If you’re thinking Thistle’s polished new estate feels slightly out of place in Port Dickson’s clutter of patchy neon signs and abandoned construction projects, well, it is. This is a luxury hotel set apart, though not necessarily by its five-star rating. Rather, the feature that makes it stand out is more physical: 90 acres, to be exact. Although the landscape rolls out like a lush, green welcome mat, it’s wedged between two eroding forces – the frothy, grey waters of the Straits of Malacca to one side and a shabby seaside town to the other.
Still, the tide may be turning for this sleepy town. According to Malaysia’s Minister of Tourism, YB Dato’ Sri Dr Ng Yen Yen, who made a sweeping appearance at the hotel’s opening and declared, ‘Port Dickson will be the new destination for guests to Malaysia’. Granted, the town’s up-and-coming stature is likely due to Thistle’s arrival, but its location – an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur – makes it perfect for a weekend escape or the odd company retreat.
To be fair, upon entering its sprawling lot, Port Dickson’s seen-better-days feel retreats into the shrinking distance, replaced by the resort’s vision of a tropical idyll – a nine-hole golf course, two tennis courts, generous-sized pool with children’s zone, dance club, high-ropes course, watersports options and a renovated beach of (one guesses) imported sand. It’s paradise in Port Dickson, or as close as you’re likely to get.
Inside, the mansion-like Thistle Resort is similar to other five-star hotels around the region. The ten suites and 247 bedrooms feature familiar minimalist-meets-tropical decor: a white duvet and lime green pillows cover an enormous king-sized bed, offset by dark-wood trim and tiled floors. The spotless rooms come with the usual mod cons. There’s the standard 32-inch LCD TV, a balcony with outdoor furniture and bay-window daybeds. The spacious bathroom contains an eco-friendly amenities kit (for sale, of course), and yes, a bathrobe and fluffy bedroom slipper set awaits in the closet.
The hotel’s star features, though, lie outside the bedrooms, and primarily in the five dining areas – in particular the intimate Glass Restaurant, which has no menu, just the chef de cuisine who customises each dinner to the guest’s request. Easy on the palate and on the wallet, a three-course meal with wine is priced at RM120 (S$50). The resort needs a boost of star quality like this, because at the moment Thistle’s latest opening all feels rather predictable, save for its location. Not bad, just predictable.
Where: Thistle Port Dickson Resort (KM16, Jalan Pantai, Teluk Kemang, 71050 Si Rusa, Port Dickson; Tel: +606 648 2828; www.thistle.com/asia)
Cost: From RM298++ (S$122++) per night
This story first appeared as 'Thistle Port Dickson Resort' (Sep 2009)