The Laguna Redang Island Resort: Smash-hit beach, Real-life fun

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By virtue alone of its four-star rating, Laguna Redang topples the competition with all the other Pasir Panjang accommodations. And because it rests on Pulau Redang’s best blanket of sand, which is also said to be the best in all of Malaysia, it outclasses even its five-star rivals in all the other coves and islands.

In fact, Laguna Redang’s immaculate beach front is so irresistible that sometime in the late 1990s, Hong Kong film producers and stars Richie Ren and Sammi Cheng trooped to it, to shoot that love saga up there. The movie, Summer Holiday, became an Asian record-breaking blockbuster, and catapulted Pasir Panjang to world renown as a premier beach destination.

And while all of that was going on, a dato (tribe chief) by the name of Toh Seng Tat also happened to have seen the film, and was swept away himself, not by Sammi and Richie, but by the beach. Like the girl in the movie, he sought the owner of the land having the best portion of the beach. Luckily for him, he did not have to go through all the heartache to earn his beach heaven. Once the property was acquired, he gathered his team and built Laguna Redang, the star resort of Pasir Panjang.

A bed for your every dear one

While billeted in Laguna Redang, I saw the movie in one of the resort’s television channels–the boy did not want to sell his share of the beach to the girl for fear that his friends would no longer have a place to go to for fun. I thought if he could only see Laguna Redang, he need not worry about that.

Family is a driving force in the design principle behind Laguna Redang. This is visible in the architecture, the interior design, and the landscaping of the resort. Every time I took a stroll around its 20-acre spread, I felt as if I was walking through an authentic, traditional Malay village. Each of its 12 suite buildings are built with cengal wood, a type of hardwood native to Malaysia. It is so hard that termites cannot eat through it, and instead can last 100 years. Exquisite, native wood carvings wrap around every building’s terrace,baluster, hallways, and drape the edges of the towering reddish-brown roofs. These accents impressed upon me the illusion that Laguna Redang is trimmed with brown lace all over.

The Malay warmth seeps right through the suites, with all-wooden and bamboo furniture, plus local weavings as décor. Still in the vein of family, all exclusive suite, sea-view, garden-view and pool-view rooms are furnished with multiple beds, or furniture that can transform as beds. And these are not just any ordinary beds, because each one is full and soft, and covered in pristine sheets. Even the sofa and love seats that turn into queen-size or twin-size beds can rival the actual beds in fullness. If that’s not enough, there’s also the option of lying down at the lounge seats on verandas overlooking the beach, should you choose to secure a sea-view suite. I did, and at some point, I did wish I had brought family and friends along, so I could fill up every enticing bed before me.

Blockbuster buffets

Laguna Redang has seven food and beverage outlets, offering all kinds of meals for every type of foodie. But the real star among all the Laguna Redang dining options is the Sang Suria Buffet Restaurant, set above the main lobby and overlooking the sea.

I had my fill of every type of food imaginable at Sang Suria all throughout my Laguna Redang stay. Malay, Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Italian, French–you name it, Sang Suria has it. I did not hold back from eating spicy food even for breakfast by tasting their chili chicken and noodle dishes, in mouth-watering coconut and curry sauces. On mornings when I wanted good old bacon to go with my pancakes, croissants, and coffee, I sated my cravings with their unique beef bacon (Sang Suria honors Muslim culinary customs and does not serve pork). And that’s just breakfast. The parade of international food goes on at Sang Suria from morning until night.

My most memorable meal in Laguna Redang would have to be the sea-side lunch I had with my companions. As every dish was laid down, sous chef Mohd Talha accordingly explained each one’s preparation and nuance.

Our luxury lunch was a three-course meal composed of youklankai (steamed chicken), beef rendang, and an all-grilled seafood platter. The youklankai, garnished with browned garlic and steamed broccoli, had an all-natural tenderness, perhaps because the chefs used kampung (village) chicken raised without artificial feeds. The beef rendang is beef braised in coconut milk and curry, complimented by tinges of anise and cinnamon, and sided with sweet pickled peppers. It was also spiked with Laguna Redang’s own secret spices, to make this local favorite unique.

Finally, the seafood platter proved to be a buffet on its own–lobster, squid, prawns, snapper, and mussels, all grilled to a smoky-flavored perfection, sided with golden corn-on-the-cob, and red, green and yellow peppers. Its signature Laguna Redang touch would have to be its fresh and zesty coriander pesto sauce. The chef told me this dish is the real hit among their Western guests. I stuffed myself good with it, savoring every tender mouthful. By the time dessert was served–chocolate mousse with strawberries, cream, and grissini bread sticks–I hardly had any room left in my stomach. But I wanted my belly to be like Laguna Redang, warm and welcoming, so I went ahead, dug into chocolate heaven, and did not regret it.

Busy beach, happy beach

I commended myself with bringing one-piece swimsuits in Laguna Redang. This way I did not have to worry about how all the good eating I knew I would be doing would affect my ‘beach look”, especially as I tried out some of the many beach activities Laguna Redang offers its guests.

The resort took us to a speed boat ride to nearby Pulau Pinang, the island which is home to the Marine Park Center. Here, guests snorkel to witness the biodiversity of the Redang archipelago, made up of corals and numerous species of fish. Even before I could wade further off to deeper waters and submerge my head, I could already see colorful little fishes swimming towards me, circling around my knees. In the distance, one of my companions had a photo of her taken underwater by one of Laguna Redang’s personnel, as the resort also offers underwater photography services. It is a cool way of having a remembrance of the snorkeling adventure.

Apart from snorkeling trips, Laguna Redang also takes it guests to diving trips and island hopping trips. Island hopping allows guests to experience the other fine beaches of Pulau Redang’s neighboring islands, and since this can take quite a number of hours, packed meals are prepared and brought along the trip–which translates to beach picnics!

The most beach fun I had was simply walking along the whole stretch of the immaculately white Pasir Panjang. As early as 5AM some of Laguna Redang’s guests are already up, trooping to the beach, to wait for the sunrise. Photographers, both professionals and amateurs, prop up their gear on the sands, in anticipation of that perfect moment, when the sun finally emerges from what seems to be the edge of the waters. And after seeing the sun’s gradual, glorious ascent, everyone sinks into his or her own version of fun. Teen-aged girls giggled while perfecting jump shots. Elder guests squealed like kids, chasing baby crabs popping out of the sands. One morning, I even spotted a guy doing tai chi, and a giant heart drawn on the beach by a guest the afternoon before, unwashed by the evening tide.

On my last night at Laguna Redang, I stopped by Tupai, the resort’s sea-front cocktail bar where a three-piece in-house band performs international pop hits every night. One of the songs played by the band, which sounded Chinese, had the entire audience singing along. Apparently, as pointed out by one of my companions, it is one of the songs sung by the lovers in Summer Holiday.

No wonder, I thought, and I nodded and smiled at the sight of the youthful guests, some with their hands joined in the air, some holding up cocktail glasses, all somehow managing to laugh while singing and swaying. The movie may have helped bring these people all together at Pasir Panjang, but I raise my glass to Laguna Redang, for bringing the best out of the superstar beach, and for being the home of fun.

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