Malaysia is blessed with beautiful tropical rainforests, and of late, there’s been an influx of budget and luxury forest resorts and eco-lodges around the country. On my recent visit back to my hometown Kuantan (it’s the capital city of Pahang, located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia), I decided to organize a family trip to a small jungle retreat that had recently caught my eye. It is located in the small mining town of Sungai Lembing, about a 45-minute drive from Kuantan.
The Time Capsule Retreat is a new concept resort nestled between lush greenery and facing a forest reserve in Sungai Lembing. What makes the retreat unique is the unconventional rooms that can be found here– capsule rooms that are made up of concrete pipe cylinders, as well as rooms inside whole containers.
The retreat is basic and minimalistic, yet comfortable and peaceful. With its laid-back atmosphere and beautiful views of the surrounding forests, it makes a great base to get away from the hectic city life for a little while.
Sungai Lembing is an old mining town located in the state of Pahang. In the 19th century, tin was discovered here; and the British subsequently set up a tin-mining base in Sungai Lembing. Under their control, the town flourished for about a hundred years; and was known as the El Dorado of the East. The tin-mining industry was so successful here, that the mines were one of the longest and deepest in the world (some parts are now open for visits). However, when the world tin prices collapsed in 1986, so did Sungai Lembing.
These days, the town is almost neglected– the streets are quiet and deserted; and apart from a few restaurants, most of the dilapidated shop houses along the main street are empty and boarded shut. Visitors mainly visit the town to see the magnificent Rainbow Waterfalls (read about it here) or to hike the nearby hill, Bukit Panorama, to watch the sunrise. Some visitors also drop by the town in the morning to eat ‘Yong Tau Fu’, a popular Chinese dish made out of tofu (bean curd) stuffed with minced meat and served with noodles– it is said to be of excellent quality here as it is made out of the water from the surrounding hills.
Time Capsule Retreat Experience
I arrived at the Time Capsule Retreat just in time for check-in at 2pm. The lady at the counter was kind enough to show me to my rooms– I booked 2 capsule rooms for my 3 sibings and I, and a parallel discovery room (the containers) for my parents. Walking to our rooms, I noticed the trees and plants growing wild all around the retreat– it gave the place a one-with-nature feel, despite it looking a little unkempt and shabby.
I had the opportunity to meet the owner, Mrs Young; and she was kind enough to provide me a hand-drawn map of Sungai Lembing. The map came complete with marked locations of local restaurants and interesting places to visit around town (like the mines, the museum and Panorama Hill). Mrs Young also helped arrange the tour for us to visit the Rainbow Waterfalls the next day.
There are a total of 8 capsules scattered around the retreat– 4 of them have front glass panels, and 4 of them have half glass windows at the back of the capsule. The container rooms are situated a little away from the capsule area; it is slightly more hidden within the surrounding greenery, and we had to cross a little wooden bridge to get to it. There are also rooms available in the main wooden house.
- The Capsule
Imagine staying in a 7×10 feet sewer pipe! At RM139 per night, the capsule rooms are really, really small and can only fit one bed– it doesn’t sound very comfortable, but trust me, it is actually pretty cozy. And it comes with air-conditioning and plug sockets. The white sheets and white walls of the room makes a great place for the perfect picture, and the capsules also provide the best backdrop for fun silhouette pictures at night. The only thing I didn’t like was the lonely walk in the dark to the shared toilet.
- Parallel Discovery
The reason I chose the parallel discovery room is because it is the only room in the resort that comes with a jacuzzi. I thought my parents would appreciate a cool dip, but it turns out I enjoyed it more! The room is in a container that has been modified with full-length glass windows and a sliding door. It comes with an attached toilet, bbq facilities, and a spacious wooden veranda with a seating area and the jacuzzi. At RM498 per night, it can squeeze in 4 people– it has a queen size bed and a sofa bed.I really loved soaking in the bubbles in my jacuzzi while listening to the sound of nature. It was great that the room came with a big private outdoor space, where the entire family could hang out together. The only problem, the mosquitoes!
The Time Capsule Retreat does not have many facilities– it is after all, a jungle resort and a space where we can all go back to basics for a little while. Most of the time, there is hardly anyone around in the resort to assist you. There is a common area in the main wooden cottage; with a television, as well as long tables and chairs outside. There is wifi as well, but it gets weaker the further away you stay from the main cottage. Barbecue equipment are also available upon request.
As the bathroom and toilet facilities for the capsule rooms are shared; towels, soap and shampoo are not provided, so you have to bring your own. These however, were provided at the parallel discovery room. Oh, and don’t forget to bring lots and lots of mosquito repellent.
At the End of the Day
I liked the unique concept of the Time Capsule Retreat. Tube, capsule and container hotels have been gaining popularity lately, and the retreat has incorporated that to stand out from the growing number of jungle resorts. It is an affordable and comfortable place to stay for a quick getaway to Sungai Lembing— the retreat probably just needs a little more upkeep in terms of cleanliness, tidiness and broken doors. Despite that, I still had a good time with my family; and I’m sure groups of friends and couples would enjoy this one-of-a-kind retreat too.
The Time Capsule Retreat is still coming up with new room concepts, and it will be interesting to see what they’ve got in store.
Time Capsule Retreat
Where: Sungai Lembing, 26200 Sungai Lembing, Pahang, Malaysia.