Japa Mala is a term for a garland made of beads and usually used for prayers and spiritual practices.
And you can see why this tiny resort on the island of Tioman off the East Coast of Malaysia has been named after it.
As soon as you arrive, you are enveloped in a sense of calm that lasts long after you leave the resort. The fact there is no mobile signal and hardly any wifi access adds to the tranquility. After waiting for 15-20 minutes just to post one pic to instagram, we gave in and rather enjoyed the feeling of being “off-the-radar”!
A fashionable rustic eco-luxe resort
Or at least that’s how the Japamala describes itself on its website. And as the resort has just 13 villas in either a seafront, cliff edge or treetop surrounding, the team are able to live up to its name by offering a truly individual experience for their guests.
We were on the same speedboat transfer from Kampong Genting as three other couples and families but we were each met by a different member of the team who provided us with a private individual tour of the resort and its amenities and took us to our respective rooms.
We opted for one of the Treetop chalets but this was like no treehouse you would have experienced as a child. Some ingenious engineers, or just some really good builders, have created a walkway up rocks and through forests that lead to the chalets and the accommodation itself is a nice combination of rustic chic and luxurious charm.
Furnished to a very high standard and with a bed so tall we had to jump up to get into, it was so comfortable that we slept soundly for more than nine hours every night we were there.
What to do at Japamala Resort
The comfort of the beds was definitely a plus point as there is very little to this resort after 10pm when the restaurants close. And as its a 45 minute walk from the nearest village, you definitely shouldn’t go to Japamala expecting late nights of wild parties or drinking cocktails to the wee small hours.
But what it lacked in nightlife, the Japamala more than made up for in terms of what you could get up to during the day. With a stunning beach, beautiful clear blue water, and furniture and finishings made from local materials hand crafted by localmade by local craftsmen, the whole resort oozes charm. So much so, that we didn’t leave for the full two days, choosing to forego any island excursions in favour of soaking up the atmosphere of the Japamala Resort.
There are around six or seven shaded pagodas with sun loungers, which if you’re quick in the morning can reserve with the normal beach towel over the bed. Clearly we slept too long so were too late in bagging one so had to make do with lounging on the beach. With the hotel staff providing comfortable mats and pillows, we weren’t complaining.
There is some great coral just beside the jetty at the Japamala so you don’t have to venture far for some good snorkelling and we saw some really nice marine life and even went as far as taking a couple of kayaks to explore the beaches nearby. All of the equipment was free to rent out for the day and good quality.
If you’re feeling more adventurous than we were, then of course you can opt for one of the excursions which the hotel offers. These include trips to nearby Renggis islands or the Asah waterfalls, or opt for a day at the spa, which looked pretty amazing with some great massages and treatments on offer, if a little pricey, even compared with Singapore prices.
Eating & Drinking at the Japamala Resort
There are two restaurants at the Japamala – an Asian style restaurant in the main part of the resort, which also acts as the breakfast restaurant, and a more informal grill / italian style restaurant out at the jetty.
Apart from breakfast, we didn’t eat in the main restaurant at all, choosing the al fresco option so we could relax and eat while staring out to sea. The food was good, cooked on the jetty itself. At times, service could have been a bit quicker but at least we knew it was cooked fresh and there are definitely worse places to sit back, relax and wait for our food to arrive.
The resort also offers a cocktail hour between 6pm and 7pm, where you can enjoy the amazing Tioman sunset while sipping on as many of that day’s chosen cocktails as you want. Being Scottish and Catalan and never ones to refuse free alcohol, we were more than happy to partake and sampled all the various different concoctions, some of them twice!
Breakfasts at the Japamala can be long affairs. There’s both a cold breakfast buffet as well as extensive a la carte menu, where you can order as many dishes as you want from pancakes, crepes and waffles to smoked salmon, eggs and bacon. There’s also a good range of juices, smoothies and lassis that make you feel like you’re being at least partly healthy.
While Japamala is one of the more expensive options to stay on Tioman, it’s definitely worth splashing out on for a special weekend or midweek break away. Just look at that view…
Read more at our ultimate travel diary from Tioman.