Springing to greater heights
Joseph Wong 

Conglomerate Sunway Bhd’s property division Sunway Property is taking its Sunway City Ipoh, the largest integrated township in Perak, to its next phase of growth.

Sunway City is an integrated development which includes a theme park and a hot springs retreat, which was conceptualised back in 1995. Even while the existing facilities are getting an injection of new and interesting theme park rides and attractions, the developer is investing a further RM4 bil worth of development into the township.

So far about 70% of the 545ha development has been completed, while the other parts of the masterplan of the entire township is scheduled for completion by 2025, says Sunway City Ipoh senior general manager Wong Wan Wooi.

The township currently has a gross development value (GDV) of about RM2 bil. With Sunway Onsen Suites, the first of three towers, to be launched in March, the value of properties in the area will likely appreciate as the integrated project is expected to create more excitement and a draw factor, he says.

“Conceptualised as the first serviced suites in Asia integrating natural hot springs within the development, the unique development comprises three tower blocks in total, exceeding RM400 mil in gross development value,” he says.

Rising to 24 storeys, the first tower comprises 252 units of serviced suites and is expected to be completed three years after its launch.

The serviced suites come in studio, two-bedroom and three-bedroom variations ranging from 592 to 1,184 sq ft. There are also six units of luxurious Onsen Villas whose built-up starts from 2,712 sq ft.

“The starting price of the units is RM391,000,” Wong says.

The highlight of the development is a magnificent courtyard within its podium level surrounded by a full suite of facilities including a natural hot spring pool or “onsen”, infinity swimming pool, multipurpose hall, gymnasium, sauna rooms and podium garden.

The development will have a dedicated entrance for residents and a grand lobby with a green natural streetscape.

Wong enthused that a natural hot spring pool is something that cannot be easily replicated as the geothermal heated water would be piped to the first tower.

“The hot spring is capable of generating about three million litres of heated water which if not utilised would be wasted,” he says.


No sulfurous smell

What’s more is that it is a general belief that the mineral composition in hot spring water is good for the body. “Part of the mineral soup that the water picks up may include sulfide compounds contained in the surrounding rocks. The hotter the water – the more minerals that will be able to remain dissolved in the water,” explains one website.

In addition, the geothermal hot springs at Banjaran Hotsprings do not smell. The sulfurous smell in many hot springs is actually from hydrogen sulphide, explains an expert.

“Not all hot springs have it to the same extent. There are some (like Banjaran) that don’t have the smell at all. The smell is, in fact, the result of a bacterium that feeds off the sulfides, creating hydrogen sulfide as a by-product and hence the odour.

“These bacteria are anaerobic, that is they grow and multiply in the absence of oxygen. Water with a strong odour usually is heated quite deep in the earth and rises to the surface relatively quickly.

“This rapid transit prevents too much oxygen exposure that would cause the bacteria to die and also dissipate the smell,” he says.

This, of course, is to Banjaran’s advantage since many people do not like the smell that usually comes with hot springs.


Investment opportunity?

“Sunway Onsen Suites offers the best of urban conveniences which are all found in the integrated Sunway City Ipoh township, as well as the best of nature. For investors who want to capture the opportunities from Ipoh’s transformation into a world-class tourism hotspot, Sunway Onsen Suites is an ideal investment,” says Wong.

Sunway City Ipoh is only about 8km from downtown Ipoh and a five-minute drive from the North-South Expressway, he says.

He points out that in tandem with Ipoh’s rising acclaim as an international tourist destination, it is also one of the best places in the world to retire.

According to the Department of Statistics, 7.6 million domestic tourists visited Perak in 2017, making it one of the states with the highest tourist arrivals in Malaysia. The figure is a 5.7% increase from 2016 when some 7.2 million people visited the state.

Perak also recorded an increase in the arrivals of day-trip visitors from 9.58 million to 12.47 million in 2017 compared to the year before.

While the official figures have yet to be released, the Perak government is expecting an increase of 6% in domestic tourists to the state for 2018.

Sunway Onsen Suites, says Wong, could also provide an opportunity for investors as Perak is extending flights to Medan, Indonesia; Bangkok, Thailand and Guangzhou, China.

This means tourists from these destinations will also be visiting Perak, he says, adding that some places like Guangzhou have cold winters, so the residents would naturally gravitate towards a warmer holiday destination that can offer hot spring facilities.

Wong points out that Sunway Onsen Suites is not a standalone project. The serviced suites are located within a 12.5ha site, which includes the proposed Lost World Mall, a medical centre, assisted living homes for the aged and an institution of higher learning.

It is also the first of three towers to be launched, he says.

The proposed mall, which is expected to have a GDV of RM500 mil, takes into account environment factors as well as the overall theme, says Wong.

“With the continuation of the ancient architecture theme and elements, with attention to fine details, the mall will be set apart as an iconic landmark.

“The Lost World Afresco Boulevard is well-positioned along the riverside to create a continuous trail from the mall.”

A source from Sunway says Sunway College, which currently occupies the shoplots beside the hotel, may be upgraded to a university once it has been relocated to the integrated project.

“The university may also offer health and medical-related courses that are synonymous with the Banjaran Hotsprings Retreat and its environment,” she says.

“We are uncertain of the direction as yet but we will know better as the development progresses,” she adds.

As it stands, the integrated project is located in the midst of tropical greenery and majestic 260-million-year-old limestone hills, and enjoys good accessibility to Ipoh City and other parts of Malaysia, says Wong.

Wong, who has a masters degree in civil and structural engineering, explains to FocusM that despite having 545ha of land, the developer could not just build wherever it wishes.

“This is due to the fragile nature of the hot springs. We have to be wary of where we build without running the risk of accidentally disrupting the flow of the hot springs from deep underground,” he says.

This has happened with other developers who, due to their construction activity, sealed off the hot springs, rendering the water cold, he says.

“That would be a disaster for Banjaran Hotsprings. So we can’t just build anywhere. We have to take seismic tests and build over the ‘cold’ spots instead of where the heat water bubbles surface,” he says. FocusM

This article first appeared in Focus Malaysia Issue 318.