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This coastal town in Perak enthrals Loong Wai Ting with a bit of snorkelling, fishing and some quiet time at a lovely retreat, while nearby Sitiawan entices her with small-town attractions

IT has been raining the entire morning and I am cooped up in my studio apartment at the Swiss-Court Holiday Apartments in Damai Laut in Lumut, Perak, a 3

½hour drive from Kuala Lumpur.

While the rain brings with it a pleasant temperature, I hate the feeling of not being able to get out and enjoy the beach activities under the sun.

I drag a chair towards the window and stare at the rain while I enjoy a cup of hot coffee. Just then, my phone vibrates, signalling a text message.


Enjoy the beautiful sunset at Damai Laut

“Let’s go get breakfast while we wait for the rain to stop, shall we?” reads the message from Fatihah, the apartment duty manager who is hosting my 3D/2N Media Familirisation Trip with SGI Vacation Club.

In less than five minutes, Fatihah arrives in her red buggy, the go-to transportation here and the sister property Swiss-Garden Beach Resort Damai Laut on the north side of the apartment.

Our breakfast is at the resort’s all-day dining restaurant, Garden Terrace.

Taking a seat next to a large picture window, we eat a scrumptious and filling breakfast. In between biting into the freshly-baked croissants and enjoying the sea view, Fatihah goes through the itinerary with me, which includes island-hopping in nearby Pangkor Laut and a fishing trip.

OFF DAMAI LAUT

The rain finally stops. The sun peeks out from behind the clouds. We quickly gather our belongings and walk towards the activity centre where my other media friends are gathering.

Guests from the resort are starting to come out from their rooms to explore the beach and take part in a number of activities such as horse-riding and a visit to the adjacent petting zoo.


Take a dip at the pool.

Together with a few guests, we wait for our boat to arrive from a nearby jetty to take us around Pangkor Island and a number of smaller islands for snorkelling and fishing.

The sea is a little too choppy for weak stomachs. A couple of guests can’t keep their breakfast down.

Ten minutes later, our boat turns into a small cove, where the waters are calmer.

As the boatman anchors his boat, we get ready to get into the sea. From the boat, I can see schools of fish swimming around the boat. The boatman (not recommended!) throws some stale bread into the sea and it attracts more fish.

I hit the water first. Visibility underwater is poor due to the earlier downpour but that does not stop me from spotting a few colourful Moorish Idols as they swim close to my snorkelling mask.

After spending close to 30 minutes in the sea, I get on the boat to try my hands at fishing. Using squid as bait, I try my luck at catching grouper found in abundance in the reef area.

I catch my first grouper, about the size of a size six shoe, in less than 10 minutes of casting my fishing rod.


The writer's lucky catch, a grouper

Excited from my catch, I move to the front of the boat to try my luck. This time, a white fish, with its big and bright yellow eyes, known locally as ikan raya, eats my bait.

Also spotted here are schools of blue-eyed anchovy, a popular species found in Pangkor Island, which can fetch a high price.

It is late in the afternoon by the time we reach the apartment with our catch. A quick rest and a late lunch later, Fatihah asks if I am game for another round of fishing later. This time, we will try our hands at night fishing at the jetty.

It is eerily dark by the time we approach the unlit jetty. A slow breeze is blowing in from the sea, making the hairs on my arms stand. The jetty is surrounded by thick jungle that even in the day deters a person from venturing here alone.

Although I cannot see what’s in front of me, I can hear soft chatter coming from the jetty.

Holding fast to Fatihah’s arms, we walk slowly to the jetty only to find out that a few contractors, who work at the resort, have arrived before us. We settle by the pier, away from the others and set out our fishing rods.

This time, luck is not on our side. After spending close to two hours with mosquitoes constantly buzzing in our ears, we return to the apartment empty-handed. Well, I am just happy to be back in the comfort of my own unit.

SMALL-TOWN SITIAWAN

The next morning, I wake to the sound of chirping birds outside my window, a contrast to the previous gloomy, rainy morning.

The sky is blue and a light breeze instantly lifts my mood. After a quick shower and breakfast, I head out to the nearby town in Sitiawan to hunt for the famous onion biscuit (gong piah) or Chinese bagel.

A local friend recommends that I drop by Cheong Pia (also known as Sitiawan Cheong Cia Gong Pian), a family-owned business that still makes the biscuit the old-fashioned way: firing the dough in a charcoal-fired oven.


Handmade biscuits at Cheong Pia

The smell of freshly-baked biscuits fill the air as we get nearer to the unassuming stall located at the back of a coffee shop.

A bite into the biscuit and you’ll understand why visitors from as far as Singapore come to buy them in bulk. These crispy-on-the-outside and chewy-on-the-inside biscuit is essentially a Foochow delicacy, believed to be brought in by the early Foochow communities who settled in Sitiawan.

There are a few versions of the biscuit but the popular ones are stuffed with onions and lard (and therefore, non-halal). Not recommended if you’re on a diet. It’s easy to break your diet when you bite into one of these crispy and hot biscuit.

Go early in the morning to avoid the long queue later, or worse, have the biscuits sold out.

Stuffed with the biscuit, I head over to Tua Pek Kong Temple at Pasir Panjang, a 15-minute drive away from Cheong Pia.


The Tua Pek Kong Temple in Sitiawan is a nice place to visit.

The lesser-known temple sits on the edge of the sea, where statues of towering Taoist deities can be seen sitting on huge marble slabs. The statues look imposing in their pose, ready to strike badly behaved tourists or naughty children.

Inside the temple, there is a tunnel in a shape of a snaking dragon. Visitors can take a walk inside by going through its “mouth”.

Inside the “belly” of the dragon, there are arts illustrating the 10 courts of Hell, warning sinners of the gruesome fate that awaits them in the underworld.

Like most temples, there are gardens to explore. There is no entrance fee to the temple and parking is free.

QUIET HIDEAWAY

SWISS-COURT Holiday Apartments Damai Laut is quite secluded. In order to get to the apartment, I have to drive through a palm plantation and a watermelon farm. There are plenty of clear signages that point to the apartment.

At the apartment, the friendly workers make one feel quite welcome. Checking in is easy too. It takes me less than five minutes to get the keys to my unit.

Since my unit is located on the opposite side of the main lobby, a worker sends me and my luggage on the buggy.

My studio unit is huge and clean. The well-equipped kitchen takes up a corner while the spacious bathroom occupies another.

The living room and sleeping area are in the same area. Instead of a tiny space crammed with furniture, I love how it opens up so that five adults can stay in the same unit without feeling crowded.

As it is not the holiday season, the apartment is very quiet - a perfect time for a peaceful retreat.

For avid golfers, tee off at the Damai Laut Golf & Country Club, with nine holes overlooking the Straits of Malacca and the other nine facing the estuaries of the Dinding River. The club also welcomes walk-in guests.

VACATION CLUB

SGI Vacation Club, a subsidiary of OSK Holdings, provides vacation club programmes and services as part of the OSK Group’s Hospitality division. Established in 2001, it is the leading vacation club operator in Malaysia.

Members have the option to enjoy their stay at the Vacation Club’s owned properties and over 3,000 quality hotels and resorts around the world with Interval International, the company’s global exchange partner.

Today, the club provides four home-based properties in Malaysia — Swiss-Court Holiday Apartments Damai Laut in Perak, Swiss-Villas Damai Laut in Perak, Swiss-Garden Residences Kuala Lumpur and SGI Vacation Club Melaka.

For details, visit www.sgivacationclub.com

FAST FACTS

SWISS-COURT HOLIDAY APARTMENTS DAMAI LAUT

WHERE Hala Damai 3, Jalan Damai Laut, Off Jalan Teluk Senangin, Lumut, Perak.

TEL 05-618 1133 / 1409 / 1100

WEBSITEwww.sgivacationclub.com/

STAYIdeally located between the prestigious Damai Laut Golf and Country Club and the picturesque SwissCourt Holiday Apartments Damai Laut, the home-style serviced apartments are easily accessible from the NorthSouth expressway, followed by a scenic countryside drive. It offers various types of accommodation i.e studio apartment, a one- or two-bedroom apartment, complemented with facilities and amenities.

EAT The Swiss-Garden Beach Resort Damai Laut is a five-minute drive from the apartment. All-day dining is available at Garden Terrace, offering local and international spreads. Other options include Thai Taste, Blue Chip Lounge and The Gayam.

DO Island-hopping around Pangkor Island. For a list of activities, head over to SCHA.

GO Explore nearby Lumut town or Sitiawan.

HIGH A nice place to relax and rejuvenate.

LOW The location is a little secluded.

Pictures by Loong Wai Ting

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