A 30-minute drive east from the concrete jungle of Kuala Lumpur will lead you up green mountains and fertile valleys. Exiting the Genting Sempah tunnel, I bade goodbye to Selangor and said hello to Bentong, the westernmost district of Pahang. Over the course of three days, I ditched the highway and travelled the network of old roads exploring the highlands to the gold-mining town of Bentong.
1) Day 1 – Morning: Drive Up To the Refreshing Hillside Village of Janda Baik
As soon as I got off the expressway, the route quickly changed to a narrow, winding road sandwiched in between thick forests. I made my way up to Janda Baik, a plateau of tiny villages, orchards and rustic retreats. The place was still thick with morning mist at nine, creating a mysterious atmosphere.
I drove to Riverside Janda Baik, a well-known picnic spot where bamboo huts and wooden chalets line Sungai Benus. The sound from the flowing river and rustling leaves created a calm zen-like atmosphere. Though the weather was still cold, I dipped my feet in the river to feel the refreshing cold water — I wish I could stay here forever!
2) Day 1 – Evening: Live the French Fantasy at Colmar Tropicale, Berjaya Hills Resort
Now energised, I slowly made my way to Colmar Tropicale, a French-themed village straight out of a fairy-tale. This hotel-cum-village is part of Berjaya Hills Resort, complete with an 18-hole golf course and a traditional Japanese garden.
My room was cosy and overlooked the verdant hills — a beautiful view greeted me when I woke up and bade goodbye when I went to sleep! After a quick shower, I went down to the “town square” for an evening stroll. Colmar Tropicale is based on its namesake in Alsace and, in my opinion, Bentong does a pretty great impression.
I walked all the way to the end of the village and climbed the watchtower to capture a bird’s eye view of Colmar Tropicale. The panoramic view made me feel like I was in a quaint little town in France instead of a thick tropical rainforest in Malaysia. By then, I was pretty wiped out so I scooted back to the castle-like The Chateau Spa and Organic Wellness Resort for a much needed full-body massage.
3) Day 2 – Morning: Get All Warmed Up at Bentong Hot Springs
After a hearty breakfast, I continued on the historic Route 68 where the view of the hills slowly transformed into the jungle. I was halfway to Bentong town when I chanced upon a signboard saying “Bentong Hot Springs”, and guess where I ended up!
There are two parts of the springs – one free for the public and the other privately run by Erya by Suria Hot Spring. I decided to swim in the public pool, which had an option of either “hot” or “warm.” My aching muscles called for the former option. Fifteen minutes in this mineral-rich water was all I needed to replenish my energy.
4) Day 2 – Afternoon: Learn about Bentong’s Golden History at Bentong Gallery
I hit the road for another half an hour towards Bentong. This former gold-mining town still retains its old-world charm with two-storey shophouses lining the main street. To find out more about Bentong’s past I went to Bentong Gallery on Lu You Street.
Photo credit: Bentong Gallery
Bentong Gallery is a mini-museum set up in a century-old shophouse by the 3rd generation of Dong Shun Corporation. I was amazed at the amount of historical information and profile of community leaders who continue to make Bentong relevant till today.
There were many interesting artefacts like ancestral chairs and furniture. From real gold of the yesteryears to the golden flesh of durian today, Bentong is clearly proud of its gold mining history!
Photo credit: Bentong Gallery
5) Day 2 – Evening: Hit Bentong Walk and Hunt for Its Famed Street Food
The street at Bentong Walk closes in the evening to make way for the weekly festival.
By 5pm, the street is crowded. Street performers and buskers spread out mats along the street and the food stalls were packed with customers. You can easily find local cuisines such as wanton noodles, tau fu fah and chee cheong fun! Besides the festival, Bentong is also famous for its street art such as this ginger cart mural!
Photo credit: @setinstories
6) Day 3 – Morning: Indulge in a Hearty Malay Breakfast at Lemang To’ki
The next morning, I headed north of Bentong town to fuel up at Lemang To’ki. I got a shock when I arrived – at eight in the morning, the roadside restaurant was already full!
Lemang To’ki is a famous breakfast stopover for bikers during their weekend rides. Luckily, I didn’t have to wait for long. After 15 minutes, I got myself a seat and ordered all the house specialities: lemang, rendang and fire-roasted chicken.
The made-to-order lemang was solid and creamy while the equally tender rendang was a perfect compliment. I was really impressed with the roasted chicken which had a crispy charred skin, and juicy meat.
7) Day 3 – Morning: Hang Out and Take a Dip at the Impressive Chamang Waterfall
The breakfast of champions at Lemang To’ki had me ready to take on the world, so I went to the next stop: Chamang Waterfall.
Unlike other 90-degree waterfall drops, Chamang Waterfall is formed by a huge cascading drop and dotted with plenty of wading pools at the bottom. I took no time jumping into the river and water was just as revitalising as the river in Janda Baik.
Photo credit: @wenkaifong
I spent the rest of my morning admiring the majestic waterfall. Once the weekend crowd started to pick up, I packed my bags and made my way back to town.
8) Day 3 – Afternoon: Feast on the King of Fruits at A Roadside Stall
A trip to Bentong would be incomplete without eating durian, the district’s most famous fruit!
I was fortunate to be in Bentong during the durian season from July – August. Plenty of roadside stalls were selling this pungently fragrant fruit. I got hold of Musang King, one of the premium durian varieties found in Bentong and the neighbouring Raub.
As soon as the seller cut open the Musang King, my eager hands reached out for the durian piees. I took no time devouring each piece, which tasted as heavenly as it looked! Alas, the fruit was so rich that I could not finish it by myself.
9) Day 3 – Evening: Retreat to Your Very Own Private Room at The Waterway Villa
I packed the leftover durian together with some mangosteens, jackfruits and rambutans and headed back on the road to my final stop: The Waterway Villa.
The Waterway Villa is a cluster of secluded themed villas of varying styles – stone, glass, bamboo and Balinese. I wanted something simple and close to nature, so I stayed at their bamboo villa exclusively built using bamboo, rattan and nipah.
The hut was cooling even under the scorching sun. Every step was greeted with a creak from the wood, but it felt so good knowing that the entire room was built using natural materials. I spent the rest of the day unwinding in my room followed by one last splash in the swimming pool as the sun started to set.
Bentong does not wallow in its glorious past and adapts to the modern time. The once-sleepy district is slowly waking up as fun activities and unique resorts quickly occupy corners of Bentong. So, for your next short trip, I recommend that you make Bentong your number one destination!