Friday, September 19, 2014

Hotel Review : Happy 8 Retreat Hotel @ Kuala Sepetang

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HAPPY 8 RETREAT @ KUALA SEPETANG 
There's this little place in Perak which some would call a small town but which I would prefer to call a fishing village. It's a quaint village that has been around for more than a century or perhaps even longer. It's is a place that have not been much affected by the passage of time until lately. It's a place where the locals are friendly and not too bothered by strangers (tourists) who come around the weekends. It's a place that have somehow kept it's little old world charm while the country has accelerated into the modern world.
This place is called Kuala Sepetang.


In this quaint little village is a quaint building; 4-storey tall and as black as ebony.
No, I correct myself, it's as black as charcoal of which the surrounding region produces. It's even shaped like a half-cut of a black charcoal log. It's right at the riverbank, sitting cosily with fishing boats moored next to it.
This is the Happy 8 Retreat, a hotel of sorts.
Nearby are other "hotels" of similar height but of more bland and dull architecture - those are "hotels" where swifts come to roost at night, building their nests for their swiftlets. These "hotels" produce the priced birds' nest. But for me while staying at the Happy 8 Retreat they provide something more priceless - the chirping of birds in the background as I lie on my bed contemplating about.... nothing.
Well, this is a retreat, one should just relax and leave worries in another kingdom far, far, away.


Happy 8 is also an odd place. There is no recognisable entrance at the ground floor!
Entry is through a fish dealer's warehouse, with cold rooms to one side, tricycles to another. There's even a slight fishy odour. To top it all, at the roadside leading to this entry, fish and prawns were being dried out in the open. Initially, I was a bit disconcerted by this; but after getting into life of this little village this just seems so natural. 
The "camouflaged" entrance, I suppose is to deter unwanted visitors from visiting. One wouldn't want nosy friends or relatives to suddenly pop in and interrupt while one is contemplating on the complexity of life and the universe.


Privacy of the patrons are well guarded, the main door is activated by key card; no key card, no entry.

THE BEDROOM
I know, I know... this is peculiar place to start looking at a hotel. But Happy 8 is not a hotel per se. It's a place to be at ease, and bedrooms are where most will be relaxed and letting their hair down.
The ambience is calming along the walk to the rooms; the corridors are dim and lined with murals of eagles and marine life. All is on a blue theme with brown timer frames accentuating this. The blue carpet with zig-zag patterns signified the ripples of the sea. It's both striking and soothing at the same time.


At the end of the corridor, a louvre window gives a peep down to the river below. It shows a scene of a boat idlylly sailing down the river, it's a scene that promises of more to come.


The bedrooms are easy to identify, each bedroom door has a nice icon of a wildlife - fishes, bird, etc. This one has a stylised star fish.


Mine has a bright yellow puffer fish, he's acute fellow isn't he.
Hmm, does all this have a tarot card significance?
Does this indicate that I am a cheery person, all puffed up with excitement?


The bedrooms are cosy with comfortable beds that on can sink and snuggle into. But just in case there is a need to stay in touch with the outside world, TV and wifi is available.
We are still in the calming blue theme with lots of timber around - timber flooring, towel racks, etc.

Yes, there's a lot of timber around to balance and give warmth amidst the blue theme. In the bathroom, a round timber basin sits on a timber counter. The tap with it's exposed copper piping and brass tap heads adds to the rustic, old world ambience.


Colonial style timber louvred doors with a large timber pull lock leads to a small balcony with a fishing net railing.


From here, one can enjoy a lovely evening view of the river with the moored fishing boats. Birds twitting, a slow boat chugging and the sun setting in the background primes one for a good night's sleep.


In the morning, overlooking the river, thre's the shrill chirping of swallows and the roar of the fishing boats as they leave for the day's fishing. It's a wake-up call for an exciting day ahead.


THE LOBBY
Just beyond the lobby, a dining area has the same local theme of charcoal and fishing nets. Charcoal logs low partition separates out different sections. A glass table sits on charcoal log legs surrounded by yellow netted chairs.

BREAKFAST IS SERVED!
It's scrambled eggs inside toasts folded to look like flower petals, with chicken sausages and ham. Salad and fruits completes the meal, while coffee/tea is continuous pouring.


We slowly ate and chatted, every once in a while looking through the fishing-netted railing at the boats along the river.


Inside, the operators have tastefully furnished the lobby. Facing brick walls, timber flooring warms up the place. Plants in rattan-weave baskets, a rattan overhead lamp and a driftwood  sculpture hangs from the ceiling to add to this d├ęcor.


Outside, at the waiting area are large chairs carved from huge timber logs for visitors to sit. Behind this, another mural of happy boys fishing.


A TOUR
Ok. Let's get to know Kuala Sepetang better, let's do a free and easy tour of the place.
Just as we step out, a mangrove swamp mural at the fish dealers area, lead us from the quiet retreat atmosphere into the liveliness outside; blending us into the the fishing village life.


At the roadside, the salted fish producer from next door have laid out fish and prawns out in the sun to dry.


About ten minutes walk away is the new bridge over the Sungai Reba river.
From the mid-span of this bridge, one can take picturesque, post-card quality photos of the river with the fishing boats moored at its sides.


On the other side of town is the "Port Weld" railway station sign. Port Weld was the former colonial name of Kuala Sepetang. This sign is more than a hundred years old, coming from the time when the first railway line (linking Port Weld to Taiping) in Malaya was constructed. This railway line has been discontinued but the sign has been maintained as a link of the town to its history.


Next to this sign is a stall that sells pretty good curry mee noodles. If this gets to spicy hot, order a bowl of ice-kacang from the stall next to it (... more of Kuala Sepetang Curry Noodles here).

On the outskirts of the town (about 15-20 mins. walk away), are interesting places to visit too:
Charcoal factories that still manufacture charcoal in traditional brick dome kilns. The charcoal are made from mangrove logs harvested from surrounding swamps (... more of charcoal factories here).


Opposite the charcoal factories is a Mangrove Forest reserve to maintain a forest as those around it are being harvested. There is a board-walk for taking a short stroll around the forest.


Nearby to is the Mee Udang Mak Jah stall that sells its renown delectable noodles with huge prawns (... more of Mee Udang Mak Jah here).


Brightly lit fire-flies viewing tour boat.
OR opt for a day boat tour of the mangrove estuarine to view wading cranes and soaring eagles. At night, there is a boat tour to view bright, sparkling fire-flies.
The hotel reception can help arrange for these.


THE HAPPY 8 RETREAT @ KUALA SEPETANG
No. LC151A3, Tepi Sungai, Jalan Sungai Manggis, Kuala Sepetang, 34650 Perak, Malaysia'
Tel.: +605-243 8388     Fax: +605243 8288
GPS: 4.835161,100.627416
Email: info@the happy8.com.my     Website: http://www.thehappy8.com.my/acc3.html



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