Saturday, 9 August 2014

Glamour camping comes to Malaysia

The 'glampsite' was like a mini moveable resort.

The 'glampsite' was like a mini moveable resort.

You can now enjoy the great outdoors with all (or most of) your indoor comforts.

HAVE you ever dreamed of camping deep in the pristine forest while still having five star luxury comforts? Then you are ready for glam camping, or “glamping” for short.

When city slicker folk think of camping, uncomfortable thoughts of cramped simple tents, lack of facilities and unhygienic camp-grounds come to mind.

To change this negative perception towards camping, Coleman, an American outdoor gear retailer, along with Universal Fitness & Leisure (UFL) invited members of the media to try their hand at glamping for two days and a night.

UFL managing director Datuk Radha Krishnan shared, “As an outdoor man myself, camping is in my blood. Dad’s words of: ‘Let the Sky be thy roof and the grass be thy bed’ often ring in my ears.”

Enjoying creature comforts in the great outdoors.
Enjoying creature comforts in the great outdoors.

“Today, Coleman is spearheading a concept that (I believe) will excite not only outdoor enthusiasts, but also urban dwellers who have no camping experience,” he said.

Although glamping has gained popularity in America, it still isn’t the norm in South-East Asia. Coleman first introduced the idea to the Philippines, then moved into Malaysia earlier this year, before going on to Singapore and Thailand.

Coleman’s South-East Asia general manager Jaime Lau, 34, enthused: “How can we not introduce glamping to a country like Malaysia which has sandy beaches, pristine forests and majestic mountains?”

Creature comforts

For this assignment, 25 members of the media were expecting something tough, rugged and minimalist. However, upon arriving at the location in Janda Baik, Pahang (in the hills half way up to Genting Highlands), all expectations turned out to be the opposite. Immediately, we truly understood what glam camping was about, which is to enjoy creature comforts while being nestled in nature. It makes for a truly a rewarding experience which would tempt anyone to extend their stay.

Now, how about a portable camp toilet!
Now, how about a portable camp toilet!

Much hard work had been put in as Radha and his team took approximately 90 days from conceptualisation until mobilisation. Everything was rolled out for the “glamp”, including cutleries, lanterns and inflatable boats (with air pumps).

Despite the weak data connection which was a tad distressing for the smartphone-addicts among the group, we were occupied by interesting yet easy activities like crochet and throwing the beanbag.

For those who love water, lake kayaking was an option using the Sevylor (a brand acquired by Coleman) inflatable boats.

Unlike traditional bulky and hard fibreglass boats, these were easy to handle.

Lau also reminded us to wear life jackets, saying, “In some Western countries, during any form of water activity, it’s illegal not to wear life jackets.”

The tents are huge and airy, perfect for a relaxing afternoon.
The tents are huge and airy, perfect for a relaxing afternoon.

To mentally rejuvenate, many took the opportunity to chill by the campsite. For city folks, it was a “gift” to witness chickens roaming freely around us. Though it was late afternoon, the breeze from the forested hills was so cool that no air conditioner was needed.

“I recently travelled to Germany and the United States and found out lots of their forests are man-made (replanted). Although the air was fresh and brisk, it cannot compare to that of ours because we have forests which are millions of years old,” noted Radha.

Gourmet glamp

When dinnertime approached, we were amazed by the wide selection of scrumptious food, to the point we could hardly believe we were camping.

Salmon, lamb, pumpkin and chicken wings were prepared using the Coleman road trip grill. This is not only portable (with adjustable height) but also produces food with a fragrance that normal gas grills may not be able to replicate.

A hammock provides much needed relaxation to recharge from urban stress.
A hammock provides much needed relaxation to recharge from urban stress.

The meats were pre-marinated and ready to eat after 10 to 15 minutes of grilling. The chef, from a five star hotel, added that he loves the grill as it’s is not only powerful and stable, but also strong and durable.

This showed me that yummy food is possible while glamping, unlike my pre-conception that camping is all about eating canned food.

Of course, everyone also helped themselves to the chilled drinks and dessert in Coleman cooler box.

Radha said that while camping, there were more limited choices of food.

“But for glamping, a gourmet meal fit for a king can be done. It’s one of the best meals I have ever had outdoors!” he added.

Lantern-light dining by the lake.
Lantern-light dining by the lake.

At night when it turned dark, it was easy to forget which tent was whose, as they tended to look the same. To overcome this, the organisers placed proper “house number plates” beside the tents. Before sleeping, we could enjoy chilled drinks in the Coleman cooler boxes specially placed inside the tents.

Some may worry about a poor night’s sleep on hard ground during normal camping. But in glamping, one has the luxury of inflatable airbeds! There was room to spare too in the 13 huge tents which could comfortably fit up to four people each.

In the forest, the temperature drops drastically during the night. To make sure we could sleep soundly, the tent came with flysheets which could provide more insulation from cold winds. It was easy to have sweet dreams on the comfy “fold and go” pillows too...

In the morning, it wasn’t easy to ignore the chickens’ “alarm clock”. But while sitting outside the tent, I enjoyed the morning breeze while sipping a cuppa, and had no regrets about waking up early.

Home sweet home: After a long day, you can't wait to tuck yourself into the cozy tent.
Home sweet home: After a long day, you can’t wait to tuck yourself into the cozy tent.

One factor that deters many from camping is our warm tropical weather. To provide a more cooling breeze, a retro-style tent fan (with light!) was hung inside our tents.

Knowing that women are concerned about looking good, the organiser even specially provided a vanity tent, which included many feminine essentials: a hair-dryer, toiletries and even a dressing table (complete with mirror)!

Radha is hoping that glamping will revolutionise the way Malaysians think about outdoor activities.

“No longer will you have to eat out of cans or rough it out on the hard ground. Glamping will bring the comforts of being indoors to the great outdoors,” he said.

  • Would you like to write articles on, or share some information about, your adventures? Whether on land, water or in the air? We are interested in a broad range of activities including: trekking, scuba diving, paragliding, running, sailing, windsurfing, white water rafting, rock climbing, kayakking, well ... you get the idea, basically everything that involves an adventurous workout in the great outdoors. Apart from describing what a great time you had, you can also share ideas on safety, equipment, training/preparation and eco-friendly practices. Feel free to write in to our coordinator, Andrew Sia, at star2@thestar.com.my.

Tags / Keywords: camping , hiking , trekking , outdoors


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