A clearing in a tropical forest, in a relatively undeveloped stretch of Peninsular Malaysia's east coast, is the setting for Tanjong Jara. Bordered on one side by a long sandy beach and the South China Sea, this spa resort aims to combine Malayan culture with a sense of spiritual well-being and eco-friendliness. Its pleasing architecture is based on the wooden palaces of 17th-century sultans. And its treatments incorporate traditional Malayan practices (though you can opt for Swedish and Thai alternatives). Guests who book healing sessions are likely to find themselves wearing sarongs and being first doused with cold, fresh water containing sweet-smelling flowers in a ritual intended to rejuvenate the mind, body and spirit. Whether you believe in it or not doesn't really matter. You'll still feel refreshed.
The comfort factor
With masseurs to undo the knots in your shoulders, two outdoor pools to soak in and a private beach to sunbathe on, Tanjong Jara is big on comfort. Most of the rooms are within rustic, yet solid-looking double-storey chalets. But for real luxury, go for a single-storey beach chalet room.
This is where the beach room scores. It comes with a huge outdoor sunken bath set in its own walled garden.
The food and drink
If you like your food spicy and Asian, you'll love the cuisine - even the breakfast can blow your head off. If not, plenty of dishes are less explosive but nonetheless authentically Malaysian. The largest of the three restaurants stands over a river and under a dark green canopy of trees. However, its extensive menu is not printed. Chef Ann and her staff instead act as "walking menus" who come to your table to help you plan your meal.
For lunch and romantic evening meals on the beach, lit by bamboo torches, the Neleyan restaurant specialises in stir-fried dishes based on what the resort's fisherman has caught that day. To sit with your feet in the sand, eating fresh fish with spicy vegetables, rice and chilled white wine is a joyous experience.
The guests are predominately couples in their early thirties, with and without small children, though the resort also attracts its share of honeymooners and hikers.
Tanjong Jara is a mile off the main road, which heads north to Kuala Terengganu and south to Kuantan. It has no neighbours except for one or two guesthouses and a nearby fishing village. On-site facilities include two tennis courts and a water activities centre near the beach. It's about eight miles to the village of Dungun where guests can accompany Chef Ann to the morning fish market, visit the alfresco Thursday night market or, at a day's notice, play 18 holes at the Desa Golf Club. An hour or so's drive inland is the 200-metre high Cemerong Waterfall, which can be reached only by a fairly strenuous 2.5km hike/climb through a rainforest. It's worth the trip. Others may prefer a cruise to Tenggol Island, 30km offshore, for a spot of snorkelling in clear waters.
Children welcome. Most of the resort, including restaurants and ground-floor rooms, is accessible by wheelchair.
From £120 per room per night, room only. ITC Classics (01244 355527; itcclassics.co.uk) offers seven nights at Tanjong Jara in a first-floor, sea-view room from £1,180 per person on a room only basis including return flights and transfers.
Tanjong Jara, Batu 8 Off Dungun, 23000 Dungun, Terengganu, Malaysia (00 609 845 1100; tanjongjararesort.com).
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