Cape Town, 6 July 2011 – No longer do we have to wait for the holiday brochure to arrive in the post; there’s the internet, the immediacy of information, photographs and consumer reviews … but that’s where the problem starts. With five or more days of leave on the table and an agreement with my partner that it’s got to be overseas and hot, we google up a storm, or rather a sunny desert island …

Well, actually, 50 or more of them, each with 10 to 30 resorts to choose from. And by the time we’ve whittled it down to the top five, we expect nothing but the very best because we have chosen the resort that will fulfil our every need, and woe betide it if it doesn’t measure up! Imagine if choosing holidays could be kind of like the shall-we-find-out-the-sex-of-the-baby dilemma that most soon-to-be parents wrestle with, and you just went into a travel agency and said, ‘Budget: X; days: Y; weather: Z … Make my day’ (with or without the chewed cigar) rather than the ‘it’s a boy, paint the room blue’ manner following 50 or so hours of holiday Web research …Well, that’s what we did recently, really by accident, actually, when we went to Pangkor Laut Resort on the west coast of Malaysia. We were told, ‘This is where you are going, you’ll love it!’ And, with a busy schedule and no time to google the style of the resort’s taps, we found ourselves on an island ferry from the mainland to the resort.

Anticipation is exciting for most: the beautiful blue waters surrounding the ferry, the well-heeled co-holidaymakers sitting around smiling, albeit with the droopy-eyed google stare, no doubt from their research, the island getting closer by the minute so that you can just make out the water villas on stilts, and you know that you’ve done well to trust your instinct rather than your mouse. Disembarking the ferry, we’re excited – who wouldn’t be for a stilted villa a short walk from the jetty? ‘Mr Vaughan, could you and your partner follow me?’ And we are escorted to the only vehicle on the jetty. Hijack? Camping. What, no villa? We climb aboard and within minutes we’re driving past the stilts, and we start to climb a winding road, and then we see the majestic villas perched on the hill. ‘Who needs stilts? We’ve got a palace instead,’ we start to think as we drive on. And drive on past the palaces. Surely it can’t get better? ‘Self-catering at the back of the island,’ we think as we start to descend and regain the coastline a few minutes later. And shortly thereafter we park some 100m inland from a beach forming part of a 500m sandy, palm-tree-lined bay. If it wasn’t feeling special just yet, it just got really special, as one of who turned out to be our own private dedicated staff of three (two waiters and our own chef) greeted us and started walking us along a path towards some building and the beach.

After being introduced to the rest our staff we were shown to our room – correction, the purpose-built structure with bedroom, dressing room, bathroom, outdoor spa, and other rooms that I don’t really know what their purposes are – and were then asked whether this one was satisfactory, or would we prefer the other one next door. ‘Surely that one is allocated,’ I asked, only to be told that they both buildings were ours and were part of our ‘estate’. Yes, you heard me – estate. The balance of the estate was merely a 20m infinity swimming pool larger than a lot of shared hotel pools, a gazebo/lounge and our own chef ’s kitchen and air-conditioned dining room. And with only nine of these estates in the bay, all the rest of them at least 150m away from ours, we sat back and felt like we had just invaded a desert island and that it was ours – all ours!

And for the next five days that’s exactly what it was: ours, all ours, with fine yet real dining to the point where, when we were served a platter of fresh fruit as part of our breakfast and I ignored the kiwi fruit, the following day, without any fanfare, my fruit salad arrived sans kiwi, with melon in its stead. Service, thoughtfulness, luxury, attention to detail, kindness and privacy made this massive estate infinitely personal and extremely special.

Returning to reality some days later, I reflected upon a standard of luxury rarely attained worldwide, a memory that will last forever, and the insight that Google isn’t the panacea … Personal recommendation is.

All about YTL

Tony travelled and stayed courtesy of YTL Hotels, a group that offers magical boutique experiences in Bali, Phuket, Malaysia, China, Japan and the South of France. These idyllic destinations fall within the ‘Private Client’ listing of The Roving Ambassador/Tourism Corporation Africa. The company’s preferred tour operators offering packages to YTL Destinations include: Thompsons Holidays, Sure Tours and Travel with Flair.

The Roving Ambassador, +27 (0)21 426 0991,,