We have just returned from a few weeks in Malaysia. Most of the trip was business; both Doug and I had work commitments in Johor Bahru. Here is my favorite photo from Johor, taken in the old town:
Depsite busy work schedules, we managed to carve out five days for a short holiday to Tioman Island. Tioman is a protected marine conservation park off the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia in the South China Sea. You have to take a boat to get to the island, from the colourful jetty at Mersing:
There are a number of resorts on Tioman, which is known for its dive sites, its beautiful beaches, and the tropical rainforest which covers most of the island. We stayed at the Japamala Resort, a fantastic resort built with “rustic luxury” in mind. Here is a photo of the bar/communal hangout/boat dock, one of the iconic features of the place:
Each room at the resort is an individual cabin built up into the forest and is constructed with traditional methods. Japamala is proud that it hasn’t cut down any trees to build the resort. Here is the view from our cabin:
The cabins are literally in the canopy of the rainforest:
and reached by walkways:
and lots of stairs:
To get to our cabin (number 13), we had to climb 125 steps. (I counted.) There are cabins with fewer steps, but the higher up you go the better the views. We felt as if we were perched in the sky, and had left civilisation behind.
Twice we were visited by a large family of monkeys, who were clearly very much at home. Here are some of them on our balcony. They loved the swinging chair and liked to play.
We counted 15 in this family group including two very small babies. This baby sat on its mother while she was being groomed, just a few feet from our door.
We were told to always keep our doors locked because the monkeys loved to get inside and create mischief. You can tell this guy would totally raid the fridge!
This is a resort which understands the concept of a get-away. It has very limited connectivity so you can put your phone and laptop away. You can hike through the forest or swim in the sea, you can snorkel or scuba, but you can equally do absolutely nothing:
We spent a day on a snorkeling expedition. We were taken by boat to a number of snorkeling sites, with fantastic corals and a huge array of marine life. This is Batu Malang – a collection of rocks that is famous for its snorkelling and diving.
The corals here were amazing. I must say I was intimidated by the choppy water and the currents at this site. I had only snorkelled once before – 26 years ago – and this was a bit adventurous for me. I had a few scary moments. I most enjoyed one of the other sites, where we floated through schools of colourful tropical fish in a protected beach.
Japamala has a happy hour every evening at sunset, out on the dock. There are only 16 rooms, so never too many guests. You can be as sociable or as private as you wish. While we were there, there were three couples on their honeymoons. We spent an evening socialising with a just-married Italian couple and spent another with a couple from Potsdam (where we lived for a decade many years ago). We also had lots of time to ourselves.
The food at Japamala was superb. I frequently have trouble travelling because I have coeliac’s disease and must follow a 100% gluten-free diet. This can be very challenging in Asia. When we first got to the resort, we explained my dietary restirctions very carefully. Once they understood exactly what the issues were, especially concerning soy sauce, I had no troubles. Breakfasts were beautiful – there were lovely tropical fruits, yoghurt, a large menu which included a number of gluten-free options, fantastic smoothies, all served in the open-air restaurant. Malaysia’s national dish – nasi lemak – is traditionally served for breakfast and is gluten-free (although you should always inquire carefully). It consists of rice steamed in coconut milk and served with sambal (a spicy chili paste), fried anchovies, cucumbers, and peanuts. The nasi lemak at Japamala is especially good.
They have two menus here: an Italian menu and an Asian one (predominatley Thai with some Malaysian and Vietnamese entries). We never ordered off the Italian menu, so I cannot comment, but the Thai food was fantastic. We had fresh fish, tender and spicy squid, complex and gorgeous vegetable curries, and a variety of salads – tofu, mango, eggplant, seafood. I am perfectly confident that you can eat fantastic food here on a gluten-free diet, and not feel that you are missing anything. (I wish I had photos of some of the beautiful food to show you, but I was much too busy enjoying the food to photograph it.)
The staff is also lovely and attentive. I would like to thank them for making our trip carefree! This last year has been a stressful one, but Japamala quickly melted the stress away.
Did Doug make friends with the monkeys? You bet!
And did Kelly get any knitting done? Absolutely!