Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Club Med Experience (Cherating Beach, Malaysia)

It's been a while since I did a travel post. Our last overseas holiday was to Taiwan over three years ago when it was still just the two of us. I was not allowed to travel during my pregnancy 😢 so rather than a much-anticipated babymoon, we had to make do with a staycation in Singapore. After the kids were born, passports, tickets and suitcases were the furthest thing from our minds. I'm not complaining about the lack of traveling (aside from trips to India) since it was intentional. With two under two, I didn't really think that going on a holiday was going to "feel" anything like a holiday. When I travel, I go to unwind, to get a change of scene, to explore a new place and embark on a new adventure. But with worrying about schedules, mealtimes, naptimes, diapers and motion sickness, not to mention, keeping a very watchful eye on two overzealous toddlers, I didn't think I could check any of the boxes (yes, selfish I know). Most people naïvely think that handling twins requires the same amount of effort as it is with one baby, times two. In my opinion, that is not true at all. It's actually more than twice the effort which probably only fellow parents of multiples will understand. So, I did the only thing that I could do....grit my teeth and wait patiently till the time was right!

The perfect opportunity presented itself recently. The kids were on the brink of turning two in the first week of November and we decided it was time to awaken the holiday spirit in us. Our little ones had reached an age where they were more independent, were curious about everything around them, had really begun to enjoy going out and were able to communicate their basic needs to us. My parents were around too which meant two additional pairs of eyes and hands (that always helps!).

I've been going on and on like a broken record about taking a road trip to Malaysia. There are so many places of interest to visit that can be reached by car but every time, my childrens motion sickness (times two remember!) threw a spanner in the works. We knew that the only option we had for a vomit-free holiday was to take a flight. So after a lot of research, we decided to fly to Cherating beach in Malaysia.

Cherating is a popular beach resort area in Pahang located about 30 km north of Kuantan on Peninsular Malaysia's East Coast. Being the monsoon season and given Cherating's notoriety for rain, we did wonder if we would end up cooped up indoors but we braved that chance. The main motivation for our choice was not the destination itself but in fact, the resort that we had picked. 



Club Méditerranée SA, commonly known as Club Med, is a French company specializing in premium all-inclusive holidays at its chain of resorts in exotic locations around the world.

Club Med staff are called "GOs", or Gentils Organisateurs (Gracious Organizers). Clients are "GMs", or Gentils Membres (Gracious Members). Each resort is known as a village. The resort manager is called the chef de village (Village Chief). The special feature of Club Med is that the GOs and GMs play, dine, drink, and dance together every day and night. Outdoor buffet dining (usually on tables of eight, mixing GMs and GOs), daytime sport-playing, and evening shows with extensive audience participation, are part of the holiday experience.

On arriving at the Kuantan airport after a short 1 hour flight, a spacious bus awaited to shuttle us to the resort located 45 mins away. As we approached the resort, we saw a group of spirited GO's gathered at the lobby, smiling, waving and ready to welcome us.



We were given refreshing towels and a welcome drink at the reception and since we were famished, we and our fellow travellers headed off to lunch. After that, we gathered at the lobby as instructed and the GO's welcomed us to the resort and gave us a introductory briefing. 


The resort is nestled in the heart of 80 hectares of tropical forest; and if that isn't enough to warm a nature-lover's heart, there are also two pristine beaches. 

I went exploring for a bit on the manicured lawns and was lost admiring the lush greenery around the property and the calmness of the secluded beach. 





Although not even close to that brilliant shade of turquoise that I am so used to seeing on most of our beach vacations, the beach at Cherating is appealing because it is wide and well maintained, the waves are gentle and the vibe is extremely laid-back.  



The teak bungalows and quaint wooden walkways perched on stilts connecting the heart of the resort to the rooms adds to the rustic kampong-style charm of the place.

The kids were tired after the travel and so we decided to head to our rooms for some much-needed rest and relaxation.


Ours was a sea-facing room with a balcony. The room was medium-sized, pretty basic and appeared a little dated. Still, comfortable and equipped with everything one may need. The toilet was separate from the sink and shower cubicle area which I think is always a sensible design idea. There was complimentary wifi too and the network quality was decent.

We were surprised to see two individual baby cots neatly made and two sets of complimentary baby bath products kept ready for our use. We had not made any such request beforehand so we thought it was a lovely gesture by the resort. 


After the kids woke up from their deep three hour slumber (they did not stir even once in their comfy baby cots!), we took them out for a walk in the vast expanse of the grounds.


Most Club Med resorts are designed for families, providing daytime supervised facilities for children: the "Baby", "Petit", "Mini", "Junior's" clubs and 12 Passworld facilities worldwide which offer a special hang out space for pre-teens and teens.

We passed by the facilities for the babies and younger kids. The kids had a wonderful time going down the slide, playing on the swing and they went absolutely ballistic when they caught sight of a cat!




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We walked down to the serene beach and let the water tickle our toes. It was the first experience the girls had of being at a beach (I refuse to brand anything in Singapore as a 'beach'!). They let out squeals of delight and if it wasn't for the fact that it had started to get dark and I could sense mosquitoes around us, we would have spent much more time there. 



Although we had already dined in the afternoon at The Mutiara, Club Med's main restaurant, I hadn't spent much time inspecting the buffet at close quarters so at dinner which was a leisurely affair, I made sure that I did.

The variety of food that was available was mind-boggling. There was a collection of sweet and savoury breads, a salad bar where you had beautifully presented pre-made salads as well as a DIY section, several stations offering International cuisines like Italian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese & Malay, fresh fruits, desserts and a drinks/beverage section. I was surprised to see the composition and presentation of plated foods that were served at a few of the stations. They looked so appetizing and on par with any top notch restaurant. A definite upgrade to the generic buffets that you see in most resorts.

My parents who are mostly used to Indian vegetarian food were a bit worried if they would have a decent selection to choose from but they were not disappointed. Vegetarians can choose primarily from the bread section, salad counter, the Italian station, fresh fruit and dessert section. On few of the days, there was even an Indian station which served pilaf, chapathi, dal and subzi/curry so that was good news. I was surprised to see my true-blue South-Indian mom even eating curd rice (yoghurt mixed with plain rice) on more than one occasion!😃 She revealed that she got the steamed rice from the Korean station, greek yoghurt from the salad counter and hot pickle from the condiment array in the Malay section. Talk about resourcefulness!





My kids who are normally picky eaters, wolfed down whatever I put on the plate in front of them! The restaurant staff were kind enough to arrange high chairs for them at every meal and then get their bibs, plates and cutlery (that I had brought with me from Singapore) washed and dried after they were done.



After dinner, we hung out at The Orchid, the centrally-located bar near the Mutiara restaurant where there was live music and a lot of buzz going on. While we adults enjoyed pleasant conversation, the kids were busy running up and down, chasing each other and screeching to their hearts content!

This became as routine every night during our stay.



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An unlimited supply of drinks (fruit juices, mocktails, cocktails and an array of hot beverages) and free-flowing savoury and sweet snacks are included in the Club Med package. In those few days, I had more cocktails than I've had the last five years combined! Hic...hic... 😁


There is a cozy air conditioned lounge just adjacent to the bar and you can head inside for a welcome respite from the outdoor heat. 


The next day, my parents went for a 'power walk' in the morning with one of the GO's. I was feeling rather lazy so stayed in bed. 

We wanted to check out the 'Zen Pool' at the nearby Pantai beach so started the day with a breakfast of champions 💪

I must mention that there are a large number of monkeys in and around the property. If you decide to eat outdoors, you need to keep a keen watch out for them! I saw monkeys snatch food from more than a few plates on surrounding tables. While on the subject of monkeys, you would do well to keep your room doors closed at all times too! 





We thought we would leave the kids for half a day at the 'Baby Club' designed for kids aged 4-23 months. The kids missed being eligible for the Petit Club Med (2-3 years) by just a few days. There was a form in our room that we had to fill up with an extensive questionnaire regarding the kids eating habits, allergies, milk drinking type and frequency, toilet training and other relevant information. I had a bag packed with several diapers, diaper rash cream, swim suits, sun block, a change of clothing, their plates and bibs, sippy cups and beakers. We had to make a quick dash to the infirmary to get the kids medical history recorded before we brought the kids to the Baby Club.

I was a little apprehensive about leaving the kids at the club even though they are used to being away from us during the day when we are at work and are generally friendly by nature. My fears were alleviated when I got a good look at the Baby Club and interacted with the staff. There were so many fun toys and activities to keep the kids occupied, not to mention the fabulous water park just outside which I had given permission for them to be taken. The staff seemed to know what they were doing so after hanging around for 15 minutes and making sure the kids were settled, I stealthily left.

It turned out that the girls were A-Okay. Apparently, the more clingy one did look for me for a few minutes but once they took both of them out to the water park, all thoughts of mummy was completely erased from her mind! 


We took the tram to the Zen Pool. There is one that departs every 15 or 30 mins from the area behind the Noodle Bar. The Zen Pool is located further away from the main resort and walking especially in the hot weather might not be everybody's cup of tea. Note that children are not allowed here (and hence the offloading of ours at the babysitting service!). 

Pantai Beach, is a secluded and tranquil 400 yards long beach surrounded by rocks. The shallow, calm water is suitable for swimming and kayaking. 


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Me and my parents had a fabulous time swimming in the Zen Pool while the husband decided to make himself comfortable on a chaise lounge chair and get immersed in a book. It was one of the highlights of my holiday! The weather was perfect, the water was cool and the surroundings tranquil. Leaning at the edge of the pool in the gorgeous weather and looking out onto the horizon with the soothing sounds of the waves caressing the shore in the background made me feel thoroughly relaxed and rejuvenated.

That is me cooling off, soaking up nature and wishing that particular moment to be frozen in time!

After we picked up two very delighted girls from the Baby Club, we straightaway headed for lunch. After that, my parents decided to check out the spa (where they got amazing Balinese massages apparently) while we spent the rest of the afternoon with the kids.

In the evening, we took them for a swim. There were two shallow pools, a jacuzzi and a bunch of water jets and they had such a blast! They even had a good view of the monkeys parading in a line along the rooftops.



Dinner that night was just as great as it had been the previous night. Check out this beautifully plated chocolate dessert!



There was this one evening when they screened the movie Zootopia on a large screen. I watched in amusement as my childrens eyes grew as big as saucers!

There are entertainment shows on most nights. But since they stayed on past the girls bedtime, we didn't get to watch all of them. This was one of them that we managed to stay for.



During this holiday, one of the things I used to do without fail everyday was to rise early and take a stroll down to the beach. Each time, I hoped to capture the sunrise but my attempts were thwarted by the thick clouds that perpetually blanketed the sky. Disappointing as that was, it felt so good to just sit there and embrace the solitude.

When Me-time looks like this, what more could one ask for? 😊


Watching the golden sunkissed landscape come alive before my very eyes made it so worth losing out on a few minutes of extra sleep. 

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Of course another visit to the beach was imminent. I loved watching my girls enjoy the water, hunt for shells and make attempts to build sand castles mounds. 

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We engaged a professional photographer at the village (who turned out to be a GO) and she took several pictures of the kids along with couples and family portraits amidst the stunning backdrop of the resort. Those are pictures I will cherish forever 😊

We were so lucky that we were able to enjoy blissful weather during this holiday. It did rain a couple of times but mostly in the afternoons and early mornings. Me and my mum wanted to go on the 'jungle walk' on one afternoon but it was cancelled due to the rain. That was the only time the rain affected our plans. 

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On the day we were getting ready to check-out, this was delivered to our room in the morning.



How cute is that?! It was such a wonderful surprise. I have always wanted to do something like this at home with the kids but kept putting it off because I wasn't sure how to go about it! A big thank you to the Baby Club for preserving the memory of our daughters handprints. I love it!

Our holiday to Club Med, Cherating was incredible. The hospitality, food, amenities and service was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. A true hedonist's paradise! The gorgeous surroundings are a sight for sore eyes and the schedule of activities ensures that everyone has something fun to do. There were still so many activities that we didn't check out such as yoga, archery, flying trapeze, tree-top challenge, rock climbing at Pantai beach, sailing, kayaking, fine dining at Rembulan restaurant, turtle sanctuary and more. Maybe next time when the kids are a bit more grown up!

The all-inclusive package makes things so much convenient and hassle-free. However you should note that certain items and services such as premium drinks at the bar, optional tours, personal purchases at the boutique, babysitting services, laundry, Petit Club Med and Baby Club Med, spa and photography services come at an extra cost.

On a parting note, the thoughtfulness that the resort demonstrated in terms of our children was heart-warming. My children enjoyed their first real holiday so much and we couldn't have picked a better place. This is truly a child-friendly resort and I would readily recommend it to anyone with a young family who is looking for a blissfully relaxing getaway.

A big thumbs up! 👍

I hope to bring you more travel posts from now onwards! Keep watching this space....


Club Med Cherating Beach
29th miles, Jalan Kuantan-Kema
Kuantan Pahang Darul Makmur 26080
Malaysian Archipelago
Malaysia


Package details:
The package includes the following:
  • Kids below 4 years old stay FREE
  • Kids Club from 4 to 18 years old included
  • Sailing, flying trapeze, archery and more at no extra cost
  • All-day gourmet dining with local & international cuisine


Cheers,
Megha


This is not a sponsored post. This was a self-funded holiday. The views and opinions in this post are voluntary and from personal experience. 

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