In her personally signed letter to us, probably prepared not too long after swiping our credit card, the Guest Liaison Manager of Tanjong Jara Resort wrote,
"Here, every breath is pure refreshment, a journey of revival."
She goes on welcoming us with warm and confusing words such as 'accentuate' and 'myriad', setting the tone nicely as the sound of the ocean breezes through our ears while complimentary drinks were served. It was described as the exotic, 'Roselle Tea'. My tongue somehow told me it was Ribena.
We were taken to our room by Hairul, a lovely young chap from the local district of Dungun -- something I could sort of tell from the extra 'g' in some of his words. Never short of a smile, Hairul showed us around. The swimming pools, the restaurants and bars, the facilities, and the most expensive room, Suite 201 which costs around an arm to a leg per night, per person.
I was a little weary from the drive along the half-complete East Coast Highway to pay attention to the other things he showed. At least until we walked into our room where a bathroom the size of five Toyota Alphards greeted us. You simply can't miss that one. Apparently, our reservation was upgraded and the resort was kind enough to give us a room overlooking the South China Sea with a king-sized bed, an extra couch, and unlimited supply of 500ml bottles of mineral water. The overpriced beverages at the minibar however, remain untouchable.
It was a room you wouldn't want to leave. Maybe it was the mesmerizing, beautifully designed motives of the structure, based on the elegantly crafted wooden palaces of Malay Sultans. Maybe it was the sound of the ocean; whispering through the creaking window. For me at least, I couldn't move an inch away from the room because Max X Top 20 Extreme Videos was on TV. There was simply no escaping that.
Nevertheless, we were hungry. So after waiting approximately 73 minutes for Azalia to get ready, we were on our way to their intentionally yet stylishly misspelled restaurant, Di Atas Sungei. Located on a dark timber balcony over a flowing river, the unique thing about this place is that they've got no menu. But that doesn't mean you can order anything. For just as I was about to order Maggi Goreng, the chef made her way out to read out the kitchen's offering for the evening.
Like everyone else at the resort, the chef was a friendly lass. Ever so chirpy as she explains the local flavors they've got in the kitchen -- as she would to most of the guests (foreign couples over 50). It was only apt that we reciprocated accordingly and ordered what any foreign couple in their golden years would, Nasi Goreng Kampung Telur Mata.
"Perfect!" Azalia complemented her later when she swung by to check on us. I was too engrossed in the plate of awesomeness to notice. It's a shame that I couldn't do my Gordon Ramsay impersonation in all its glory while she was there. But the food was really good. And at a generous RM15 a pop, it was cheaper than the cashew nuts at the minibar.
We began the second day a little nervy as it was raining the day before. And despite the monsoon season promotion we got (of course we went on discount), we were actually hoping to win the gamble. Luckily, the Sun shined brightly enough on the first day of February for us to get out a bit later in the morning, at 3pm.
Which was of course early enough for us to cover the entire 17 hectare of the resort's "undulating semi rustic landscape". Or at least that's what they say in the brochure -- which I would totally agree if I know what 'undulating' means. Simply put, the place reminds me of those luxury resorts I had the privilege of peeking at while I was in Bali. Incidentally, I had to walk pass by those place whenever I wanted to go back to my budget hostel there. The less than sober Australian couple who ran the place had quite a sense of humor building their joint there.
Tanjong Jara is one of the more than 500 Small Luxury Hotels of the World. So to actually be walking in one, while being a guest, gave me a glimpse of what it's like to holiday like the rich and famous, without being either. Serene swinging hammocks, beachfront meditation spots, award-winning spas, every step along the coast was a delight. Speaking of their spa, one of the items in the menu is called Panji Alam Urutan Panglima. I think I've seen a similar service advertised at a traffic light somewhere.
The beach is as private as you can get. Well in fact they try to make everything as personal as possible. Everyone knew us by name and for a glorious 3 days 2 nights, we felt like celebrities. If only they could hire makeshift Paparazzi photographers to hide behind the bushes to make the experience more real. Maybe I'll get into a scuffle with them and make the headlines the next day. But that's just pushing it. Still a brilliant idea.
Anyway, we retreated to the beach not too long after walking around. It's been a while, and to be reunited with the sea breeze and the sound of the waves was sheer ecstasy. I had my guitar with me sitting on a log, closing my eyes playing Blackbird again and again. Azalia had the time of her life snapping away with her cameras together with props weighing two baby elephants. We felt like we could be there forever. The beach was our playground. It doesn't take much really when you're by the beach. The hassles of the real world seemed too trivial to be given attention. The noise of the city, left behind as you immerse yourself in the tranquility of the sea.
Alas, nature never lost its sense of humor. The infamous East Coast rain showered down just as I was about to reach Snooki-level tan. We ran for shelter, passing by the pool where children were still somersaulting, unfazed by the incoming storm. It is what it is I guess, Monsoon Season Discount.
The rain aside, we couldn't ask for a better honeymoon. And if we could do it all over again, we'd change nothing. What's not to like? A hidden cove right off the coast, preserved and blended with the landscape of a lost era. All from as low as RM800++ per night. (As mentioned, go for Monsoon Season Discount. It's half of that.)
It was then time to leave, not without a heavy heart. I reckon the receptionist could tell that from the sound of my voice begging for late checkout through the phone. We bid Hairul farewell and he gave us more 500ml bottles of mineral water for the road. Probably not knowing we've shoved nearly every complimentary item from the room into our bags. We don't do this often man.
For all its great service though, Tanjong Jara could maybe consider changing their tagline, Unmistakably Malay. It could work both ways.
Note: If you're driving, swing by Kuala Kemaman for arguably the best sata joint in the country. It's like otak-otak, only you'll end up eating more charred banana leave. Make a U-turn at the Mobil station and it's right there in front of Teluk Mok Nik, otherwise more awesomely known as Monica Bay. Oh yeah, and this trip was from way back in February. Unless you own the resort, good luck getting Monsoon Discount in June!
More photos here.
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Busking Barefoot is the travel blog of Asrif Yusoff and Azalia Suhaimi.
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