Before I visited Malaysia I hadn’t heard much about the country from other travellers, but I soon discovered it has some beautiful islands and beaches to visit. While the islands of Pangkor Laut and Langkawi are more well-known, the East Coast of Malaysia is a diver’s dream and has some beautiful unspoiled beaches.
After tasting the street food of Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, I caught a flight up to Kuala Terengganu to visit the gorgeous Tanjong Jara Resort owned by YTL Hotels.
I stayed a total of 3 nights here and it seriously wasn’t enough. For a start the hotel was gorgeous, with lush greenery, tropical palm trees and a view of the South China Sea. It was incredibly relaxing and if you want a secluded beach with hardly anyone on it, this is the place to come.
Sometimes I just want a vacation where I do absolutely nothing, and at Tanjong Jara it’s easy to fill your days relaxing by the pool, swimming in the ocean, dining in the restaurants and enjoying a spa treatment or two. However there are also plenty of opportunities to experience the local culture, so during my stay I visited the local market, took part in a Malaysian cooking class and went on a snorkeling trip to Tenggol Island.
I was staying in one of the Serambi rooms on the ground floor of a two-story building and had a verandah where I could drink coffee in the morning overlooking the South China Sea. The room itself is very spacious featuring a king-size bed, a smaller four poster bed (presumably for if you have children), a flat-screen TV, mini bar, tea and coffee making facilities and a walk-in wardrobe. I loved the timber decor and the rich fabrics, plus the cerise pink flowers that were laid on the bed.
The bathroom features his ‘n’ hers sinks, a walk-in rain shower and a separate bath tub which is raised off the floor. In fact I came back from dinner one evening to find the bath tub full of water and sprinkled with rose petals!
The resort is built on a 17-hectare site facing the ocean and is full of lush greenery and palm trees. It’s a very peaceful, relaxing setting if you’re looking for a quiet break to escape the stresses of everyday life.
The beach is an unspoiled stretch of golden sand and I was the only one on it! It’s not very often I get an entire beach to myself and the ocean was lovely and warm.
There are two swimming pools at Tanjong Jara; there’s a smaller free-form pool near the Teratai Terrace and lobby, and another bigger one next to the beach. I spent all my time at the latter, as it was more beautiful with a better view. There’s nothing like a Margarita in the sun!
The gym is next to the the Spa Village and has floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the lush greenery and palm trees.
My stay at Tanjong Jara was quite the culinary journey and I got to learn a lot more about Malay cuisine. I even got to take part in a Malaysian Cooking class with the very funny Chef Ann!
‘Di Atas Sungei’ restaurant sits on the river that flows into the South China Sea and there is no menu here. Chef Ann came over to my table to ask what kind of meat/fish I would prefer and then cooked a variety of Malay dishes according to my tastes, including four-corner-bean salad, mango salad, Roselle chicken and a gorgeous prawn dish cooked with cream and topped with a crispy egg bird’s nest. The prawn dish was one of the best things I have ever tasted!
This same restaurant is where the breakfast buffet is served, and there are a variety of options including Malay Nasi Lemak, fruit, cheese, pastries, croissants, and cereals. You can also enjoy eggs and cooked breakfasts made to order.
I experienced my first ever steamboat dinner on the Teratai Terrace, which also has a small cocktail bar. A steamboat dinner is basically an Asian version of fondue and involves cooking your own food in a big pot of boiling soup. I was given a big plate of chicken, fish, vegetables and noodles to cook in the bubbling broth, but I found it a little bit too hot for such a humid, balmy evening and I ended up sweaty and flustered. I don’t think I’ve mastered the art of steamboat cooking! The chocolate lover’s cake for dessert soon made up for it though; this is like a little piece of heaven!
On another evening I enjoyed a multi-course private dinner on the beach at Nelayan restaurant, which was a brilliant experience dining under the stars. To start I was served an amuse bouche which consisted of a Tom Yam chicken ball and cucumber juice, plus walnut bread with olive oil and balsamic. Next came Teriyaki scallops on a bed of mushrooms, a cauliflower soup, a and a light orange sorbet to cleanse the palette. Usually I would think this was the end of the meal, but the main course was yet to come! You can choose from seafood or meat for the main, and I had selected the beef medallions with vegetable gratin, asparagus and bok choi. I was so full I could barely move!! It’s always a special experience dining next to the ocean, and it was made even more special with a blazing bonfire!
During the day Nelayan also serves some great Western and Asian dishes. I tried the Nelayan burger, the satay and the mango fish, which were all very tasty.
I was signed up for the Signature Asam Roselle treatment at the Spa Village, which included a relaxing massage to rejuvenate the body, followed by a creamy scrub to soften and refine the skin. At the beginning of the treatment I was given a sarong to change into, and then taken to a bench where the therapist poured bowls of water over my head. Afterwards I was given a bowl of water to pour over myself while making a wish.
The full-body massage was very relaxing and the body scrub left my skin feeling silky smooth. At the end I received a complimentary sarong to take home, and I was given a cup of high antioxidant Roselle tea. The Roselle plant was introduced to Malaysia from India and has been used in traditional medicine and local delicacies.
During my stay at Tanjong Jara Resort I also had the opportunity to visit the nearby Dungun market, where I got to see local traders selling fresh fish, seafood and vegetables. Chef Ann is quite the character; she has ELEVEN cats and she loves to hold the vegetables up to her ears and pretend they look like earrings! Watch the video below to see her in action!
After the morning market visit, I also got to partake in a Malaysian cooking class. The class took place in the ‘Di Atas Sungei restaurant’ next to the river, and Chef Ann showed us how to prepare fish and beef dishes using the fresh ingredients from the market. It was a hot and humid day, so we were given some Roselle juice to cool us down…this stuff is delicious! Of course the best part of the cooking class is actually eating the product at the end.
On my final day at the resort I took a snorkelling trip to nearby Tenggol Island. Pulau Tenggol forms part of the Terengganu Marine Park and the reef here is in almost perfect condition, so there were several divers on the trip.
My stay at Tanjong Jara Resort was complimentary, provided by YTL Hotels. All opinions however, are my own.