haven on earth

with a name like the haven, this luxurious resort condotel in tambun near ipoh, which combines serviced residences with a family-friendly resort that’s operated by best western international under its premier or five-star range, certainly has a lot to live up to. there are three towering blocks – tower acacia, banyan, and cycas – that are painted in colours that complement their surroundings: white like the clouds, blue like the sky, and green like nature. a number of the units are for sale and managed under haven lakeside residences, while 150 are rented out to guests like at a regular hotel or in this case, a condotel.

except this is not your everyday hotel: where else can you find yourself minutes from a city (ipoh) yet enveloped by an ancient virgin rainforest, and inches away from a pristine 4-acre natural lake surrounding a 280-million-year-old limestone outcrop? forming the centrepiece of the resort, the 14-storey high geological marvel is called rockhaven, a moniker that was chosen from a naming contest held four years ago that netted the winner a cool rm25,000.

if you think that amount is jaw-dropping, the outcrop is even more so. perched majestically next to tower cycas and reflected onto the still waters below, its commanding presence has a calming effect. couple that with the unique seahorse-shaped swimming pool that rests adjacent to the lake and you have a panorama that is no less than inspiring, the kind you want to wake up to every morning and that no matter how long or often you’ve stared at it, never gets tiresome.

unsurprisingly, since its official launch in august 2015, the haven has rarely had a quiet weekend. many who find their way here are families with young children in hand and grandparents in tow – as the resort likes to put it, they cater to three generations of holidaymakers. the pool is where most while their time, taking a dip and getting a thrill each time they pull up to the transparent glass enclosure (at the ‘beak’ of the ‘seahorse’) that looks out to the lake and rockhaven. the elderly like to sit in the jacuzzi, and there’s a heated water section that’s akin to soaking in a hot spring, with bubbles. children can ride water slides into the wading pool and clamber around a nearby playground.

for fitness buffs, the haven’s gym provides an adequate workout with a good selection of equipment and weights. located on the first floor of a standalone building by the pool (above cuisines restaurant), its wraparound floor-to-ceiling windows present one of the best vantage points of the resort. a squash court, indoor badminton court and table tennis room make up the rest of the sports facilities. 

adrenaline junkie can consider the three-hour via ferrata adventure course. suitable for children and adults, it covers seven different activities – including rope and rock climbing – that will take you up and down the 76m-high mount haven, the other limestone crop on premise. other challenges are available, for a group of at least 15 persons as well as for corporate teambuilding groups.

you’ll see mount haven as you drive in from the main road and past two guarded entrances, where their friendly and well-trained security guards set you off on the right tone with a welcoming introduction on the haven’s highlights. that warmth, you will discover, extends through to all their staff, who appear to have hospitality down pat and know just how to make you feel at home. it is thus deserving that to date, the haven has chalked up an impressive 30 awards, including the world luxury hotel awards 2015 at which the resort won for luxury family all-inclusive hotel (global) and luxury hotel – best scenic environment (continent), and were also nominated for the luxury suite hotel category.

one of their proudest achievements is being crowned the best green development in malaysia by sea property award 2014, a nod to their commitment of not only being close to nature but doing their part to protect the sanctity and biodiversity of the area. the lake, not open to bathers or anglers, is fed by water that flows from the hillside and underground springs. reportedly, neither trees nor hills were harmed in the construction of the haven and they are the country’s first development that harvests all available renewable energy resources: rainwater, solar energy, and with a windmill turbine (located near the amphitheatre by the lake).

you’d think the place would be swarming with pesky mosquitoes or they would need to fog frequently. instead, the haven insists on not using any harmful substances within their compounds so as not to compromise the air quality. that includes chemical sprays, aerosols and fogging practices. mosquitoes are kept at bay naturally by planting pandan and lemongrass around the property.

a nod to their commitment of not only being close to nature but doing their part to protect the sanctity and biodiversity of the area

those are among the greens you will see when you stroll around the perimeters of the lake which, on a misty morning, takes on an ethereal aura. hundreds of species of tropical flora have been recorded here, including pitcher plants, brightly flowering shrubs, and a gorgeous bloom that resembles pomegranate. the diversity of local fauna is no less impressive and if you’re worried about bumping into slithering creatures, be assured of a seven-foot anti-snake, anti-climb and anti-cut fencing that forms a protective barrier.

as you inhale the crisp air, you will be entertained by the chirps of birds among other wild songs, or perhaps spot a peregrine falcon (world’s fastest eagle) or a black-thighed falconet (world’s smallest eagle) if you’re very lucky or have sharp eyes. one creature you will definitely come across is a dinosaur... sculpture that is, by the rockhaven. besides providing photo opportunities, it’s a whimsical reminder that when at the haven, you are living in the midst of a prehistoric monument that has outlasted the dinosaurs and is still standing strong.

you can also run along the 600m jogging trail or practise mindfulness at the meditation deck, and when you’ve worked up enough of an appetite, head to cuisines, the haven’s sole food and beverage outlet. tuck into a buffet of local and western for breakfast, and mediterranean delights for dinner. start your day with a plate of hearty nasi lemak, eggs done to your liking; parked outside the restaurant and with the pool and lake in the background, the egg station makes for a picturesque little corner.

at dinner, kickstart your meal with a trio of popular middle eastern appetisers – hummus, moutabal (roasted eggplant mash), and tabouleh salad – before moving on to the mains of grilled meats. fresh ingredients, balanced seasoning and authentic flavours make for an enjoyable meal, which will be further heightened if f&b manager miguel is at hand to serve your party. affable and humorous, he will regale you with amusing anecdotes or even break out into song (a chinese one, no less).

nights are quiet at the haven; after the poolside excitement ends when it gets dark, there isn’t much to do here except to rest in the spacious comfort of your condotel. channel-surf through astro, or stream your favourite shows and movies on their advance fibre-optic wifi that promises high speeds and a stable connection.


the units come in a number of sizes, starting from one-bedroom that’s perfect for a couple to three-bedroom suites that can sleep up to six adults and enough room for a cosy family gathering. designed for fresh air access, the perforated aluminium grilled gate creates a tunnelling effect if you leave the front door and balcony sliding doors open. inside the suits, a muted colour palette affords a restful ambience, the earthy tones punctuated only by selected furniture pieces. every unit comes with a kitchen, which is available for use to guests staying upward of seven nights.

that may sound like a long break for those of us accustomed to short weekend getaways but once you set your eyes on the rockhaven and its serene surrounds, one week will feel like nothing. from anywhere within the resort, as you rest your eyes on the iconic outcrop, it will make you pause and ponder.

we toil to earn a decent income, often sacrificing health and time with ourselves or loved ones in the name of having a better life. yet it is when we retreat to such a sanctuary that we realise riches are not what come from meeting deadlines or securing the next big contract...

they come from having the luxury of time to enjoy what nature has always intended. it may have taken us a long time, but at least we now have a true haven to call home, even if it’s just for a weekend.

> best western premier the haven ipoh jalan haven (persiaran lembah perpaduan), 31150 tambun, ipoh, perak gps e 101°9'43.2" n 4°38'14.2" tel +605 220 9000/1700 8 1700 0 www.thehavenresorts.com

before you leave tambun...

just five minutes’ drive from the haven is tung wah tong, a taoist temple built into a limestone cave that’s accessible via a winding staircase built along the natural terrain. as you climb, look to your left and you are rewarded with sweeping vistas of almost the entire karst hill range that encircles the kinta valley. several small altars lie along the way, which you can offer your prayers at but the main one is at the top. inside the cavernous temple, the textures and uneven shapes of the stalactite form a striking backdrop and fresco to hanging lanterns and brightly-painted altars.

tip the temple is typically open 9am-5pm daily but to be sure, look at the hours shown on a gigantic digital signboard that hangs out front and is highly visible even from the road – so you don’t huff and puff your way up only to find that it’s closed.