“I am homesick for a place I am not even sure exists. One where my heart is full, and my soul understood.” – Melissa Cox
– Not long ago, I stumbled upon this quote, and it resonated with me. When I arrived to this magical place, I no longer felt homesick for I had found the place where my heart was indeed full and my soul completely understood. –
I LEFT MY HEART IN BAMBOO HILL
On the edge of a small village, nestled amongst the hilly architecture of nature’s intricate design, lies a charming sanctuary – a place of refuge, if you will. Hidden from the usual travel itineraries, Tioman’s best kept secret embodies so much more than just a holiday destination. A place to just exist and soak in the energy of calm and tranquillity that allows you to just be.
It is here that I found my place of healing, the deep sense of peace that I longed for, and could find nowhere else. Far away from the chaos, the quiet sleepy village of Air Batang maintains a local homely feel which I found absolutely inviting. As I walked from the jetty through this village, a small path led the way to my destination. Crossing bridges and taking in the sight of boats, small shops, dive centres, unique homes and chalets, beautiful plants and flowers moved and waved in the wind as if saying, “Hello! We’re happy to see you here.” Admiring the simplicity of the village and soaking up the beauty of nature, the effort put in by the villagers to keep their little settlement quaint and inviting shone through. I proceeded along the path until I could see the iconic hill-side accommodation that would soon become my home for the next six nights.
Bamboo Hill Chalets is not on any travel hotel booking website, and chooses to remain unique with a personal touch. Stumbling upon it from another blog, I was thrilled to find the place, as the photos and words spoke volumes and invoked a sense of anticipation that I had not felt before. My heart was telling me that this was the place I had long been searching for, and there, I needed to be.
I can honestly say there is no place I have been to that is quite like it. Living and travelling in Peninsular Malaysia, all the usual holiday destinations can get old (read: boring) quite quickly, and I did not feel the desire to visit any ordinary place that would give me the same experiences as before.
British-born Sue, the owner of Bamboo Hill Chalets, is a lovely lady with a maternal quality about her. Having lived in Malaysia for over 30 years, Sue herself was once on holiday in Tioman when she met and fell in love with her islander husband, sadly, now deceased. Her grown children are also living on the island and together with dedicated all-rounder Warri, help to keep things running.
Bamboo Hill consists of three individually unique beach-front chalets and two semi-detached sea view units higher up the hill. Every chalet is special with an energy that invigorates, causing you to pause and find something deeper within yourself. I can completely understand why previous guests keep coming back. It is the kind of place that imprints on you and stays with you, long after you have left.
MORE ABOUT BAMBOO HILL CHALETS
Needing no air-conditioning, it gets quite cool at night. The heat of the day quickly turns into the need for extra blankets to keep warm after sundown. Sitting on your balcony in the day, you remain shaded and out of direct sunlight. The location is ideal because of this. Beach-front chalets are bigger, thus balconies come ready with a wall fan as you sit reading or simply day-dreaming. Steps away from the beach, ideal for snorkelling, or a quick dip, the chalets are strategic in that they are in a position where the view is beautiful, yet you are just high enough to stay above high tide. These ocean front chalets are equipped to accommodate small families and couples alike. Prices are reasonable depending on the size and facilities within each one.
The chalets further up the hill have expansive views from their balconies, and I would personally say they have the best view. The jetty where the ferries drop-off and pick-up passengers lies in the distance with a backdrop of the beautiful ocean and Air Batang beach. Small speed boats can be seen carrying keen divers on designated days, and in the evenings, children play in the safety of the waters as the tide slowly turns. Closest to the hilly jungle, these chalets have floor to ceiling windows that open onto picturesque plants and large boulders. They are smaller in size and can accommodate couples or a solo-traveller looking to work remotely or to just take a much needed vacation.
Group bookings are not encouraged, as Sue insists that the place be kept serene. Being quietly respectful after 10pm is essential. So group bookings which tend to get loud and sometimes rowdy simply defeats the purpose of this retreat and is at odds with the energy that surrounds this tranquil setting. Squeezing too many people in one chalet is also frowned upon, so planning and booking sufficiently in advance is essential.
MORE ABOUT AIR BATANG VILLAGE
The village itself is very small, run mostly by local families that operate chalets and restaurants in tandem. Two dive shops exist to cater to diving enthusiasts, with one that also serves food and has a bar. Bars are a rare sight indeed, due to strict local laws that prohibit Muslim locals from obtaining liquor licenses. Air Batang is also not the kind of place that invites a noisy party scene at night. The quiet village is a homely one where peace and serenity abide. The very nature of Air Batang invites you to centre your being and be reminded of your purpose and place in life.
Just along the little pathway from the jetty, I passed by a dessert shop called Kupidessert. Desserts there do look professionally made and appetising, and according to other guests tastes absolutely divine too! Air Batang is the kind of place where you can purchase and pay later if you didn’t bring cash out with you when you’re on an unplanned stroll. So if you forget your money, you can ask the kind shopkeeper if you could owe her and come back and pay her at the soonest, and she would graciously say, “Boleh…”. Everyone seems to know everyone in Air Batang village and so it is usually very apparent when someone new comes to stay.
On the other side of the jetty is Mawar beach with some more chalets, a few restaurants and another dive centre. The tiny village as a whole I would say is occupied and run by just a handful of families who have settled and lived there from the beginning. As the location is remote, and the island itself is so far from the mainland, there isn’t a single hospital on the whole island of Tioman. The nearest clinic to Air Batang is in the next town called Tekek, which also houses the Tioman airport. Therefore it is important to keep that in mind if you have special medical needs and bring along emergency medication if need be. Tekek town itself isn’t very big at all but it is where everyone goes to for essentials and groceries.
HOW TO GET THERE
Beginning May 2022, SKS Airways will start to service holiday goers from Subang Airport to Tioman Island. Another route option for visitors from the south is Senai Airport. Flight durations are said to take about 1 hour and 30 minutes, which is quick compared to the 4.5 hour drive from KL to Mersing, followed by a 2.5 hour ferry ride from the mainland, which is the journey I embarked on, since I travelled in March.
THE AWARENESS IT BRINGS
There are other places to stay on Tioman, with simple chalets that do offer air-conditioning, and other options that offer more luxury for those who simply cannot do without their dose of pampering, but, there is something extremely special about Bamboo Hill and the energy that surrounds it which cannot be seen with ordinary eyes, only felt by an awareness and sensitivity to the love and acceptance that radiates from within it. It cannot be explained in words, it can only be felt by an open heart that is longing and searching for something more. A heart that perhaps needs an inner transformation, or a place where you feel liberated and completely free to be your true self – without judgement, without expectations, and far from social conformity. Here you are allowed to find what you have been missing, and if fortunate, to fill the void with a sense of completeness that comes from being who you really want to be while soaking in the natural sights and sounds that speak to your inner senses.
There is an unspeakable longing that is fulfilled here, that can be both seductive and addictive. When you leave, it almost feels like you left your heart behind with a promise to come back and be reunited with your soul.
To connect with Sue and find out more about Bamboo Hill Chalets, you may visit the website or whatsapp Sue here. You may find that you would be tempted to keep the secret of this location to yourself so that it remains unspoilt and private. I would not blame you if that is what you choose to do 🙂