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Monday 14 July 2014

3BM Wanders: Malaysia

After adventuring around Lombok and the Gili Islands, my next stop was Singapore for a work trip. I stayed at the Marina Bay Sands, a megalith of a hotel shaped like a cricket wicket with the room-filled towers forming the stumps and the pool, the bails...

Unfortunately, I had a pretty tight work schedule while I was there, but I did manage to squeeze in a teeny tiny Sephora shopping spree and a couple of cocktails at Ku De Ta which was conveniently situated just a few floors above my room... 

But, it just so happened that my meetings fell right before two bank holidays, and as I was already in Singapore, it seemed to make sense to tack on a little beach break... Having seen several envy-inducing Instagram snaps over Easter, I knew exactly where to head, Rawa Island in Malaysia.

Getting to Rawa from Singapore is pretty simple - zip across the border in a taxi and after a couple of hours of driving you arrive at Mersing - the gateway to a string of pristine Bounty-ad-esque islands. 

Rawa is pretty unique in that despite the fact that it has jawdroppingly incredible scenery - sand that's whiter than white, sea thats so clear and blue that it looks like it's been photoshopped - it hasn't been snapped up and taken over by an Aman or a Four Seasons. Instead, it's home to just two very reasonably priced family-run hotels.

We chose to stay at Alang's, the more basic of the two resorts but also the younger, livelier option (neighbouring resort, Rawa Island Resort, seemed to be the choice for families and those who prefer a little more comfort). Our accommodation at Alang's came in the form of a hut with a couple of ceiling fans (no aircon), a bed and a cold, saltwater shower - basically one step up from camping. Although its far from five star luxury, when sea this colour is a hop, skip and a roll from your (admittedly fairly uncomfortable) bed, you can't really complain...

Rates start at about £45/ HK$600 per person a night which includes boat transfers and three meals a day. Food is simple but tasty and served buffet style. Understandably as you're in the middle of nowhere, alcohol is more expensive than usual which meant that our final bar bill was actually almost as much as our accommodation... That said, at Alang's (especially at the weekend) every night seems to turn into a bit of a party and sleeping in the non-air conditioned huts is definitely easier a few vodkas down...

Activities are pretty much confined to swimming, lazing in a hammock, eating, drinking and staring out to sea. When you're bored of gazing out at the myriad of blues, you can also borrow fins and masks from the resort and head out for a little snorkel - just a couple of metres off the beach we spied a school of white-tipped reef sharks.

After a couple of days (and a little disagreement with a Malaysian Prince also staying at the resort) we decided that as much as we'd loved back to basics Rawa, we were ready for a spot of luxe to round off the trip. A little Googling and a few phone calls later, we hopped aboard a little speedboat and waved goodbye to Rawa... 

...whizzed out across the millpond calm of the crystal clear water...

...and ten minutes later we arrived at our next castaway island, Pulau Tengah, home to Batu Batu resort.

If Rawa's paradise on a shoestring, Batu Batu is its pimped-up, mega-luxe, movie-set-ready sister. Although the sea's the same turquoise and the sand's the same dazzling white that's pretty much where the similarities between the two hotels ends. At Batu Batu huts are swapped for grown-up tree-houses with killer views and mosquito net draped four poster beds that are nothing short of marshmallowy. Here, the air-conditioning's arctic while showers are hot and stocked with full-sized Malin+Goetz products. Even the palm trees seem glossier.

After scarfing down lemongrass chicken skewers and coconut rice followed by mango pannacotta over a couple of glasses of icy Sauvignon Blanc, we decided that a gentle amble around the perimeter of the island was an excellent plan. As Batu Batu is the only hotel on the island, you're free to go full on Robinson Crusoe, making your way through the jungly interior of the island (which comes complete with a well-kept network of pathways) to discover deserted coves where no ones going to disturb you apart from maybe a nesting turtle.   

Days pass in a blur of sun-dappled blues and snoozy sunbathing. Activities at Batu Batu are still pretty much confined to reading and relaxing but if you want to roll off your sunbed into the sea, you can snorkel (no shark sightings here for us but we did spend a very happy afternoon diving down to swim amongst huge shoals of shimmering fish hanging out under the pier. 

Batu Batu is very geared up to families with all the kid-friendly kit (cots, high chairs, bottle sterilisers, baby baths, potties etc etc), babysitters, a children's menu in the restaurant and even a playhouse stocked with toys, books and kids' DVDs. As a result, we were pretty much the only couple there without children but pool aside, we never felt like we were in a playground and because there are so many harder to reach beaches it's very easy to find a blissfully quiet corner of the island to call your own.

A couple of days later, freckled and burnished from too much time basking on private beaches, it was time to pack up our cases and zip back to the mainland already dreaming of a return visit in the not too distant future.

Rates from S$379 per room per night

Rates from RM250 per person per night
(inclusive of all meals and transfers, 2 night minimum stay)

Rates from RM750 per villa per night
(food supplement RM220 per adult per night and RM110 per child per night and boat transfers from RM50 per person)


  1. Wow wow wow total paradise looks idyllic so beautiful and the perfect place to relax Lucy x