Welcome to the Jungle
The Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat is located in Ipoh, Malaysia, about 125 miles north of the capital of Kuala Lumpur. The resort itself is pretty impressive, with all the trappings that make traveling to such extremes worth the hike: a world-class spa, 1,600-square-foot villas with in-room Jacuzzis, and teak porches overlooking tropical jungle canals. But it's the wine cellar below the resort, housed in a cave formed in the days when dinosaurs roamed the earth, that serves as Banjaran's biggest culinary draw.
A Cave of Cabernet
Just a short walk from the guest villas exists a natural grotto formed more than 260 million years ago. The entrance is outfitted by Mother Nature with rare hemispherical calcite, forming what looks like a field of diamond mushrooms. Down a steep staircase are tables surrounded by enormous stalactites and stalagmites. Each of these rock columns was formed when carbon dioxide-rich water dripped over the limestone for thousands upon thousands of years.
Originally, this cave was reserved for the private wine collection of the resort's owner, Tan Sri Dr. Jeffery Cheah (it's a long title but, to friends, he's simply "Jeff"). Cheah installed lights, an awning to shield guests from the naturally dripping water, tables for friends, and an air-conditioner. It's hot in the jungle, after all.
The setting was just too mesmerizing to keep private. The cave became Jeff's Cellar, and is now open to both hotel guests and the public with a wine list spanning 1,000 labels that includes both rare older options and newer, biodynamic wines.
You can book one of Banjaran's 25 Water or Garden Villas starting around $295 for double occupancy. If you aren't staying at the resort, you can still visit the wine cellar. Call before to reserve a table. The bar is open 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
To find out more about this exotic wine bar, visit thebanjaran.com. To make a reservation, call +6 05 210 7777.