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Activities include kayaking on the lake. Pix courtesy of Mangala Resort and Spa
The main lobby is bright,airy and welcoming. Pix courtesy of Mangala Resort and Spa
Jala Villa overlooks the lake. Pix courtesy of Mangala Resort and Spa
The resort offers signature spa treatments. Pix courtesy of Mangala Resort and Spa
The jacuzzi where you can enjoy the view or the lake. Pix courtesy of Mangala Resort and Spa
Serenity in Privacy at the Villa’s outdoor bath.

IT is amazing how one man’s far sighted vision can shape and change the landscape of an almost barren piece of ex-mining land. And transform, it did, from the vast undulating empty topography of terra firma to a breathtaking nature-inspired resort nestled in 1.2sq km of oil palm estate in the heart of Gambang, Kuantan.

Welcome to Mangala Resort and Spa, a beautiful five-star luxury comprising 31 luxurious villas designed to help worldweary travellers find their inner zen away from the madding crowd.

Tracts of matured oil palm trees greet you as you get to the entrance of the resort. You won’t be far from wrong for assuming you are entering an oil palm estate. The temperature drops and serenity seeps in with the change of scenery from the blazing afternoon sun during a tiring three-hour road trip from Kuala Lumpur to the much needed shade from the midday heat as you get past the guard house.

A surprise awaits you right around the corner as the plantation (quite suddenly) clears into a beautifully landscaped area where you take in your first glimpse of the gorgeous lobby building or “clubhouse” as it is called. It sprouts like a gleaming gem amid the greenery. It almost makes you feel as if you’ve stepped into another world.

Mangala in Sanskrit means “auspicious well-being” and the resort strives to give you just that by creating an atmosphere that helps you disconnect the minute you step in. The “auspicious” well-being pervades the air. Smiling staff greet you with garlands of orchids and cold towels while the Mangala’s signature pandan coconut drink (sourced from the resort’s orchard) is served to refresh the weary traveller. It sets a tone to the kind of experience you will be getting upon checking in.

“It was never my intention to build a resort in this area,” admits Datuk Franky Chua, a construction and property doyen who owns this resort. Chua recounts the early days of trying to figure out the possibilities that this barren ex-mining land could offer. “Nothing could grow here except for the resilient oil palms.

“Even then, we had to bring in a lot of top soil and compost to improve the soil composition. Sand and tin mining activities have of course caused a change in soil composition which degraded the land, rendering it incapable of generating growth and ensuring the survival of trees.”

The personable Chua admits that this was supposed to be his retirement home, a sanctuary away from the city: “My parents were farmers, and I thought that this would be a perfect place to spend my golden years doing something that is in my blood — farming. We managed to rehabilitate the land, and many fruiting trees were planted.”

Chua soon noticed that the tranquility of this place seemed to have a rejuvenating effect on his family and friends. “I slowly begin to warm up to the idea of setting up a nature inspired resort.” And so, Mangala Resort was born.

Looking at the vast expanse of palm trees and bodies of water, it is hard to believe that this piece of oasis was once a barren land defaced with remnants from abandoned sand and tin mines. With landscapes designed in a way that gardens, fruit trees and rolling meadows meld seamlessly with the surrounding oil palm plantation, the resort is indeed a sight to behold.

Mangala Resort is designed in a way that complements the natural topography. The unobtrusive private villas are scattered around the resort’s property, nestled in little niches that offer an unobstructed view to the property’s stunning landscape of lakes, wetlands and beautiful well-maintained garden landscapes. Rows after rows of mature oil palm trees snake through the periphery and through the resort grounds.

The luxurious private villas are havens for those seeking tranquillity. With beautiful views that greet you from your private balcony deck, the enchanting open air bathroom that gives you the opportunity to either take a long luxuriant soak in the tub or a relaxing shower while staring at the skies above you, there is little reason to leave the hotel grounds for anything else.

If you’re keen to do a lot more than take luxurious baths and laze around on the deck with a coffee in hand (thanks to the super-easy to use coffeemaker in the villa!), bicycles are available for you to set off on your own explorations. The undulating tropical landscape of little hills, valleys and of course a ride through the oil palm plantation are guaranteed to not just give you a decent workout but also to explore. Alternatively, you could row a canoe on the lake, or channel your energy through archery.

For gym devotees who prefer a more traditional workout, the Mangala gym offers more than the usual array of treadmills, exercise bikes and weights, a spectacular view of the lake.

If you fancy a dip in the pool, head for the resort’s signature swimming pool at the clubhouse. The infinity pool against the gorgeous backdrop of the lake gives an illusion that pool extends right to the still waters of the lake. Everywhere you turn, from the comfort of your villas to the clubhouse, there is always a view to make you want to stop in your tracks and appreciate nature in all her splendour.

The “Auspicious” well-being is further carried to her tranquil spa experience. Offering an array of spa packages, body massages, body scrubs and facials, the Mangala Spa incorporates both Balinese and traditional Malay influences. Don’t forget to try their signature massage which uses candlenut scrub, an invigorating combination of body moisturising treatment and a deep relaxing massage.

“There’s still a lot more to do,” says Chua. “There are plans for expansion — more villas will be built in time to come. We have plans to include herb and vegetable plots as well as plant more fruit trees. There’ll be many changes and I’d like to call it a work-in-progress. Ultimately, we want to create a haven where people can get connected with nature, and to really recharge,” he concludes with a smile.

Mangala Resort and Spa is really designed as an escape from the outside world. As you check into this experience, you find yourself leaving your world-weary thoughts at the doorway. Nature does that to you, as with an upscale resort that lends credence to the idea that both nature and man can co-exist harmoniously.

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