There are countless ways for one to connect with a destination. For the gastronome, local flavors are telling of a country’s diverse culinary culture. Art and design enthusiasts will most likely head to museums, architectural landmarks and gallery spaces as a means for enriching the travel experience. Adventure seekers will head to less-beaten paths, all in search of an adrenaline rush. For the beauty and wellness advocate, healing traditions of a region are the biggest draws for packing a bag and hopping on a plane.
It was in May of this year when Malaysia finally opened its borders to foreign visitors. It had been over a decade since my last visit to the beautiful Southeast Asian federal country. A full spa tour itinerary was an opportunity to return and get to know the Malay Peninsula better. YTL Hotels’ Spa Village was an irresistible concept that inspired me to finally book my ticket and make room reservations after two years of staying cooped up.
A New Experience In Every Spa Village
Envisioned and developed by the YTL Hotels, the Spa Village “honors the healing traditions and cultures of the region we reside in so that these practices are not lost and can be passed on to the future generations.” There is a Spa Village in various YTL Hotels properties, each one distinct and unique to the traditions of its location. The team furthers, “When we do in-depth research into the traditions and cultures of the regions where we develop our spas. We talk to the elders and go in search of the healers if they are available.”
Led by VYTL Hotels’ Vice President of the Spa Division, Chik Lai Ping, the team works closely with local communities–naturalists, healers, farmers, elders to name a few–in developing wellness treatments and experiences. At the Spa Village of Tanjong Jara Resort in Terengganu, for instance, Malayan healing traditions continue to live on. And the experiences that await in this seaside destination allow guests to rekindle strong connections with nature and higher self.
Tanjong Jara: A Universe of Malay Healing
Tanjong Jara is a stunning tropical paradise on the eastern coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It lines a crescent-shaped expanse of light powdery shores that embrace cool waters of the China Sea. The expansive resort was built in the style of 17th Century Malay palaces along the shoreline. Apart from the stunning, intricate architecture, it’s the tranquil vibe and healing energy surrounding the space that makes a weekend at Tanjong Jara a gem of an experience.
While seaside pleasures were part of the itinerary, Malay healing, inspired by the region’s mosaic-like culture and abundant rainforests, was high up on the priority list. The wellness experience at Tanjong Jara is informed by Malay healing philosophy called Sucumurni. This approach towards wellbeing believes that purity of spirit, health and wellbeing are tenets for recovery and transformation. Ramuan, or potent blends of rainforest plants and herbs following ancient traditions, are often used in the region as healing gifts from nature.
After a scenic six hour car ride from the city capital, the hotel care service pulled up in front of Tanjong Jara’s main cul de sac entrance. I was greeted upon arrival by the wonderful Sairani Mohd Sa’ad, a certified trainer and expert in Malay healing treatments. Her vast expertise and experience lent to the development of wellness experiences throughout the Spa Villages of YTL Hotels. Puan Sairani has also worked towards the structuring of the Ministry of Health’s Bachelor Course in Malay Medicine in the Traditional and Complementary Medicine Division.
Malay Healing Traditions Fit For Royalty
Following seamless check-ins and refreshing welcome drinks, the early afternoon was dedicated to exploring the palatial grounds of the seaside property. “You are here to simply relax, recharge, and enjoy. Take your time, and I will see you later at the Spa Village for your consultation and first treatment” Puan Sairani promised.
Sunset was the ideal time to step out of my seaside villa, and take a leisurely stroll towards the Spa Village. The healing sanctuary’s entrance was marked by a stone arch that framed the stillness of a pond, mirroring cerulean skies. Puan Sairani was present to extend a warm welcome and sit down with me for a one-on-one consultation session.
“Today’s treatment will begin with an aromatic floral bath,” she explained. Also known in Malay as the Mandi Bunga, the bathing ritual harnesses the power of seven blooms. Each rinse from this sacred cleanse, rang in gifts of purity, sincerity, health, beauty, happiness, prosperity and longevity.
Wrapped in a colorful batik sarong, I was led by the therapist to the treatment villa’s outdoor bathing courtyard. I sat on a stone bench, grinning from ear to ear like a child on the eve of Christmas. With eye closed, I heard the therapist speak the first of seven gifts, “I wish you purity.” As the words rang in my ears, cool water mixed with soft petals fell from the crown of my head, cascading over my shoulders and then the bodice Right then and there, all worries, fatigue, and stress induced by insistent work emails were washed away..
Female Intimate Care According to Ancient Malay Traditions
Puan Sairani explained during consultation that the day’s treatment would bring to light the ancient traditions of female intimate care. The regimen scheduled that afternoon has been practiced for centuries by Malay women, but has sadly been replaced by Western formulations that promise a quick fix. “In modern or Western culture, women typically use vaginal cleansers or douches for their intimate care,” observed Puan Sairani. “Rendam Rendam does more than cleanse. The curative properties of natural antiseptics like piper betel and black seed relieve and soothe irritation caused by fungal infections.” The Malay female care treatment has also been known to support the firmness of the vaginal muscles. Following childbirth or menstruation, Rendam Redam is often administered to help strengthen the uterus.
A natural antiseptic formula of piper betel and black seed oil was first applied on the treatment area. It left a cooling sensation, which can be likened to that distinct sclean, pure feeling you get after dental cleaning. A herbal Sitz Bath followed, allowing the perineum to soak in the healing goodness of natural remedies. Once out of the warm, soothing outdoor tub, I was then led back inside my treatment villa for a hot steam and massage. Had it not been for the promise of a remarkable dinner above the river with Puan Sairani, I would have gone straight to slumberland. The dinner at Tanjong Jara’s Di Atas Sungai, as expected, did not disappoint.
Dandan Puteri Tujuh: A Treatment For Radiant Bride
Popular among Spa Village guests as the ultimate bridal treatment, Danda Puteri Tujuh is a Malay ritual that rings in that special glow that emanates when love is in the air. I was by no means at the cusp of saying my “I dos” when I wrapped my Zoom meetings that day and headed to the Spa Village for my three hour treatment.
As with all spa experiences at Tanjong Jara, the ritual began with an energizing Mandi Bunga. It was followed by a traditional Puteri massage, utilizing an aromatic blend of native blooms. The therapist intuitively kneaded through tensed muscles and a back fatigued from too much screen time. It was preceded by a deep, transformative slumber on the massage table. I was gently nudged back into reality just in time for a hair creme bath. My itinerary and treatment brief read: “It is a favorite of Malay princesses of the past.” The appearance of shiny, smooth locks that day confirmed why. I had not had a hair treatment in years that’s brought hair’s crowning glory until that afternoon at the Spa Village.
A facial and body scrub buffed skin until it was as radiant and smooth as a baby’s behind. A fragrant milk bath, peppered in the rose petals and other color full flowers, punctuated an afternoon that made one feel like a princess bride. The final flourish came in the form of a scented steam bath of rose water and jasmine. It was living out what it might be like to be, quite literally, enveloped by fragrant flowers.
Dinner By The Shore And Under The Stars
There was no wedding to speak about that day–not mine at least. Dinner under the stars, by the shore, and with new found friends, including Puan Sairani, seemed just as perfect a reason to indulge in an afternoon of absolute pampering. The ocean breeze felt good against silky smooth skin. Hair that seemed to have regained its youthful bounce, danced with the tropical easterlies. An unforgettable spread of seafood grilled under the sand warmed the belly. But it was the lessons of healing, self love and reconnecting with nature that filled the heart as I prepared to return to the big bad city.