With a five day holiday round the corner thanks to Chinese New Year we knew we ought to take advantage and go away for a few days. But I still needed to practise my driving and, with my parents arriving the following week, we still hadn’t put the pictures up, so we needed a few days in the city. After all, as Emma had said, “the roads would be empty because all the Chinese go home”.
But, like I said, we knew we should take advantage of the public holidays. So we compromised and decided to go away for one night only to somewhere within an hour of KL. We headed to the Internet and searched for ‘spa in Kuala Lumpur’. Unbelievably, we found one just 50 km away, 2500 feet up a nearby mountain.
“It will be cooler!” I said, longingly.
“Blimey,” said Ian. “Look, and about a hundred Euros a night B&B in a castle!”
So, we headed for a place called Bukit Tinggi and within 15 minutes of our short drive we found ourselves in a nose-to-tail jam. What we had not appreciated was that we’d picked to go right at the start of the holiday and our mountain lay on the main highway to Kuantan, an artery that slices the country in half.
Three hours later we began our ascent up the Bukit Tinggi, which means ‘high hill’, and saw signs for zip wires and adventure parks, rock climbing walls and a Japanese garden. Had we arrived in a kind of SE Asian Centerparks?
But then, just about when our ears popped, we looked over to the right and saw it…
Our castle. It may have looked surreal and just a tad fake, even at a distance, but that did not stop it from being really impressive. I got out of the car to take photos.
The cool, thin, clean air had a pale yellow feel to it, like the perfect first really warm spring day of the year in Europe. It smelled good too, like Provence, and there were tiny flowers in the pale grass that I could have sworn I’d seen in the Alps.
The castle was apparently a ‘chateau’ and supposed to be French. It was called The Chateau Spa and Organic Wellness Resort after all.
“Hmm, looks more German to me,” muttered Ian under his grin.
“French, from Alsace,” explained the real live German on the front desk.
“Ah, that explains it.”We gloated for a second.
The chateau was faultless. Flunkies spread oceans of towels on a sunlounger the moment we so much as perched on it to take a photo. They remembered our names. The spa area was scented with citrussy oils and the view was superlative… miles and miles of green. We slept with the window open all night so we could enjoy the breeze.
At night the sky was studded with stars and it was then we realised that we never saw stars down the road in KL. The sky was blue by day, with puffy clouds. It was like living in a fairytale in spring.
And then we looked out of a different window.
It seemed that our next door neighbour was a complete French town, complete with pink walls and donkey brown beams zigzagging the exterior walls. Cobbled streets and turrets and even a market square. We strolled down for a look and had to battle our way past crepe stalls and terrace tables with red and white checked cloths serving moules marinieres. Actually, I made that last bit up because I forgot to remember what was really on the menus. If it hadn’t been for the throng of folk watching or joining in a blaring zumba demonstration it really could also have been Alsace. Granted, one that Disney might have created, but you’ve got to hand it to Disney, they are brilliant and creating atmospheres.
Life in our castle up a mountain was great. The resort is only two years old and still building its clientele. I think I only counted 20 other folk staying there. The food is mostly bought locally and is organic so I can vouch for the fruit at breakfast being the best I have eaten.
On our way back down the mountain and home (really did only take 50 mins this time) we chose to take a peek at the Japanese garden and botanical gardens and they were really beautiful and cool. Packed, but then we had picked a national holiday for our trip. Oh and free of charge too. We also popped into to take a look at Genting, the next mountain along and famed for its casinos. We won’t be going back. However, half way up that mountain we found a local farm shop and bought heaps of that local, organic produce. You can even pick your own strawberries and mushrooms!