Your Secret Getaway..

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Putri and I @ Pulau Payar Marine Park

(Journal Entry)

8:45 a.m. – Putri and I are downstairs getting ready for our bus to pick us up to bring us to Jetty Point, Kuah Town.

-- We’re pretty excited about heading to Pulau Payar! One of the most highly anticipated adventures. Have really high expectations for this trip.. I hope its not disappointing!

Pulau Payar Marine Park is located 19 nautical miles south of Langkawi Island. If coming from Penang Island, it is located 32 nautical miles north of Penang Island. It is also approximately 15 nautical miles west of Kuala Kedah. This island still remains unspoilt until today due to its status as a marine park and is South East Asia’s first 1 stop snorkeling, diving and water activity floating platform. In a form of a massive two tier floating platform, due to the government’s tireless efforts to preserve marine life around the place, the fish in and around Pulau Payar seem to be totally at ease with tourists!

Booking day trips usually include pickup from your hotel, lunch on the island and use of snorkelling and diving equipment. Two dives are arranged. Total time that you need to allocate for this trip is from 8am to 4:30pm.

Once we had arrived at Jetty Point, Putri and I along with the rest of the tour group were escorted to the boat docks to where we were ushered into a large ferry boat with both indoor and outdoor seating. I must admit.. it looked pretty swank! J

A short 40 minute ride later, I noticed the boat starting to slow down, and out of nowhere, an overly excited Puteri (who chose to sit outside) ran into the indoor seating area where I was calmly reading my book screaming ‘Woooh! Where here! Come see!’

I must admit, the Pulau Payar Marine Park platform looked like something out of Star Trek! Anchored in open sea, just around 200 metres away from the island shore, the massive structure had a bridging area where boats can connect, a huge area (resembling a food court seating area) with round tables scattered everywhere, a diving centre and an equipment hub and even an underwater observatory!

Wow.. I was so excited I had to stop myself from screaming ‘BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY!’

Sun, Snorkeling, Sea, and Sci-Fi. My dream has come true.

After being led to our designated tables, we were briefed by our tour guide/dive instructor on the guidelines following the island. And they went a little something like this;

No fishing or killing of fish.

No collecting of corals or other marine organisms.

No collecting of sand, dead shells or dead corals.

No polluting or littering.

No anchoring on reefs.

No building or erecting any type of structure on the water.

Keeping strictly to these rules and regulations will ensure that this park will remain unspoiled for many years to come. Comprising of numerous uninhabited islands such as Pulau Lembu, Pulau Kaca and Pulau Segantang, this park is surrounded by coral reefs and many kinds of endangered marine species. Payar Island is the biggest island in this park measuring 2 km by 1/4 km.

Snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving are the main activities on the island. Being a marine park means that most of the marine life and vegetation in the sea are still thriving. The most popular diving site is known as Coral Garden and is located at the south-west of Pulau Payar where bright and multicoloured soft corals can be seen. The fascinating feature of this park is that there are many artificial reefs built from old boats, concrete blocks and tyres that have developed into mature reefs with plenty of sea creatures around them. Baby Shark Feeding is also a memorable experience, as we literally were able to swim with these baby sharks in about 4 feet of water!

Jungle Tracking is another activity that you can do over here as the island is a self-sustaining island with virtually no concrete except for walkways, and changing areas at the beach area of the island. I think it was great how they try to avoid over “commercializing” it at the cost of taking away some of its charm!

The moment I reached the island shore (via flippers!), I was reminded of that old TV show “The Swiss Family Robinson” with vast stretches of white sand, punctuated by rocks towards the shores, crystal clear water and a hilly (and very green!) zone just off the cost! Ok! excuse my overdone use of movie examples.. at least I’m not ranting on about food!

After a full on day of snorkeling, shark feeding, jungle trekking and photo taking, Puteri and I were pooped and ready to head back home to rest up for dinner.

I must say my trip to the Pulau Payar Marine Park definitely lived up to my expectations and is definitely one of the highlights of my trip. I felt like a little kid in a big, wet jungle gym all over again! It was really something else.

For those keen on doing something fun and memorable in Langkawi Island, the Marine Park is definitely on to go for.

Till The Next Post..

Harith The Trekky Beach Bum

Kindly Sponsored by Rahsia Estates Sdn Bhd

Friday, July 31, 2009

My Last Week @ The Temple Tree - Bonton

The next stop on my Island adventure is to The Temple Tree at Bon Ton Resort in Pantai Cenang.

Now, I’ve really been looking forward to this stay as everyone has given me rave reviews about it! From my parents who love the atmosphere and feel of the place to other hoteliers I have spoken to, elaborating on the very ‘different’ concept this establishment has.

This ought to be fun!

The Bon Ton Resort Langkawi is owned by Australian owner Narelle McMurtie who has enthusiastically developed her resort to make it one of the most unique resorts on the island without losing any of the traditional Malaysian atmosphere. She has purchased antique villas from other parts of Malaysia, dismantled them, and then reassembles them on her spacious land which overlooks a beautiful lotus pond and the Machinchang Mountains.

The antique villas are maintained in its rustic form but does not lack any luxuries on the inside; with beautiful furniture and top of the line equipment such as DVD players, air conditioning, silk slippers and of course a mini fridge.

The Temple Tree, an extension of the Bon Ton Resort, has a slightly different concept but does not lack in luxury at all!

This hotel is made up of 8 villas sprawled across a large area of land surrounded by a beautiful lotus lagoon, with Mount Machinchang in the backdrop. With Chinese, Malay, Indian and even Eurasian influences, each restored building villa is completely unique and rich with history as most of them are hundreds of years old, and have their own stories behind them.

This hotel has a fresh concept where the building villa can be rented on its own or as individual hotel rooms.

Once I had arrived at the Temple Tree, I was led to the Straits Club House to check into my room and meet with one of the hotel staff.

The Straights Club House
Originally called “Bahagia”, this building was originally placed on York Road in Penang. Built in the mid 1920s by a Eurasian family, the house accommodated them for 40 odd years until it was sold to a Malay family in the 1960s.
This building resembles an old colonial building with verandahs and beautiful carvings on the high end of the walls to let the air flow through. It now houses the resort reception, and also includes a restaurant, bar, library and game centre with a pool table and board games. The wide verandahs are perfect for reading a book or having a late lunch. The servants quarters at the back have been converted into the restaurant kitchen.

After filling up my details while enjoying my delicious welcome drink, I was shown to my room which is located at the far end of the lush, relaxing compound.

Pinapple Mint Iced Tea -- Delicious!

Estates Quarters

Originally built in Paser Puteh, Ipoh in the 1940s, this building was a long house for Indian workers on a rubber estate. With the aunthentic aesthetics of common workers quarters around Malaysia, it has converted superbly into 5 hotel rooms. All rooms include terracotta-tiled floors, a comfortably sized bedroom and a living space with separate bathrooms and a verandah at the front.

The interior design of each room are individually unique with different styles and feels. My room was absolutely sublime!

After getting settled in, I was very eager to explore the rest of the resort and to check out the other heritage building villas!

The Colonial House

This very large grand house which originated in Georgetown, Penang. Built by a middle eastern family in the 1920s, the very wealthy family showed their lavishness with the western influences which shows with the architectural touches such as the cornices, floor tiles and fishscale design canopy over the porch. It is now the ultimate gathering spot for five sets of friends or a large family.

With a huge living space with a bar included, a dining table for 10 and heaps of lounge space, combined with two bedrooms downstairs and three upstairs, making it a perfect space for a private venue. The two ground floor bedrooms have separate entrances and an outdoor private garden with wooden tubs and sunloungers. On the top floor, the Colonial 3 has a large space with a both the bedroom and living space as one area and a separate bath hall with two wooden baths. The Colonial 4, also on the top floor, is the showpiece of the villa, with separate living space, a family bath hall and 2 separate bedrooms.

Chinese House & Pool Area

The Chinese House is absolutely magnificent. Built by a Chinese family in Batu Pahat, Johore, the house was originally a farmhouse and was built approximately a hundred years ago. The aesthetics are said to have Taiwanese influence and the house includes one suite on each floor, both with large verandahs overlooking the scenic view of the Machinchang mountains. The house also includes a movie projector room, a private Mah Jong room and its own bar.

Black & White House

This beautiful Malay House was built in the 1940s in Mantin, Negri Sembilan in the south of Kuala Lumpur. It’s a complete house with a living and dining area, a huge bedroom with a wooden bathtub, separate bathrooms and an adjoining mini gym. The coloured glass windows and details in the finishing give a truly authentic feel to the building.

Walking across to the bonton area, I noticed a small garden at the far end of the compound. It was a herb garden!

Being a real food enthusiast, (as you can tell by my constant mention of food!) seeing an authentic vegetable and fruit garden really got me excited!

The vegetable and fruit garden was full of different fruits and plants including heaps of produce that are used in the delicious dishes created at the Nam restaurant, including limau kesturi (kaffiah lime) and the ubi ara (the common fig).

With a mix of modern, 5 star hospitality and traditional Malaysian heritage buildings, the Temple Tree is a wonderful place to holiday in when you want to step out of the mainstream "beach holidays" and step into your own personal sanctuary. It really is lovely here. Sighhh.

Phew. Exhausted from my tour around the Bon Ton and Temple Tree, I decided to cool off by the pool and then rest up as I have a long day with Puteri at the Pulau Payar Marine Park tomorrow.

Till the next post..