Nestled away in the northern state of Terangganu lies Malaysia’s largest, and completely man made lake, comprising 620,000 hectares of water surrounded by virgin tropical forest. For the life of us we cannot understand why this gorgeous setting with its lovely resorts is not more well known or visited. It merits scarcely a half paragraph in The Rough Guide, most of that confined to the completely ludicrous suggestion that you rent a houseboat for your stay. You could do that, or you could stay at a lovely little chalet with your own airconditioned room, king size bed, decent TV, enormous bathroom awash with hot water and balcony overlooking the lake. Or skuzzy houseboat. Take your pick.
Our package included an endless buffet breakfast that we could not possible eat to the end of, a buffet supper, Mongolian style, and a two hour boat trip around the lake. Jalil, our guide, lives in the area and works at the park. His English was pretty good and he was able to guide us around the herb garden, our first stop, explaining the use of the various plants and trees that grow there. Another guide at the stop explained the properties of the teas he brewed for his guests. We drank one that was made from the bark of a local tree. It was bitter, but no overly so and in fact was pleasantly acerbic. Its reputed effect was to make one’s blood bitter tasting, and therefore less inviting to mosquitoes. We didn’t get bit that day, so perhaps it worked.
Our next stop was at a waterfall, depleted now as it was the dry season, but still inviting enough for some of our fellow travelers to enjoy a quick splash. I was encouraged to see Jalil pick up the few bits of garbage that others had left behind. Clearly his job had taught him some love and respect for nature, and he wanted to preserve its beauty. And the lake is beautiful. You can say what you like about the impropriety of making such lakes. It provides clean and cheap hydroelectric power to the state and a habitat for many birds and fish that have made this area their home. It displaced no one, and has disrupted no natural order. It provides a decent living for many who are employed at resorts around the lake, and an ideal spot for the traveler weary of flashy and overcrowded resorts.
There is a bus that leaves from the Putra World Trade Centre in KL at 9 am and 9 pm. The evening bus goes overnight and gets you here for an early morning check in. The one in the morning gets you here at 4 pm in time for supper and the fabulous evening sunset over the lake. If you were looking for some place to go in Malaysia away from the crowds, you could do no better than this idyllic little retreat.