Our country is home to some truly exceptional getaways, whether you are looking to holiday amid the tranquillity of Mother Nature or the bustle and excitement of a historic city centre. Our list of 10 is far from exhaustive, but we do hope it inspires you to explore this wonderful country we call home and perhaps, serves as a reminder of how fortunate we are to have so much beauty within easy reach.
Traverse the eclectic charm of George Town’s illustrious history as you step into the world of Cheong Fatt Tze — The Blue Mansion. Conceived and constructed before the end of the 19th century, the mansion sets the tone for heritage hotels in Penang’s capital city, and is the only one to have won the prestigious Unesco Conservation & Heritage award. Seamlessly blending old-world charm with modern creature comforts, the accommodation’s array of amenities includes an exquisite dining experience — even for Penang standards — and guided mansion tours that give you further insights into the story behind the architecture and history of George Town’s first heritage hotel. Located close to many of the island’s major heritage spots, the mansion has an opulent setting ideal for the discerning holidaymaker who enjoys accommodation that is both a luxurious and intensely cultural experience.
Nestled on Gaya Island’s crescent Malohom Bay off the coast of Sabah, Gayana Marine Resort is a picturesque destination that strikes a balance between ecology and indulgent luxury. The resort’s extraordinary 45 overwater tropical villas boast vistas of the aquamarine sea, mangrove forest or tropical jungle, with each abode designed in such a way that the lulling sounds of the surf beneath it is enhanced. At the heart of the resort is the protection and regeneration of the island’s precious marine environment — the on-site Marine Ecology Research Centre, the only one of its kind on an island resort, propagates the continued existence of the stunning coral reefs that make the bay their home. The resort’s three dining venues present palate-pleasing and soul-satisfying local and international cuisine, while the spa beckons with an array of pampering treatments.
Set in the midst of the tropical paradise that is Pulau Banding, the Belum Rainforest Resort is everything nature lovers and holiday-goers expect in a getaway destination — complete relaxation and serenity, stunning views and surroundings, adventure and the chance to get close to nature. With the Belum Temenggor rainforest literally on their doorstep, guests will have a rare opportunity to experience the soothing beauty and mystery of the vast jungle, which has remained untouched for centuries. Revel in the chance to observe Mother Nature at her most beautiful or get an adrenaline rush from thrilling outdoor activities such as jungle trekking, kayaking and canoeing — there is so much to do and explore at this unassuming property. Our pick of guestroom is the Tualang traditional chalet if it is just two, but for larger groups, there are two options — the ultra-luxurious Villa Tanjung Wan sleeps 18 while the more exciting houseboat can fit 14.
This rustic island retreat is set among coconut groves, rocky outcrops and fine-sand beaches on the uninhabited island of Pulau Tengah, off the east coast of Johor. An eco-resort, Batu Batu founded and provides core funding for Tengah Island Conservation, a biodiversity management initiative dedicated to the research, rehabilitation and regeneration of the surrounding natural environment. Constructed by local carpenters from a variety of tropical hardwoods using traditional techniques in the Malay vernacular style, the one and two-bedroom villas are nestled in the island’s wild and natural environment in a way reminiscent of a Malay kampung or village. Lazy sun-kissed days can be spent exploring the island’s eight white-sand beaches, striding through the jungle or learning about our fragile ecosystems from the on-site biologists. Kayaks and paddle boards tempt guests out into the big blue while those wanting to explore the coral kingdoms of the South China Sea can don a snorkel and mask and step right off the beach.
This hotel is the ideal base for you to explore the wonder of nature that is the Mulu National Park. A Unesco World Heritage Site and home to a myriad of wildlife, the national park provides an amazing number of activities — longboat trips, cave explorations, canopy walks and guided tours — to explore the unique flora and fauna that call Mulu home. Designed in the style of ethnic longhouses, Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa is built on wooden stilts three metres above the banks of the Melinau River, so each of the well-appointed guest bedrooms — which provide views of either the river or the surrounding forest — and public areas are linked via a series of wooden walkways. Once you have satiated your need for exploration, relax at the resort’s Mandara Spa or the absolutely tranquil outdoor swimming pool.
Located in the heart of the Berembun nature reserve in Negeri Sembilan, The Shorea offers nature enthusiasts a safe, secure base from which to enjoy the tranquillity of Malaysia’s prized rainforests. Sustainability and responsible tourism are at the heart of the resort, whose architecture uses locally sourced natural materials such as recycled Shorea timber, natural slates and stones as well as reclaimed terracotta roof tiles. Although the main activity here centres around the neighbouring Berembun forests — the Jeram Toi waterfalls, in particular — there is also the option of relaxing in one of the two saltwater swimming pools at the resort, or lounging on the sun deck with a good book. There are two on-site restaurants for meals, but we highly recommend the in-room dining service — breakfast, lunch or dinner can be served in the comfort of your suite, which is so comfortable that you may never want to leave it.
Nestled amid 11 acres of unspoiled wilderness along the secluded southern shores of Tioman Island, Japamala Resort offers a true slice of paradise. Beauty does not come at the expense of the environment, however — to ensure the rainforest that the resort is set in is treated with the utmost respect, each villa was constructed around the natural landscape out of an abundance of natural materials from sustainable sources. Great care was taken to minimise any environmental impact, and no rocks were moved nor trees cut down during the painstaking decade-long construction. This essence of borrowing from nature inspired the “rustic-luxe” design of the resort, which comprises 15 chalets, sarangs and beachside villas, each designed to mirror the qualities of the idyllic island. Oceanic activities occupy the lion’s share of your time at Japamala, while guided trekking comes a close second — and you are always welcome to lounge by the beach, doing nothing but enjoying the time passing you by.
Facing a crescent-shaped beach of golden sand, shaded by tall palms rustling in the breeze with views of the turquoise sea, Tanjong Jara Resort is inspired by a tranquil way of life as timeless as Terengganu itself. Designed to reflect the elegance of 17th-century Malay palaces, this picturesque resort offers a genuine taste of the region’s spirit and its rich natural heritage. Based on the Malay concept of Sucimurni, which emphasises purity of spirit, health and well-being, this secluded hideaway encourages true rejuvenation of both body and spirit. Some of the activities you can enjoy at Tanjong Jara include a walk up nearby Jara Hill, traditional handicraft classes, outdoor games such as gasing, volleyball, sepak takraw and petanque as well as tours of the Kenyir elephant orphanage. And because of its location by the seaside, a multitude of water sports are also available.
After an extensive renovation exercise, Langkawi’s The Datai has emerged as one of Malaysia’s most stunning rainforest resorts with all the rooms, suites and villas specially designed to make the most of its striking natural surroundings. Set against a wilderness backdrop of primordial mountains, the pristine 10 million-year-old rainforest is home to a wealth of flora and fauna. You may well spot Dusky langurs, Tokay geckos and Sunda colugos during your stay. The resort’s private footpath leads to dreamy Datai Bay’s idyllic white-sand beach, one of the top 10 beaches worldwide as awarded by National Geographic. World-renowned naturalist Irshad Mobarak leads a team of passionate naturalists and marine biologists who will take you on a journey of learning, exploration and discovery in and around this absolutely romantic, idyllic resort.
Situated along the historic Jalan Tokong in central Melaka, Liu Men hotel boasts a truly enviable location — only a few streets away from the action of Jonker Street but distanced enough to be a peaceful sanctuary in the heart of this busy, bustling area. The sleek and modern hotel draws its aesthetic inspiration from Chinese, Peranakan and Art-Deco influences to stunning effect. Each of the 30 guestrooms is designed with a similar approach, creating a hotel that you feel like coming home to again and again. Although there is plenty to eat right on your doorstep, the kitchen is able to whip up a mean Nyonya laksa for breakfast while pre- and post-prandial drinks are available at the Melakan outpost of popular KL wine bar Vintry, which is located right on-site.
This article first appeared on Aug 26, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.