By Tracey Mehrtens
The tranquillity and oasis of calm at Club Med Cherating Beach in Malaysia sweeps over you upon entering the resort’s wending driveway – the traditional wooden low-rise accommodation beginning its sprawl along the beach to one side, the lush forest bordering the other.
Alighting at the front steps outside reception, the trickling water walls, crashing waves on the beach and the occasional chattering monkey are there to greet you; the only other sound is the firm clang, clang, clang of a large bell. It turns out to be the Club Med train, a quaint, almost Disneyland-like, white and blue train that carries guests the short trip to the other side of Club Med’s vast property and private beaches.
On one of the beaches you will find the water sports base and beach bar, and on another the Rembulan seafood restaurant looking out over the South China Sea. The short ride through the forest shows just a slice of this vast Club Med village, which offers plenty of space to spread out and explore.
For more dining choice, back near reception and poolside is the Mutiara, a daily feast of cuisine from around the world – Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Indian and of course Malaysian.
Club Med prides itself in the quality of its food. There’s a focus on seafood, fresh vegetables and fruits, with nearly a quarter of the buffet offerings utilising organic ingredients, as well as a vegetarian ‘corner’ in the spacious buffet.
In keeping with the high quality and organic food, Club Med is very in touch with the environment and is committed to sustainability. The resort is the proud holder of Bronze Green Globe Status, one that it is looking to elevate to Silver later this year. They use local and environmentally friendly suppliers where possible, recycle and compost, and biodiesel is being tested on the train shuttle.
Club Med also works with the neighbouring turtle sanctuary, which breeds three different species of turtles and releases them back into the wild. Guests can watch the amazing sight of the young turtles beginning their journey of life with, what to them seems like an eternally long journey, across the land to the sea.
The accommodation rooms at Club Med are spacious; set in low-rise blocks linked by wide wooden decking, my room overlooking the sea is an easy walk from reception past the high-flying trapeze and tennis courts. Unlocking my room door, a novel warning catches my eye as I enter – ‘Don’t leave your windows or door open, beware of monkeys’ – Certainly food for thought! ??Monkey stories flow freely here, from guests and staff alike. Advice includes “Don’t leave your door or windows open” and “Don’t feed them” as well as wonderfully evocative stories of what the monkeys get up to once inside a room… all the fun and games of make-up to smear around, food to be eaten, clothes to rummage through and items to run off with (underwear and bras being of particular attraction) stir humorous images in your mind’s eye about the havoc these little creatures can create.
Advised that monkey hunting is at its best in the morning and evening, breakfast time did not disappoint. After we’d eaten it was monkey bath and playtime. Obviously bored from merely looking at food through the restaurant windows and not being able to touch or taste, the monkey family took to the pond environs outside, chasing each other nimbly over the terracotta tiled roof and flinging themselves down into the water below, reminiscent of children at play in a swimming pool. Their antics held me and a host of staff and guests spellbound.
With my camera unfortunately stowed in my room, I was looking forward to the next morning to capture the playful family on film, but I was disappointed – their antics never again quite lived up to the pond diving escapade. It was, according to staff, a one-off show.
When the monkeys aren’t entertaining the children, Kids Club will, catering for 2-year-olds up to 17-year-olds. Club Med Cherating has a fabulous teenage club called Passworld, an exclusive zone for 11-17- year-olds, where no parents are allowed to step foot in the door! Inside, kids have plenty to keep them entertained including, hip-hop, sound mixing, film, theatre, dance sport or partying. Passworld even has its own bar, serving only non-alcoholic drinks, of course.
Another Kids Club option is the new Pyjama Club service, a group baby-sitting service, which is available for 2-8-year-olds, allowing parents a relaxing evening off to enjoy dinner or drinks at the bar.
A great way to relax is with a spa session, which I always love. It’s a chance to escape the world and surrender your body and mind to absolute relaxation. When you’re reclining in a slatted wooden chair with your feet soaking in a flower sprinkled foot tub, looking out to sea where the only sound is that of the waves crashing to shore, interspersed with gentle soothing music filtering to the outdoor courtyard, it becomes even more special. The onsite Mandara Spa village with its private seaside treatment rooms is deliciously soul-reviving. Short treats, two or three hour options, and pure indulgences that lasts up to three or five days, are all on the menu of choice.
My lemongrass foot soak was the beginning of ‘Pure Indulgence’ a nearly 2½ hour escape into cold ginger tea, a moisturising coconut body scrub, harmony oil body massage followed by a soak in the outdoor plunge pool scattered with chrysanthemum flowers. The best part is that once you’re done, slightly sleepy and oh so relaxed, the transition back into the ‘real world’ is gentle as you emerge into the tranquillity of Club Med, and thankfully not into your car to drive home.
Home does beckon though, and unfortunately all great holidays come to an end. With Club Med tranquillity and hospitality at a close, it was a 45-minute bus trip back to Kuantan airport for the literal hop over the water back to Kuala Lumpur and my Malaysia Airlines flight directly back to Auckland. But I’m sure that the chattering monkeys and the clang of the resort’s train bell will beckon me back to Cherating soon.