BLUE skies. Sandy beaches. Lush rainforests. Are these places truly the preferred hideaways of those searching for peace and solitude to escape their concretised urban jungles? Everyone has a hideaway, a place to get away from it all, though some may not have had the opportunity to get away in a long time.
Sunday Star decided to do a random check on the hideaways of a cross-spectrum of people in our society. Not all responded. Interestingly enough, some of the more prominent personalities we approached decided not to share their hideaways with our readers for fear that they may lose their privacy. Here is a compilation of those who had no such inhibitions.
Home is where the farm is
Despite his hectic schedule criss-crossing the country as Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Dr Maximus Ongkili always finds time to return to his hideaway in his own kampung.
“I have my own Majora farm in Tambunan where I have a nine-bedroom lodge, 200 durian trees and 120 deer. It’s on the upper Appin River, very quiet and serene. I disappear there once a month on the weekends just to rejuvenate and keep up with my textbooks on rural and social development.”
Believe it or not, good ol’ KL!
Nor Zaharah Sham Shamsul Bahar, 34, director of Gama Duta Sdn Bhd, a company that provides an array of vessels and tugs for sale and charter for locations worldwide. Her favourite hideaway “is not that far at all, it's right here in KL... it’s the Kuala Lumpur Hilton!”
“I go there when I feel it's time for me to just unwind, de-stress and totally focus on enjoying the company (hubby dearest). It doesn't matter where you are, when you have good company. I like to go there because it’s easy to get to, the service is great, the rooms and bathrooms are superb, they have a good variety of restaurants, we can pamper ourselves at the spa and also enjoy some good entertainment at night. It's a total package!”
Privacy, and the spa’s great
Puan Chan Cheong, managing director of Green Packet Bhd, the biggest company listed on Mesdaq, may get to bump into foreign celebrities like Pavarotti one of these days. His hideaway is Pangkor Laut. “I go there when I want to spend private time with my family. Because it's not too far, I can go by road or by air. There's a lot of privacy, and my wife and I enjoy the spa there a lot.”
Datuk Tony Fernandez, CEO of AirAsia, loves Bali and no prizes for guessing which airline he flies on to get there.
“I go there when the fuel price is too high. I stay there about four days,” he says. There's no place where I feel more relaxed. People are relaxed there and the air, the breeze, make it a tranquil place. Over there, I'm usually on the beach.”
The Mulu Caves beckon
The Mulu Caves is Freddie Acho Bian's favourite holiday getaway. This secretary-general of the Dayak Chamber of Commerce and Industry recently took his two sons, aged 11 and 13, trekking for two to three hours because “it's very good exercise. You can reduce your big tummy.” The little one cried along the way but after the trip, demanded to know “when can we go again,” recounted Bian.
The Mulu Caves is still little known outside Sarawak. “We have one of the longest canopy walks in Southeast Asia,” says Bian proudly.
Back to the longhouse
One person whose longhouse roots pull him back is Datuk Dr James Masing, political survivor and president of the new Parti Rakyat Sarawak. Although Sunday Star found him “at a rare moment on the golf course,” his preference are family weekends on his 10-ha farm where he grows fruit trees and padi, and has a fish pond and deer farm.
Located just 43km outside Kuching, Masing goes there “whenever I feel it is nice to have a change. My friends visit and we can chit chat outdoors.”
“But that's why my golf is so bad. Something has to give,” he says ruefully.
Kuala Selangor has everything
Datuk Dr Mikaail Kavanagh, executive director of WWF Malaysia, remains true to his environmental roots. His favourite hideaway is Kuala Selangor, which he goes to whenever the family feels like it.
“I like this place because it is nearby, and we can see the monkeys and birds in the park on the hill and the fireflies at Kampung Kuantan, and have great seafood while the sun goes down over the estuary,” he says.
Head to the sea, Penang, specifically
Tengku Marina Tunku Annuar Badlishah, group corporate affairs manager of Nestle (Malaysia), wishes that she has more opportunities for “hideaways”. “In Malaysia, I guess my favourite hideaway would be anywhere by the sea. Penang is where I usually run to. I go there when I need a break and to just chill out. I like this place because the pace is much slower and it has everything - great food, friendly and familiar people, relaxing activites by the beach and the kids can have their own fun too!”
Just a simple field will do
‘Wheel Power’ columnist Anthony Thanasayan does not have to go too far to be in his hideaway. “Believe it or not, my favourite hideaway is the Astaka field in Petaling Jaya, next to St Paul's Anglican church,” he says.
“I go there whenever I want to collect my thoughts about life and think of what to write about next. Also for a change of scenery from the four walls of my room, with the open field and watch the guys having a go in a game of football.
“I like the place because I can stay put in my car with my three dogs in the back seat who also have great fun watching the the ball being kicked from one side of the field to the other. Kind of therapeutic for me as well as for my furry friends.”
My bedroom, my hideaway
For social activist and chairman of the National Service Training Council Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, his hideaway must surely be his bedroom at his home in Cheras. More so since taking on the NS position where he has a packed schedule attending meetings and going around the country to visit the camps.
“I just need to go home, lie on my bed, and take a nap,” he says.
Although he has seen much of the country, at this point, it is still work and hardly any leisure. His ultimate hideaway one of these days when he can find the time, is Sabah. “It is the place for me. Each time I visit, I find the atmosphere very congenial. I also have friends there. And the environment is good.”
An affinity with Pulau Pangkor
National table tennis player Mohd Shakirin Ibrahim, 20, loves Pulau Pangkor, off the coast of Perak. He goes there whenever he gets a break from his training schedule in Kuala Lumpur.
“It is a very pleasant experience. I like this place because I find myself rejuvenated and ready to get into action after relaxing in Pangkor, so I guess I have an affinity with the island,’’ he says.
Perfect Malaysian hideaway that almost made Pavarotti cry
In the celebrity world, being able to get away from everything is a privilege that money can buy. A quick check on the Internet will reveal many hideaways that pamper to the rich and famous. And Malaysia does have its attractions.
Top of the list must surely be the internationally-acclaimed Pangkor Laut, a privately owned island which features 156 luxurious villas, suites and estates along with the award-winning Spa Village.
According to Uzma Nawawi, director of public relations of YTL Hotels and Properties: “Our guests are well travelled and they appreciate every bit of the resort, from its luxurious setting, friendly service staff to exotic flora and fauna found on the island. Privacy is also top on their list.
At the request of Sunday Star, Uzma ferreted out the comments of some of the celebrities who have hidden away at Pangkor Laut.
“I almost cried to see how beautiful God had made this paradise” - Luciano Pavarotti
”We love this place and the style, quality and attention to detail. The service has been unbelievable! The staff are always smiling and they spoilt us!” - Nick and Valerie Faldo“Pangkor Laut was everything one could hope for in a honeymoon because it was restful, romantic, private and it was perfect” - Joan Collins and Percy Gibson
“It gets the seal of my approval. Pure Robinson Crusoe country.” - Robin Leach, host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous