Is a trip at CNY a great idea or something to fear? That was the question. We knew the roads would be rammed with most of Malaysia’s population heading out to spend time with family and the cost of air travel to nearby popular holiday destinations was sky high.
We decided that if we found somewhere within driving distance that wasn’t obscenely expensive we would throw caution to the wind and travel. Friends recommended a stay at Swiss Garden Resort in Damai Lumut. Lumut, Perak, is around three and a half hours to get to from KL, if you don’t get stuck in traffic. Rooms were still available, the prices by CNY standards weren’t through the roof and it had its own water park so we decided to take the plunge.
We figured that by driving up on Sunday after most people have already left and back on the Tuesday when people are still celebrating that we would miss the hoards. This worked wonderfully and we were patting ourselves on the back until we reached the hotel and found out that half of Malaysia was also staying there. In fact, we saw a water buffalo walking up the road near Ipoh, it was probably on its way there too!
Reasons to visit Swiss Garden Resort Lumut
It may be unfair to review a resort that is at full capacity on probably its busiest few days of the year, but I can only talk from my own experience. However, I would like to emphasize that I imagine this would be a great cheap and cheerful place to visit at any other time of the year.
This Lumut resort offers something for everyone. The water park boasts two big slides, as well as a multitude of mini ones, splash buckets, a big and small pool plus an area suitable for smaller and not such confident swimmers. It will keep big and little kids entertained for hours.
We found the water park was particularly busy first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon. But as the saying goes ‘mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid day sun’: we slathered on the sun cream and donned rash vests and took advantage of the emptier pool in the early afternoon.
If you enjoy a game of golf there is an 18-hole golf course at the resort. Prices start at RM130 per player on weekdays and goes up to RM160 at weekends. If you want a buggy and caddy this will bump up the cost. Also worth noting is that the golf course is closed on a Monday. I wished we had known that before we squeezed a set of clubs into our car boot, with all the other ‘essential’ holiday items. There is also a driving range on site that costs just RM20 for 100 balls, if your game is a little rusty and you want to get back into the swing of it or just want an excuse to escape from the family.
If your little ones have had enough of the pool and the kids club and want to dig sand bunkers on the beach, the hotel has some buckets and spades for you to borrow, so that’s one less thing to pack. My friend wished he had known this before he had spent RM15 and 30 minutes trying to find some to buy.
There are also a range of boat trips to neighbouring Pangkor Island, but book early to avoid disappointment, as the number of boats are limited. If you prefer to stay at the resort there are water sports to try. The daredevils among you can choose from banana boats, jet skis and one called the poparazzi which left riders hanging on for dear life and screaming for mercy.
For the land lovers there is a choice of more sedate activities including tennis, archery, netball, horse riding and quad biking. A 15 minute jaunt on a quad will cost RM50. The track will not excite those that are used to taking on challenging courses, but we found it was a good way to see if your kids enjoy quad biking before you pay big bucks to do a longer trip elsewhere.
Food and rooms at Swiss Garden Lumut
Our bedroom was clean and comfortable, it looked liked it had been refurbished recently. A standard room with either two single beds or one king can be yours for RM173, when you are not paying a public holiday premium. You can also add an extra bed for RM70 per night.
We used a different booking engine to our friends, and got one room for the same price that my friend paid for two rooms. So do compare prices – trust me, there is nothing much more annoying than knowing you are all squashed in one room when your friends are luxuriating in two, especially when you have paid the same price.
If you don’t like buffets and don’t want to leave the hotel you will struggle to eat before 7pm which is maybe why lots of children were already in their pyjamas when they came down for dinner. On one of the evening we ordered food from the bar and it took over two hours to arrive. Thankfully the karaoke machine and a full sized pool table managed to distract the children before their food arrived, or we would have had some very hangry children to deal with!
It also didn’t seem to matter at what time you ate breakfast, it was always busy. On our first morning there we made the mistake of heading for a leisurely breakfast at 8.30am, it was mayhem we had to share a table with two other families.
Some of the signage at the resort was about as much use as a chocolate teapot, so it can be confusing to get around. Also you will need to make sure you have plenty of cash with you to pay for water sports and in some of the resort cafés you cannot charge bills to your room. I am pretty sure there is no ATM there, but if there was I wouldn’t have trusted the signage to get me there!
If you’re still undecided as to whether this resort is a good fit for your family, you can read the nearly 1000 reviews on Tripadvisor.
To travel or not to travel ever again at CNY?
I have come to the conclusion that unless you need to travel it is a much better idea to enjoy a staycation in KL. With so many people away over this holiday, you will practically have the city to yourself. It’s an ideal time to try that play area, museum or restaurant that you have been putting off, because it’s usually so busy. Or the other option is find a house nearby where you can escape to with a small group of friends and family and make your own entertainment far from the maddening crowds.
Feature image: Swiss Garden Resort