DRIVING along the scenic Senai–Desaru Expressway is a breeze. Light traffic encountered during the 45-minute journey gives opportunity to savour the sights along the route leading to Johor’s premier beach destination facing the South China Sea.
This fast growing area, which is part of the Kota Tinggi district, has benefitted greatly from the state government’s initiative to develop an integrated tourism area spreading over an area of more nearly 1,600 hectares.
Exiting the expressway close to Bandar Penawar, the road eventually leads to Tanjung Balau, a quieter section of Desaru that is favoured for its pristine sandy beach which ends at a rather picturesque rocky outcrop overlooking the azure ocean. null
Among the handful of well-patronised accommodations here is the Bayu Balau Beach Resort. Popular among both local and foreign holiday makers, this three star hotel is strategically located right by the sea and various tourist attractions in the vicinity.
At the reception area, the friendly front desk staff member pleasantly reveals that WiFi is not only complimentary in the guest rooms but also throughout the remaining areas of the resort including the pool area, children’s playground and meeting rooms.
A GOOD START
A covered palm tree lined walkway leads directly to my spacious standard queen sized room on the ground floor. Equipped with the basic amenities including minibar, air conditioning, flat-screen TV, tea/coffee maker and floor to ceiling wardrobe, the room is tastefully decorated with local inspired artwork and fittings.
Opting to take advantage of the natural ventilation, I throw open the windows to welcome the invigoratingly cool sea breeze. The air conditioning can wait until the mercury rises to a more significant level later in the afternoon.
After a refreshing shower to wash away the exhaustion resulting from the early flight into Senai International Airport, I head over to Ombak Restaurant for a well-earned early lunch comprising of scrumptious Laksa Johor and Lempeng. According to the serve staff, both these dishes first originated in the Kota Tinggi area before spreading to the rest of the state.
The rich laksa gravy filled with generous fish chunks and creamy coconut milk or santan is simply awe inspiring. Coupled with fresh herbs like basil, it certainly gives the northern asam laksa variant a run for its money. At the same time, the piping hot plain lempeng goes well with its accompanying spicy curry dip.
While taking a walk around the resort to work off the surprisingly filling lunch, I come across the resort’s two rather interestingly named meeting rooms – Kerapu and Kertang. A staff clarifies that the names refer to two highly prized marine fishes commonly found off the coast of Desaru.
AN ADVENTUROUS END
When quizzed further, he grins widely and gestures towards several nearby pink rooftops peeking above a clump of palm trees swaying in the breeze and says: “The answer to your question is located just next door at the Muzium Nelayan Tanjung Balau.”
The timely tip gives reason for me to saunter across the road and seek refuge in the cool interior of the museum just as the weather is starting to get noticeably hotter. Construction of this RM 1.5 million complex began in 1990 and was completed two years later.
Since then, it has been receiving a steady stream of visitors eager to know more about the lives of Johor fisherfolk in the past as well as the many modern technologies adopted by the community over the years in preparation for a future threatened by dwindling harvests and increasing levels of marine pollution.
Later that evening, I take time to walk along Tanjung Balau beach and allow the rising tide to gently caress my bare feet as they sink into the golden powdery sand with every step.
It is almost twilight by the time I return to the resort. The delicious aroma of meat cooking over several barbecue pits near the swimming pool area calls to mind that it is almost time for dinner.
Heading towards Ombak Restaurant once again, I resolve to be more adventurous and plan to order the exotic horseshoe crab or belangkas lemak cili and the edible marine snail siput gonggong seen on the menu during lunch.
It has been nothing short of a truly fun filled day here at Desaru and surely there will be more to see and explore in this amazing corner of Johor during my stay here.
BAYU BALAU BEACH RESORT
81930 Bandar Penawar
TEL: 013-723 1330 / 013 – 723 1060
STAY There are 108 rooms in total, consisting of 80 standard units, 8 units of deluxe and family deluxe categories each, 10 spacious villa units and 2 exclusive grand pool villas. All room types adopt modern concepts while highlighting interesting local decorative fittings.
EAT Ombak Restaurant serves both local as well as western cuisines. Although there are no buffet options during weekdays, the ala carte menu is rather extensive and caters to all quarters. The chef, who is a Desaru local, uses the freshest ingredients and sources his products from nearby farms to support local food producers. Most of the marine products like horseshoe crab, grouper, prawns and lobsters are supplied directly by the nearby Sedili fishing community. Guests have the option of sitting in the cool air conditioned restaurant interior or dine al fresco style while enjoying sweeping views of the sea.
GO There is so much to see and do within the resort compound that borders the pristine Tanjung Balau beach. Visit the Muzium Nelayan Tanjung Balau and check out the many hawker stalls that sprout along the seafront by late afternoon.
HIGHS This fast developing area, with many attractions within reasonable walking distance, is a true paradise for those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
LOWS Although guests have to adhere to the stringent Movement Control Order requirements, the many wide open spaces in Bayu Balau Beach Resort provide guests with ample room to easily adhere to all the strict Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
RATES Check the hotel website for the latest promotional rates and offers.
By : Alan Teh Leam Seng – NST