This story is brought to you in part by The Kasturi.
For all its many appealing destinations, Malaysia really doesn’t have a huge number of options available to travellers when it comes to luxurious private villas – think of the huge number of such private accommodation in places like Bali and Phuket. Here, the few that are on offer seem to be in Langkawi. (Maybe there’s this notion that only islands can have these villas…?)
Now, however, you don’t have to board a plane to get to just such a resort. Upmarket? Check. Beautiful design? Check. Private villas – each with its own pool? Check. And not only can you completely eliminate the airport experience from your getaway, this special place isn’t even far away!
The beautiful boutique resort we’ve discovered is The Kasturi. Located right on the beach in the coastal village of Cherating, The Kasturi’s location means that city dwellers in Kuala Lumpur can get to this serene getaway with just an easy three-hour drive over to Malaysia’s laid-back east coast. With an intimate, exclusive feel, the resort of just 24 keys offers spacious rooms and villas which can comfortably accommodate couples or entire families.
Drawing inspiration from both its beachfront placement and its rainforest backdrop, The Kasturi has been designed to not only look amazing, but to blend into its natural surroundings with minimal impact. Designed and owned by renowned architect Hijjas Kasturi and his wife Angela, the resort was conceived and then built as an expression of respect and affection for good design, the environment, the community, and for the culture and ethos of East Coast Malaysia. As we unpacked and took in the surroundings of our lovely beachfront pool villa, it was evident in the design that this place was purposefully created to reflect its Cherating home.
The resort sprawls across about 15 acres of land. Though the Kasturis could have built a more dense hotel-type resort here, given the space, the idea was to minimise the environmental impact of their new resort, so going super low-density was the obvious choice. What’s more, the various villas and buildings of The Kasturi are connected by a series of seemingly free-form elevated walkways which are fashioned from durable concrete and feature low-voltage indirect illumination for a lovely and unobtrusive lighting effect by night. But the walkways’ aesthetic appeal underscores the functional purpose. By keeping the pathways off the ground, environmental impact is reduced, and the positive side-effect of not churning up mosquitoes and other insects and pests is also realised.
Little touches like this abound at The Kasturi, some more obvious than others. As someone who appreciates design and architecture, I was delighted to see reclaimed wood used in entranceways to the villas and old-school terrazzo flooring utilised in the villas themselves.
It’s not easy these days to find people who can still lay a proper terrazzo floor, as so many have migrated to easier (and often cheaper) options like tiles or engineered wood strips. A solid-surface floor like terrazzo just exudes a level of character and craftsmanship that is not only nice to look at, it’s lovely to walk on, too.
Once in the villa, we were able to just relax and enjoy. A living room cum salon fronts the generously sized private pool and sundeck outside, and from the salon, four steps up takes you to the bedroom. Comfortably appointed with all the expected amenities, the bedroom also provides direct access to the outdoor space, as well. But perhaps the best part of the villa is the spa-like bathroom. Outrageously spacious and beautifully designed, the bathroom is a masterful blend of colour, form, and materials – we loved the smooth terrazzo flooring combined with a glass wall that spilled natural light into the space from the private “backyard” garden (complete with a lovely outdoor shower, too). Amenities provided are from Malaysian company Tanamera, whose products are natural and eco-friendly.
Fitness buffs will enjoy having no interruption to their workout routine, as The Kasturi boasts a well-appointed air-conditioned gym featuring a range of equipment, free weights, and yoga mats.
Next to the main pool, there’s a sandy volleyball court, and of course the obligatory “long walks on the beach” are effortless here. Because of the sheer power of the crashing waves, however, especially during the monsoon season, the resort had to fashion a natural boulder seawall, which extends almost the length of The Kasturi’s entire beachfront. As we strolled along the beach, the huge sprays of water blasting up as the rolling waves met the steadfast barrier, we were glad the boulders were put into place. This is not a beach for swimming, at least not when we were there, but it’s a nice stretch of golden sand to walk on and get a sense of not only the power of the sea, but the fascinating transition from the ocean to the rainforest. The Kasturi manages to give its guests the best of both worlds.
Back at the resort, there’s also a breezy restaurant, perfect for the morning buffet breakfast that’s served. We also enjoyed a wonderful dinner here, and the prices, it must be said, were a pleasant surprise for what you would expect at such a nice seaside resort. The main building also offers a comfortable lounge and even a nicely stocked wine room. For even more indulgence, there’s an onsite spa. We didn’t have time to try it out, but spa aficionados should definitely take the opportunity to pamper themselves – especially in a place like this!
Cherating is well known for its sea turtles, which use the area beaches for laying and hatching their eggs. The newest turtle centre here is the Rimbun Dahan Turtle Hatchery, which is run by The Kasturi resort and has a simple and effective business model: Buy the eggs which are collected by local boys (legally) and rebury them in the safety of the hatchery until the eggs hatch, about six weeks later. The hatchlings are then released into the sea, usually with the participation of delighted guests of the resort. This is a marvellous experience, if you’ve never tried it, so you should be able to check with the resort if you’d like to try and time your visit to coincide with a “turtle release event.”
For us, it just really came down to a great deal of enjoyment at the sort of place that’s long been overdue in Cherating. For years, this little seaside village was often overlooked, as the accommodation here just didn’t offer enough compelling reasons to skip the more common destinations in favour of Cherating. (One exception, though admittedly tailored more to families, is the well-known Club Med, which was ironically enough also designed by Hijjas Kasturi many years ago.) But the addition of The Kasturi to the scene here has really elevated Cherating as a worthwhile destination.
We would say that in addition to The Kasturi’s excellent tagline – “embraced by the land and the sea” – an equally applicable one could be “luxury within reach”. Both in terms of distance and relative affordability, this is one easy-to-reach upmarket destination resort that deserves to be put on your short list of places in Malaysia to visit in 2019.
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