Malaysia Food Trail – Part 5 – Desaru, Johor

After revelling in the joys of the West coast of Malaysia during the first 4 days of our Malaysia Food Trail, it was time to go cross country and take a peek at the South China sea on the east.

The destination of Desaru awaited us as we covered the 80 km from Johor Bahru in a little over an hour.

Desaru is Malaysia’s new beach baby, which is literally making Waves in the world of tourism. Do you want to know why ? Well then you will have to linger with me a little longer and read the story that I have narrated for you 😀

Map credit – Google

About Desaru –

A seaside getaway in the south eastern part of Malaysia, Desaru is a tranquil little coast that offers picturesque views of the South China sea and the skies above its horizons, from the stretch of pristine beach that it is blessed with.

 

‘Desaru’ literally means the Village of Casuarinas, Desa in the Malay language, meaning village and Ru being the local name for Casuarinas, which abound in the lush tropical forests that fringe the beach.

This charming place which is located in the Pengerang area of the Kota Tinggi District in the southernmost state of Johor, Malaysia, is said to have been the focus of attempted tourism in the past but it is only recently that it has seen a resurgence as a holiday destination, aided by the expressway that connects it to Senai airport and also due to the formation of the Desaru Coast brand, which is a new integrated destination resort.

Desaru has many other resorts and stay options too like the Tunamaya Resort and Spa and also many places of interest like the Desaru fruit farm, crocodile world, ostrich farm, firefly cruise etc.

About Desaru Coast –

Desaru Coast from Desaru Development Holdings One Sdn Bhd, is a premium integrated destination resort and the first of its kind here, containing a portfolio of globally renowned hotels and entertainment.

Their range of hotels encompass the the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, The Westin Desaru Coast Resort, Anantara desaru Coast Resort & Villas, One&Only Desaru Coast resort, some of them barely a few months old and some yet to open.

They also have entertainment attractions like the Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark, the 27 hole Els Club Desaru Coast Ocean course golf course, the 18 hole Els Club Desaru Coast Valley course golf course jointly designed and developed by golf champions Ernie Els and Vijay Singh and also the state of the art Els performance Golf Academy.

The fully equipped Desaru Coast Conference Center and the Desaru Coast Riverside which is a 23 acre retail and lifestyle complex, are also a part of the Desaru coast portfolio.

More information about Desaru Coast is available here.

Getting to Desaru –

Desaru is easy to access by road from Johor Bahru and Kuala Lumpur and via the  causeway from Singapore.

It also has a 45 min access via road to the Senai airport and is also accessible by sea via the Changi Ferry Terminal, Singapore.

Desaru fruit farm –

An orchard will always be a favorite place for a fruit lover like me and I was extremely excited that the Desaru Fruit Farm was on our itinerary.

This 30 year old fruit farm was established in 1990. It is spread across 100 acres and has over 100 varieties of fruit bearing trees some perennial and some seasonal.

The farm has opened its doors to agro tourism since 2001 and also offers activities and packages for students, private groups and also corporates. During our visit, we had a group of  tiny tots from a local school very interestedly examining the farm 😀

There also is a store that sells fresh fruit and other related products.

The charm of the farm lies in the fact that they use only natural organic practices and their mantra is sustainability.

They use the GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) and IPM (Integrated Pest Management) control methods and make their own anaerobic compost using the Bokashi method of composting by naturally fermenting food scraps with the application of EM (effective microorganisms).

This farm has also been a winner of several awards for being the best agro tourism site.

Our Tour –

We were welcomed by the General manager Mr Henry Goh who was also our guide for the session.

We were taken in an open truck towards the orchard, from where we had to then experience the rest of the fruit trail on foot.

Though it was hot, the shade of the trees did help and so also did the informative talk, as we learnt about the various types of fruit trees and plants.

It is a good idea to carry a cap, water and mosquito repellent on the tour.

Of course many of them were familiar to me like the breadfruit, jackfruit, chikoo, passion fruit, water apple, pomelo, soursop, mangosteen, guava etc, though I did learn for the first time that the male fruit of the breadfruit and jackfruit drops off and it is the female which we eventually eat. It was also pointed out to us that the male breadfruit bore a resemblance to a human male body part 😀

What I saw for the first time though, was the dragon fruit cactus, the thousand finger banana, the amra tree and the famed (infamous) durian tree. Most of them were not in season and were just flowering but it was interesting to view them all the same.

There was a station selling chilled fruit juices from the farm of course and we took a refreshing break near the koi pond where one can also purchase food to feed the fish.

We then proceeded to their Agriculture gallery which showcases some ancient agricultural equipment and also to learn about their composting and sustainable natural processes.

From here we moved on to learning about the pollination of the flowers by stingless bees and it was fascinating to peer fearlessly into the bee boxes without any chance of getting stung.

Our next stop was the petting zoo which had enclosures for rabbits, goats, poultry etc.

One can feed the animals with carrots, grass etc which can be purchased there.

The goats are bred with a multi functional purpose. They are fed all the unsold produce of the farm and their droppings are used in making organic compost. The animals are eventually sold for their meat.

They also have turtles at the mini zoo and we were given a demonstration of nature’s design where the male turtle has a depression that fits into the female turtle’s back and helps it to stay turtle’lly balanced during mating 😀

After the farm tour of around an hour, we had a honey tasting session in the air conditioned hall where they showcase their pure Rainforest honey, bee pollen, royal jelly, propolis, all of which have great health benefits with their anti oxidant and anti inflammatory properties. We were also given a tasting of Tongat Ali infused honey. Tongkat Ali is a potent revitalizing herb also available here in capsule form.

The farm also offers ATV dirt bike rides but we did not have time and hence we made do with pretending to ride 😀

The grand finale of the tour is the highlight of the experience, where fruits are laid out in the dining hall for tasting, followed by a sumptuous spread where every dish has an element of fruit in it.

At any given time in the year, they have a minimum of 10 fruits on the table with a mix of perennial as well as seasonal fare.

Steve Heng, the director of the farm gave us an insight into our impending input 😀 and described the dishes that had been prepared for us.

This was a lavish meal indeed and we feasted on Coconut juice seafood Tom Yum, Shredded papaya salad, Asam pedas stingray fish with passion fruit, Young jackfruit masak lemak, Assorted tropical fruits prawns, Chicken chop with passion fruits sauce, Stir-fried organic vegetables from the garden and Fried calamari dipped in dragon fruit sauce.

I have never indulged in such a fruity meal in my life and I have no words to describe how exquisite this meal was.

This was really a very unique session and of course a very Fruitful one too (fruitful being freely used as the pun of the day :-D)

More information about the Desaru Fruit Farm is available here.

Hard Rock Hotel, Desaru Coast –

From the farm we went on to explore the rest of Desaru and our next stop was the Hard Rock Hotel, Desaru Coast. This brand new hotel like many of the other Desaru coast components, is barely a few months old. With a prime location adjacent to the Desaru Adventure Coast Waterpark, this family friendly hotel offers its guests direct private, multi entry access to the park. The 365 room hotel promises its signature Hard Rock hospitality to its guests.

Most of the rooms face the waterpark with interesting views of the rides.

The front of the hotel faces the Westin Desaru Coast Resort, which has access to the beach. This hotel is also a part of the Desaru Coast portfolio.

The rooms at the Hard Rock hotel are equipped with their signature  ‘Sleep like a Rock’ mattresses, a free of cost pillow menu, Rock Spa bathroom essentials and a non alcoholic mini bar with complimentary contents.

This is also the first Hard Rock hotel to do away with single use plastic water bottles, using Hard Rock flasks instead, which can be filled any number of times from conveniently located common refilling stations.

Music being the theme of the hotel chain, the hotel is awash with the sound of music right from dawn to dusk. There are also various programs that the guest can avail of within the rooms. Preferences are noted during check in and their favorite genre of music plays as soon as they enter the room. The ‘Sound of your stay’ program enables one to request for an instrument of choice in the room and also learn to play it by watching videos on the 55 inch LED TV, at no additional charge. Complimentary in room HD movies are available on demand.

We were given Hard Rock talk where we learnt that Hard Rock hotels associate with 6 M’s. There is a guitar Monument – at the entrance, music Memorabilia – scattered across the hotel with a memorabilia tour conducted twice a day, signature Merchandise – at the in house store, Music – which is the essence of the hotel, Moments – that are created from the experience of their impeccable service and the Menu – of services that they offer to their guests.

There are 4 dining venues, Sessions the all day dining, The Elephant and the Butterfly – a poolside bar and grill, Constant Grind – the coffee bar and GMT+8 – the lobby bar featuring live music.

And well, this is a musically themed hotel … so there is going to be music everywhere … a jingle where you tinkle 😀

More information about the Hard Rock Hotel Desaru Coast, can be found here.

At the end of our hotel tour we were taken through the secret passageway 😀 to the Adventure park.

Desaru Coast Adventure Park –

This 21 acre brand new water park is the largest of its kind in the region and also boasts of having one of the largest wave pools in the world. Literally making Waves, the 3 acre pool can produce waves upto the height of 3 meters. Now you see where my introduction was leading to, that is if you still remember it after such a long tale  😀

The park is a part of the premium integrated destination of Desaru Coast and is set against the backdrop of a Malaysian fishing village. It is made up of 5 zones featuring 20 wet and dry rides, slides etc, and has something for everyone across a range of bravery quotients 😀

They also have Food and Beverage outlets, merchandise store, restrooms, locker facilities, parking bays and on site paramedic team and first aid rooms.

After our tour of the Hard Rock hotel, we were taken via their exclusive direct access to the park. We had an hour to spare which was good enough for someone like me who is not of the brave kind 😀 I had planned to merely go around and click pictures of the place but one of the park officials was kind enough to offer a tour of the place and eventually with the help of my companions, they also managed to convince me to take the Kraken monster roller coaster ride, which I normally would not have done even in my nightmares 😀 I am very glad that I did it though because firstly I survived to tell the tale (but obviously :-D) and secondly I conquered one of my fears in life. One of the greatest benefits of being a traveller, is that you learn to conquer your discomforts and become a stronger person.

 

More information about the Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark, can be found here.

After spending a very active time at the water park, it was finally time to give ourselves a break and so we headed to the hotel which was going to me our home for that night.

Tunamaya Beach and Spa Resort –

The Tunamaya Beach and Spa Resort is one of the well known resorts in Desaru. Belonging to the portfolio of Care Luxury Hotels & Resorts (the same brand as the Trove hotel where we stayed in Johor Bahru), this 3 year old expansive resort is set in the verdant surroundings of Desaru.

The 134 rooms and suites are designed with all  modern amenities, without compromising on the natural environs and the biggest draw is that every room faces the sea, which explains the rather long curve occupied by the hotel which hugs the length of the secluded, pristine beach, offering picture perfect views which the guests can enjoy in privacy.

Tunamaya has several delicious dining options with the all day beach view Pawana restaurant, the Aroi Thai, Nelayan Seafood by the Coast and the Ombak Bar.

There are also well equipped venues for meetings, conferences and celebrations to suit a wide range of events.

There is also a mini adventure park of sorts where guests can try their skills. This is also a great place for team building exercises for corporates. So if you find the beach too tame for your wild spirit, you have 7 high element obstacle courses to send your adrenaline racing 😀

Though our stay at the Tunamaya was short, we just could not miss out on the pleasures of its beach, the clear blue pool and resort cuisine.

The evening was spent splashing around in the waters and of course having a swinging time on their strategically placed swings that act like virtual windows to the stunning views of the sea and sky.

The coast lies on the east, which means glorious views of the sunrise for those who care enough to wake up 😀 and I was so happy that I did. The drama in the sky will remain permanently embedded in my memory and in my camera’s memory too.

Our dinner that night was a spectacular seafood feast at the Nelayan Seafood by the coast. The restaurant is aptly named Nelayan which means fisherman and the food cannot get any fresher with live tanks filled with plump, interesting sea creatures that one can pick out as their indulgence for the meal 😀

Lobsters, crabs, clams and various types of fish tantalize you from their temporary homes and all you have to do is point and voila, in a short while they appear magically on your plate in the most delicious of avatars. This is one restaurant that no seafood lover should miss while in Desaru.

The main restaurant is open to the views of the beach but our dinner was in a private dining hall which has a large crab painted across its doorway. So, ironically one enters via the stomach of the crustacean, only to have the crab enter one’s stomach at the meal. Sounds philosophically complex but then no one thinks too deeply once the food is on the plate 😀

The dinner was also attended by some of the officials from our host, Tourism Malaysia, as well as some of the representatives of Care Luxury Hotels. This was a fun filled event with speeches, games and prizes and the star of the show, the food. Of course I did not win any of the games (I never do) but with the outstanding seafood in front of me, nothing else mattered 😀

Our menu was carefully curated with their choicest of offerings and we were served several courses that began with the Braised sweetcorn soup with crab meat. Creamy and swimming with chunks of crab meat, I could have just made a meal of this entirely.

But then there was no resisting the Red snapper Hong Kong style, Seared scallops with broccoli, Salted egg squid, the Icy treasure chicken, the Black pepper crab and the dessert of Sesame rimmed pandan flavored tofu cakes.

Every dish was par excellence. The Icy treasure chicken was new to me, with crisp yet succulent chunks of chicken served in a globe of ice which further sits on a bed of ice studded with luscious litchis. One has to delicately insert a fork and extract the pieces or one can go all barbaric like us and crack the globe and dig into the chicken 😀

The scallops were huge, the red snapper was succulent, the squid was perfect and the crab was the star of the show, where all regard for decorum was cast aside, the crab claw crackers were tossed aside and all ten fingers were deployed to claw out every single morsel of the delectable meat !!!

Well on that triumphant note 😀 we called it a day, waking up only the next morning for our breakfast at the Pawana restaurant.

The Pawana serves a substantial buffet breakfast with the usual Western and local Malaysian fare and after our meal we left for Kuala Lumpur for the final day of our Malaysian food spree.

For more information check out the Website of the Tunamaya Beach and Spa Resort

Contact – 

More information about Tourism Malaysia is available at –

Website of Tourism Malaysia

Instagram of Tourism Malaysia

Twitter of Tourism Malaysia

 


For more pictures see My Facebook – Malaysia Food Trail-Part 5-Desaru Also catch me on My FacebookMy Facebook pageMy Twitter and My Instagram

Please Note – I visited Malaysia and embarked on the food trail, on the invitation of the Tourism Malaysia, which sponsored my flights, stay and related activities and I thank them for the same. The narrative is based on the inputs that I received from various sources as well as my own experiences.

Apr 15th-20th, 2019

 

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