We took a workcation in Gambang at an eco-leisure resort, and it was next-level remote working
This is a workcation series in which we personally visit and review hotels, resorts, and other accommodations to see how well they accommodate digital nomads and hybrid professionals.
Our entire group has been completely vaccinated, boosted, and tested negative on the first and last days of our journey.
✓ 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)
Working in a 5-star luxury eco-haven, which you’d imagine would be largely for pleasure and family vacations, is a unique experience.
Maybe it’s the way we wake up to the sounds of white-breasted waterhens, brown-throated sunbirds, and black-naped orioles tweeting and the oriental magpie robin singing.
We’re not ornithologists, so we can’t tell the difference between a barn swallow and a common iora. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the sounds of over 100 different bird species that call Mangala Resort & Spa home.
But that’s beside the point. We’d prefer the sounds of melodic warblers to the shrieking blares of traffic or our alarm clocks, even if we didn’t know what each bird’s morning call was.
Perhaps it’s how we choose to cycle to breakfast from our villa, laughing and groaning because, despite the short distance, our lack of stamina (and glutes) betrays us while cycling up any minor slope.
Back in the city, we admit that this would not be our first (or second, or third) choice of mode of transportation. But, here at this tropical hideaway, we take advantage of every chance.
Maybe it’s our morning activity of 30 minutes of kayaking around the lake that provides us with the energy and endorphins that coffee can’t quite match (though we’d still like a cuppa, thank you).
The distinctiveness of a workcation experience at Mangala Resort & Spa, Kuantan, could be due to a variety of factors. And it was probably for those reasons that this 67-villa resort decided to open its doors to hybrid professionals, remote employees, and digital nomads with their “Work from Villa” package.
Our own workcation in a lakeside villa
The “Work from Villa” package includes a minimum of two nights in Sara Villa (which overlooks the Mangala Wetland) or Jala Villa (which overlooks the Mangala Wetland) (overlooks the Mangala Lake). The Jala Villa was where we stayed.
The Mangala Resort & Spa team explained that those two villa types were chosen for the workcation population because they were better suited for lone or pair travelers, whereas the others were more family-oriented, with private pools and other amenities that would go unused.
Apart from lodging, the package includes a complimentary stationery box, which includes a ring light (upon request) for any late virtual meetings, recreational activities (which must be booked separately), and complimentary use of the resort’s discussion rooms, but more on that later.
A king-sized bed that accommodates two adults comfortably, a dual-sink bathroom with a bathtub and a rain shower under a skylight, a mini-fridge, pantry area, and a balcony overlooking the lake are all included in the 50 square metre accommodation.
More snacks, such as kombucha, energy drinks, energy bars, and prunes, are included in this bundle to keep you going throughout the day (or while burning the midnight oil). The first round includes these for free.
For our 3-day and 2-night stay, Sarah sat at the large desk by the TV, and as there wasn’t another chair, I worked from the rounded couch with a tiny table at the other corner of the room.
While the balcony table and chairs aren’t designed for working, they’re a good option if you’re starting your tasks before the sun has fully risen or if the weather is cloudy. If you wish to work outside for longer, you’ll need a long extension cable or a laptop charging wire because there are no nearby plug points.
There’s a ceiling fan on the balcony deck to help with the heat, so working outside was a relaxing experience. Fish food can be bought at a gift shop next to the reception. There were a few flapping wings, birds chirping, and a faint splashing of maybe a hundred fish under our floor.
The package includes complimentary use of the resort’s discussion rooms for up to two hours each day with previous booking for bigger groups who want to meet officially or entertain clients. The fee of using the discussion rooms for an additional hour is RM650.
The rooms can comfortably accommodate 8–10 people and are equipped with a projector, a widescreen TV, and plenty of plug points.
The resort’s freshly renovated WiFi was fast and dependable, and it was available in the villas, restaurants, meeting rooms, and other communal spaces. The front desk offers complimentary printing services (in small quantities).
Flora, fauna, and food
Mangala Resort & Spa grows a variety of greens for use in its kitchens, simply a 10-minute buggy ride from the reception.
We heard there were ayam kampung and even wild boars on the estate, but they were absolutely prohibited from being consumed. Instead, any meat or fish in your dishes is sourced from supply farms.
Breakfast is included in the “Work from Villa” package, but lunch and dinner are up to you. If you order a la carte at the restaurant, you will receive a 20% discount on food and beverages (excluding alcoholic beverages).
Following a work trip to The Westin KL’s extravagant buffet, Mangala Resort & Spa’s fare was a lot less impressive.
For the most part, each item stood out (special mention goes to the memorable buns, which were crispy on the exterior and soft on the inside), and we left each meal feeling full and happy.
We even got a sneak peek at their new a la carte menu, which includes fresh seafood and chicken, as well as dessert in ample servings, so you won’t have to travel far for your meals.
But, let’s face it, the food isn’t the reason you came to Mangala Resort & Spa.
Its middle name is “eco-leisure”
Mangala Resort & Spa is one of only two affiliates of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, which is a group of travelers who review hotels around the world to show off unique experiences.
Furthermore, it has received numerous prizes, including the Malaysia Property Award 2017, the 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 of this is to indicate that this is not a typical KL experience.
Kayaking, paddleboarding, archery, riding, a public pool, and a gym are all available on the hotel’s 60-acre property.
Whatever you do, you’ll be surrounded by lush, greenery, making it difficult to realize that this area was formerly barren after 70 years of sand and tin mining.
Dato Franky Chua Goon Eng spent 15 years restoring the unattractive site, determined to show that it still had promise. The Mangala Resort & Spa, the eco-leisure oasis we know today, is the result of his labor.
His affection for the land is evident in a bungalow on the property that was erected to serve as his personal vacation retreat, as well as in the flora cultivated outside the bungalow and on the farm, which are among his favorites.
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.
Having knowledge of what it took to convert the land, as well as Dato Franky’s personal connection to it, helped us appreciate the vistas we saw and the activities we participated in during our visit.
Mangala Resort & Spa’s eco-resort features remain one of the resort’s strongest assets. They are not yet completely equipped to satisfy the needs of typical city work groups, who may anticipate their suites having a large dining table for meetings or a private study space.
For example, when you think about how much space you need to work, you need to make more changes to the furniture (size and height).
However, based on our own experience, their efforts in building a workcation package for digital nomads, hybrid workers, and remote employees are admirable. And our workcation at Mangala Resort & Spa isn’t one we’ll forget anytime soon.
|What workcation crowd is Mangala Resort & Spa for?||Pro tip|
|Nature enthusiasts who also want to escape the city||Try working at your balcony, by the poolside or lake (with fully-charged devices) for immersion.|
|People looking for creative inspiration amidst greenery||Use the bikes to freely explore the estate when taking work breaks.|
|Companies who want to plan team building activities||Speak to the resort’s team to try out their various recreational activities together.|