Here’s where you can jump ship out of the city at some of the most unique staycations in Malaysia. Hang on to your sunhats, your weekends are about to get cooler.
Terrapuri Heritage Village (Setiu, Terengganu)
More a heritage village than a luxury hotel, Terrapuri – meaning ‘the land of palaces’ – is a resort and conservation project consisting of 20 restored antique Malay houses made without a single nail (all between 100 and 250 years old). Located by the lesser known Pantai Penarik beach in Terengganu, Terrapuri offers tours to a turtle sanctuary, visits to the Setiu fishing village, diving trips, firefly tours and more.
Kampung Mangkuk, Penarik, Setiu, Terengganu (09 624 5020/terrapuri.com). From RM529 per night.
The Plantation Project (Bentong, Pahang)
An hour’s drive from the city, this eco-friendly resort is the perfect place for group getaways; think family holidays, company trips or a relaxing break with friends. Choose between dorms that stay a minimum of ten, or tents pitched together in a common area. You can explore the outdoors with a dip in the pool surrounded by the rainforest, water-tubing activities on the river, or a drive to a small waterfall just 20 minutes away.
Lot 2767, Karak, Bentong, Pahang (03 2713 5265/016 3230 888/www.theplantationproject.com). From RM124 per person per night.
North Borneo Biostation Resort (Kudat, Sabah)
Run by a couple of scientists, this beach resort with wooden chalets in coconut groves, located close to the northern tip of Borneo, also pulls double duty as a field scientific research station. Highlights: a secluded beach with crystal clear waters (where you can kayak or fish), great neighbouring dive sites (Pulau Banggi, Pulau Balambangan and more) and a house reef just 200 metres offshore (great for snorkelling).
Kg Bak Bak, Mile 7, Kudat, Sabah (010 803 7310/ borneobiostation.com). From RM189 per night.
Kahang Organic Rice Eco Farm (Kluang, Johor)
Set up camp on site at the certifi ed organic rice farm; chalet accommodation, sparsely furnished, is also available. Expect sprawling views of the paddy fi elds and the lake, where you can experience farming at the former and bamboo rafting and fi sh catching at the latter. Flying fox, kayaking and jungle hikes can all be arranged. Rabbits run riot at the farm, so befriend a bunny or two.
KM 43, Jalan Kluang, Mersing, Kluang, Johor (012 768 3149/ kahangorganic.com). From RM140 per night.
The Dusun (Seremban, Negeri Sembilan)
On the undulating hills of Mantin sit fi ve fully-equipped houses, which share two infi nity pools. Lush woods surround; you may bird-watch, jungle trek to a nearby waterfall with an Orang Asli guide, or visit the deer park onsite. There’s substance beneath the style too – the folks at The Dusun focus on causes around nature conservation and Orang Asli welfare.
3437 Kampung Kolam Air, Mukim Pantai, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan (www.thedusun.com.my). From RM400 per night.
Rainforest Tree House (Kulai, Johor)
Built by owner and craftsman Yao along with the local Orang Asli, the seven tree houses in this retreat are rustic, comfortable and complete with power plugs, mosquito nets and mattresses. Check out the onsite organic farm, or the natural clay oven where you can try your hand at making pizza. You can also opt for the guided jungle, river or waterfall trekking tours or visits to the nearby bee and pineapple farms.
Jalan Air Terjun, Kampung Sri Gunung Pulai, Johor (012 527 9987/016 756 0086/fb.com/rainforest.treehouse.johor). From RM100 per night.
Kamo Homestay (Sauk, Perak)
Kamo Homestay used to be the dilapidated home of Kamo Kam’s grandfather in a corner of Kampung Sauk, until he fixed it up and converted it into a guesthouse. Unplug for the weekend, bring a hand-drawn map of the tiny village, and cycle around. There’s also an activities package where you can catch the sunrise over the Titiwangsa range, go on a kayaking trip to Tasik Raben and visit a waterfall.
7 Kampung Baru Sauk, Sauk, Perak (fb.com/kamohome). RM50 per night.
Farm Ville Café & Homestay (Sekinchan, Selangor)
Sekinchan has played host to so many pre-wed photoshoots thanks to its year-round blue skies and lush paddy fields that stretch as far as the eye can see. A day trip is never enough as it’s almost impossible to hurry in this sleepy fishing village of Sabak Bernam, especially if you want to savour all the great seafood and explore the less touristy corners of Sekinchan. So put up at this newly opened container homestay at Site B, designed for you to unwind at their expansive golf course and the café overlooking the paddy fields. A majority of the rooms (most with en-suite bathrooms) have a sun-soaked patio upstairs, affording you a quiet respite from the city mayhem.
Things to do
For a no-frills seafood meal, make a beeline for Restoran Cha Po Tion (Jalan Besar Bagan. 016 676 1769), which specialises in Teochew-style home cooking. We suggest you skip the Paddy Museum and head straight for Pantai Redang Beach to catch the sunset, as well as the wishing tree adorned with red ribbons. Before you leave, bag up some seafood at the Bagan Fishing Village and some freshly made fishballs from a shop near Jalan Besar Bagan.
Lot 11304, Kampung Site B Tambahan, Jalan Tepi Sawah (017 206 8666/www.facebook.com/farmvillecafehomestay). Rooms from RM98 (for two) per night.
Terra Tree House (Cameron Highlands, Pahang)
Here’s an opportunity to get close to nature without forgoing creature comforts. Stowed away from the strawberry-loving and scone-eating crowd at Cameron Highlands is this tree house perched at some 1,400m above sea level. The owner, Mr Ng – a strong advocate of biodynamic organic farming – commissioned the local Orang Asli to construct the tree house instead of razing the rainforests for farming. What you see now is a pared-down retreat, equipped with organic cotton bed sheets, gas-powered heated showers and meals plucked straight from their farm nearby. Entertainment comes in the form of croaking frogs and insect chirps since electricity is only available from 7pm to 10.30pm – more reason for you to bask in the grandeur of nature and do absolutely nothing at all.
Things to do
If you insist on keeping yourself occupied, trek 1.5 hours uphill and cool it off at the nearby waterfall; or get down and dirty at the farm to learn more about biodynamics (an ethical form of agriculture to enhance soil structure and nutrient cycles, thus maximising plant growth). Later, learn to cook the organic produce in the kitchen.
How to get there Take a bus to Tanah Rata. From there, take a public bus that runs hourly to Copthorne Hotel. A jeep from Terra will bring you on a 20-minute drive to the tree house.
19 Jalan Corina 9, Kampung Raja, Cameron Highlands (012 219 2582/www.terrafarm.com.my). RM360 for two person, per night.
Nipah Guesthouse (Pulau Pangkor, Perak)
Aesthetically, the A-shaped chalets at Nipah Guesthouse merits an A grade. All other amenities – air-conditioners, balcony, WiFi – add to its charm, comfort and convenience; plus, the guesthouse is tucked away on a quiet street, located only a few minutes’ walk from Karang beach. Humble hosts Anuar Razak and his wife Alicia are all about the hands-on, personal touch: there’s no registration counter because they insist on personally greeting the guests, and they even built the swimming pool themselves. In the morning, you can channel your inner chef and cook your own breakfast: ingredients such as bread, eggs and sausages are provided.
Things to do
Go to the beach, of course; you can pick from Coral Bay, Teluk Nipah or any other to your fancy. If you’re feeling adventurous, go diving, jet skiing or indulge in other water activities. Otherwise, bird watch and jungle trek in the forests; or visit historical artefacts and sites such as Batu Bersurat and Kota Belanda.
Lot 4506, Teluk Nipah, Pulau Pangkor (017 506 9259/www.pangkorbeachchalet.com). Rates from RM120 per chalet per night.
Tubotel Langkawi (Kuala Cenang, Langkawi)
Think you’ve seen this hotel concept somewhere else? That’s because Tubotel is inspired by the dasparkhotel in Austria and Germany, designed by architect Andreas Strauss. Only a fiveminute drive from the airport, Tubotel is quirky in every sense of the word, as evidenced by the rooms constructed from repurposed pipes. There are 17 of these cylindrical rooms, some facing the garden and some the sea – the latter is of course a much preferred view among travellers. There’s nothing much to do in the room but you can kick back in their pools or take a 15-minute stroll to Cenang beach to catch the sunset.
Things to do
Tubotel provides free bicycles that you can ride to Pantai Cenang for some duty-free shopping. If you want to explore the island, rent a car and drive to Telaga Tujuh waterfalls for more water adventures.
Jetty Pelancongan Chenang, Kuala Cenang, Langkawi Geopark (012 329 4094/www.tubotel.com).From RM188 per night.
Mongolian Yurt (Kundasang, Sabah)
The Yurt – or ‘ger’ in Mongolian – is a circular, transportable tent-like structure made from wooden frames and covered in felt. For thousands of years, it was – and still is – the traditional dwellings of nomads in Central Asia; today, it’s a travel trend.
As the first in Malaysia to introduce the concept of camping in a yurt, Wind Paradise’s yurts are nestled in the hills of Kundasang. They’re not a resort – no Jacuzzis, no on-site massage therapists – but then again, they don’t claim to be. Wind Paradise is a lodge and fits every definition of one: the yurts are outfitted with beds and an attached bathroom, along with basic amenities such as kitchen utilities and toiletries, as well as barbecue and steamboat facilities. Besides, the view of the valleys is more than worth your while.
Things to do
Even if you’re not scaling Mount Kinabalu, you should still see Kinabalu Park – go on a guided walk around the gardens or soak away the sores in the hot springs of Poring. Sip on Sabahan tea at Sabah Tea Garden (also try the pandan teh tarik and tea pancakes). Finally, if you’re ever curious about how milk is made, drop by Desa Dairy Farm – it’s been described as the New Zealand of Sabah, thanks to the grazing Holstein Friesian cows at the pretty-as-a- picture foothills.
Jalan Mesilau, Cinta Mata, Kundasang (019 800 0201/mongolianyurt.mrsabah.com). Rates from RM170.
Tampat Do Aman (Kudat, Sabah)
Sabah is not all mountains and stellar diving sites (although a trip to the idyllic Sipadan is a must). Adventure-seekers who go the extra mile will be rewarded with an unrivalled view of the Tip of Borneo (also known as Tanjung Simpang Mengayau) – the northernmost tip of Borneo that marks the meeting point of the South China Sea and the Sulu Sea.
There are several budget accommodations that will take you there, one of them being Tampat Do Aman, a jungle camp situated at the fringe of Sabah’s state forest reserve. Located just a 20-minute walk to the Kalampunian Beach, Tampat Do Aman offers stays in a traditional Rungus longhouse, semi-permanent tents and most recently, chalets with large balconies. Beach activities here are aplenty, ranging from snorkelling to cycling and jungle trekking. But for a more relaxing evening, kick back with a tipple and drink in the sunset view from their Tip Top Restaurant and Bar.
Things to do
The Rungus community has long occupied this part of Sabah; learn about their history, traditions and culture at the Rungus Museum (opens 8am-3pm). When the season is right, Tampat Do Aman also provides surfing trips for seasoned surfers and the uninitiated. Nature lovers should take advantage of the wildlife reserve education, in which facilitators will show you how to conserve the local environment and Mother Earth.
How to get there Get a taxi from Bandaran Berjaya in Kota Kinabalu (around RM30) to Kudat. The staff from Tampat Do Aman will pick you up from Kudat for RM15 per person each way (before 2pm) to the campsite.
Kg Tiga Papan, Peti Surat 115, Kudat (013 880 8395/www.tampatdoaman.com). Traditional longhouse and semi-permanent tents, RM45 per person per night; single chalets, RM160 per night; family chalets, RM220 per night.
This boutique hotel along Jalan Dato Koyah is a quirky alternative to your regular backpacker hostels. It’s a refurbished three-storey heritage building with a different theme on each floor; there’s the Chinese (modelled after a Hokkien wedding room), Malay (a batik-style setup) and the most sought-after floor, Indian, called ‘Kamasutra’. This floor features a giant bird cage with a queen-sized bed inside, and has a separate queen-sized bed for two more guests. The studio has everything you need for a comfortable stay, offering a lounge area and workspace, a small pantry, as well as a swing and hammock. This ‘boutel’ is ideal for foodies as it’s only a minute’s walk to Nasi Kandar Line Clear and a five-minute walk to Kedai Kopi Hoe Ping.
Things to do
Explore George Town and take photos of the local street art on Armenian Street, which is only a 15-minute walk from ChinaHouse. Remember to stop by Kedai Kopi Hoe Ping for the local Penang delicacies.
17 Jalan Dato Koyah, George Town (www.airbnb.com/rooms/1991445). RM180 per night.