Berjaya Tioman Resort: Home with a touch of spice

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Had my room not been in front of the beach, had it not been mere steps away from the restaurants, I would have laid still beneath the soft sheets for days on end, with the kitchen delivering food thrice daily. Yes, it was easy ransacking the mini-bar for fare, but the glistening waters around Berjaya Tioman Resort and the numerous activities it offers beckons each guest to experience a fun-filled day fit for royalty.

In the past 20 years, heads-ofstate and monarchs have stayed in the resort’s villas. Master divers and expert golfers have likewise walked on its halls, and travelers of all walks of life have stepped upon its wooden floors to experience that hospitality that is reputably only Pulau Tioman’s. For many of the locals, though, it has been a source of livelihood – a home which they shared with blessings of nature and guests of all nationalities.

Berjaya Tioman is the island’s only international-standard resort, occupying 220 acres of land between the shore and the mountains, and one must fly for an hour from mainland Malaysia to reach it. Regularly, the resort fetches guests from the airport via open Safari-like buses, leaving the scenery open for shots and videos. It was much like “Jurassic Park,” sans the electric fences and hungry dinosaurs.

The buildings and ‘chalets’ around the resort possess a unique Malay architecture. Nearly everything is made out of wood, including the carved embellishments, the chandeliers and the walls and floors. In the fully-equipped and air-conditioned rooms of the chalets, ample lighting and clean, white walls raise the ambience for each night of sleep guests get, while waking up in the morning is made effortful by the soft pillows and thick linens tucking them in.

According to Pravir Mishra, executive assistant manager of Berjaya Tioman Resort, guests come in all year due to the consistent tropical weather of the island, even in the rainy or low season from November to February. “We mostly accommodate families, couples and groups of friends in the resort. Around 55 to 60 percent of those who come are Malaysians and Singaporeans, while 25 percent are Europeans.” He said that Europeans stay the longest, anywhere from two weeks to as long as two months.

He then took us in a rare opportunity to see the luxurious Shahzan Villa, a prime four-story house overlooking the whole resort. It is a favorite choice of lodging for many prominent people the resort has hosted. From presidents and ministers to emirs and royal families, many have come to experience Tioman with a bird’s eye-view, holding meetings by day and relaxing by night. “Every night costs RM18,000 (around $6,000), and it comes with butler service, a secure location and privacy,” says Pravir. The price may be steep, but everything from the cable car access to the artwork and design inside the many rooms of the villa show the opulence and pomp worthy of a VIP.

Sugar, spice and everything nice

The Berjaya Tioman Resort boasts of four restaurants and two bars, but the biggest of them all is the Sri Nelayan Coffee House, where all continental buffets are served for the guests. Heading an able team of local and foreign cooks and waiters is Chef Carson Ng, a Chinese-Malaysian who proudly serves authentic cuisine available only in Tioman.

“We cater to international guests so we serve international buffets, the menu for which changes daily. But many of our guests who’ve never been to Malaysia tried the local food, and those who liked it even requested for recipes.” For many of their dishes, he uses locally-available ingredients while items from the mainland or even from abroad are used for creative and specialty dishes, which can be served à la carte.

For lunch, he served us a selection of rice, chicken and beef dishes which he considers to be the best in their roster. Sweet and succulent Chicken Satay came with a serving of sticky rice and dip of spicy peanut sauce, while another plate of spicy red Ayam Masak Merah or Chicken in Spicy Tomato Sauce completed the chicken selections for our meal. Chef Carson reveals that there are numerous ways to marinate satay but he prefers the use of honey and a number of oils. He also warned us about the heat of the red curry dish, and it only took me a small slice to realize what he meant.

Beef Rendang is also a curried dish of beef slices slowly cooked in coconut milk, caramelizing the meat until all the liquid has evaporated. “It is the most requested recipe in our menu. The dish must be simmered for three to four hours so the meat will be very tender.” Like the two other dishes, the Rendang is of moderate spice as well, a defining characteristic of Malay cuisine, but to counter them all is a plate of Nasi Lemak or Coconut Rice. It was a magical offering which we all enjoyed, despite its humble preparation: cooking the rice in coconut milk instead of water.

Not your ordinary resort

There are lots of things to do in Berjaya Tioman. Pravir, who joined us in a tour of their facilities, boasted that three days are not enough to complete the activities they offer. “This island is very popular for both land and sea activities. We try to give our guests a memorable experience which they won’t get on any other island.”

By boat, two minutes away from the resort is Renggis Island, a very popular diving and snorkeling destination in Malaysia. It is only logical for the resort to host a PADI Dive Centre for water activities such as diving, snorkeling, evening cruises, banana boat rides, windsurfing and kayaking. Rated as one of the best diving facilities in Malaysia, beginners can learn within three days for RM1380 ($460) while certified divers could simply come and rent equipment and a boat that will take them to the diving spots.

Berjaya Tioman is also home to the island’s sole Golf Club, featuring an 18- hole international course with a majestic view of the ocean, occupying a huge chunk of land in the middle of the resort. We tried introducing ourselves to the sport, choosing a number of clubs, mastering the grips and practicing a few swings on trial balls. Despite the long time we spent around the hole, getting the ball in was never easy. It’s no wonder players spend years perfecting the sport.

Besides golf, guests can also play soccer, basketball and tennis on the available courts, while children can bide their time at the Game Room equipped with indoor console and video games. After all the activities, the Ayura Spa welcomes guests for a relaxing massage and other pampering packages for those tired muscles and backs.

After touring us around, we had a final chat with Mr. Pravir, so I asked him what’s in store for Berjaya Tioman Resort. “The place is 20 years old, so we’re planning on upgrading our rooms and facilities.” This, I thought, would be something worth waiting for.

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