Retro fun at Penang's Shangri-La Rasa Sayang

I love old photographs, which offer a glimpse of what life was like in the past. Learning about our history helps me understand the present better.

A golden opportunity presented itself when I was in Penang and found out that the Shangri-La Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa had just opened a photo gallery to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Strategically located by the sea, the gallery could not have been placed in a better location. I thoroughly enjoy a good part of the morning browsing through the historic images while listening to the sound of waves gently lapping the shore just a stone’s throw away and feeling cooled by the occasional sea breeze.

This wonderful collection of photographs archives the resort’s fond memories of celebrity visits, past celebrations and dedicated staff members who have, in one way or another, been associated with this famous Penang icon.

Rasa Sayang Resort and Spa was opened on Nov 9, 1973 by the then prime minister, Tun Abdul Razak Hussein. At that time, it was the first five-star resort and the first Shangri-La property in the country. Hawaiian firm, Belt Collins Hawaii LLC designed the distinctive Minangkabau roof of the hotel.

Director of communications Suleiman Tunku Abdul Rahman joins me just as I am nearing the last few displays. When I tell him I am disappointed that I am not able to experience the good times depicted in the photographs, he tells me, to my surprise, that this Saturday, Pelangi Ballroom will be transformed into the previous Cinta Discotheque, complete with a famous eight-piece local band, Heavy Machine.

“This is a golden opportunity for those who want to once again experience the exciting rock and roll and retro era. Cinta Discotheque, a flagship nightspot during the heyday of disco and night clubs, will be recreated and brought back to life for one night only,” says Suleiman.

This novel idea is the brainchild of resort general manager Elaine Yue who wants to give visitors a memorable night to once again dance to music of the 1970s and 1980s in the recreated discotheque ambience while savouring snacks of yesteryear such as ais kacang balls and sarsi-flavoured ice popsicles. They can also stop at the kacang putih stall for freshly roasted peanuts. Throughout the night, carnival-style games from yesteryear will be available for those who want to rekindle memories of their youth.

“The passage of time has not faded the appeal of this iconic Penang resort. It remains fresh, interesting and contemporary, consistently winning prestigious awards. The journey that was started four decades ago has reached an important milestone,” says Suleiman.

For details and ticket purchases for A Tribute To Cinta, call the service centre at 04-888 8788 or email or visit