When Puan Sri Tiara Jacquelina was a child, she would let her imagination run wild while reading books like Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree and Secret Seven series.
She would play outdoors for hours on end, thoroughly enjoying nature, in an era when the most sophisticated form of communication was a string tied between two cups, long before the invention of smartphones and the Internet.
It was these happy childhood memories that made her determined to give her children a similar experience, and later, to dream up a resort that would drive people out of the city to experience nature.
Thus, the idea for the luxury tented accommodation Tiarasa Escapes in Janda Baik, Pahang, was born.
On a recent Monday evening at the resort, located just under an hour’s drive from Kuala Lumpur, the director, producer and actress broke fast at a private BBQ next to the poolside, chatting casually about Enfiniti Group’s latest project.
“Every now and again I like to get away, to recharge and find creative inspiration and new ideas. One of my most memorable getaways was when I stayed in a Berber tent at Sir Richard Branson’s Kasbah Tamadot in Morocco,” said Tiara, dressed in khaki, relaxing after an entire afternoon of landscaping and adding design touches to the resort.
“I fell in love with the idea of living and waking up so close to nature. Marrakesh sparked an idea which excited both the wanderlust spirit and the serial entrepreneur in me, and I felt I had to bring the experience to Malaysia.”
Four years after this particular visit to Morocco, we are roaming the resort of Tiara’s dreams – with 20 safari-style tented villas and five treetop villas sprawled across seven acres of rainforest, it’s interesting to see how her dream has become a reality.
At Tiarasa Escapes, the night is so still you can hear the chorus of crickets, frogs and other insects, and the night sky is so clear you can see thousands of stars.
“I have personally curated each experience at Tiarasa Escapes in Janda Baik so that families, groups of friends, a wedding party or colleagues on a creative corporate retreat will leave with unforgettable memories, having enjoyed the experience of camping whilst staying in a comfortable tent, surrounded by the sounds of nature, wrapped in mountain mists,” added Tiara.
You would be hard pressed to find any other venue worthy of the term “Glamping” (a combination of “glam” and “camping”).
The safari-style tented villas and treetop villas include attached bathrooms, hot showers, deep-soaking bathtubs, air-conditioning and free wifi, each individual dwelling tailored to a specific theme.
With names like “Hornbill”, “Dragonfly” and “Rajah Brooke” named in accordance to the type and size of the villa, they feature chic ethnic accents, including personal touches of Iban Pua Kumbu fabrics, traditional artefacts such as baskets and games like congkak, with elegant drapings and high quality fittings.
There are few walls in the entire campsite, with minimal concrete or even wooden structures save for doorframes and bathroom ammenities – each tented villa has plenty of light, thanks to the “windows” made from mesh (over which curtains can be drawn for privacy).
The five treetop villas come with spacious wraparound verandahs, decorated with whimsical tribal furnishings, mandalas, dreamcatchers, a teepee and a hammock.
Three bespoke villas, the Maui Treehouse, the Lion Sands Tent and the Marrakech Tent come with a backstory that inspired their decor, reflecting Tiara’s personal journeys and passions.
Be warned though, that this being a resort in a rainforest, you can expect wildlife and insects to come creeping into your tent and around it. However this is minimal due to the pest control precautions the resort has taken to ensure the comfort of its guests. (Note: not a single mosquito was encountered during this review)
The to-do list
If you’re coming here to escape from the hustle and bustle of city living by simply lazing around, enjoying nature and doing absolutely nothing while also having access to top hotel facilites, then this venue is the ideal choice.
However, if you’re travelling with children or enjoy having your day filled with activity, there’s no shortage of things to do at Tiarasa Escapes.
Which child doesn’t enjoy splashing about in a swimming pool, or a river? Over here, they have the option of both!
The lagoon-themed wading pool has a mini water slide and pool toys and floats upon request, while the cool waters of the Enderong River that runs along the property can be a more adventurous choice for fearless city kids (and their parents!)
Teepees and swings are placed throughout the resort for kids to have fun with, and for winding down or for the less outdoorsy, the resort library has a collection of books and board games available at all hours.
This being the sister company of Enfiniti Academy, it’s no surprise that children of all ages are encouraged to immerse themselves in arts, crafts and traditional games.
Sketch or paint, sculp or even try your hand at batik-painting, and learn how to fold origami paper boats to be released into the resort creek.
The resort also organises traditional group games like tarik upih, Batu Seremban, congkak, gunny sack races or tug-of-war.
Nature walks and bird-watching are also on the itinerary, where guests will be loaned binoculars to search for the resident bird species such as the Hornbill, woodpeckers, cuckoos and a variety of others.
At night, recline on a bean bag, lawn chair or picnic mat under the stars for a family movie or classic film projected onto a screen. (There are no TVs in the villas, so here’s your chance to get a dose of screen time)
One experience you may not get anywhere else is the “Daily Lighting Of The Magical Bonfire” ceremony, where guests will gather in the heart of the resort at sunset, for the lighting ceremony of tiki torches and the bonfire.
For the resort’s VIG (Very Important Glampers) aka the children, several activities promise to leave a lasting impact on their little minds.
Plant and name your own herb before leaving the resort, a symbolic ritual to make the VIG officially a part of the Tiarasa Tribe, and also an activity to encourage the youth to be environmentally conscious.
For VIGs with an artistic flair, or those eager to explore drama and performing arts, holiday workshops and camps as well as singing and dancing sessions organised by Enfiniti Academy are in the works.
Finally, for youngsters who want to experience what actual camping in the wilderness is really like, there are bell tents and sleeping bags for hire, which the on-ground staff can help pitch with the children. (The tents will be at a comfortable watching distance, along with the resort’s Security Rangers)
Of course, if the jungle pyjama party with their siblings and friends gets too intense, there’s always the option to jump right back into your villa with mum and dad.
While the resort is situated in the rainforest, there’s no need to actually hunt and cook your own dinner, as there are plenty of options for food in the area.
Complimentary breakfast baskets are delivered to the villas, or to a picnic spot of your choice.
Baskets include nasi lemak, granola or cereal accompanied by freshly-squeezed juice and fresh milk.
For afternoon tea, pick a teepee or a shaded grassy area by the river for the Tiarasa Picnic Tea.
Choose between locally sourced kampung favourites such as keropok lekor, cekodok pisang, goreng pisang and goreng keledek or a choice of healthy options which includes plenty of fruits.
There’s something so peaceful and rejuvenating about sitting cross-legged on the grass, listening to the ebb and flow of the river, while munching on a delicious spring roll fresh out of a tiffin carrier, sipping on teh tarik from a camping mug.
For dinner, the communal BBQ may end up being the highlight of your stay – bond with your family and meet other glampers as you enjoy a meal prepared by the resort’s Kitchen Rangers as you sit by the bonfire.
If you’re honeymooning and want a little more privacy, there’s the option of prearranging your very own private BBQ right outside your villa.
Everyone gets a little peckish at some point during the day, so worry not about those random hunger pangs, as the resort has other dining options such as their on-site restaurant and poolside cafe.
Rasa in the Rainforest, a beautiful restaurant tent manufactured and fitted out by Escape Nomade Bali, is open for lunch, tea and dinner.
Its menu includes Malaysian dishes like Laksa Sarawak and Nasi Ulam from Tiara’s personal kitchen, as well as western dishes.
The Red Dragonfly Poolside Cafe features a more casual menu of snacks and light bites, where you’ll also find a library, board games and a craft activities corner.
Whether your stay at Tiarasa Escapes is a family getaway, a team-building session or a couple’s trip, be rest assured that there will be plenty to do and eat at this unique rainforest resort.