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We workcationed at an eco-leisure resort in Gambang, and it was next-level remote working

This is a workcation series where we personally visit and review hotels, resorts, and more, to find out how well they cater to digital nomads and hybrid professionals. Our whole team is fully vaccinated, boosted, and have tested negative on the first and last day of our trip. 

Hotel highlights:

Curated “Work from Villa” package for digital nomads and remote workers 

Reservation-based meeting rooms equipped with projectors, widescreen TVs, plug points

Lush and beautiful environment amidst nature

Free recreational activities that could also be for teamwork based fun

Strong and fast WiFi connection throughout the resort (villa and common areas)

There’s something really different about working in a 5-star luxury eco-haven that you’d think would primarily only be for leisure and family vacations.

Maybe it’s the way we wake up to the calls of the white-breasted waterhen, the tweets of brown throated sunbirds and black-naped orioles, and the singing from the oriental magpie robin.

Completely kidding, we’re no ornithologists, we can’t tell apart the sounds from a barn swallow or a common iora. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the tunes of over 100 species of birds that call the lush flora of Mangala Resort & Spa home.

But we digress. Even without the knowledge of each bird’s morning call, we’d wake up to the sounds of melodious warblers any time over the screeching blares of traffic or our alarm clocks.

We didn’t capture any on camera, but we had fun trying to identify a few different species that we saw

Maybe it’s how we can opt to cycle to breakfast from our villa, laughing and groaning because although it’s merely a few hundred metres, our lack of stamina (and glutes) betray us when we’re cycling up any slight incline.

Peaceful in the picture, physical pain IRL

We admit that back in the city, this would not be our first (or second or third) preferred mode of transportation. But here at this tropical retreat, we relish every opportunity.

Maybe it’s our choice of morning activity, the 30 minutes of kayaking around the lake, that gives us that burst of energy and endorphins that coffee can’t quite give (but we’d still like a cuppa, thank you).

We recommend sunblock and sunglasses if you’re doing kayaking or paddle-boating

There could be many things that make up the uniqueness of a workcation experience at Mangala Resort & Spa, Kuantan. And those reasons were probably what inspired this 67-villa resort to open its doors to welcome hybrid professionals, remote workers, and digital nomads with their “Work from Villa” package. 

Our own villa-by-a-lake workcation

The “Work from Villa” package includes a minimum two nights’ stay in Sara Villa (overlooks the Mangala Wetland) or Jala Villa (overlooks the Mangala Lake). We stayed at Jala Villa.

Sara Villa, overlooking the Mangala Wetland

The team at Mangala Resort & Spa shared that those two villa types were selected for the workcation crowd because they were more fitting for solo or duo travellers, since the others were more family-focused with private pools and other facilities that would be underutilised.

A King sized bed and a room with ample space for two in the Jala Villa

Accommodation aside, the package includes a complimentary stationery kit that comes with a ring light (upon request) for any late virtual meetings that might take place, recreational activities (booked separately), and complimentary use of the resort’s discussion rooms, but more on that later.

We had the pleasure of staying at Jala Villa

Inside the 50 square metre room is a king sized bed that sleeps two adults comfortably, a dual-sink bathroom fitted with a bathtub and a rain shower under a skylight, a mini-fridge, pantry area, and a balcony overlooking the lake.

Double vanity sinks and a beautiful rain shower under a skylight

Under this package, the pantry area is equipped with more snacks such as kombucha, energy drinks, energy bars, and prunes to fuel you through the day (or while burning the midnight oil). These come free the first round.

The regular pantry snacks on the counter, with some extra energy-boosting ones in the fridge

Sarah settled down to work at the long desk by the TV for our 3D2N stay; since there wasn’t another chair there, the rounded loveseat with a small table in the other corner of the room was my work station.

While the balcony table and chairs aren’t exactly meant for working, they’re a nice option to have if you’re starting your tasks before the sun is fully out, or if it’s a cloudy day. Note that there are no nearby plug points so you’d either need a lengthy extension cable or laptop charging wire if you want to work outside for longer.

Not a workspace you’d easily find in the city

To help with the heat on the balcony deck, there’s a ceiling fan so working outside was a peaceful affair. Punctuating the silence was mainly the occasional flap of wings, singing of birds, or the soft splashing of probably a hundred fish right under our floorboards (proper fish food is available at the gift shop next to the reception).

From day one, these fish were our (very hungry) companions

If larger teams want to meet up formally or entertain clients, the package offers complimentary use of the resort’s discussion rooms for up to two hours per day with advanced booking. Extending your usage of the discussion rooms would cost you RM650/hour.

The rooms would fit 8-10 pax comfortably and come equipped with a projector, a widescreen TV, and ample plug points.

A well-equipped discussion room

The resort’s recently-upgraded WiFi was strong and reliable and could be accessed from the villas, restaurants, discussion rooms, and other commonly used areas. Complimentary printing services (in small quantities) are available by the reception.

Flora, fauna, and food

Mangala Resort & Spa grows a variety of its own greens just a 10-minute buggy ride from the reception, for use in its kitchens.

It ain’t much, but it’s honest work

We heard that there were ayam kampung and even wild boars around the estate too, but they’re strictly not for consumption. Instead, any meat or fish in your dishes come from supply farms.

The “Work from Villa” package comes with breakfast included, while lunch and dinner are left up to you. If you dine a la carte at the restaurant, you can enjoy a 20% F&B discount (excluding alcoholic beverages).

Choices were adequate and done rather well

After being spoilt by The Westin KL’s very extensive buffet on a prior workcation, Mangala Resort & Spa’s spread was more humble.

For the most part, every dish had its highlight (shout out to the unforgettable buns especially, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside), and we found ourselves nicely satisfied after every meal.

Those deceptively simple-looking buns there? They were the highlight of my dinner.

We even got a taster of their new a la carte menu that features fresh seafood and chicken as well as dessert in generous portions, so you really don’t have to look far for your meals.

A la carte menu items that could honestly feed two

But let’s be real—the food isn’t what you’d come to Mangala Resort & Spa for.

“Eco-leisure” is its middle name

Mangala Resort & Spa’s tranquil and unique paradise make it very clear why it’s one of only two affiliates of Small Luxury Hotels of The World, a professional community of discerning travellers who review hotels globally to highlight unique stays.

A little slice of paradise to please your eyes

To add, it’s won several awards such as Malaysia Property Award 2017, FIABCI World Prix D’Excellence Award 2018 (World Gold Winner in the Environmental Category), and the FIABCI Malaysia Property Award 2020 (Winner of the Resort Category).

All this to say: this is not an experience you’d easily find in KL.

Dare we say this activity was actually more taxing than kayaking?

It utilises its 60-acre land to provide guests with kayaking, paddle-boating, archery, biking, a public pool, and gym. 

If you really wanted to, you could probably bang out some simple tasks by the scenic pool too

Whatever you choose to do, you’re surrounded by lush, verdant surroundings, making it hard to believe that this area was barren after 70 cumulative years of sand and tin mining.

Focusing on hitting our target like it’s our KPI

Determined to prove that the unsightly land still had potential, Dato Franky Chua Goon Eng then spent 15 years on restoration efforts. The fruits of his labour is the eco-leisure haven we know of today as Mangala Resort & Spa.

His love for the land can be seen in multiple elements such as a bungalow on the property that was built to be his personal holiday abode, and how the plants grown outside the bungalow and at the farm are some of his favourites.

By the way: Dato’ Franky’s bungalow is not an accommodation under the “Work from Villa” package, but it can still be rented by larger teams who want to stay together. It accommodates up to 12 adults and comes with ample working space in the living room, ideal for discussions or team building.

The koi pond at the entrance gives a luxurious ambience

Knowing what it took to transform the land and Dato Franky’s own attachment to it fostered a deeper appreciation for the sights we saw and the activities we enjoyed during our stay.

Mangala Resort & Spa’s strengths still lie in their eco-resort facilities. They are not yet fully equipped to cater to the standard city workation groups who may expect their suites to have a big dining table for meetings or a personal study room.

For example, there are more adjustments to make to the furniture (size and height), taking into account the working space that is needed.

Cheers to a memorable stay!

However, from what we’ve personally experienced, their efforts in curating a workcation package for the digital nomads, hybrid workers, and remote employees among us are highly commendable. And our stay at Mangala Resort & Spa isn’t one workcation that we’d forget anytime soon.

What workcation crowd is Mangala Resort & Spa for?Pro tip
Nature enthusiasts who also want to escape the cityTry working at your balcony, by the poolside or lake (with fully-charged devices) for immersion.
People looking for creative inspiration amidst greeneryUse the bikes to freely explore the estate when taking work breaks.
Companies who want to plan team building activitiesSpeak to the resort’s team to try out their various recreational activities together.
  • Read our other workcation reviews here.
  • Learn more about Mangala Resort & Spa here.

Want to suggest a specific place for us to try that’s not in the poll above? Send the suggestion to our Facebook page!

All image credits: Vulcan Post

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Vulcan Post aims to be the knowledge hub of Singapore and Malaysia.

© 2021 GRVTY Media Pte. Ltd.
(UEN 201431998C.)

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