Sunday, March 11, 2007


First published in The Jakarta Post, March 11, 2007


Alpha Amirrachman, Contributor, Terengganu, Malaysia

When I was invited to a retreat by Institut Kajian Dasar (with support from the Sasakawa Peace Foundation) at Kenyir Lake, Terengganu, Malaysia, I swiftly accepted the invitation.

Not only would this be my first visit to our northern neighbor, but also, as some of my colleagues found out, Kenyir Lake is really a beautiful place to relax and meditate.

The flight to Kuala Lumpur took around an hour and 45 minutes, barely less than the time spent to fly to Medan. A two-hour wait in sophisticated Kuala Lumpur International Airport was more than enough for me, as I just couldn't wait for what many argue is incomparable beauty of the largest manmade lake in Southeast Asia. I expected it be a long journey. It was. An additional one-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur landed me in small, somewhat dusty Sultan Mahmud Airport in Terengganu.

This was a simple and modest airport, located in the state capital, Kuala Terengganu, but it was very much part of the government-sponsored Visit Malaysia 2007 program celebrating 50 years of nationhood. Colorful banners were flying from almost every corner of the airport.

During a one-hour bus journey to Kenyir Lake, I managed to keep my eyes open to directly witness the day-to-day life of ordinary Malaysians, some of whom were selling nasi lemak to meet their needs.

I noticed that the state is typified by an obvious Malay culture, rural villages and serene coastal towns.

Stopping at one of the kedai (markets) to do a bit of shopping, I managed to converse with pleasant kampong people.

Terengganu's population is around 927,000. It comprises mostly Malays while the remainder are Indians, Chinese and people of other ethnicities. It is a living celebration of diversity.

With its tropical climate, the state is a perfect place for those who long for a tropical atmosphere. As I was there in January, I experienced sporadic showers, which occur between November and February.

Arriving at Kenyir Lakeview Resort, I could immediately smell the fragrance of clean and clear water. It was great to flee temporarily my chaotic life in Jakarta and Serang, I said to myself.

Terengganu is located on the east coast of peninsular Malaysia. It is blessed with the longest shoreline in Malaysia and its pretty islands glisten gorgeously like jewelry in the South China Sea.

Several islands are carefully and professionally conserved as marine gardens, making them an obvious destination for tourists and nature-lovers alike.

It extends over approximate area of 38,000 hectares, including 430 jade-colored islands.

It is a place that offers an assortment of fish, land animals and birds, and innumerable plant types -- the product of perfect cooperation between man and nature.

Kenyir Lake is undoubtedly a delight for nature-lovers, adventurers and voyagers. The area is a perfect spot for those who love boating, forest-trekking, canoeing, and other sporting activities such as squash, tennis and cycling, as a vast tropical forest beautifully surrounds this large lake.

Due to my packed schedule during the retreat, I was unable to try all the activities on offer. However, I did ride not only a boat to nearby islands to see Sack Waterfalls and Herba Garden, but also a raft we assembled ourselves during our outbound activities.

Accommodation was also superb. The resort has around 150 high-quality wooden chalets for guests. With wooden glass doors and soaring ceilings, the chalets allow visitors to feel they are communing with nature.

The food the resort provides was similarly delectable, as the cuisine and seafood here are well-known for being delicious.

Kenyir Lake was a heaven of solitude and tranquility to invigorate not only the rainforest, but also to revive one's own soul and spirit.

How to get there

Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia provide everyday flights from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to Sultan Mahmud Airport in Terengganu. It is approximately a one-hour drive from Sultan Mahmud Airport in Terengganu to Kenyir Lakeview Resort.

Terengganu can likewise be reached via a four-hour drive along the East Cost Expressway. To reach the resort, the shortest way is through Kuantan taking the Jerangau-Jabor Highway to Tasik Kenyir.

If you are approaching from the south, take the Kota Tinggi-Mersing course to Kuantan, then further up the Jerangau-Jabor highway. From Kelantan or Thailand, before reaching Kenyir, you will pass through Kuala Terengganu.

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