By See Foon Chan-Koppen
Ipohites who love 5-star pampering can now rejoice with the opening of the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat adjacent to the Sunway development and the Lost World of Tambun. Opening very quietly, early this year, the Banjaran has hitherto been a source of mystery and curiosity. Their early policy of not admitting day visitors to their spa and restaurant miffed quite a few Ipohites and since the arrival of new General Manager Linda Pecararo, they have been making amends and soothing many ruffled feathers.
At a recent cocktail party hosted by GM Linda, a group of us were given a tour around the development and treated to cocktails in the most stupendous cellar in the world. Named Jeff’s Cellar, after visionary and tycoon Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah who founded the Sunway empire, this is no ordinary cellar but a huge cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites all in their natural formations; artfully lit and highlighted to create a wonderland straight out of Aladdin’s Cave.
Squeals of delight accompanied our group as we gazed awestruck at the tableaux surrounding us. The air was cool and fresh, aided by cleverly concealed air-conditioners; and discreet seating arrangements tucked into alcoves beckon. Meandering from the entrance which is reached by a small flight of stairs, down passageways that wind amidst the smaller limestone formations, a panorama greeted us as we moved into the main cave. Here a giant stalagmite artfully lit in warm hues stood imposingly in a corner with geothermal waters dripping in rivulets into crystal clear catchment pools that in turn reflect the kaleidoscope of colours from the limestone formations. We were all blown away.
Sustenance in the form of delicate canapés orchestrated by Executive chef Rolf Jaeggi accompanied by organic wine from Chile made the evening magical as we listened to GM Linda give us a briefing on the facilities and services offered at the Banjaran.
Ipoh has always been blessed by its Karst formations or limestone hills hidden amongst which in the Sunway development area is one of the best geothermal hot springs in Malaysia. Ipohites of yore could always avail themselves of these curative waters at a very run down facility for which they paid a small entrance fee. Since the acquisition of the land by the Sunway group, this has been denied them and criticism has since been levied at the developers for having taken away one of their natural treasures and making the hot springs inaccessible to most people; as the prices at the Banjaran are well beyond the reach of a lot of its residents. However, this has been remedied with the opening of a hot spring pool at the Lost World of Tambun where for a reasonable fee local residents can soak to their heart’s content.
The Banjaran has an impressive array of facilities and services spread over more than 16 acres of a sweeping valley floor, surrounded by majestic limestone hills that provide a cocoon-like feel to the whole development. Sixteen garden villas and 9 water villas provide luxurious accommodation with each one providing its own private geothermal dipping pool. Open dipping pools are also available for day spa visitors as is a Thermal Steam cave, an Outdoor Rainforest Shower, a Meditation Cave, a Fitness Centre and a Crystal Cave where guests can experience private energy healing treatments such as Reiki in a unique setting.
The Spa and Wellness Centre offers a mixture of traditional and state-of-the art wellness and pampering treatments including Ayurvedic and traditional Malay massage and facials and body treatments with certified halal and organic products. A special colon hydrotherapy room provides detoxification and colon cleansing and a relaxation area allows the spa guest to unwind before or after treatments.
An unusual treatment originating from Turkey involves dipping one’s legs into a pool of Garra Rufa fish (also known as Dr. Fish). Known for alleviating psoriasis and eczema, the fish actually nibble away at your skin and removes dead skin cells, actually creating rejuvenation of the skin. It felt slightly ticklish the first time I dipped my feet in and the fish swarmed around but after a few minutes, it felt very comfortable and I watched in fascination.
The Pomelo restaurant serves spa cuisine with emphasis on light and healthy dishes that are low-fat, low-salt and low cholesterol but rich in taste.