Terengganu offered us an opportunity to experience the wonderful resort life by the South China Sea. Situated on the northeast side of the country, Terengganu hugs the scenic coast of the South China Sea. Here we visited three different resorts, each unique in its own way.
One, The Aryani Resort was built by an architect, who was also a member of the royal family. As such he was able to utilize antiques from some of the old royal residences. He had even restored old buildings, bringing out a new beauty and purpose for them. Antique furniture and carvings were incorporated into this lovely resort in this incredible setting. We ate lunch in a covered, open air dining room, looking out across a pool, surrounded by carefully manicured lawns and landscaped tropical gardens, to the azure blue sea beyond. We were taken on a tour of the resort, which revealed the care and thought that went into combining the old and the new, in such a way that the beauty of those ancient pieces was retained and possibly enhanced. One restored building has been turned into a spa site, where visitors can have all their health and beauty needs tenderly taken care of.
Later we were ensconced at another resort, Gem Beach Resort. My room opened onto a private veranda where I could sit and view the expanse of the South China Sea before me. A boat was languidly bobbing on the water, far off shore. Turning to the left, I admired the beautifully landscaped resort, with an azure blue pool, curving through the property. I wished I had days to spend just soaking in the beauty and peaceful atmosphere of this place. A walk along the powdery-white sandy beach, stretching out before the resort, led to a neighboring fishing village. The people were friendly and waved as we passed by. Again we had dinner in an open-air dining room, this time while a sudden squall gave us a tremendous display of the tempestuous nature of the heavens after a hot humid day. Lightening illuminated the night sky, thunder crashed and roared as a torrent of rain came down. It all disappeared as rapidly as it had appeared and we walked back to our rooms in the soft glow of the moon lit night, noting the wonderful fresh smell of the tropical garden after the rain.
Gem Island Resort was a special treat. This small resort situated on a rock island reached by approximately a 30 minute speed boat ride. We were told there are never more than 150 people on Gem Island at any one time. Our rooms were built into the perimeter of the rock, on pilings over the water's edge. I could slide back the doors at the front of my room, and lean over the railing to watch the fish swimming below. I particularly loved the sign on the window, " No fishing from your room." Even on this rocky terrain, dense vegetation formed a jungle covering much of the small island. Gem Island Resort is involved in the conservation and preservation of sea turtles. Some of the young men on the staff voluntarily spend nights on a nearby beach where the turtles come to lay their eggs. When new eggs are laid, they bring them back to the Island where they are buried in a protected area. Here the baby turtles can hatch without danger from the predators who normally drastically reduce their numbers. They are then kept in a saltwater enclosure while they gain strength before tackling the dangers of the deep. In this way it is hoped that these little creatures have a better chance of surviving to adulthood. Turtles who do become adults have the chance to live very long lives in the ocean.
While on Gem Island we had the opportunity to go out snorkeling to see the colourful tropical fish that inhabit the tropical seas. We were taken by boat to a bay on the other side of the island and suited up with snorkeling equipment. I went along to watch as I am really a poor swimmer. Much to my own amazement, the fascination of taking part in this new adventure overcame my reservations and I dove into the water. I might say here that I really surprised myself by daring to dive into that deep water! The fish were abundant and colourful. It was an exciting experience. A trio of younger, more energetic and adventurous members of our group took two kayaks and went across to an area near another island, where they were told they could dive with the sharks, as the sharks in that area are not supposed to be dangerous. I must admit to having serious reservations about the safety of the adventure. Just as they started to come back, the skies darkened and a sudden squall came up. I looked out shortly after the storm started and noticed a lone kayaker heading to shore, slightly off course. Concerned, I ran to get my neighbour, Liz to get assistance for him, at the same time wondering if the others were in trouble. Liz and I looked out the window again and noticed the other two kayakers were wading out from shore to help . At dinner that evening we learned that the other two were better able to fight the wind and water with their combined strength, however the lone kayaker had a more difficult time battling the storm alone. We were all thankful that the three arrived home safely. They also told us of their adventure with the sharks. They dove down and were moving around in the water, when they noted a shadow lurking nearby. Without warning the shadow suddenly passed between two of them, coming close enough to touch! It was a shark. At least one of the group had found the experience very unnerving! A person who will dive with the sharks has to be a brave soul!
Terengganu was unique and wonderful in its own way. The beauty and the serenity of the resorts, the friendliness of the people and the marvelous adventure we experienced there provided me with memories that will always be very special.
Story and pictures by M. Maxine George
For further information contact:
Tourism Malaysia 830 Burrard St., Vancouver, B.C. V6Z 2K4 Phone: 1-888-689-6872 Fax: 011 603 746 5637
Malaysia Airlines Reservations: 1-800-552-9264
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