This resort would have to be one of the most perfect and wondrous places we have ever stayed (Temple Tree). The Chinese House, which was our home for 4 nights, was dismantled in its original location in Batu Pahat, Johor, moved to Langkawi, and reassembled by Narelle and her team who have been running Bon Ton Resort for nearly 20 years. Of all the houses at Temple Tree, it was relocated from the furthest distance, and was originally a farmhouse built approximately 100 years ago. John and Nic were lodged upstairs in ‘Chinese 2’ with exceptional views of the pool, the marshlands beyond with their water buffaloes, and the mist covered mountains in the distance. The food at Bon Ton and Temple Tree was DEFINITELY something to write home about – inventive, exciting and so very, very tasty – each dish flirting with the many culinary influences of Malaysia. Absolutely loved every moment of our stay.
Needless to say we ate many, many meals and indulged in much, much relaxation – BLISS! Of all the meals we ate (sharing ourselves between the Straits Club and Nam Restaurant at Bon Ton, 2 minutes walk from Temple Tree), a particularly memorable dish was the Seafood platter at Nam – grilled rock lobster with chermoula butter, snapper fillet, peppered prawns and calamari with lemon harissa aioli. Perfect! For the true vegetarians, other hits included: vegetable platter of yellow rice, chermoula, spinach, herb yoghurt, eggplant with tomato jam, green beans with chermoula and harissa dressing, tomato sambal, mango and cashew nut salad and roast pumpkin; and a favourite was pepper leaf green salad with roasted cherry tomatoes, avocado, pine nuts with soy and lime dressing. See what I mean??? And this list of delights appears endless. Oh, I forgot to mention the joy of the ginger and lemongrass ice cream – divine!
On Saturday night we attended the traditional Malay feast being hosted by Bon Ton Resort. This was both a good and a bad thing – it was too tasty for words, but meant that we all rolled out of that dining room as boombahs (beginning the 8 or so dishes at 8:30pm didn’t assist matters!) We were too slow in booking for the previous nights ‘Wine Dinner’ at Temple Tree (they only took 10 people), which, upon reflection, wasn’t such a bad thing, as it resulted in the best meal of the trip – the seafood and vegetable platters at Nam Restaurant – AND a bottle of Bollinger! Too good!!
To be honest, apart from a walk into town and another to the jetty, our time at Temple Tree was pretty much spent by the pool, having drinks and snacks brought to us by incredibly intuitive staff who catered to every whim, and on the sweeping verandah of the Chinese House watching the storms approaching from afar. It was one of the most relaxing and peaceful holidays in memory, and we would not hesitate to return – the sooner the better!!
One thing about Temple Tree and Bon Ton that some people may not like is the animal factor – the owners are passionate about rescuing dogs and cats, to the point where, at any one time there are over 150 dogs and cats being boarded there while they look for homes for them. They offer the option of walking dogs of a morning (which Nic actually resisted cause she couldn’t smuggle 30 dogs home in her luggage!), and there are usually one or two cats that “own” the house you are staying in, so there is plenty of cat love to go around, too. But most of the animals are in kennels calmly waiting for a new home.
On our last day on Palau Langkawi, we decided to do a cruise aboard the Damai Indah with Captain Eva. This was possibly the highlight of the entire trip, not just of the Langkawi portion. We made our arrangements only the day before, and decided to go with the afternoon and sunset cruise that went from 2-8pm, with snacks, lunch and dinner provided, as well as an open bar of very high quality alcohol. We were the only passengers on board, which gave us a 1 to 1 crew to passenger ratio. It doesn’t get much better than that! From the moment we boarded and were greeted with a bright blue cocktail of champagne, curacao and lemonade in crystal glasses, we knew that this was going to be no ordinary, mass-produced, run-of-the-mill, touristy trip.
The yacht used to be a cargo boat, and she is just lovely – all teak and canvas and rope, with a fantastic undercover area decked out with lounge cushions and back supports, up high with a perfect view where you can stretch out with a bottomless drink in hand (as mentioned, all drinks are served in crystal, no rubbishy plastic vessels!). Even the bathroom is sparkling bench tops, fresh orchids and small face cloths to wipe your hands (you really don’t even notice the nautical loo – hand pump and all!).
Propped up on the lounges and cushions with drink in hand, no one cared that there was the most amazingly volatile grey sky heading towards us. Soon, the rain was coming down in sheets, but we were all singing along to Billy Joel over the speakers and didn’t give a hoot. We were all just so glad to be on the water, which, thanks to the unique congregation of islands, is surprisingly calm, even with the rain. It’s only when a ferry comes (or, as Eva calls them an “FF” – you can guess what the first ‘F’ stands for), that one has to hold the crystal glasses carefully to prevent any shattering accidents! To be honest, the dynamics of the sky were an amazing back drop and start to what was to become one of our most memorable days.
The service from Eva and her crew was second to none. In fact, with so few passengers, Eva was able to personally entertain us with her stories for much of the trip, while Alex, Steph and Nicky took care of the mechanics – except for when Eva was preparing the most fantastically fresh and delicious feasts of seafood and vegetables in the galley (she does cook other things for those carnivores out there – the girls were given a sweet chicken curry).
By the time we arrived at one of the many pirate coves in the islands, the rain had well and truly ceased and the sun was trying to come out. We all changed into our swimmers and took turns diving and bombing off the bowsprit (the pointy bit out the front of the boat!). This was Nic’s particular favourite, and Eva, diplomat that she is, kept calling out excellent scores for each of her dives, like an Olympic judge! Unfortunately, Nic didn’t notice that all this activity was playing havoc with her shoulder until she got out of the water (but thinks that may have been the backflip, rather than the diving!!). But John managed to top Nic in the injury stakes – he slipped on the wet ships rail when about to dive into the water and instead of hitting the water, took a tumble and hit the deck instead. Not that it stopped him from enjoying his afternoon in the water! (The swelling and colourful nature of the injury didn’t show itself until the next day.)
Once back on board, changed and fed, and plied with more alcohol, we sailed back to the yacht club watching the sun dip below the horizon with all of us sighing with contentment and thinking, “it doesn’t get much better than this.” Even once we had docked, Eva mixed us all a drink called a ‘BMW’ – Bailey’s, Malibu and Whiskey – which we enjoyed with the crew, and we swapped a few more stories before heading off into the night for our half hour cab ride back to Temple Tree. We couldn’t recommend cruising with Eva highly enough! (Damai Indah Cruises)
The original resort on Langkawi established by Narelle (Australian ex-pat) was Bon Ton resort (Bon Ton Resort), and there is now accommodation in Penang under Brand Bon Ton called Straits Collection (Straights Collection). Too many to choose from!! But we will return.