We jetted off for a short enticing getaway at Shangri-la’s Golden Sands Resort at Batu Ferringhi Beach, Penang!
Just 90 minutes via plane, with many flights to choose from, Penang is a really convenient destination for a quick holiday, especially for those pop-up school holidays like the recent PSLE marking days. So off we went; her tee says it all.
We felt such a warm welcome right from the start, from the pick-up at the airport, to the attentiveness at the check-in counter.
The Shangri-la holds special significance to my family as my mum used to work at Singapore’s Orange Grove Road Shangri-la hotel when I was very young. Then 8 years ago, it was at that same hotel that I held my wedding banquet. So we were really pleased to experience signature ‘Shang’ hospitality again, this time in alluring Penang.
Incidentally, it was only after we arrived that the hubby realised that he had stayed at Golden Sands as a child, way back in 1981! Decades of being a family-oriented resort, indeed.
As we entered our room, we were greeted by this cheery sight. The kids were especially delighted by the menagerie of towel animals.
Apart from being adorable, I must say the room towels were luxuriously fluffy. It might be small thing, but little touches like this make all the difference to a hotel stay.
And the view from our room on the top floor? Ah, the melding together of sea and sky, the luscious greenery, the large pools and numerous lounge chairs… clear signs that we are at a fine resort that spells rest and relaxation.
The gentle curves of the hotel nestle the pool area within.
And the glorious view on a clear sunny day.
With 387 guest rooms, the sprawling hotel never feels crowded even when it was at 90% occupancy on our first day there due to its capaciousness. Room rates start at SGD $160++, including complimentary breakfast, which is really a steal, given the high standard of the hotel.
When I asked what the best part of the holiday was – B immediately said ‘Swimming!’ Their grins here certainly testify to that.
I must say my kids now break into quirky poses when I say “Let’s take a photo here!”. #bloggerkids
Breakfast at the Garden Cafe
The Garden Café can seat 235 guests, and there’s a wide variety of breakfast offerings, from noodle soup to Nasi Lemak, from muesli and yoghurt to hash browns and bacon strips, as well as freshly made Roti Canai! The porridge was particularly delicious.
We had an interesting conversation with a friendly wait-staff who mentioned that he had worked there for 36 years, since the inception of the hotel! For a hotel of such vintage, it certainly has kept with the times in updating its look. But beyond the hardware, I believe that it is always the software that differentiates a hotel most.
And the service we experienced bore testament to the fact that Golden Sands Resort does try its best to prioritise good service. All the staff speak good English (in the most comforting accent, haha, which makes the hotel feel like a home away from home) and you know that you will have no trouble communicating with them.
Buffet dinner at Sigi’s Bar & Grill
Sunday night’s buffet dinner at Sigi’s Bar and Grill is a special treat – just look at that leg of lamb!
There were freshly grilled prawns, chicken sausages and beef – even the hubby who is very particular when it comes to his steak, declared the grilled beef excellent. It was medium rare and super juicy on the inside. Sigi’s Bar and Grill has many outdoor tables and a friendly trio playing the guitar and ukuleles went from table to table serenading the guests.
We were seated indoors that night, and really enjoyed the wide spread and high quality food. Even the spaghetti sauce was chock full of chunks of fish and squid. There were also more than a dozen different cakes offered for dessert in a separate air-conditioned room next to the dining room! Guess holidays are never a good time to think of starting a diet. -_-
Sigi’s Bar and Grill also maintains a quaint little herb garden, with more than 10 different herbs. A very educational stroll around for the kids too.
I loved the flowers that I spotted, adding such cheer to a hedge, or cascading grandly from the large flame of the forest tree at the pool area. K insisted on pinning an orchid to her hair – our resort princess.
Cool Zone Kids’ Club
The hotel runs a ‘drop-off only’ Kids’ Club that has a very strictly enforced policy of only admitting kids aged between 5 to 12 years. B, who will turn 5 in a few months (next February) was very disappointed when we explained that she couldn’t join her 7 year old sister at the Kids’ Club, and promptly burst into tears when we left the premises.
She was somewhat consoled when we promised to bring her to the Adventure Zone Indoor Playground the next day, since that admits children of all ages (and adults, yay) for a fee. More of that in a separate post; it was really fun!
K had a fantastic time at the Cool Zone Kids’ Club learning how to fly a kite, baking cookies, learning Golf, watching a cartoon movie after dinner, colouring and crafting a small kite…. She chose to spend an entire day there (930am to 6pm – they close at 9pm) and said that she would have been happy to spend another full day there, but we didn’t have enough time, since we had already scheduled exploring the Adventure Zone the next day.
Impressively, the Kids’ Club also provides lunch and dinner free-of-charge. The children can order from an interesting menu, and are chaperoned to dine at Sigi’s. Some days, they even have pool time, and all you need to bring along is a swimsuit and some sunblock, and the hotel will provide the rest!
Batu Ferringhi Beach
The beach was just a skip and hop away from the hotel’s pool area, and the children had a wonderful time just playing with sand, and being surrounded by the wide expanse of sea and sky. It was slightly hazy even up north here, but the air quality was good enough for us to be outdoors without worry.
There are private operators offering a variety of water sports at the beach, and throughout our stay, we saw many guests parasailing. I decided to go for something more calming, and had a great hour-long massage by the beach as the waves lapped gently against the shore.
It was heartening to learn that Shangri-la runs a Turtle Conservation Project called ‘Sanctuary’, where they collaborate with non-government organisations to educate school children in the local communities on the importance of taking good care of the natural habitat of the native turtles, namely the Olive Ridley and Green Turtle species. It includes education on disposing of plastic packaging mindfully, such that turtles are not harmed.
Overall, I was really impressed by Penang’s strong sense of environmental responsibility, which is more advanced than Singapore’s. When we went shopping in the towns, plastic bags were hardly used, and our purchases were wrapped in handmade newspaper ‘bags’ or brown paper packages. To obtain a plastic bag, you’d have to pay, which always works as a good deterrent. I thought the newspaper bags (not just biodegradable but recycled too) were an especially good substitute.
Golden Sands’ Shuttle Service
The hotel considerately offers a free shuttle service to and from Georgetown (stops at Hotel Jen, also a hotel under the Shangri-la umbrella). It also makes a stop at Gurney Plaza on the outgoing leg, but doesn’t stop by there on the way back. There are only four outbound and incoming trips respectively, and we found them sufficient for our needs, especially since our kids sleep early. Booking a spot on the shuttle service a day in advance is highly recommended, since during peak season, places on the bus go quickly.
10am, 12 noon, 2:30pm, 4:30pm
11am, 1pm, 3:30pm, 5:30pm
We took advantage of this service, leaving at 10am and returning at 3:30pm on one day. Another day, we spent the morning in the hotel, left at 12 noon to Gurney Plaza for a mall shopping fix, and took a taxi back. It cost 30 RM, but we had such an interesting conversation (about history and politics mainly) with the friendly and opinionated 73 year old driver, that we added a tip to the fare.
This is but my second time in Penang, but I fell in love with it all over again. A separate post on what we saw, bought and ate in Georgetown, including what highlights we prioritised for such a short whirlwind trip, will be coming up soon too.
Here’s how the hotel generously sent us off to the airport in style. It was our first family chauffered ride in a swanky Mercedes, so excuse us as we take a photo. : )
All in all, we had a fantastic time, and just felt immensely privileged that the four of us could get away for 3 days and 2 nights and spend every waking minute with one another. The crazy laughter, the heartwarming moments, the tense bickering, the usual stresses of ending together 24/7 – the dark and light threads all weave together to make this tapestry beautiful, and this holiday memorable.
Little model wannabes enjoying a cosy nook at the hotel.
Our only regret was that we didn’t have more time to spend at the resort and in Penang, as the hubby had to be back at work for a conference. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to visit again next year!
Golden Sands Resort
Address: Batu Feringgi Beach, Penang, 11100, Malaysia
Booking: For information on room rates and to book,click here.
Note: Thank you Shangri-la, for the generous media invite to experience and review the resort.