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January 3, 2007

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WHERE'S JOHNNY JET?                   PANGKOR LAUT SPA (3)

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Staying in the Spa Village is a treat. Not only do you through their peaceful gardens every day, and swim in their private , but the spa itself is just a short . If you stay at Pangkor Laut Resort, it would be almost a sin not to get a treatment. This is by far the spa I have been to in my life. Spread over four acres between the sea and the rainforest, it comprises a of -slung that are mostly . Everything here is to and refresh the senses, the and . I wanted to sample everything. I couldn’t, because of time and money -- but I spend two afternoons indulging.

Spa Village treatments all begin with the unique bath house ritual. This 50-minute treatment RM250 ($70) includes bathing traditions from across Asia. I was greeted by a soft- spoken Balinese therapist, who was the sweetest thing ever. Everything she said was preceded by the quiet words "Mr. John." After handing me a welcome , ice water and a refreshing , began my size 13 feet. In her soft voice she said, "Mr. John is the water too hot?" As I tried to figure out how to propose marriage to her, she gave me an invigorating Chinese (in feudal Chinese times this was enjoyed only by concubines). She then escorted me to the , where I put my clothes in a and donned on a colorful sarong and was to the "circulating" (based on villagers’ custom of bathing in streams or rivers). After I threw a coin in the , she instructed me to awaken the senses by in four different sweet-smelling . Next it was time for a , where I could wash with a "goshi-goshi" cloth on a small stool (just like my trip to , Japan last year). I then took a in the heated and was served . The grand finale was a . She gently exfoliated and washed my body in a private scrub house. In Shanghai this is traditionally offered only to males, but at the Spa Village both men and women get it done.

Next on my spa list was an appointment with a Chinese doctor, at the . I was curious to learn more about traditional Chinese healing, which sees the body as a "harmonious whole." Some of Pangkor Laut’s traditional Chinese healing sessions are rarely practiced anymore. I learned this in my meeting with , a 43-year-old doctor who has been practicing medicine since he was 12 (!), and holds a master of arts in Eastern philosophy) from the University of Iowa. Speaking perfect English, he began by asking me questions like how I was sleeping, and did I have pain anywhere? then took my wrist, and used three fingers to take my pulse. It got eerily quite for about a minute (it felt like 20). With those three fingers on my pulse, he was checking my liver, kidneys, heart and lungs. He said everything was strong, but my lungs were cold. "Cold?" I wondered. He asked me if I use my asthma inhaler a lot. I nodded yes (I use it up to seven times a day). He told me I need to get off it -- cold air is not good for my lungs. He said I should cover up whenever I’m in the cold (including exposure to air conditioning). He recommended I use natural remedies to in place of my inhaler. He suggested that whenever I have the urge to hit my inhaler, I should drink ginseng tea or strong coffee, or eat chocolate. I thought he was crazy, but I liked his alternatives and kept an open mind. Before I left, he I arrange for a Tuina-Anmo massage, and moxabustion. I had no idea what they were, but I took his advice.

It turns out Dr. Jok-Keng Lee is not the resident Chinese doctor – he is the hotel’s consultant, who flies in once a month. The everyday Chinese Doc gave me the Tuina-Anmo Massage (50 minutes, RM 250 [$70]) and moxabustion (50 minutes same price as the Tui Na… what ever). spoke very little English, and my Chinese is nonexistent. He normally uses an interpreter, but did not with me. That made things interesting (lots of hand signals). Dr. Li had unusually strong hands, and his fantastic focused on the acu-points of my body to restore the joints. Speaking of joints – next came the Moxabustion. The doctor used an the size of a Cheech and Chong fatty, burning mugwort close (I’m talking ) to specific acupuncture points. At times I said, "Damn, doc, you just burned my ass" (fortunately he had no idea what I was saying). I allowed this moderate torture because it’s supposed to be highly effective for stimulating the immune system. He also used a cupping technique, in which cups remove heat and wind in the body. I know you’re thinking "whatever" and "this stuff doesn’t really work."

That was not my only encounter with Dr. Li – he was also my Tai Chi Quan instructor. I did not realize how short, compact and fit the man was until I signed up for his class RM50 ($14). No one else showed up, so it was like having my own private class without having to pay the RM 250 ($70). Tai Chi Quan is supposed to develop inner stamina, and circulate energy. It also makes Westerners look like dopes. With a in hand and Tai Chi music ready to roll, Dr. Li found a smack in the middle of the spa grounds so everyone could see how foolish I looked. Of course the doc was , moving like a swan. I was the complete . At times I felt like he was making me pretend I was the Karate Kid, as he showed short, swift moves that had me blocking and throwing punches into the wind. to stay focused, but I couldn’t. I realized Tai Chi Quan is a lot harder than it looks, and I pick up things slower than I thought. The best part came 20 minutes into the lesson, when he asked if I wanted to take a break for . I wanted to break for my bungalow.

The next day I met with an Indian doctor for a consultation at the . Ayurveda is an ancient Indian healing tradition, meaning "science of life." I did not too well with this , but I did sign up for a 50-minute Abhyanga massage (cost 250RM = $70 ) as he . I had no idea what an Abhyanga massage was, nor did I have any idea what I was in for. All I know is that I went into a poorly lit room in a hut in one of the tree villas. I was greeted by a friendly young . Behind him was a wooden table a few inches thick, with a around the edges so nothing would drip off. It looked like a place where people are embalmed. I did not have a good feeling about this at all. To top it off he made me strip down naked, and put on a homemade Tarzan-like covering – I’m talking skimpy! At that point I yearned for the paper underwear the KL Ritz provided.

I sat on the , and noticed a pot of on the stove. I learned it was Ayurvedic herbal oil which supposedly strengthens the internal organs, nervous system, muscles and bones, and regulates the digestive system. It also supposed to delay the aging process. Well, I think I aged a few years in half an hour. The masseuse began by applying another special oil on my head, and giving me a really enjoyable . Then the pot came off the hot stove, and was brought bedside. He dipped his paws in, and put handfuls of warm oil on me beginning with . All I heard was Indian music in the back room, and his long, rapid strokes. After 10 minutes he lay me down on the hard table, and put more oil on almost every nook and cranny of my body. Warm oil feels good, and I started to relax. My eyes grew heavier. I felt myself letting go and then the nightmare began. My mind was starting to wander (for a second there I thought Scarlett Johansson was the masseuse). The long strokes felt almost too good, if you know what I mean. After what seemed like an eternity, it was time to flip over to have my back done. The next scene would be a perfect clip for America’s (or Malaysia’s) Funniest Videos. I was so excited to turn over on my stomach that I moved waaaay too fast. I flew off the slippery table like a fish from a fisherman’s hands. It hurt like you wouldn’t believe. I got up with my Tarzan covering halfway up my waist, and said I’d had enough. But of course I was not done. You can’t walk around the tropics covered in oil. By the time I reached my room I would have been covered with mosquitoes. To get the oil off, of he rubbed some cold greenish gob stuff that smelled and looked like crushed peas all over my body. At last, I took a .

What can I say about Pangkor Laut Resort besides that I will never get an Abhyanga massage from a man again? Seriously, this place is amazing -- but there’s room for improvement. If the government can clean up the plastic bags, stop Indonesia from burning its land and bring back clean air, it could probably be one of the best places on earth. The rooms and water are not as unbelievable as the over-water bungalows in French Polynesia but when you factor in the price (rates begin at $275 USD, a quarter of Tahiti’s), then throw in the incredible food, service and friendliness of the staff, this place blows most others away. To top it off, I have been home over a month, and guess how many times I’ve used my inhaler? Maybe four! I went to my asthma doctor just to make sure my lungs were clear and the first thing he asked was, "Have you been working out?" I said, "No, I just went to Malaysia." He told me my lungs sound better then ever. Can you believe it?! Dr. Jok-Keng Lee and Pangkor Laut have seriously changed my life. They could change yours too. , c/o Lumut Post Office, 32200 Lumut, Perak, Malaysia; 011-605-699-1100.

Here’s a 2-minute Hundredbacklinks Video of my trip to . It's also on so it only takes a few seconds to load (though the quality is not as crisp). We also have all the ever made on their servers, as well including my (Here’s the ).

we finish our trip to Malaysia by visiting the Highlands!

Spend time with your family enjoying the .

Happy Travels,

*PLEASE tell us what you think of this week's newsletter!

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Copyright 2010 Hundredbacklinks, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Pictures From

The Trip


Malaysia Airlines


View From Massage Table


Bath House


Malay Bath


Japanese Bath


Shanghai Scrub


Chinese Hut


Dr. Jok-Keng Lee


Dr. Li




Tai Chi Quan


Break For Tea


Ayurvedic Hut


Abhyanga Table


Hot Oil


Getting Greased Up


Reflexology Path


Local Dishes


Next Week

    Roy Marcus

  • *If you heard about us somewhere else or have the link to the story please email Hundredbacklinks media and let us know where!
  • I hadn't thought of Malaysia as an interesting place to visit but I've changed my mind after reading this. David J - Fremont, Nebraska

  • Great newsletter as always! Malaysia seems so beautifully different than I imagined. I'm sure visiting local villages, etc. is as nice as staying in fancy hotels. Isn't it interesting how a country can at first seem so different yet people I've met all over the world have so much in common. Thanks again for sharing your journey's with us all! Happy New Year! G.O. - San Francisco

  • The pictures of Malaysia are great. Joe S – Venice Beach, CA

  • One correction to your article. What you were riding on is not a rickshaw. I do not remember the correct word of them and they have been outlawed in a lot of the cites of Indonesia. Great article!!! Alan W - Los Angeles REPLY You are right! The correct term is a Trishaw

  • What a great trip! I had a problem at the end looking at pics and couldn't get the video working. Maybe it was my computer I'm not sure. When we were in Korea for 18 months Malaysia was a constant tour ad on TV. Now we know why.

  • I'm always on the lookout for a good travel read and WOW what a great job on these. Keep em comin. William S. -

  • It makes me smile to see your photo & use your website. Gena R. - New York, NY

  • Since you are one of the most knowledgeable air travelers on the planet--here's a question for you. A dad wants to travel round-trip LAX to BOS with 4-year daughter. According to the airline website, no seats are available together on the flights. Should Dad book the flights anyway and count on the kindness of other passengers to let them sit together--or is it too risky? Or illegal? Laura K - Los Alamos, CA REPLY: Definitely book it. After booking it call the airline and see if they can unblock some seats. If that doesn’t work check-in online 24 hours before departure and print the boarding cards. If that doesn’t work get to the airport a couple hours early and ask the agent to help. If that doesn’t work ask the passenger(s) to switch (Just be sure to have something good to trade – you don’t want to offer someone a middle seat if they have an aisle or window). Hope this helps. Happy New Year!

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