Checking in: The Kasturi Resort, Cherating
Embraced by land and sea
Believe it or not, Malaysia is a treasure trove of wanderlust gems. While yes, there are plenty of beautiful beach holiday destinations around the world, so does our country (we've even listed seven romantic getaways to prove that point) and one of them is Cherating in Pahang. If you're looking for a quick escape, consider The Kasturi Resort, a five-star beachside luxury resort designed by renowned architect Hijjas Kasturi.
Technically the new kid on the block (that is Chendor beach in Cherating), there are a fair few reasons to fall in love with The Kasturi Resort. One, it's built on 30 acres of coastal forest but faces the South China Sea. Two, it's one architectural beauty where the chalets take its form inspired by traditional Malay architecture with an A-frame structure. Three, it values sustainability. Four, otters, sea eagles and fireflies have been sighted within the property's vicinity; and the resort even has its own turtle hatchery. I could go on but let's review the specifics.
THE ROOMS: BEACH FRONT VILLA
The Kasturi Resort holds 23 keys and there's room for every type of traveller. For families or those travelling in large groups, there's the Beach Front Family Villas with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and the beach for its "backyard". Not big enough to fit everyone? Nestled within the lush greenery, the Forest View Villas consist of three bedrooms and three bathrooms. For couples looking for a romantic escape, the Beach Front Villa is perfect. Whichever you pick, all three of these accommodation types come with its own private plunge pool. There's also the option of Studios or Suites at the main building.
Since it was just my husband and I, we stayed at the Beach Front Villa and can attest that the chalet is huge. After checking in, a buggy whizzed us to our villa via the elevated forest walkway and upon opening the large wooden door, an oasis awaited us. Instantly, we could see the beach ahead of us, past the tempting private pool and its deck, and a gate leading to the edge of the forest and thereafter, the crashing waves. There's also a lotus pond, a deck for outdoor dining, and an outdoor shower. The exterior hits all the right spots in terms of modern resort luxury, even with the traditional Malay-style frame. The interior, however, is a stark contrast.
While spacious with modern day comforts (air-conditioning, Smart TV, Sound Bar, etc), there were just a few personal pet peeves on the decor and design elements—a dark-toned cow hide rug over the terrazzo floor (which had a long cracked line) and the odd placement of the TV (though understandably so as to allow guests to either watch it from the couch on the lower level or from the bed on the higher level). Move into the bathroom, however, and all is redeemed. On one side is the long vanity counter (complete with two basins) and on the other, a bathtub, a shower room and a door that leads to the outdoor shower. Note, however, that the decor differs according to the villa type—the other two categories definitely look more modern.
Unfortunately, there isn't much of a variety of dining options on the property, although you can always head out for the true local fanfare. There is only Kenyang Restaurant (or room service) but the menu is adequate enough and changes according to the time of the day, giving, at least, a sort of variety. The highlight though is sitting at the verandah with a panoramic view of the sea, swimming pool and surrounding decks; complemented by the sea breeze. Props should also be given to the friendly staff and their top-notch service—it truly is one of the best things about The Kasturi Resort.
Technically, everything you need is in the villa—there's already a private pool and just walk out the gate to reach the beach (though the ones facing the Beach Villas are barricaded by rocks, separating the waves from the sandy area). Otherwise, there is a spa, a public swimming pool and a gym. Also, there are bicycles placed around the resort for anyone who's game. Personally, I didn't even call for the buggy to get to/from the restaurant most of the time—because the option of walking by the beach or "tree-bathing" is so much better. A must-do, however, is a visit to the turtle hatchery, which releases hatchlings daily between May and October. Unfortunately (or fortunately), during my time there, there were no eggs being sold at the market. You can also check with the staff to arrange for kayaking on the mangrove-fringed river.
There's a perfectly good reason why The Kasturi Resort is set within the cusps of a forest—to preserve the big trees that have already been there for years. But the family of Hijjas Kasturi—who owns Rimbun Dahan that operates the resort—didn't stop there. After all, the company started first with the turtle hatchery in 2014, and a previous project of theirs, Hotel Penaga in Penang, too valued minimising footprint. Here are just some of the ways The Kasturi Resort is a sustainable resort:
- The resort used local materials, from the rubble walls to terrazzo floors to re-milling on site of all the recycled timber—of which were reclaimed from old buildings
- No small plants were harmed in the construction of the resort, and was instead bagged for future use in landscaping
- Structures and walkways are elevated wherever possible to minimise harming the forest ground
- Each chalet has tanks to save rain water to supply garden water and for toilet flushing
- The main building uses solar-assisted air conditioning in the main building
- Tons of sawdust from the carpenters' workshops were used to mulch the sandy soil
To be fair, don't expect Cherating to be anywhere as fancy as Bali. If you're looking for a quiet escape, The Kasturi Resort does the trick and all in all, offers a very comfortable stay. Rimbun Dahan, which operates the resort, is a private arts centre and in that essence, The Kasturi Resort does embody a Malaysian spirit while keeping everything very close to home, and preserving the natural landscape. For that, it deserves praise. It's no international resort chain but it is a celebration of what the locals and Malaysia as a country have to offer. It's built with love. Did I mention that the sunset and sunrise there are quite pretty too?
The Kasturi Resort
KM 32.5, Jalan Kuantan, Kemaman, 26080 Cherating, Pahang