With the pandemic still in sight, travelling remains limited. Pre-COVID, hopping on a plane and flying to destinations near and far was instinctual to avid travellers, but now, even booking a flight to a location in Malaysia can raise second thoughts. The safer option is to embark on a road trip to scenic getaways.
By opting to drive somewhere in Malaysia, you can avoid crowds and can travel with a peace of mind. Instead of worrying about where the people in the crowd have been, you’ll know the areas your friends have been frequenting – if you’re travelling with a group of friends, that is.
For those based in Kuala Lumpur, Terengganu makes for an ideal weekend getaway. Located just four to five hours away by car, it’s a state known for its soft sand beaches and azure waters. Terengganu is home to famous dive sites and a variety of islands frequented by backpackers and luxe travellers alike. But avoid the popular spots that are likely to sport a crowd, and opt for these unique stays instead:
For animal lovers: Pulau Redang
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Animal lovers, start planning your trip to Pulau Redang because it’s an island known for its turtles. As Pulau Redang has been a common destination for local travellers for years, the turtles have become accustomed to tourists and are, in fact, quite friendly, too.
However, swimming with turtles is an in-demand pastime in Pulau Redang which can ruin the overall experience, so avoid staying at the most booked hotels: The Taraas Beach & Spa Resort, Laguna Redang Island Resort, and Berjaya Redang Resort.
The alternative is to stay at Wisana Village, a (mostly) family-run beach resort established in 1995 that has a maximum occupancy of 36 guests.
Just like the other options, its seafront is home to turtles, living corals, and colourful fishes. It’s the only accommodation available along that stretch of beach and faces Bidong Island which was a temporary refugee camp for Vietnamese people in 1978.
Prices start from RM245 per night.
For nature lovers: Pulau Perhentian Kecil
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Another destination in Terengganu loved equally by locals and foreigners is Pulau Perhentian Kecil. Over the years, the island has seen more and more development to keep up with the steady stream of visitors vying for a dip in its irresistibly blue waters.
Most accommodation is located smack in the centre of it all, such as Bubu Long Beach Resort and Mimpi Perhentian Resort. While that can be an upside, during these times it’s a downside, which is why Alunan Resort should be your go-to.
It’s literally built into a cliff and was designed in a way that prioritises showcasing the various shades of blue surrounding the property. Think floor-to-ceiling glass windows, private rooftop sundecks, and a restaurant facing the sea.
Prices start from RM699 per night.
For those who love peace & quiet: Escape Bed n Beach, Permaisuri
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Escape Bed n Beach is a Airbnb situated near the Kuala Besut jetty that leads to Pulau Perhentian Kecil. This seafront accommodation also faces Pulau Redang and Bidong Island. Essentially, it’s the best of both (inhabitable) islands!
From March to September, guests can observe turtles laying eggs on the deserted beach. Throughout the year, private day-trips to the neighbouring islands can be arranged as Escape Bed n Beach has an on-site catamaran. You’ll forget crowds exist during your stay at the secluded villa that can fit a party of up to 14 people.
If you prefer lazing around over snorkelling trips, then know that there’s a well-stocked library on-site and a hammock to go with it. Besides offering easy access to the beach, other activities are on offer too, such as exploring waterfalls, hot springs, going fishing, squid jigging, and more!
Prices start from RM420 per night.
For couples: Alaya Malai Boutique B&B, Merang
Alaya Malai Boutique B&B is on Merang, which is not to be mistaken for Marang. Marang is the gateway to Pulau Redang, whereas Merang is the entry point to Pulau Kapas – an island just as dreamy as Pulau Redang and Pulau Perhentian Kecil. The journey via boat to the latter islands can be lengthy, whereas Pulau Kapas can be reached within just 15 minutes.
As Alaya Malai is a mere three minutes from the Merang jetty, you have Pulau Kapas as a backup plan in case you get bored. But considering how spacious the property is, that probably won’t happen. In between exploring the aesthetically-pleasing interiors, you can unwind in the jacuzzi, lounge by the pool, or walk along the beach.
If you need tips on where to eat yummy local food, where to shop for traditional batik, and which tourists spots to explore, then know that the owner of Alaya Malai is more than happy to help you!
Prices start from RM445 per night.
For those who love bargains: Rumah Tok, Setiu
In the centre of Terengganu’s most iconic fishing village is Rumah Tok that literally translates to ‘grandmother’s house’ in English. The aim of Rumah Tok is to share the traditional lifestyle of fishermen with urbanites. Simultaneously, it’s a nostalgic walk down memory lane for those who grew up in a traditional Malay village.
As per Malay traditions, the house is made of wood and is raised on stilts. Its interiors mimic life back then, with an emphasis on rattan finishings. The mats lining the floorboards are made of rattan, the lamp is rattan, the laundry basket is rattan, and the list goes on. If you appreciate Malaysian handicraft, you’ll definitely love Rumah Tok.
The accommodation also features a kitchen with a traditional stove and a veranda for hanging out over drinks or a barbecue. If you’d like to explore the fishing village, you most certainly can, or you can explore Setiu Wetlands, too. Fun fact: it’s the largest coastal wetland complex on the east coast of Malaysia!
Prices start from RM50 per night.
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