Just came back from our first glamping experience (well, technically it was our second if you wanna consider Sekeping Serendah as glamping) at this secluded place called Caravan Serai Exclusive Private Villas, which is located in between the towns of Bentong and Raub. In case you’re wondering, glamping is kind of a new word which is short for glamorous camping, whereby you can experience the outdoors without sacrificing luxury. So how’s this different from conventional camping? Well, the tent is already pitched for you and it is usually equipped with a comfortable bed/mattress (no sleeping bags), bathroom (en-suite/shared), towel, toiletries, air-conditioner/cooler and some may even have TVs.
We’ve read a lot about Caravan Serai but never had the opportunity or rather the time to explore it. For your information, it was also featured in TripAdvisor. Two days back was Labour Day and since it fell on a Sunday, the following weekday (yesterday) was also an off day. Hubby came up with this brilliant idea of going glamping yesterday when most people would have made their way back to the city after a long weekend vacation. The reason was so that we didn’t have to rush with the crowd, but the only disadvantage was we had to take a day of leave off work. I guess that was a small price to pay for a little peace of mind. We purchased via Groupon (cheapest deal on the internet) a 2D1N stay at the deluxe safari tent with breakfast and nature walk for the price of RM198 (US$50.60) inclusive of tax. The usual price would have been RM508 (US$129.70). There are a total of 13 tents available for rent.
After brunch, we took a slow drive out of Kuala Lumpur along the Karak highway, heading towards the town of Bentong. Caravan Serai was relatively easy to find. From Bentong towards Raub, there was a narrow road in between that led to Fraser’s Hill. A 5-minute drive down that road eventually brought us to our destination which was located just next to the road. There were no cars left at the carpark. We arrived 30 minutes early and unfortunately, we could only check in at 2pm (Tip: if you’re booking Caravan Serai, try not to arrive before 2pm). We should’ve hung out a little bit longer in Bentong, maybe at Chatime which wasn’t that far away.
Anyway, instead of just sitting down, we checked out the entire campsite. Besides a small swimming pool, table tennis, barbecue pit, convenience store and cafeteria (doubles up as Keratong Restaurant), there were also bicycles and ATVs for rent. More interesting would be a shallow brook (Sungai Keratong) with crystal clear water running through the campsite, dividing it into two parts but still connected with a bridge.
We finally checked in to our tent, with the swimming pool right in front of it. The caretaker, Danny was nice enough to turn on the air-conditioner for us as the weather was excruciatingly hot. This is probably one of the disadvantages of staying in a tent. What else could we have done except to quickly take a shower? To swim then would have caused us to have sunburn, definitely not the wisest thing to do. With the air-conditioner set at the lowest temperature (18°C), it was still insufficient to cool down the tent in the afternoon heat. We could only pray for rain and indeed we were blessed with a heavy downpour 2 hours later. Meanwhile, we migrated to the cafeteria which had 2 air-conditioned rooms and just lazed around there. Should you ever need them, there are coffee, tea, cold drinks and ice-cream sold at the cafeteria, but I must warn you beforehand that they cost almost twice the standard price.
If you’re not a person who can withstand some heat or discomfort, you should consider booking the concrete caravan suite instead and there are only 2 units available for rent. But by doing so, you would not be able to experience glamping in its entirety. That was precisely the reason why hubby wasn’t that interested in the villa in the first place, despite its price being just slightly more expensive than the tent’s.
Shortly after the rain stopped, we began to feel the pangs of hunger. We didn’t request for them to include dinner for us prior to our coming and moreover, I suspected that they were going to charge us exorbitantly if we ate in. Caravan Serai actually runs its own restaurant – Keratong Restaurant, which occasionally hosts special events for guests.
On our way in earlier, hubby noticed a signboard showing the direction of a Tanah Aina Azreena Restaurant just about a mile down the road. So, we decided to drive out to search for this restaurant. It turned out that this was a decision we would never regret. The satisfaction and experience were almost indescribable (read more here). We were done with dinner about 8pm, then took a slow drive back to Caravan Serai.
That night was quite cold after the rain and we went to bed early as we had to get up around 7am for the nature walk the next morning. The voices of nature was heard throughout the night, but it wasn’t annoying to the ears. After all, that was what we were expecting to experience with glamping. At around 6am, the crowing of the rooster was already heard, but we only got up around 7:30am. Our nature walk guide, Buhari was already waiting for us and we quickly found the pairs of boots (provided for) that fitted us. Good thing we had him as a private guide as there weren’t any other guests.
Our walk was going to be up and down a hillock just behind the campsite. We had to tread through the long grass to reach the foothill. Thereafter, was a steep hike upwards on a trail. It was rather wet due to the rain the night before and perhaps that was why there were quite a lot of mosquitoes as well (Tip: wear long pants and apply mosquito patches if you don’t wanna get wet or bitten by mosquitoes). Along the way we encountered wild durian and mangosteen trees. When we finally reached the summit, the view beneath was simply breathtaking. The sun was just rising above the mountains and the dew had yet to evaporate.
On our descent, we stopped by a rubber tree and Buhari showed us how to tap rubber. It was a thrilling experience but it also amazed me how the rubber tappers hike up and down the hillock every morning to tap rubber (it can be extremely exhausting).
Along the trail, we also observed the different species of wild mushroom, some of which (the softer ones) can be consumed. At least, that was what Buhari told us.
The Keratong brook met us at the foothill, which was on a side completely different from where we ascended. This part of the adventure was actually quite fun, in that, we waded in the shallow brook towards our campsite, which marked the end of our nature walk. All in all, it took us 30 minutes to complete the entire walk.
After cleaning ourselves up, we headed to the cafeteria where breakfast was already prepared for us by the cook (she had a pretty tiring weekend for 2 consecutive days before we arrived). Breakfast by the garden was marvellous! We had a short nap after breakfast, then played a game of table tennis before finally departing for KL. Danny’s wife, Nurul was generous enough to present us with a parting gift – the famous Bentong soy sauce and ginger.
While loading our luggage into the car, we chanced upon an interesting tourist map of Bentong. Among the places of interest was the Bentong Tau Fu (bean curd) factory and since hubby loves bean curd so much, we had to stop by that factory. It wasn’t easy to locate, though, even with Waze/Google Maps. We had to enquire from a few locals before we finally found it. We spent sometime there watching the workers make bean curds and also bought some (tau fu – RM1 per piece & tau pok – RM2 for 10 pieces) for ourselves.
Up next would be a visit to the stall next to the market, which sells the famous Bentong ginger. We bought a kilogram of it for RM17. The owners of the stall (a middle-aged couple) even had a name card, can you believe it? That’s how famous the ginger is.
As it was already lunch time, we decided to just stop by Kopitiam Thong Kee, along Jalan Chui Yin (aka Cultural Street) to have what Bentong is apparently famous for, Wan Ton Mee. Not bad actually for a plate which only costed RM4 (read more here). We finally left for KL after lunch. What an experience!
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