“Nun menghijau gunung ladang dan rimba
Langit nan tinggi bertambah birunya
Deru angin turut sama berlagu
Semuanya bagaikan turut gembira
Balik kampung oh, oh, oh…
Oh, oh, oh… Balik kampung
- Extracted from Sudirman’s ‘Balik Kampung‘ (Going Home)
When I was much younger, being a city boy, I never really understood the concept of Balik Kampung. The phrase literally means going back to the village, but is often interchangeable when used in the context of traveling home to another state. I’ve only heard of stories about friends getting stuck in long hours of traffic heading back to their villages during the annual great Hari Raya Aidilfitri exodus. But like in the late Sudirman’s festive hit, the extended traveling is well worth it when greeted by the smiles and open arms of family members and friends. Truly, there is no where else like home.
Somewhere between then and now, I’ve had a taste of what it might feel like to be part of the great exodus – minus the hassle, stress and craziness. A short bumpy ride on Firefly and quickly the tall buildings of the capital city were replaced with sky scraping palm trees dancing in the warm coastal breeze. Located on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia, Tanjong Jara Resort is a sanctuary of luxury and well-being, steeped in age-old Malay traditions. It has been designed to reflect the elegance and grandeur of 17th century Malay palaces, this is a resort with an authentic taste of the region’s spirit and an enduring embodiment of the gentle Malay art of service and hospitality. Not quite your typical kampung, I’m afraid.
The resort lies along a golden stretch of sandy beach and fronted by an emerald sea glittering with diamonds of light, shaded by tall palms rustling in the breeze, and is attended to by people steeped in traditions as timeless as the land. The philosophy of the Resort is as unique as the Resort itself and is based on the Malay concept of Sucimurni, which emphasises purity of spirit, health and well-being.
Despite it being a work-related trip, it was hard not to immersed ourselves in the resort’s serenity and beauty. Soon, my colleagues and I gave up on our Blackberries and iPhones in exchange of a good rejuvenation. The concept of time was no longer applicable and what ever worries we have, could wait in Kuala Lumpur while we soaked up every bit of sunshine and enjoyed running sand between our toes. It is, after all, a rare opportunity.
My favourite bit, apart from lazing around under the canopies by the beach, was of course meal time. Breakfast to be exact. Waking up to a breakfast buffet is a sure sign of a vacation, what more when it is beautifully served on a dark timber balcony set over a real flowing river and in a generous indoor area of high beams and warm wood overlooking lush greens of the secondary forest outside. The restaurant is aptly named, Di Atas Sungei. Here, our mains were made to order, while morning staples like sweet cut fruits, cereals, breads are placed on a buffet line. I’ll highly recommend you to skip the bread and head over to the local kitchen area, where you can get your hands on mini banana leaf parcels of delicious Terengganu-styled Nasi Dagang with Ikan Gulai Tongkol. I had it for the two consecutive mornings I was there. I was told the perennial favourite Nasi Lemak was good too. Order yourself a Roti Pisang with Palm Sugar too. I watched this light and shiny pastry vanished in front of my eyes in a matter of seconds when it was offered to my colleagues for a taste! Girls and their appetite.
The mains were pretty good too, namely their signature French Toast, a nice Egg Benedict (would have been so much better with real bacon, but I’m not gonna complaint) and the fluffy Banana Pancakes. All this whilst staff members, drawn from the local villages, showered us with the unmistakable Malaysian art of warmth and hospitality.
I reckon Tanjong Jara is one of the best resorts in Malaysia and is perfect for a short escape from the real world. The resort is also equipped with 5-star spa facilities to help you rid of any pressures from your daily life. But of course, we were there for work. Not quite a real holiday. Perhaps one day soon, I’ll make my way back here, singing my own rustic version “Balik Kampung“.
In a twist of scenario and luxuries, let us not forget about the less fortunate this Aidilfitri holiday season.
A couple of days ago, the Empire Shopping Gallery hosted their first social responsibility effort, when 25 orphans from the Rumah Amal Kasih Bestari came to Berbuka Puasa at the mall. “We are a friendly neighbourhood mall with our community in mind,” said Mr Danny J.Y Cheah, group executive director of Mammoth Empire Project Management Sdn Bhd. “This is the first Raya celebration for the mall, and nothing would be more meaningful than to share the joy of this festival with the less privileged.”
The mall management had pulled all the stops to ensure a good time for the children. First the Belanga Restaurant, well known for its East Coastal cuisine, served drinks, dates and jelly for buka puasa, as well as Nasi Dagang, Ayam Percik and Tuna Curry. The children – some cheeky and spirited, others sweet and quiet – tucked in with gusto.
It was also time for giving, in the big-hearted spirit of Raya. The Empire Shopping Gallery management presented Rumah Amal Bestari with a RM10,000 cheque to Ustaz Johari B. Maksom, who runs the home in Kampung Melayu Subang.
Thank you Marian for the invitation to this heart and tummy warming evening. And to all my Muslim friends and readers, Eid Mubarak and maaf zahir dan batin. To all those traveling, have a safe trip.