Born and raised in Malaysia, Chik Lai Ping has always had a love for the country’s rich cultures. Growing up surrounded by Malay, Chinese and Indian healing traditions, Chik is no stranger to alternative medicine and indigenous beauty rituals.
“I remember having to give my grandmother a Chinese foot massage. Or when we were ill, we went to a local Chinese medicine practitioner. There were also my Malay friends who would talk about their local Malay massages,” she says. “It was seamless organic exposure to the various healing and beauty rituals that any Malaysian would experience.”
It was this passion for the indigenous therapies she grew up with that led her to delve into the spa industry in 1999, when “Dato’ Mark Yeoh, Executive Director of YTL Hotels put forth the idea of developing the first spa brand to complement the already luxurious Pangkor Laut Resort”.With a determination to revive the region’s dying wellness traditions, Chik took on the challenge of creating the group’s first-ever spa, Spa Village Pangkor Laut.
Spearheading a new spa brand is no easy task, but Chik finds immense pleasure and fulfilment in bringing back the indigenous rituals. “We wanted to incorporate authentic Malay therapies in a spa setting. Back then, Malay therapy in a spa was literally unheard of. So part of my research was going to a Malay ‘day spa’ in Kuala Lumpur and it opened my eyes to how well integrated beauty and health is to the Malay people,” she recalls, noting that while the local Chinese and Ayurvedic treatments were better documented, the Malay healing culture was at the verge of going extinct.
“It was then that I realised we could not allow such intrinsic heritage of ours to dissipate. I was determined to find a way to work it into the Spa Village’s DNA and preserve what I fiercely believe is a beautiful and extremely delicate healing culture.”
By regularly visiting the elderly healers from local communities, Chik and her team are able to preserve and introduce the therapies to international and local guests. Instead of blindly following trends that “come quickly, have a high peak and dropjust as quickly”, she believes knowing the market and anticipating guests’ needs are the keys to a spa’s success. “We rely on our observation, awareness, and to some degree, our intuition to stay current…we monitor large cultural or demographic trends and provide [what] we feel meet those needs.”