Malaysian resort packages cosmetic surgery with beach holiday

by AFP/M. Jegathesan, Dec 1, 2002 | Destinations: Malaysia / Penang

A Malaysian beach resort is offering sun, sand and silicone to holidaymakers who would like to return home with a tan and a larger pair of breasts.

The package is the brainchild of 25-year-old Dutch entrepreneur Marloes Giezenaar who has set up operations in Penang island, usually known as the Silicon Valley of Southeast Asia for its high-tech industries.

"We offer quality service -- the nip, the tuck and the silicone implant and a holiday by the sea -- all at a reasonable price," Giezenaar, managing director of Beautiful Holidays, told AFP.

Giezenaar said many of her European and US clients were referred to her through word of mouth, adding that her business, which began just six months ago, has started to expand to Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and neighbouring Singapore.

"Many like coming to Penang because of the quality of surgery, avoiding high prices and possible embarrassment back home. There is great demand for such services," she said.

Giezenaar said one of her star clients was 19-year-old British model Jeniffer Forrest who enjoyed the beach, loved the local Indian curries and underwent breast surgery, increasing her 34B bust to a 34D.

The 19-day holiday plan together with the surgery cost 19,500 ringgit (5,132 dollars) while just the enlargement would have cost Forrest double the amount in Britain, Giezenaar said.

"Two days after the operation, Forrest was up and about shopping," Giezenaar said. "She is very happy with what she got."

Giezenaar said Beautiful Holidays does not offer sex change operations, which are popular in Thailand, because recovery often "takes a long time."

"We have had 20 people coming for the plastic surgery. Ten people are booked for operations next year. All of them are women. They want liposuction, tummy tucks and breast enlargement," she said.

Potential clients had initially expressed concern both about their safety after the October 12 Bali terror attack in neighbouring Indonesia and the quality of the medical service in Malaysia.

"I tell them Penang is a safe place and the doctors' qualifications are on a par with their Western counterparts," she said.

In the 19th century, Penang was a major trading centre for tea and spices for Europe and then moved on to house hundreds of US and Japanese electronic giants such as Motorola and Sony, all the while maintaining a reputation as a holiday resort.

But its latest transformation has not been welcomed by all. The Consumer Association of Penang (CAP) has urged the government to ban advertisments that link health services with holiday packages.

The group's president Mohamad Idris said the lucrative beauty industry would open up a floodgate of problems.

"Treatment charges in private hospitals will increase even further. More government medical staff will be drawn into the private sector with the increase in demand for their services," he said in a statement.

But Kee Phaik Cheen, Penang state tourism committee chairman, told AFP that the state has been promoting the island as a medical hub for the region in the past two years and downplayed CAP's concern.

"We are promoting medical tourism. We are working closely with the hoteliers and private hospitals. We do not promote public hospitals," she said.

Kee said the future of the medical industry in Penang was bright. "As tourism chief, I am happy. You can enjoy the sun, the beach and go home with a good set of new boobs."

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