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Category: Malaysia

Family Beach Getaway at Nexus Karambunai

The Karambunai coast in Malaysia’s eastern state, Sabah is rich in history with strong ties from her neighbour Brunei. History tells of an ill-fated journey along the coast of Karambunai…

The Karambunai coast in Malaysia’s eastern state, Sabah is rich in history with strong ties from her neighbour Brunei. History tells of an ill-fated journey along the coast of Karambunai resulting in a ship wreck and later an unrecovered ship at the bed of the sea, hence its name ‘Karam’ which means sinking ship and ‘Bunai’ referring to Brunei.

nexus karambunai 1Today Karambunai is home to two local villages and a few notable island resorts, one of which is the massive Nexus Karambunai with an 18-hole perfectly manicured golf course. Situated 45 minutes from Kota Kinabalu’s (KK) airport, the resort has a range of accommodation options suitable for honeymooners, families, groups of friends and even big corporate groups. Away from the KK buzz, Nexus offers the idyllic snappy beach holiday with loads to do around the resort such as water skiing, kayaking and trekking or simply settle into one of the many beach chairs and laze the day away. The beach is private for the resort’s guests’ and my 18-month old son absolutely enjoyed sinking into the sand while the waves lapped on him. Private beaches are quite a luxury for resorts nowadays, especially when it is somewhat of a quiet coast with a backdrop of palm forest and rolling hills.

nexus karambunainexus karambunai 2The hotel’s nature guide, Leroy tells us that there used to be a trail at the end of the beach climbing up the hill, swinging round the jagged cliffs leading up to a vantage point with unobstructed views of the great South China Sea. However, for safety reasons, the trail is no longer accessible. Instead we headed off on another trail into the palm forest just behind the resort. As we entered in, Leroy warned us of mosquitoes. Those blood suckers came in all directions, and the warning was a good caution for preparation. We went in covered with a layer of repellent and was mosquito free. The quiet under grove had plenty of diversity from pitcher plants to the local traditional aphrodisiac, tongkat ali. The trail continued to climb up until we reached Pangiran lookout point. The view was spectacular with nothing but ocean and forest to behold. We descended after 40-mins and returned to the resort by van.

nature trail nexus karambunai nexus karambunai

Arriving back at the entrance of Nexus, I get a sense that the resort’s interior is a reflection of the Malay traditional kampong grandeur. Furnished with dark wood, the high A-framed entrance etched with floral carvings opens to a spacious lobby with a spiral staircase at the end leading to the pool and beach. The rooms have the same rustic Malay traditional design with a minimalist approach.

nexus karambunai  entrance

Imprinted with the 80’s glory days of big resorts, the Nexus Karambunai has a choice of eight eateries to choose from. Unfortunately, during my visit, two of the main restaurants were closed for refurbishment. Noble House, the resort’s only Chinese restaurant is as Chinese as you can get, with its interiors lined with intricate embroidered-designed wallpaper, hanging lanterns and tall slender wooden furniture with circular marble top tables. Food at the Noble House is uncompromised, with the freshest seafood coming from the coasts, the menu offers a range of famous Chinese dishes such as herbal soups accompanied with fresh seafood, Peking Duck wrapped in rice paper rolls and dim sum.

Perhaps what I appreciated most about the resort was the friendly staff. They were at our service anytime of the day with a big smile and a hand across their chest as a gesture of welcome and respect. Stepping into Nexie Club, their indoor kids recreation area, I get a sense that many little people have stepped into the room busying their hands with arts and craft, watching cartoons and listening to stories. The murals on the wall suggests that the resort has had at least two decades of visitors streaming in – donald duck, lion king and mickey mouse.

nexus karambunai 3

Back in the room, our retreat continued. Our Ocean View Room boasts of spanning sea views along the coast lined with swaying pine and coconut trees. The spacious room with wood panelled flooring has undergone some maintenance but still manage to maintain its simplistic charm with every bit of modern facility needed for a comfortable stay. Vacationing at the Nexus reminded me of days when my family retreated on beach holidays to Penang and Port Dickson, the kind of family friendly resort with expansive ground to explore.

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Grandis, Kota Kinabalu: A City Hotel With A Grand View

With a weekend in Kota Kinabalu (KK) city, I was looking for a hotel that’s close to the city buzz without compromising on KK’s coastal beauty. Grandis Hotel was the…

With a weekend in Kota Kinabalu (KK) city, I was looking for a hotel that’s close to the city buzz without compromising on KK’s coastal beauty. Grandis Hotel was the perfect find and it also happened to be the new kid on the block. Perched along the harbour front, Grandis boasts of sweeping views of the vast South China Sea with the Tunku Abdul Rahman Park Islands dotted in the horizon.tunku abdul rahman islandSince I had just travelled from Battambang, Cambodia’s countryside, I was still recovering from city shock and KK was the perfect place to acclimatize. The hotel is conveniently linked to Suria Sabah, a shopping mall and within walking distance to KK’s famous tourist strip, Gaya Street. On Sunday morning, Gaya Street comes to life with stalls lined up from the front of Jesselton Hotel to the city’s municipal building. Join in the festive atmosphere and shop till you drop. I found vendors selling everything under the sun, from local drinks and food to pets to traditional herbal aphrodisiac! The morning market is also a great place to buy local souvenirs, antique china and all sorts of collectibles.

Gaya street morning market

I explored KK for a day and retired back in the hotel in time for the anticipated sunset. I had gotten word from some local friends that hotel Grandis is the place to watch the sun go down. The swimming pool with an open deck offers unobstructed views of the ocean and the comfortable circular pool beds are ideal for lounging. The sundown show was nothing less than spectacular as the sky turned amber and slowly merged into the grey seas.

amber skies

Breakfast the next morning was at hotel’s Rosea Café with ceiling to floor windows overlooking the ocean. The modern interior of the café is made more contemporary with a centrepiece of hanging bulbs atop a wooden bench table and boxed stools around. The breakfast spread boasts of local and international flavours and the food offered was exceptionally fresh.

pool grandis

I meandered to the Piano Lounge for some quiet contemplation after a heavy brekkie and found the lounge to be the ideal solitude. Decked with classy embroidered arm chairs and dainty coffee tables, plush sofas and sleek modern lamps, the lounge felt just like the kind of living room you can stay all day in. I imagined dawdling over tea with some friends while the pianist played at the grand piano.

piano lounge grandis hotel piano lounge hotel grandis

The weekend in KK was sublime bliss, with a tinge of city life and a whole lot of comfort, thanks to finding the right hotel in the heart of the city.

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Philea Resort, Malacca: Log Cabins In The Tropics

The unusual and distinctive usually catches my attention. While I’m more incline to travel local and see, experience and do things that are connected to local cultures and heritage when…

The unusual and distinctive usually catches my attention. While I’m more incline to travel local and see, experience and do things that are connected to local cultures and heritage when I’m on a holiday, I also sometimes divert and try something different. So when I heard about the “First Log Resort” in tropical Malaysia, it piqued my curiosity to find out more. I drove to Melaka, south of Kuala Lumpur and exited at Ayer Keroh. The resort is located very close to the Ayer Keroh highway exit.

I entered the lobby, I noticed odd shaped furniture and bits and bobs of wooden wheels turned into benches, chairs and tables. I later found out that they were actually reclaimed parts from several shipwrecks off the Melaka shores. Observing other details such as the staircase and railings, I was told that 8000 pieces of disused railway sleepers for fencing and staircase were used in the resort.

I checked in and made my way to my suite, passing by an open courtyard with double storey log stacked chalets on my left and right. The chalet’s exteriors are not Malaysian kampung inspired, instead it looked more like chalets you will find on the Swiss Alps or holiday homes on snow-capped mountains. Very un-Malaysian, but I guess variety somehow attracts tourists. Philea_Ardent Traveler_5Philea_Ardent Traveler_3Philea_Ardent Traveler_2 I arrive at my suite, a single storey log cabin with an open patio at the front. Walking up the small steps leading to the heavy glass sliding doors, I heard calm showers coming from the pool, just a stones throw away. Waters from the streaming waterfall flowed into the pebble clad swimming pool that is within sight. Sun seekers were decked out on the beach chairs soaking in the glorious sun waves.

I arrive at my suite, a single storey log cabin with an open patio at the front. Walking up the small steps leading to the heavy glass sliding doors, I heard calm showers coming from the pool, just a stones throw away. Waters from the streaming waterfall flowed into the pebble clad swimming pool that is within sight. Sun seekers were decked out on the beach chairs soaking in the glorious sun waves.

Philea_Ardent Traveler_4

The suite is a single spacious room with a large double bed decorated with rose petals and swans twisted by towels. A large arm chair sits in one corner and a small study area on the other. The interior design takes on the local Malay inspiration with embroidered pillows, rich floral printed black out curtains and wallpaper. The room leads to a wooden sliding door and opened to an expansive bathroom with vintage shower heads, brass dials and a deep standalone bathtub. Philea Resort

I visited Philea with my husband and baby son and I found the resort very children and baby friendly. The pool is massive with cascading waterfalls and a children’s wading pool. The resort also has an indoor play area for kiddies and a butterfly and reptile park to keep young ones occupied.

The 15 acre land is well designed with plenty of shade and cover.Upon nightfall, the resort dazzled with tiny stringed lights and paper lanterns. For safety reasons, if you leave the hotel after sun down, a buggy will come and fetch you to and from your suite upon request.

Something For Everyone: Couples, Corporate Groups And Families

This Valentines, Philea is offering a getaway package for couples priced at RM2,999 nett for 3 nights at the Philea Suite. The package includes 2 dinners, including a candlelit dinner at the suite’s open patio, daily breakfast and an in-room massage for two. It comes with other fringe goodies such as sparkling juice, daily refill of the mini bar and return airport transfers to and from KLIA. It’s a great retreat that is easy to get to for KL folks or international travellers looking for a different stopover from busy KL.

For corporate companies, Philea’s 201 room capacity makes a great option for corporate events and large group functions. The resort also boasts a large pillar-less ballroom that’s really popular for weddings.

And for families looking for a different holiday option that’s not too far from KL, the Philea Villas (only two) is fantastic! The Villa has 3 rooms and sleeps up to 8 people. It has all the comforts you need including an indoor jacuzzi, coffee machine, microwave for warming food, a private outdoor plunge pool and a special in villa dining experience (upon request).

Get on their website for more information on up and coming offers: Philea Resort.

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Aloft, Kuala Lumpur: The Lifestyle Hotel For Urban Dwellers

Hip, cool and swanky city hotels are on the rise matching the spending power and lifestyles of young professionals and business travellers. The business hotel scene in Kuala Lumpur (KL)…

Hip, cool and swanky city hotels are on the rise matching the spending power and lifestyles of young professionals and business travellers. The business hotel scene in Kuala Lumpur (KL) has enough options to satisfy the busy traveler, from the luxurious Ritz Carlton to the swanky Traders KL. And for many years, the Le Meridien and Hilton KL dominated the scene in KL Sentral, the transportation hub of the city. Not until recently when Aloft KL made its epic entrance.

Seamless check-ins, ipod docks, central phone charging stations, grab & go snack cafes, a virtual concierge, and a 24/7 gym is fitting for the urban dweller on holiday in another city. Aloft KL embodies a lifestyle that gives his guests the comforts of home with the sophistication of a highly trendy atmosphere.

Within walking distance to KL Sentral, Aloft KL picked an ideal spot as a base. It was no wonder the hotel lobby was abuzz when I checked-in on a weekday afternoon. Professionals in sleek business attire, couples in their late 20s and 30s and small families made the crowd. Check-in was literally seamless as I was ushered to W xyz lounge for a quick drink while they processed my details. I was immediately drawn to animated cartoon drawings of personalities such as Elvis, Ronald MacDonald, John Lennon & Men in Black plastered on the wall. These lively paintings are interpretations and works of young and emerging Malaysian artists. With the same vision of promoting the local arts scene, local indie bands jam at W xyz every week.

Aloft KL_LoungeAloft KL_W xyz

Stylish and modern hotel rooms with spectacular views
The contemporary minimalist décor of the city hotel are the best conditions for a relaxing stay in Kuala Lumpur. The room comes with individually-adjustable air conditioning, flat-screen TV, free WIFI and an array of designer teas and coffee. The bathrooms are fitted with rain showers and walled-in body wash and shampoo dispensers. The hallmark of the room is the view, with top-to-toe windows that show off the expansive view of the city’s skyline giving guests a glimpse of the city’s hubbub.

Aloft KL

Aloft KL_Camp Aloft

Camp Aloft adds a friendly touch for couples with children, a colourful carnival tent and air mattress for the young.

Aloft KL_Swimming pool

Breakfast for Kings and Queens
A wide spread of local and European flavours, breakfast is an exciting affair at Nook. Huge syrup-filled syringes, rainbow lolly cakes, bottled marshmallows and trays of cookies keep the buffet spread light and refreshing. A dozen and more choices to choose from, variety is not lacking – local flavours like nasi lemak, beef rendang, sambal sotong, Sarawak laksa and dim sum are a must. Accompanied by fusion picks from the fresh salad deck with an array of cold cuts and cheese, juicy roast beef carving station, eggs from the classic egg-station and heavy skillets filled with hash browns, bangers and mash, breakfast soon becomes brunch.

Aloft KL_Nook_3Aloft KL_Nook_2Aloft KL_NookAloft KL_Nook_1

Plusses that make Aloft KL a cool stopover:

  • Getting around is a breeze – Sooka Sentral, KLCC, Bukit Bintang are all within easy reach of the hotel or a ride away by train from KL Sentral located just opposite the hotel.
  • Connectivity – Fast free WIFI for all, yes even if you are lounging in the lobby.
  • Affordability – With rooms priced from RM300 / USD90, almost everyone can have a trendy stay.
  • Open- decked Mai Bar – Beanbags for lounging, free bubblies for ladies on Thursday and an electric view of KL by night are three great reasons to grab a drink.
  • Your abs don’t need to go on holiday – With a gym that opens 24/7, your body can recharge with adrenaline anytime.
  • Speedy-Gonzalez lifts – The lifts match the fast-paced city life. With over 30 floors and a never-ending string of guests, fast lifts are a great convenience.
  • Freebies – refresh before heading out with free cordial shots at the re:mix lounge.

Being an urban dweller myself, I’d have to say that I’ve been converted by this chain of lifestyle hotels. Ultimately, what I love is Aloft KL’s vision to grow young talent. From front desk to housekeeping, the Aloft staff, called ‘talents’ are young, vibrant, energetic youth and they are, the very essence that keep the hotel hip, cool, and swanky.

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Syok! Penang: For The Flashpacker

In an ever changing face of travel, a new type of traveler has surfaced making his presence felt globally – challenging accommodation operators to fill the gap between budget backpacker…

In an ever changing face of travel, a new type of traveler has surfaced making his presence felt globally – challenging accommodation operators to fill the gap between budget backpacker and the mid-range traveler. They are flashpackers.

Independent travelers looking something more than the run-of-the-mill cheap hostels, with a little more than 30 dollars to spare for a night and ultimately seeking a unique, comfortable place to lay their head. From my observation, most flashpackers are young professionals in their late 20s and 30s who are majorly savvy with technology… so if they’ve found a great place to stay, they will shout about it!

And that’s what I’m about to do…

Introducing Syok! @ Chulia, a slightly up-market hostel with distinct offerings suited for the flashpacker who’s looking for a chic recluse yet within walking distance to the happening Lebuh Chulia (Chulia Street). The refurbished 3-storey corner shoplot recently made its debut in February 2013 and have experienced promising success. This is no surprise because it ticks off everything a flashpacker is looking for:

  • Clean, oversized single beds
  • Female only dorms for solo travelers
  • Personal lockers that fit massive suitcases
  • A really cool, hip and oh-so-comfy upper lounge to chill and relax – with DVDs, cable tv, board games and pool table for your entertainment
  • Beanbags! Yes, the quintessential lounge poofs for all hostels to laze away…
  • Free WIFI – There is no denying that flashpackers & connectivity go hand-in-hand
  • All-day free coffee and tea (how nice!) & water dispensers for free water refills
  • Laundry service at a very minimal fee, but you can also choose to DIY
  • Simple eat-all-you-can breakfast to kick start your day

Mega Plusses:

  • Free toiletries (which hostel gives you that?!)
  • Towels, hair dryer and daily housekeeping – what luxury!
  • Friendly staff that makes Syok! a cosy den

Syok chulia

Behind the louvered windows and thick door frames lies a quirky history – as with most shoplots in the heritage Georgetown square. It was once a leather shop, a shoe shop, a hawker place and a fortune teller’s lair before Syok! made its mark. Lavished with such history, the interior of Syok! seem to resonate the same kind of fun, eccentric history it has experienced. The bright orange and lively green hues, a colourful mural of Georgetown and amusing wall art gives Syok! a modern touch blending into existing brown cobbled brick walls.

Syok at Chulia_Ardent Traveler_2Syok at Chulia_Ardent Traveler_1

The same fun & chic interior translates into simple activities for guests. The ‘Before I Die’ chalkboard wall in the upper lounge was inspired by Candy Chang, a Vietnamese designer-artist and urban planner who through her work prods people to ponder on their aspirations in hope to gather collective wisdom to improve communities.

Syok at Chulia_Penang

Another fun activity also inspired by Chang is the ‘Confession Wall’ found in the common toilet area, a bright orange wall filled with brown post-it sized cards scribbled with pencil drawings of serious confessions to down-right funny ones. What better way to pass time while answering nature’s call. It’s no wonder the team at Syok found inspiration through Chang’s works, because holidays are ideal for pondering, reflecting and moving on.

Syok at Chulia_toilet_ardenttraveler

Quite rarely do I feel such attachment to a hostel, but with Syok!, it’s a different story. It’s not just an ordinary hostel with a clean bed to sleep on. Its comfort goes beyond the dormitory walls. The feeling of comfort is what sticks. Being a frequent traveler, I’ve bunked into a fair share of hostels and when I find a comfortable den that I can return to after hours of exploring; it’s like returning home to cosiness you can count on.

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Spices Residence: The Simple Luxury Of Home Away From Home

Georgetown, Penang’s vibrant capital is a living legacy of stories told and untold. Since its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Georgetown has undergone a major facelift…

Georgetown, Penang’s vibrant capital is a living legacy of stories told and untold. Since its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, Georgetown has undergone a major facelift with delicate and meticulous precision in an effort to preserve its heritage and old charm. I returned for a visit after many years eager to explore the new Georgetown as opposed to just touring Penang’s Ferringhi beach front as a holiday-goer in my earlier teenage years.

The town is lined with idiosyncratic shop lots, narrow lanes, old-fashioned colonial mansions, ornate temples and schools with washed-out walls. I zigged-zagged in and out of five foot ways (pathways between the shop lots and the road) dodging café tables & chairs, cyclist on the road and the occasional cobbler or keymaker to get some respite from the Malaysian heat. Coffee shops beckon me to try Penang’s delicious meals, new cafes tempt me for a sit down while watching the world pass by and museums are aplenty, some fascinating and some just for the sake of it. What I found most apparent was the numerous independent boutique hotels that have sprouted up.

Georgetown

Spoilt for choice, Georgetown offers a hotchpotch of accommodation options for its travellers. From luxury boutique outfits dotted all over town to budget backpackers crammed on Chulia Street; you pay what you can afford and pick what matches your needs. Since I was traveling with my husband and 5-month old baby, I needed a place that was family / baby-friendly. I stumbled on Spices Residence, a tastefully refurbished set of 4 shop lots tucked in Lorong Lumut an unassuming lane, and a mere stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Armenian and Kimberly Street.

Lorong Lumut

Set directly next to the Acheen Street Mosque, the set of shop lots dates back to the 1800s and was once a layover for pilgrims’ enroute to Mekkah for the Haj. True to its label, ‘residence’, Spices was restored and designed to ensure that travellers have a homely stay while on holiday. Stepping into the living area, one immediately feels at home with a large plush swinging sofa hanging suspended slightly off the ground, inviting you for a swing. Warm decadent stained glass lamps hang from the high beamed ceiling bouncing off light from the raw brick walls setting the place aglow. Guests are even encouraged to leave their shoes at the entrance while walking barefoot in the residence, just like how we do at home.

Spices Residence_Ardent travelerSpices ResidenceSpices Residence is perfect for couples and families offering simple yet tastefully designed double rooms and loft rooms complete with ensuites. We stayed in the loft room, a split level unit with a day bed and a king size bed with a small balcony overlooking mosque’s open courtyard. It has all the basic amenities you need and no additional unnecessary frills. Still the best room yet, is the family room that fits up to 4 adults, a large split level unit on the first floor with a spacious sitting area. The restored bright green louvred windows and modern fittings make a perfect combination of old and new.

Loft roomSpices Family Suite

An interesting feature in the residence is the Bodhi tree with its roots and veiny bark engraved on the wall outside the courtyard. The living tree is perhaps the oldest asset within the residence. Its leaves still fall into the open narrow courtyard grounds while providing shade for the tiny sanctuary. When rain comes, the Bodhi tree reminds its guests of her existence, with light drips flowing gently through a crack in the living area.

Bodhi tree_Spices_Ardent traveler

On the ground floor is a cosy enclave with an oversized sofa and fluffy pillows in blue and green hues inviting you to sink in. A small library of books, magazines and board games are made available to all guests. Taking the open staircase in the courtyard that leads you up to the first floor is the other common area with dashing red and orange furniture taking on a slight Mediterranean feel. This common area transforms into a romantic rendezvous upon sun down as the flickering of candles illuminate the hall.

Still my favourite space is the dining area, as with all home, this is where good food and conversation collide. Beyond the arched brick frames next to the living area, is the dining area. A snug space lined with cushion chairs and acrylic-stained tables. Breakfast is served here with a small selection of Penang bites such as roti canai and mee goreng and the usual western selection of cold cuts, sausages and cheese. Eggs are made upon requests and I was delighted to discover that the 3-man team at Spices are all seasoned cooks.

Spices Residence Living AreaSpices Dining Area

I’ve found a crib in the ever thriving heritage town, a place I’d come back to simply because it really feels like home, a safe haven while on holiday. But more than that, Spices extends a kind of hospitality unlike any other and I’m delighted to have found new friends in our friendly hosts, Malcolm, Celeste and Fareh.

Hop onto the Spices Residence’s website for more information. I’d be back!

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Secret Sanctuary A Stone’s Throw Away From KL

Janda Baik is known to be one of the more popular natural getaways for local KL and PJ urbanites. With umpteen crisscrossing streams flowing through the area, it is a…

Janda Baik is known to be one of the more popular natural getaways for local KL and PJ urbanites. With umpteen crisscrossing streams flowing through the area, it is a popular site for weekend picnickers and small corporate group meetings. Over the recent years, Janda Baik has soared in popularity with new signposts emerging along the winding road leading into the area. From kampung style homestays to conference-type resorts, Janda Baik offers a variety of lodging options.

However, the option of private estates is rare, especially if you are looking for pure exclusivity and excellent hospitality. Aman Rimba was an excellent find. Situated within Kampung Janda Baik, this three acre private estate houses six villas, four of which embodies the Malay kampung (village) style built up. The six villas, Sireh (betel), Serai (lemongrass), Kantan (ginger flower), Halia (Ginger) and Kunyit (Tumeric) named after Malaysian typical well-loved herbs is able to comfortably accommodate up to 25 people, ideal for small corporate groups or large family retreats.

Aman Rimba

I made my way to Aman Rimba on a weekday afternoon in time for lunch. Ashari Shuib, the resort manager greeted me as the sturdy wooden picket door opened into the estate. Cobbled staircase led up to Selasih, an open air pavilion where I was offered a glass of cucumber and lemon house blend. I was immediately drawn to the surrounding garden, an amalgamation of manicured landscaping and rugged kampung lawn. Heliconias, hibiscus, wild orchids, Ixoras and lilies are just a few of the many blooms speckled around the estate.

Aman Rimba_Exterior_Ardent Traveler_2013

I ventured further into Sireh, the first kampung house built on the estate, as Ashari unravelled the story of how Aman Rimba came about. Owned by Sabri Rahman and his wife Wati, Aman Rimba initially started off as a family weekend getaway hideout. “It literally started off with a park table, some chairs and a platform next to the river in front of the resort,” says Ashari. Then Sireh was built and that was the weekend home for Sabri and Wati. Years went by and the couple received many requests for the place to be rented out and eventually, another kampung house came into being, and then another, and finally in 2009, Aman Rimba was open to the public.

The organic growth of Aman Rimba is one of the secret ingredients of why it has retained its homey feel. Leading up to Sireh, the family home, is a large living room area with comfy plush sofas, a selection of good reads, a coffee table and hand-picked furniture and fixtures dating all the way back to the 1950s. One can imagine the spacious living room used as a family space for tea time chats and children playing congkak, a traditional Malaysian game using marbles. Sireh has only one bedroom with a massive four poster bed drabbed with silky linen cloth and a sizable bathroom with a glass ceiling above the shower area.

Aman Rimba Villa Interior_Aman Rimba_Ardent Traveler_2013Bathroom_Aman Rimba_Ardent traveler_2013

Halia, Kunyit and Serai are slightly modern kampung houses with beautifully crafted wooden door frames leading into the house. There is so much attention to detail when it comes to the interior and exterior design of these houses. Every tile, sculpture, bed frame and lamp is hand-picked and each kampung house is different aesthetically, although the layout may be similar.

Villa_Aman Rimba_Ardent traveler_2013

A particular highlight in the estate are the newest units; Kantan I and II, a modern and lux dash to kampung living. Kantan features a grand sense of space with a high timber ceiling living area overlooking a pond with bobbing ducks and black swans. The unit offers modern day comforts such as high definition flat screen tv, air condition, power jet Jacuzzi, semi-open air shower area, a massive four-poster bed, unlimited supply of coffee, tea and milo, and a small day-bed cushioned with plush embroidered pillows ideal for daytime lounging. It does get better… as the tall wooden vertical glass windows open up to an outdoor verandah overlooking the entire estate.

Aman  Rimba Villa Aman Rimba Villa Daybed_Aman Rimba_Ardent Traveler_2013

However, at Aman Rimba, the most utilized space is D’Pandan, the common dining area. This is where all the chatter happens and delightful meals are served. Breakfast is thrown in if you stay a night at Aman Rimba, but one will not be satisfied with just breakfast given the selection of local dishes to choose from. From a variety of grilled meats marinated with Malaysian spices to slow cooked curries, from Chinese steamboat options to a blend of western-fusion offerings to soothe your palate, nothing is too difficult for a whip up at Aman Rimba. Ashari jokes, “Sometimes our guest jovially ‘blames’ us for the extra kilos they put on after a stay here.”

D Pandan

I was treated to a generous spread of nasi campur (mix rice) with choice of grilled ikan keli (fresh water fish), ayam goreng berempah (fried spiced chicken), ulam (local herbs), sup tulang (peppery meat soup) and pajeri (slow cooked brinjal) to pick from. Ashari explains that some dishes are cooked in their small in-house kitchen, while other local favourites are bought from the local stalls in Kampung Janda Baik. “We have a select few vendors that we often patronize. It’s our way of giving back to the community,” says Ashari. He adds that some “fresh herbs are plucked from our small herb garden.”

Food_Aman Rimba_Ardent Traveler_a2013

A mere mention of durian after lunch sent Ashari hunting for the king of fruits. Lo and behold, durian pulut (durian served with glutinous rice) was served for tea. Swimming in a bed of creamy durian santan gravy is block of puffy pulut and golden plump durian. The dish gave new meaning to the king of fruits as the flavours of sweet, salty and decadently pungent merged into a perfect dessert blend.

Durian Pulut

As if there was not enough feasting! Dinner was a huge platter of fresh meats and veggies over a steaming pot of clear broth. After tea, we made our way to the local farmers market in Bukit Tinggi to shop for fresh veggies that will be consumed for dinner. Much to my amazement, the selection was aplenty, with uncommon fresh herbs, veggies and edible flowers to choose from.

Dessrtt

Aman Rimba is designed for families in mind; however it is also ideally suited for corporate groups. With facilities such as a swimming pool, games room, small gazebos sprawled over the estate for small group discussions or quiet contemplation and bicycles for bee lining around the estate, both children and adults will appreciate this place with the exclusivity it promises.

Before I bid farewell, Ashari and I took a walk to Kampung Janda Baik, taking in all that this destination had to offer. Meandering into small gravel dirt lanes, Ashari introduced me to Kampung Janda Baik where wild farms grow uninhibited and cattle roam free. Janda Baik is after all a haven to weekend urbanites, but really, at the heart of it, it is home to local kampung folks – and it is best kept that way.

Chilli Farm - Janda Baik - Ardent Traveler

And so, I left Aman Rimba with a lingering memory that will one day lure me back. Its authenticity of culture and sincerity in service has left an indelible mark of what a top-class Malaysian retreat can be. And what’s not to like? With such good food (that’s the Malaysian in me speaking), I dived into a hearty bowl of mee rebus before bidding farewell.

Food_Aman Rimba_Ardent traveler_2013

 

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