Travel: Our Macau/Hong Kong Getaway (6D/6N)!

Follow our 6 day, 6 night adventure in these lands of amazing food, awesome culture and astounding sights. See how we ate, shopped and laughed our way through Macau and Hong Kong! :)

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Travel: The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat @ Ipoh, Perak



The Banjaran Hotsprings Resort is an award-winning, five star wellness & spa retreat spanning some 16 acres in peaceful Tambun, Ipoh. Grandly surrounding it are lush tropical jungles and majestic age-old limestone hills, a sight that is truly one to behold. And now we've seen it for ourselves!

Ever since The Banjaran opened its doors, I've been longing to stay there. Two months ago, I decided to make use of a discount for The Banjaran that I had and so Adam & I took a leisurely 2 hour drive up north to Ipoh for a quick weekend staycation. 


Font size 108, perhaps
Getting to The Banjaran is really easy. As the limestone hills loom in the near distance, you'll begin to spot many highway signs leading you to Ipoh -- in particularly large font size too! :p Follow the Ipoh signs closely till the toll and take the first exit after the toll that says Tambun and follow the brown signage that leads you to The Banjaran.



Upon arrival, the helpful guest services officer quickly helped us grab our bags and led us into the grounds. Almost immediately, I couldn't help but feel relaxed with all the greenery and lulling flow of water around me. 


The lobby area


Check-in was brisk and to welcome us, we received a thoughtful tummy-soothing ginger drink and a cold towel each.


Sounding the gong to mark our arrival. Look how excited & happy I am *embarassed*

Adam takes his turn

And off to our villa!
What's commendable is that The Banjaran is a truly green-conscious resort and actively takes measures to reduce its carbon footprint. Here, electrical buggies are used to shuttle resort guests to and from the lobby area if requested. Its eco-friendliness is also apparent throughout the entire resort, from the architecture of the villa down to the materials used.


The Water Villas

With just 26 exclusive villas at The Banjaran, you can be assured that each villa is both spacious and luxurious at the same time. There are two types: the spacious Garden Villas, which feel a bit more private in my opinion, are nestled amidst greenery while the Water Villas though smaller in size, have balconies that extend out over a lily-padded water canal. I had chosen the Garden Villa for our stay... and it was truly amazing!


Ta-daa! The entrance to our villa, like the thatched roofs :D

Sitting area overlooking the plunge pool

Dining area

Upon stepping in, I think we both cried a bit inside (haha!) knowing that we only had two days and one night here. To our left was the lovely courtyard, comprising a living & dining area. The furnishing is Balinese-inspired and in natural, earthy tones.



They call this the labu sayong, a traditional gourd-shaped carafe made out of clay which keeps drinking water surprisingly cool. It's also believed to have some cough & fever healing qualities due to the minerals present in the clay.

Bose system - complete with soothing instrumental music


We were immediately drawn to the lovely blue private plunge pool to our right opposite the courtyard. The waters aren't deep, so it made for nice, leisurely swimming.


A lovely shade of blue in the afternoon sun


The room itself is extremely spacious with a luxurious king sized bed taking center stage. The bed was divine! It was a real dilemma if we should spend more time lazing around in comfort, or be basking in the lovely outdoors. Thankfully, I think we managed a good balance in the end. :D


The dressing table and a complimentary local fruit of Tambun - the pomelo!


A Samsung TV sits in the corner, accompanied with a list of DVDs you can request to have sent to your room. The ceiling of the room is high, with a fan to help cool down the room. I read that this was also part of Banjaran's energy management initiative.


The room opens to the patio & pool :D


The wash area of the bathroom is huge in my books! Love the his and hers sinks where Adam gets his own corner to dirty up and I get my own to clutter up with my facial stuff. :)


Lovely stone basin, and natural brown rice soap! 


The toiletries was presented in three neat wooden trays with a thoughtful selection of insect repellent, mouth mist, moisturizer, as well as the usual toothbrushes, cotton & razors. 


Cupboards on either side of the door, stocked with eco-friendly bag, comfy bathrobes and a weighing machine


In the shower, you'll get cute ceramic containers (instead of plastic bottles!) for body gel, shampoo & hair conditioner. The skincare range (along with the brown rice hand soap) is locally-made and is au naturale, which means it's free from artificial scents, colouring, preservatives or harmful chemicals and also are not tested on animals. I also like how some of the accessories - the waste baskets or eco bags, if I remember correctly - are sourced from and in support of the local craft communities. 



From the bathroom, a door opens up to one of our favourite parts of the villa!

Outdoor rainwater shower

The outdoor jacuzzi was heavenly, especially with the bubbles switched on :D 


The jacuzzis are built such that the water flowing in is the natural water from the geothermal hotsprings. Of course, this means that it's really hot, so we made use of the various taps to self-regulate the temperature to our liking.



The jacuzzi takes a long time to fill up though, the guest services officer turned it on when she brought us to our room, and by the time we got back after exploring the resort, it wasn't even full yet. 

Hee.

If you see the picture above, I have this green water-friendly bangle around my wrist. Each room gets two, and it actually was our access key! To enter our villa, we simply need to scan this at the door. I thought it was a really helpful, hassle-free idea to help guests enjoy the outdoors without having to worry about where to put the key, or dropping the key into the hot springs. 



It took us awhile to drag ourselves away from the comfort of the awesome villa, but we finally studied the map and decided to go off exploring!

The geothermal spring - can you see the steam rising off the water?

The Banjaran has a no-child policy to retain a tranquil environment that is conducive for wellness and rejuvenation but I think it's also a lot to do with safety. With so many open bodies of water, and boiling ones at that, I don't think it's such a good idea to have kids around.


The path to the waterfall & caves


Our first stop was the Thermal Steam Cave, a natural cave with sauna-like temperature meant to relax & detoxify. We were amazed when we stepped in and took a quick look around. Both of us (and my camera lens, haha) immediately started sweating! 


Deck chairs in an enclave.


Located near the Steam Cave is this Ice Bath & Shower to plunge into, something that supposedly has a host of benefits from better circulation, to reduction of blood pressure. We didn't go in, only dipping our fingers in - definitely not as cold as the name sounds.



Beside that is the stairs to go up to the Balcony! The vertical rock formation was beautiful as we climbed up, a geologist's dream, perhaps.



The Balcony is a must-stop by place in The Banjaran, just because it gives you a bird's eye view over the big geothermal pool and the surrounding limestone hills. It's a really peaceful spot to just stop and admire the nature ahead of you.



Peaceful aside, it's also shaded, which we were very thankful for because it started raining - no, POURING - at this point in time which left us stuck up in the Balcony for at least 40 minutes. At least we were stuck in a place with good view and with each other's company, I say :)

The Balcony - where we waited for the storm to pass.


One of the fascinating sights was the massive amount of steam just billowing out of the geothermal hotspring as the rain battered down on it. 

Steam coming out from behind the rocks - a bit volcano like!


After the rain slowed to a consistent drizzle, we ran back to our villa and spent the rest of the evening there with the plunge pool and jacuzzi instead, leaving the exploration of the rest of Banjaran till the next day. 


Beautiful flora in abundance
Obviously, besides the beautiful, tranquil surroundings, The Banjaran also has a big selection of different spa and wellness programs, synonymous with it being a retreat for the body, mind & soul. Treatments and therapies hinge on traditional Malay, Chinese & Indian methods that use only the finest and most natural ingredients. 


Looking across the hotspring
Besides just the simple massage or treatment, The Banjaran also provides complete holistic wellness programs, designed to meet your needs. Ranging from detoxification and longevity to weight management and fitness (jungle boot camp, anyone?), we only wish we had enough money (and leave days) to book ourselves two whole weeks here to enjoy something like that. Sounds like bliss.



At night, Jeff's Cellar opens its doors to the resort guests. This is the place where Tan Sri Jeffrey Cheah, founder and chairman of Sunway Group, keeps his prized wine collection. While that's kept behind closed doors, we thought the rest of the cellar was extremely unique and worth a quick visit.


The entrance to the cave, and the wine displays

Terrific decor


Jeff's Cellar is built within a grotto with fascinating calcite formations - stalactites, stalagmites and large columns - formed over some thousand years. On the ground are naturally formed pools from calcite as well.



These were slowly formed by rainwater containing carbon dioxide that had seeped into the cave, dissolving some of the limestone in the process. This seeps through the roof of the cave and with the mixture of minerals in it, form the structures. The staff explained that this still happens today, which is why you'll see the white sheet across the ceiling to protect any guests from trickling rainwater.



For a fee, you can arrange to have your dinner sent over to Jeff's Cellar from the resort's restaurant, The Pomelo.



The Pomelo is the Banjaran's only F&B outlet, and so, that was also our first stop the next day for our morning breakfast. Breakfast was a quiet and peaceful affair because The Banjaran keeps its occupancy exclusive & low.

I know Adam was secretly a little bummed when I told him beforehand that the breakfast was a la carte instead of buffet-style, but I think it was just as filling as a buffet would have been!

Hot chocolate, orange & watermelon juice, and English Breakfast tea
Each guest gets to pick one item from each portion of the menu - a salad or yogurt, a hot dish, a fresh fruit juice and a hot beverage.



Aside from our choices, a basket of delectable, warm pastries were also served.



The croissants and apple strudels were delicious, but my absolute favourite was the warm chocolate-filled pastries. Buttery, flaky with a lush chocolatey centre - what a great way to start the day :D

Butter, honey & marmalade

Mango & citrus yogurt

Organic omelette with chicken sausage, mac & cheese, baked potato
The omelette was just nicely seasoned and packed with tomatoes and mushroom chunks - hot and wholesome. 

Scrambled egg with smoked salmon, chicken sausage, toast and mushroom risotto


You can also opt to have your breakfast in one of these thatch-roofed cabanas, which would be lovely on a cool morning.



After breakfast, it was time for us to go off and explore the rest of what The Banjaran had to offer! Unfortunately we only had half a day left... I think we could have spent a few days here and still not be tired of the beautiful lush landscape. *wistful*


Adam with the gushing waterfall


First stop - the Dr. Fish pool or Garra Rufa Therapy. At first glance, the pool looked still and calm. We peeked in for awhile, wondering if there were any fish.



Only after stepping in, did the little garra rufa fishes start to come out. They flinch at the slightest movement, so be sure to keep as still as possible and let them have their way with your feet. The sensation is a light buzzing one as they nip away and exfoliate the sole of your feet, your cuticles, even in between your toes.

This supposedly reduces risk to psoriasis and other skin ailments and is good for skin restoration. I've had it done before in fish spas in KL, but the fish were very violent and really attacked my feet! The treatment here was far more comfortable and not as ticklish.



Next to the Garra Rufa fish pool is also a Reflexology Pebble Pool with shin-deep water. Very calming and therapeutic.

Absolutely beautiful, the sight of the hotsprings with the limestone hills.


The main body of water in The Banjaran is this natural geothermal hot spring with the temperature going up to as high as 70°C. Hotspring water is said to be rich with minerals and possess healing properties for skin, detox, stress amongst many others.



Guests are not allowed to enter the main geothermal spring, but those who enjoy hot spring dipping can make use of these Hot Dipping Pools by the side.



The dipping pools each have a rain-shower with fresh spring water from the jungle, as well as other taps that you can use to regulate the temperature, just like our villa jacuzzi. The original temperature of the hot spring was insane though! We tried dipping our toes in but it was too hot. Because it was such a hot day to begin with, we decided to check out the pool instead.



We both loved this Freeform Swimming Pool. No more shivering or bracing yourself before hitting the cold water because this large pool is built on top of streams of hot springs. This means that the clear pool waters are naturally heated from beneath. So awesome!

Can I have one in my backyard too?


After 2 days and a night, we checked out with heavy hearts feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. The villa was fabulous and the natural geothermal hotsprings felt great! Even though we didn't make it for any of the spa treatments, just being away from the hustle and bustle of the city and in the middle of this peaceful hotspring paradise, did wonders for us. :)


We truly did!

*Full set of photos can be viewed here at our Facebook page.

The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat | Site
No. 1, Persiaran Lagun Sunway 3,
31150 Ipoh, Perak
Tel: +605-210 7777
Booking: Link here
GPS Coordinates: 4.63082, 101.15617

Villa rates at The Banjaran is usually around RM 1,800 per night, excluding spas & wellness treatments.

Remember to like us on Facebook here or follow us on Instagram @dropsofcontentment for more quick updates! :)




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