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Mangala Estate Boutique Resort: Restoration and Relaxation, Naturally

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This peaceful, idyllic retreat is just a short drive from Kuala Lumpur, and deserves to be on your travel list.

With many post-pandemic airfares still stubbornly maintaining higher-than-2019 prices, it makes sense that some travellers are not including an airplane in at least some of their travel plans. Fortunately, Malaysia is a small enough country – at least the western half of it – to easily facilitate any number of close-to-home getaways. And despite the occasional crazed driver on the highways – perhaps they’ve seen one too many Fast and Furious movies – Malaysia’s roads invite exploration by car.

But as anyone who’s lived here for a few years will tell you, the paths to the Peninsula’s usual destinations are well-worn indeed, so if you want something different than Penang, Melaka, Ipoh, or Johor Bahru, swap out the North-South Highway for the East Coast Highway, and make the short drive to Gambang.

Heading out of town on the East Coast Highway | Image Credit: The Star

You’d be forgiven if you haven’t quite heard of Gambang before. This small, not-quite-coastal town is located along the East Coast Highway, about half an hour before you reach Kuantan, making it just a pleasant two-hour drive from the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur near Gombak.

There are a few things to see and do in town – more on that later – but without a doubt, the unrivalled place to stay in this area is Mangala Estate Boutique Resort, a blissful retreat that’s less than five minutes off the highway, yet feels miles away from everything. But despite its name – Mangala means ‘auspicious’ in Sanskrit – this is not just a strikingly beautiful place to stay, it’s a resort with a purpose.

Aerial shot of Mangala Estate with its signature lakefront swimming pool


The first impression when you reach the resort, which was previously called Mangala Resort & Spa, is made as you drive through a thick stand of palm trees. It’s just a little bit otherworldly for city dwellers, and provides a good sense of what’s to come. Once you’ve parked and walked into the breezy, understated reception lounge, it’s hard not to be impressed. It’s as if nature and architecture met and fell in love here. Water, forest, and design all converge beautifully in an open, tropical setting, and it’s easy to see why Mangala has racked up a number of awards in its relatively short tenure, and is now a Small Luxury Hotels of the World affiliate.

It wasn’t always like this, to be sure. The sprawling site on which the lush resort sits now arose like a phoenix from the ashes, with a strong push by the property’s owner (in an effort spanning more than 15 years) to rehabilitate and reinvigorate seemingly lifeless, fallow land – disused and left barren from decades of tin mining activities. These days, life has returned to the vast tracts of once-derelict land: forest, lakes, and plantations which serve as home to an eco-minded resort and a veritable cornucopia of thriving animal and plant species. And if it’s wellness you seek – a place to relax, rejuvenate, and recentre yourself – Mangala is an ideal destination.

Bedroom, Amani Pool Villa

On the grounds of the 62-acre property itself, there’s enough to do to keep guests busy, but a lot of them are just as happy to get cosy in their villa and spend much of their time there! We took this to heart ourselves during a recent visit, as heavy rain persisted on one entire day of our stay. But even that day was enjoyable and memorable, and staying put in the villa was no imposition at all.

We had taken up residence in one of the resort’s newer Amani Villas, a modern, spacious villa complete with a private lap pool. Other amenities included a separate tub and rainfall shower, a beautifully appointed bathroom, vaulted ceilings, a lovely patio complete with lounge chairs and a ceiling fan, and plenty of surrounding greenery.

Poolside at Amani Villa

We also had a large Samsung flat-screen TV, a minibar with complimentary snacks and soft drinks, coffee and tea-making facilities, and strong Wi-Fi throughout.


A sprawling natural lake is the main centrepiece of Mangala Estate, and some of the villas (Jala Villas) are set on its perimeter – actually on stilts over the water itself – a great choice for those who don’t need a private pool and would enjoy the serenity and beauty of the lakefront setting.

Jala Villas

Even Mangala’s gym, nicely kitted out with high-end TechnoGym equipment, boasts floor-to-ceiling windows affording guests a bucolic lake view to savour while they sweat it out. The spacious main resort pool, meanwhile, is a stunning infinity-edge affair extending out from the lake’s edge, so even for guests who choose a pool-less villa, nobody really goes without a pool to enjoy here. (There’s also a jacuzzi, along with a smaller, shallower pool for the youngsters!)

Relax in the jacuzzi with an idyllic view of the lake

Fortunately, the rain didn’t last the entire trip, and we were able to get in some exploration of the Mangala grounds. Walking on the paths alongside the big lake was a delight, but curiously enough, one of the more engaging things we did – at least from the perspective of something new – was strolling amid the lush oil palms that dot the landscape. It’s a very different experience walking through rows of neatly planted palms than it is to drive by them or fly over them. Though obviously not nearly as diverse as the rainforest that lies adjacent to it, the palm plantation is a big step up from the barren land left behind by years of tin mining and sand mining in the last century. The small patches of palms are interspersed with other plants, trees, and several tracts of wetlands, and strolling amid this much nature is not only scenic, but quite calming, as well.

Paddleboats await at Mangala’s recreational lake

A smaller lake is used for non-powered watersports like paddle-boating and kayaking, and an archery range is just nearby, as well. We definitely weren’t able to avail ourselves of these activities this time, but did manage to enjoy other pursuits. A small fleet of single and tandem bicycles is available, with the whole of the resort available for enjoyable, scenic cycling. They even have Segways and e-scooters if you want a really memorable way to explore.

A purple heron in the resort’s wetlands area

Birders will be particularly rewarded with a stay here, with dozens of native and migratory bird species calling the Mangala area home, many of which are fairly easy to spot – especially for those with a practiced eye. We were delighted to see a number of these species, including purple herons, kingfishers, and a trio of oriental pied hornbills playfully cavorting in the trees near the restaurant one morning. The abundance of flora and fauna contributes significantly to the tranquil ambiance of the property, and it was always a delight to see the bright blue flash of a kingfisher or the red plumage of a tiny sunbird.

Nature, restored


Of course, wellness comes in many forms, and to that end, there is not only that great gym onsite, but a full spa, as well. We feel some of the signature treatments are worth checking out, particularly the Malay and Tungku Herbal massage treatments, but would like to see some more affordably priced options for package deals or couples. We loved the design and beautiful setting of the spa, though, as the treatment rooms are located on the far edge of the lake, affording guests a tranquil and scenic view.

Treatment room at Mangala Spa

The resort has one restaurant called Lakeside, which as you may have guessed is next to the lake (and the pool). Lakeside is an inviting space, boasting a contemporary design and laid-back vibe, and while we would like to see a more creative, eclectic menu with some additional options for light and healthy dining, the dishes were nicely presented, the staff were friendly, and we liked that Mangala has its own vegetable garden on the property, the bounty of which is used in some of the dishes at Lakeside. A variety of fruits and herbs are also grown at the resort, a distinct advantage of being located in the tropics on a huge plot of land! (We had visited the gardens earlier and marvelled at how productive the once-impoverished land here has been made – a true transformation!)

Lakeside Restaurant

When it comes to dining, our thought is that for guests staying several days, it would be advisable to enjoy some meals at the resort, while venturing into Gambang or even Kuantan (about 30 minutes away) at other times. With just one dining outlet onsite and a fairly compact menu, if you’re having three meals a day here, it might get a little repetitive. If you, like us, relish the idea of exploring local eateries anyway, making the short drive to Kuantan is an easy choice.


Most guests at Mangala Estate are probably very content to stay put and relax, but if you want to venture out from the resort a bit, there are some worthwhile pursuits in the vicinity. Keep in mind, though, some take a sense of adventure – or a knowledgeable local! Enjoy forest hiking and scenic waterfalls at Hutan Lipur Eco Rimba Jerangkang, about an hour away, or explore the beautiful Kuan Ti Kong Buddhist temple, just 15-20 minutes from the resort. The beautiful Sungai Pandan Waterfall (30 minutes’ drive) is a well-known site for locals to visit during the weekends, and if you haven’t gotten your fill of nature and greenery at Mangala, the Bukit Sulai Gambang Recreation Park is just 20 minutes away. There’s even a small waterpark in Gambang with slides, water rides, and a wave pool, though it probably goes without saying that we didn’t check it out personally!

Bukit Gambang Waterpark | Image Credit: Tourism Pahang

Of course, if you find your way to Kuantan, you can stroll along the beach at popular Teluk Cempedak or along the boardwalk at Taman Esplanade in the city. Apart from that, a visit to their very nice Art Street or the soaring Menara 188 on the banks of the Kuantan River are both a fun way to spend an hour or so before grabbing a bite to eat and then heading back to Mangala Estate.

We thoroughly enjoyed our restorative wellness time at Mangala Estate, and even though they have around 65 villas dotting the beautiful landscape, the property is large enough to never feel crowded, which only contributes more to the sense of serenity. Most of the time, we only saw other guests when we were having our meals at Lakeside Restaurant. Of course, part of that could have been attributed to our one very rainy day!


We were a bit sad to leave, but it was nevertheless remarkable to have indulged in such a sublime, relaxing getaway and quite literally be home and unpacking less than two and a half hours after checking out. It really is a delight to have a proper holiday destination so close to home, and we can’t wait to return!

Serenity as evening falls over Mangala’s lake and Jala Villas

To learn more about the resort, visit If you are interested in visiting Mangala Estate Boutique Resort, we have a limited number of vouchers for Mangala’s beautiful Amani Pool Villas, available for readers, for a 50% discount from the resort’s published rate. Just drop a line to [email protected].

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