Jan 7, 2011

Japamala - love at first sight

2011 already almost a week, and in couple of days I’ll be another year older. A year that passed was a fulfilling one, sometimes I couldn’t believe myself I’m (already) approaching late 20s league :) well, forget the ageing thingy and let's start off 2011 entry with our wonderful experience in Tioman Island last month..hehe..

The trip actually a wedding gift from husband’s friend, which his syarat the place must be LOCAL. Among first being shortlisted was Rawa Island; unfortunately clashes with office deadlines & wedding jobs had postponed the trip earliest by December where boat operation being risky to rely to since most local islands will be on monsoon. Our search continued with Tioman which accessible by flight and found this beautiful site of
Japamala, a boutique resort housing 12 villas (they called it Sarang) altogether with own private beach. Pictures in TripAdvisor not that interesting and far from any YTL’s luxurious resorts to be compared to, but reviews were telling otherwise made us evenmore tempted to check out the place. And true, we never regret since.

The good about traveling during monsoon, most will offer you huge discount for room. Japamala had this Low Season Package (available in their website) starting RM1.2k+ for couple, including 2N accommodation, airport (boat) transfer, massage etc. For short 3D2N escape, we rather ticked off all outdoors & spend more intimate time for each other...so all we need was nice room! ;) We booked the Seaview Sarang, apparently the one and only there and the most lavish villa they have for couple..kata sponsor kan...

Took Berjaya’s morning flight from Subang Airport. Upon arrival, paid RM5 marine conservation fees and two hotel staffs already standby for our next boat transfer to Japamala. Jay the staff handed us cool towels and lemongrass welcome drink (one of Japamala’s signature) during trip – very refreshing, especially after 55 mins (unpleasant) flight experience. By the way, the speedboat not a tiny we used to imagine, it’s cabined type with twin motors which pretty luxurious by our standard. Mind you, return boat trip will cost RM300+ per couple if you not taking the package.

Finally reached Japamala’s very own jetty, the water beneath so clear that we could see colorful fishes swimming in it. The jetty also serves as one of their dining place, Mandi Mandi Restaurant where you can dine under the sky, or better, stars if you’re lucky! we then brought to reception area; no counter or whatsoever frills found in usual grandeur hotel lobbies…only one low table with laptop and two round-wooden seats for us. Loved the effort-less designs they have here, it brings more rustic feeling to the resort.

Belle the staff walked us to our Sarang. Not that we know we had to climb (long) wooden staircase all the way to our room; thought the room was Seaview..shouldn’t it be closest to ground or pantai as possible? Hehe. Along the way, we were greeted with ‘Good Afternoon’ and warm smiles from each Japalama staff, made us felt so welcomed. The moment Belle opened the door we had to agree the Sarang worth all the climb & wait! It was uber hugeee, about triple size of their smallest villa and very secluded to offer us utmost privacy.

From info we read, very minimal trees being chopped during construction of this resort and to not disturb the natural landscape, you’ll find each and every villa is rather designed to fit their original location. One obvious example seen in our Sarang, the big rock was not moved but instead made a nice, natural hide for our small plunge pool :) Guess the pictures do better talking..

tengok pun dah berpeluh!

our huge nest ;)

same seat found at lobby *wink

with sky & jungle view..check out the showerhead!

(very) small hot tub..

from homegrown Samadhi Spa

walkway to our pool, where MONKEYS usually found in the morning..no joking! :)

the 'rock' pool ;)

First thing we did was changed & spent hours in our private pool until we turned blue! We later learnt the water was from nearby bukit, no wonder the ‘sejuk’ was different so a sip of hot chocs was nice to warm us out after a long soak. Hubby then went back to reception (since no phone or even mobile coverage in room) to get some DVDs. I was already dozed off by then, and it was almost 7pm when we woke up and me being cliché, rushed to balcony konon to check out the sunset. Haha. It was a little cloudy, so sadly no sunset for us! Regardless, the view still...a breathtaking.. *smile*

candid him

Took quick shower, then head to Mandi Mandi Restaurant for our first dinner. Setting of jetty restaurant itself is unbeatable; it was built up on stilts above the sea with meters away from beachfront. For the first time, actual looked a lot better than pictures especially after the places all been lit up...now I know the TA reviewers were speaking truth hehe. BBQ was cancelled unfortunately, so we had everything ordered. They served Italian/ western cuisine and we’ve been told to fork out at least rm100/couple per meal. Not that friendly to pocket, but I guess fair considering its remote location.

chef at work!

waiting for our table

The bed already made up when we got back. Iced waters replenished, cleaned the used glasses, room was lit up our room scented candles and not to forget, little surprise left on our bed every night – chocolates! :) This is routine & among special touches you'll find in Japamala. The advantage of handling smaller guests at one time made them aware each and every guest whereabouts so they'll come to tidy up each time we left the room. Clearly, “Please Make Up Room” sign is not needed here.


Had our breakfast the next day at Tamarind Terrace (serving Indo-Chinese & a sister restaurant to Tamarind Spring, so you can expect the taste). With small occupants, they only prepared small buffet with basics like bread, fruits, cereals etc and we’re allowed to order (as many we want) from their menu – another personal touch :) Be it everywhere, Mango Lassi (or any yogurt drink I guess!) is something you shouldn’t miss including here in Japamala. Their homemade chicken porridge was fabulous, had to tapau some food cos hubby overly ordered – good thing, jimat our lunch! Hehe.

check out the bowl. old and rustic! ;)

Belle came to remind our complimentary Thai massage appoinment. Unfortunately one of their therapist was on leave so we had to forego any couple treatment offered. Massage took at one of the hut upside overlooking the sea, with breezy waves as background. Done by a skillful lady from Bali…the pressure was damn good, unbeliavably backpain I’ve been suffering has now gone!

one of massage hut (another climbing!)

I went to checkout the resort while hubby doing his massage and took as much pictures of Japamala. Rooms were all nested within the jungle and only accessible through their wooden walkways. Not that friendly to physically unfit or even kids, as some not even with hand railings. The resort constantly fully booked, mainly with honeymooners seeking for total privacy but locals rarely seen here according to Aruni the resident manager. Visited other villas, their next best with budget friendly option is Seacliff rooms, 3 units altogether – request for room 16, it offers best seaview & privacy! :) Met Mike, one of the staff on the way back (with warm smile of course) and interestingly, he asked how was my massage going. Goodness, we just met? The fact I still remember their names tells a lot about the staff (and Japamala itself) i guess..The warmth & bonding very unlikely to be found in other places :)
the seacliff rooms

We didn’t get to celebrate husband’s birthday earlier due to my brother’s wedding held on same date, so our final night at Japamala would be perfect time to make up with just the two of us :) Mike setup simple private dinner for us by the beach, at one of their beach hut. Funny that we start off having nasi and all sort for a supposed-romantic dinner hehehe..what to do their western jetty restaurant was closed due to heavy wind :p

I only arranged them that 3pm and left all the creativity to Mike and amazingly, they manage to pull out a cake for husband’s belated birthday! The taste? Think Haagen Daaz Belgian Choc, better version! And the best of all – it’s FREE. Husband was completely touched (Who doesnt? You got surprise cake on remote island okay) and never expect it as I was busy with weddings of lates. No nice card, only simple birthday note written on Japamala letterhead..lousy, i know!! :p

26th ;)

The final morning, we requested for in-room breakfast with everything ordered prior night. Nothing spectacular, except you dont have to rush & can dine with only bathrobe on hehehe. We then packed our thing with our most heavy heart knowing we’ll leave this paradise soon. We left some note in their guestbook before we checked out, and planning for similar fair review for Tripadvisor soon.

Overall, Japamala was our best stay so far and thank you again to husband’s friend for this wonderful trip. Time never a rush here, fully recommended especially for couples who wants to absolutely do nothing, like Japamala’s selling line DO NOTHING AT ALL, LET THE SURROUNDING DO IT FOR YOU.. All in all, being local, I have to agree with one note written by previous guest staying in similar room – never knew Malaysia had this..... :) :)