Club Med Cherating Beach resort, Malaysia: Bored with Bali? Malaysia has a gem for you

Read our writer's views on this property below

Warwick Stanley finds a Malaysian beach resort that won't break the budget.

For those who've made a habit of heading to the holiday isle for their R and R, and are open to something a little different that won't break the budget, perhaps the time has come to try Malaysia.

Club Med's award winning Cherating Beach resort, near Kuantan on Malaysia's east coast, will have you lapping up luxury while enjoying all that comes with a tropical holiday.

Fancy a dip in a warm, placid ocean under shady palms on golden sands, just a stone's throw from your bungalow accommodation?

For those who prefer fresh water, there's a choice of several pools around the resort complex, with plenty of room to stretch out on poolside lounges.

A 20-minute walk or a short carriage-shuttle ride though the jungle to other glorious beaches is something to consider once you're feeling adventurous.

When guests jump on the canopied train to take them to the sailing area or the Rembulan Beach restaurant, the Cherating experience cranks up another notch on the decadence meter.

The scene from the open-sided dining area of the restaurant - set amid colourful gardens and manicured lawns - is that of a tropical island paradise.

The mattressed beach beds, under a row of tall, shady palm trees along the almost deserted beach, are just the spot for a quiet read after sampling all you can eat of the restaurant's marvellous cuisine.

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As my wife and I tucked into a buffet of crab, prawns and barbecued fish, followed by fresh tropical fruit - all washed down with a crisp white - we debated whether to have another swim in the clear turquoise water before or after a short nap under the palms.

But perhaps you'd be happier simply lounging around the resort's central bar with a margarita, a gin and tonic or a latte.

Nearby at the Mutiara Restaurant, the awesome selection of cuisine from Asian and European countries, worthy of the most discerning tastes, is available at extended sittings from early morning to late evening.

The food can be either cooked with your selection of ingredients while you wait or come from the sumptuous buffet, or both.

"Surely you cannot walk past this opportunity," said executive chef Ahmed on the first night of our stay, urging us to choose some seafood and vegetables for a Korean stir-fry.

"No, I guess we can't," I said, agreeing with my wife that we could sample the European, Chinese, Japanese and Indian cooking at some other time.

Chef Ahmed nodded his approval, but chided me when I began eyeing the extensive variety of sauces I was considering combining with my selection.

"No, no, no. Not those," he said.

He was right, of course. The cook's own choice of sauces drew repeated comments of "delicious" from my wife, who was already considering going back for seconds.

Almost as good as the food is the price.

Leave the credit card and wallet behind. There'll be no damage done to either as you enjoy the quick service at the bar and the freedom to leave the restaurant without picking up a tab.

Also free are the shows, parties and dance nights, organised by and featuring the staff GOs (gentle organisers), which are a hoot for kids and the parents.

Without exception, the GOs are friendly, energetic and razor-keen to please.

Rachel, an Australian who escorted us to our room on our day of arrival, is a 27-year-old ballet-trained dancer who chooses the music and choreographs the shows that delight the kids late into the evening.

The resort's mini-club, which is open all day catering to children aged four to 10, has dovetailed the Club Med interest in conservation with children's need to be aware of their precious environment.

The new Cherating Mini Club Nature, designed using thematic materials and colours, is set closer to the jungle than its predecessor and has been expanded towards the sea to promote the concept that nature is all around.

The children are presented with the story book Rainforest Treasures and are encouraged to participate in a round of discovery events that give them a chance of receiving a stamp in their story book for each test they successfully complete.

Around the resort, the monkeys of Cherating are a hit with both kids and adults, as they peer into the rooms or play on the roofs and in the trees.

On the list of things to do are visits to the nearby turtle sanctuary, the Deer Park wildlife and botany reserve, an elephant sanctuary, or the lush tropical wilderness around Lake Chini, Malaysia's second biggest natural freshwater lake.

Club Med is also making a contribution to increasing environmental awareness with its worldwide Green Globe project.

The recently formed, Singapore-based Greenasia Group, established by businesspeople to provide voluntary carbon management services, says Cherating Beach Club Med was a leader in environmental design from the time of its construction just over 30 years ago.

Australian and Bali-based Greenasia consultant Amanda Pummer said the management built with local materials, while the passive environmental designs were well ahead of their time in beating the heat and conserving energy.

Pummer also praised the resort's water and energy systems, which include a lagoon that serves as a natural waste-water treatment plant and an air-conditioning energy recovery system that helps fuel boilers for hot water.

At 80 hectares, Cherating Beach is the largest of Club Med's 80 villages, and its 800 metres of covered walkway between 15 three-storey teak buildings, all on piles, provides the world's longest unbroken stretch of bungalow accommodation.

Its awards include the 2007/2008 Hospitality Asia Platinum Award (HAPA) for resort of the year and the 2008-2010 HAPA for South-East Asian resort of the year.

Wi-fi is available throughout the resort and free for up to 72 hours of use.

There is little difference between the superior and deluxe rooms.

Suite accommodation is available for those who want the space and comfort and a balcony with a sea view, along with a limousine trip from Kuantan airport.

Most guests are happy to take the free 45-minute bus ride from the sleepy coastal township after an hour's plane hop over the mountains from Kuala Lumpur.

IF YOU GO:

Club Med offers special all-inclusive packages including airfares, inter-connecting rooms, a daily fully cooked breakfast, buffet lunch, three-course dinner, light meals and snacks, unlimited beer, wine and soft drinks with meals and all these beverages, as well as cocktails, throughout the day.

Also available are numerous sports activities and tuition, including a trapeze school, and kids' clubs operating from 9am to 9pm each day.

For more details call 1800-258-263 or visit: www.clubmed.com.au.

Air Asia X flies to Kuala Lumpur from Perth, Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Visit: www.airasia.com

The writer was a guest of Club Med flying Air Asia X.

AAP