They say there is a book in all of us. More often than not, though, the valuable commodities that hold us back from making it come to fruition are ‘time’ and ‘space’. A book theme had been jittering around in my head for some months but, after choosing my moment, I negotiated exactly what I needed; a break in a peaceful location away from my two children to kick-start my publishing journey. With a clear objective in mind, I had six child-free nights to give myself a window of freedom to accomplish my dream.
Armed with a map, I traced my finger over the multitude of destinations I could visit and fantasized over sunset cocktails, sea breezes and writing page upon page without child-shackles around my ankles (I shed my mummy-guilt quite quickly).
I wanted to find somewhere close to Singapore, which didn’t involve flights, was affordable and had a laid-back vibe, while being surrounded by nature. After some deliberation, the islands off the coast of Malaysia seemed viable options and, after thumbing through a few travel guides, Rimba Resort on the island of Sibu seemed to fit my criteria. I promptly made my booking.
After two and a half hour's driving from Singapore (Woodlands immigration traffic was kind to me on the day), I arrived at Tanjong Lehman jetty. The boat transfer took around 10-15 minutes and, with my excitement levels starting to tango, Sibu came into view over the horizon.
I was greeted by members of the Rimba team who promptly took my bag and escorted me to my sea-facing beach chalet. Everything was clean, and nicely made up with local furnishings being sympathetic to their natural surroundings.
The chalet itself was simplicity at its most paired down; no TV, no Wi-Fi (unless you're at the bar), no door, no lock and key. The relaxed nature of the island was already winning me over and was exactly what I was looking for, a perfect serene and natural environment where I could achieve my writing goals.
The open windows and doorway to my beach chalet provided an adequate fresh sea breeze, which was whipped around the room by the fans. Given my distaste for air conditioning, this natural set-up worked well for me, as did the wonderfully effective mosquito net which kept the pesky beasts out of my sleeping chamber.
On arrival day, I was fed a delicious lunch from the sumptuous buffet of Malaysian curried meats, heaps of vegetables and rice, followed by tropical fruit, all prepared by the locals. Belly full, I walked past the sea-facing bar, promising myself a frozen Margarita if I managed to pen enough words before sunset. With a firm incentive in place, I set to work.
Authors often write because they are moved to do so and it is not uncommon for writing to be a form of catharsis; this was the case for me. My aim was to create a 'healing book' with engaging prose and lingering artwork, designed to provide hope for those who have found themselves in a dark place. Aside from my own experiences, each artist who is collaborating on this enormous project has their own story and is bringing that across within their work.
With this in mind, our collaboration is a raw poetry art book. The book will showcase all the different ‘wings’ we accumulate as we go through life and its challenges. My writing will accompany a collection of beautiful wing designs by different artists from around the world, intended to remind us of our inner strength and beauty, and provide hope for those suffering today.
Having scripted enough before sunset, I found myself back at the bar. Frozen Margarita in hand, I was well poised to watch a spectacular streaky sunset of oranges, reds and purples. Bliss.
What I found so refreshing is that the front-office staff hailed from a diverse range of countries, each bringing their eclectic experiences and accents together. I would spend most evenings at the bar, drinking with the staff and laughing like old buddies on holiday. I left the island knowing everyone by first name and the early seeds of friendships in place.
The island may disappoint princes and princesses pining for air conditioning, hot water and island-wide Wi-Fi. This is jungle beach living at its best, so if you like the luxuries of the Shangri-La, I suggest you sail straight past Rimba and head to Kuala Lumpur, or similar, as Rimba is best suited to the rough-and-ready type of traveler. If you need a detox from gadgets, Wi-Fi, email traffic, technological disruptions and, frankly, people and don’t mind the bugs who call this island home, then you will love it.
Rimba has 21 chalets, 19 of which are sea-facing. If the thought of cold water showers has you popping in goose pimples then there is a family chalet with two bathrooms and an island suite, both of which have hot shower facilities.
Sunrise and Sunset
I arranged to meet one of the friendly staff members at 6am to catch the sun as it came up. After a short walk and easy rock climb we found a perching point where we chatted like school-girls and watched a spectacular sunrise.
For sunset, ensure you are at the bar for the daily show.
The quaint beach was one of the most interesting I have seen. The tide would be out in the daytime, revealing what appeared to be just rocks and boulders. However, as I tiptoed closer, I noticed the diversity of the marine life within shallow waters. There were anemones, coral, sea cucumbers, crabs and a variety of tiny fishes, all visible at ankle deep. As the tide worked its way back to shore, guests would snorkel or just sun bathe and relax in the clear waters.
Rimba runs a decent Padi Dive Center and, according to the team, black tip reef sharks, blue spotted stingray, cuttlefish, turtles, batfish, angelfish, triggerfish, barracuda and the occasional octopus have been spotted around Rimba. In venturing to dive sights further out at sea it’s possible to spot bigger fish, such as travellis and tuna. So there is a rich bio-diversity for diving and snorkeling enthusiasts.
As I finished breakfast one day, Adam, a long-time staff member, invited me to the turtle sanctuary on the beach as they had just taken delivery of freshly laid turtle eggs. We carefully measured, weighed and placed the delicate eggs into a deep hole in the sand, in the hope that baby turtles would hatch weeks later.
Rimba runs a turtle conservation project, where they work with local egg collectors who are licensed by the Department of Fisheries to collect and sell the eggs to the Rimba hatchery. Thanks to this project, the eggs and subsequent baby turtles narrowly avoid an alternative fate of ending up as dinner.
The hatchery is wonderful for kids and adults to learn about turtles, the environment and what is required to help these endangered sea creatures. Guests can buy Rimba conservation T-shirts or sponsor a nest to help the conservation team sustain their heroic efforts.
Hikes and Massages
There are a few different hike options for those wanting to break up their beach holiday and mix in some jungle escapades. One option is to walk for approximately an hour to the local village. There is also a Kampong trek where you can climb the hill above it and get a spectacular view of the island.
For those not wanting a long hike, and if you can drag yourself away from Rimba, a quick walk through the jungle can take you to another resort called Sea Gypsy, where you can grab a drink and have a paddle in the sea off the sandy beach.
Trek back to Rimba and visit the elevated beach hut spa, for that oh-so-necessary massage.
Monsoon season starts in November and finishes around February. Sadly (or thankfully, depending on your perspective) the currents and tides bring trash that has been washed out to sea back to the shore. After every high tide, the Rimba team gathers to clear their beach haven from plastic bottles, flip flops, polystyrene, oil drums and all sorts of other weird paraphernalia. Huge kudos to everyone at Rimba, who do their bit as caretakers of their beautiful environment.
As the week unfolded I found that Rimba was not only the place my writing was birthed, it was also the place which super-charged my own healing process. The combination of nature at its finest, simplicity and genuine human kindness was all found at this humble resort. It shall always remain special to me and I shall always remain indebted to it; I came away with a new respect for the ongoing clean-up operations, knowledge about turtles and the environment, friends, a rested soul and a book.
Dee Allan is the Director of 3C Synergy recruitment consultancy and a qualified freelance copywriter. You can follow her blogs on www.bossbabelady.com
Photo courtesy of Dee Allan
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