with nothing but the gentle whooping sound from the ceiling fan blades, like background music in addition to my own thoughts echoing through my mind. It then occurred to me that tranquility and peace begin in the mind and come from within.
The steam cave is home to a natural sauna where I pushed through the wooden door at the entrance only to be engulfed in a cloud of steam. Within minutes, I found myself covered in sweat from the immense heat which attempted to detoxify my body.
Take an Ice Bath
Guests may proceed outside for an ice bath thereafter. If you carry many electronics as I do, it is advisable not to take them into the cave due to the high humidity and temperature within the cave.
Since ancient times, crystals have been used as amulets and talismans for health protection by energy healers and spiritual healers believing that they can regulate energy flow and balance within one’s body.
Within the resort lies a Crystal cave where guests can choose to meditate during the day or enjoy a romantic dinner by night upon request.
Raymond, the resort operations director informed us that every year each crystal within the cave is reenergized via mystical means such as a mantra and a singing bowl by a master who spends a few hours in each cave performing the ritual.
Healing of The Body and Soul
Guests wanting to pamper and rejuvenate themselves and their loved ones may choose to enjoy a relaxing and personalized treatment at the spa.
Spa treatments include traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic therapy, and Malay healing rituals in addition to contemporary spa treatments with the use of pure and natural ingredients.
Raymond shared an anecdote of a guest who booked a stay for a few weeks with the intention to detox but instead turned the resort into her home for a few months. During this, she underwent various treatments ranging from weight loss, to the rejuvenation of her body and even mending her broken heart.
On-Site Yoga Guru
Spiritual enlightenment can be achieved with an on-site Yoga Guru at the Banjaran Hotsprings Resort who practices an ancient Hindu discipline and assists guests in achieving a state of perfect spiritual harmony. I discovered this one morning as the mysterious mist floated lazily over the magical field of hot springs surrounding the Yoga pavilion.
Some may even choose to take a dip in the hot springs to wash away their worries or according to legends, cure illnesses.
Adventure seekers can set off through the lush greenery on the heels of the in-house jungle guide as they spend half an hour exploring hidden caves which end at the amusement park also owned by the Sunway Group, The Lost World of Tambun. It is an easy trek that can be done in flip-flops.
At the end of the trek, guests may take a dip in the Garra Rufa pool. It contains much little fish which would gently nibble away at one’s tired feet leaving them feeling refreshed as they sit comfortably at the edge of the pool.
Dining Under the Stars or Within a Prehistoric Cave
In addition to in-room dining, guests have 2 dining options within the resort, Pomelo, and the much-decorated Jeff Cellar. At Pomelo, breakfast and high tea are served and guests may choose to dine within the open-air but covered terrace or in a private pavilion against breathtaking scenery.
Both restaurants are helmed by Executive Chef Boon who is born in Ipoh. “The staff’s attitude, levels of hygiene, quality of ingredients, and the menu” he shared were his priorities as he established Jeff Cellar at the beginning.
Equipment and location due to the natural surroundings though a little tricky, were not his main concern. According to him, teamwork, hard work, and passion were the secrets to the team’s success. At Banjaran, an organic Herb Garden has also been named in his honor.
The breakfast dining experience begins with a pastry tower complete with a cheese platter and delicately sliced fruits.
Diners also have the option to choose from a generous number of ala carte items on the menu, all cooked to order and complemented with a buffet consisting of juices, pastries, and fruits.
My favorite part of the dining experience was the open kitchen concept where guests can witness chefs exchanging animated banter against the metallic symphony of clanging pans and spatulas ricocheting off woks.
It was truly a sight to behold as chefs stood in front of woks, engulfed in what looks like a furnace, furiously and precisely tossing food into the air whilst occasionally imparting a kiss of wok hei.
The Enchanted Delights High Tea is also served in a cozy Pavilion where diners can enjoy decadent sweets and savories served on a tower with their very own romantic setting.
Diners may also opt for a twilight dinner on a deck surrounded by limestone caves. The meal is also prepared by the team of chefs from Pomelo, with a variety of personalized menus to choose from, complete with a telescope for stargazing.
Dine in the Crystal Cave
The Banjaran Hotsprings retreat restaurant: During bad weather, the dinner would be set up within the Crystal Cave. However, due to its popularity, pre-booking is advised.
Perched on a ledge overlooking the misty hot springs is another prehistoric cave where pop music and bright lights attracted my attention.
I was greeted by a bartender who wore a cheeky grin as he shook his cocktail shaker whilst preparing a refreshing cocktail. As I ventured deeper into the cave, I discovered mysterious Japanese writings on the wall.
I learned from the bartender that to date, its origins remain unknown though many have speculated that they were written by homesick Japanese soldiers in the early 1940s as the magical fields of hot springs stood as a gentle reminder of the many onsens that awaited them back home.
Jeff Cellar is a fine dining restaurant within a 260-million-year-old cave that has been featured on numerous occasions by the media such as CNN and Tatler.
Diners may indulge in a five-course meal within the dimly lit cave against the therapeutic sound of water droplets dripping into small terraces formed during the Permian period.
Pamukkale in Turkey
The sight was similar to and drew fond memories of the famous UNESCO site, Pamukkale in Turkey.
Dishes at Banjaran Hotsprings Resort are served beautifully plated with even a course arriving impressively engulfed in smoke looking like a scene out of Phantom of The Opera with a touch of Michelin dining terroir.
At the end of each meal, Chef Boon makes his rounds in the dining room chatting with each guest as a trolly with garden fresh herbs still in pots is pushed table side for diners to select for the brewing of tea.
Advance bookings of at least 48 hours are advised to avoid disappointment.
Click here for more details and the in-depth history of the resort or to book a stay.
On your way back, don’t forget to stop by Concubine Lane to admire the street art or try some of Ipoh’s famous food such as bean sprouts chicken and white coffee.
For those who appreciate history and culture, drop by the Ipoh Railway Station or Ipoh Town Hall, Old Post Office, and the Birch Memorial Clock for a trip down memory lane.
Ian Poh Jin Tze is a freelance writer and photographer passionate about extreme sports and globe-trotting. He has been running @Monk3yseendo, a lifestyle Instagram/blog predominantly focused on food, photography, fashion, and travel, and he has been published in the Singapore Airlines in-flight magazine, Asian Food Network, Eater, The Smart Local and Le Cordon Bleu. Although he was born in Singapore, he spends 300 days a year living out of his Rimowa.