Alaya Malai: Warm welcomes and white sand on Terengganu’s coast

Alaya Malai: Warm welcomes and white sand on Terengganu’s coast

Do you dream of trading the dust and grime of the city for cool sea breezes and spectacular sunrises? Then Terengganu’s coastal beaches and idyllic islands are just what you need. 

Tourist hotspots like Redang Island can get pretty congested during peak seasons though, so if you prefer a more secluded holiday destination away from the resort crowd, we’ve got just the place for you: tucked in the small fishing village of Merang is Alaya Malai, a rustic bed and breakfast that welcomes guests with open arms.

Find serenity by the sea

Alaya Malai – Pool

Alaya Malai, which means “House of Malai” in Sanskrit, was inspired by the malai plants thought to be the origin of the name “Malay”. The double-storey beachfront villa overlooks the wide expanse of the South China Sea, with direct access to a long stretch of beach that you’ll more often than not have to yourself.

Its rooms are tastefully designed with modern touches and vibrant decor, and there’s more than enough space to comfortably fit two. For those staying in the rooms facing the sea, you’ll be lulled into a deep slumber every night by the hypnotic sound of waves lapping against the beach.

Alaya Malai – Bedroom

With spacious, well-kept grounds and private hideaways scattered around, Alaya Malai offers guests a tranquil slice of paradise. Every space has been thoughtfully planned out, allowing you to choose between socializing in the communal areas or disappearing into your own world in a quiet corner.

Take your pick from the outdoor swimming pool and jacuzzi to the hammocks nestled in the shade of casuarina trees. If you’re a bookworm, then you’ll fall in love with the impressive selection of books in the library, while the rattan swing chairs in the inner courtyard will become your go-to reading nook.

A home away from home

Alaya Malai – Reading Corner

The charming bed and breakfast is a labor of love for its friendly founders Budi and Tony, as they are part of the small team that runs the villa, ensuring a personal touch and service with a smile. As live-in hosts, they’re more than happy to chat with you and attend to your every need – don’t be surprised when they offer to make you a juice or iced tea!

Being a born-and-bred Terengganu local, Budi’s local knowledge of the best activities and attractions in the area will help you plan your trip. Additionally, they can assist you in making arrangements such as bookings and transportation.

Alaya Malai – Breakfast

The food served at Alaya Malai makes no compromise on quality. For the complimentary made-to-order breakfast, you can choose between cereal or pancakes drizzled with maple syrup, followed by a sumptuous spread that includes eggs, toast, beef bacon, sausage and mushrooms. You can also order from a weekly lunch and dinner menu that’s been carefully curated based on the availability of locally-sourced ingredients to make fresh, homemade meals.

So for a relaxing getaway that will leave you reluctant to return to reality, make Alaya Malai your next seaside retreat.

Top Things to Do around Merang

As the gateway to the sun-drenched islands of Redang, Lang Tengah and Bidong, Merang is the perfect place to stay to avoid the crowds.

The best time to visit the islands is between March and October, as the islands are hit with monsoon rains from November to February. Besides the islands, there are also a few fun distractions on the coast that you should seek out.

Dance with the sea turtles at Redang Island

Merang Jetty is actually the closest jump-off point to Redang Island, famous for its clear, aquamarine waters and silken white sands. Located within the protected Redang Marine Park, its waters are abundant with fascinating marine creatures, but the highlight is undoubtedly swimming among graceful sea turtles during feeding time at Turtle Bay.

The largest beach on the island is Pasir Panjang, which is lined with resorts and usually packed with tourists. However, the southern end of Tanjung Tengah, which connects to the northern end of Pasir Panjang, has some decent snorkeling spots, including Shark Bay, with reefs that are a nursery for baby black-tip sharks. You can book a day trip to the island for around RM120 (including snorkel and life-jacket). From the jetty, it’s about a 45-minute boat ride.

Note: You’ll need to pay a RM5 marine park fee and a RM5 jetty fee before boarding the boat.

Claim the peaceful beaches of Lang Tengah Island for yourself

If you wish to avoid the holidaying mobs, you’ll find refuge at Lang Tengah Island. Despite being smaller than Redang Island, you can still have a spot all to yourself on this underrated tropical gem. A snorkeling day trip to Lang Tengah costs about the same as to Redang.

Besides diving and snorkeling, you can kayak around the island or hike through the jungle. There are no roads or motorized transportation on the island, so the only way to get around on land is by foot. Luckily, the island is small enough that it takes around 15 to 20 minutes to hop from beach to beach. Lang Tengah Turtle Watch, a volunteer program supporting turtle conservation, also operates on the island.

Note: You’ll need to pay a RM5 marine park fee and a RM5 jetty fee before boarding the boat.

Explore the brilliant coral reefs surrounding Bidong Island

Bidong Island was once the site of a camp for Vietnamese refugees fleeing Communist rule, but since its closure, the surrounding coral reefs have flourished into attractive diving sites teeming with marine life. There’s also a rather unusual treat for divers in the form of an underwater gallery, which has replicas of relics and cultural artifacts on display, such as the Terengganu Inscription Stone, tapak sireh and a traditional boat.

On the island itself, visitors can check out the remaining structures of the former refugee camp, known as “Little Saigon”, and learn about the island’s history. Some tours also include a stop at Karah Island, also known for its breathtaking snorkeling and diving sites. There are no cafes or restaurants on the island, so be sure to pre-pack a picnic lunch, along with sufficient water to stay hydrated.

You’ll need to book a boat in advance to head to Bidong, as there aren’t daily boat transfers from Merang Jetty to the island and back. The return boat fare is around RM100 per person.

Snack on celup tepung everything

As you drive down Terengganu’s coast, you’ll notice signs touting “ICT” and you’ll probably be confused, thinking to yourself: “Information Communication Technology??” But it’s actually the acronym for something less technical and far more delicious – Ikan Celup Tepung, or flour-coated deep-fried fish.

Stop by any of the restaurants along the coastal road and you can choose from more than just fish – most of them will also serve up deep-fried seafood, from sotong celup tepung (cuttlefish) to udang celup tepung (prawn). Be sure to dip them in the special chili sauce for an oh-so-delicious gastronomical experience.

Chill out on Penarik Beach

Just a 10-minute drive north of Merang is the scenic Penarik Beach, a popular hangout for locals. Lined with swaying palm trees and coconut trees, the beach provides a perfect Instagram-worthy backdrop that’s sure to have your followers feeling a tinge of FOMO.

Take a seat on one of the wooden beach swings and indulge in a bit of people watching, as families set their kites adrift on the sea breeze. On a clear day, try to see if you can spot the nearby islands of Redang, Lang Tengah and Bidong from the shore. Last but not least, enjoy a barbeque dinner of freshly-caught seafood that will keep you coming back for more.


With such a wide range of accommodation options across the country, it can be a challenge to pick the one that’s best for you. To be in the know when it comes to Malaysia’s stand-out stays, keep your eyes peeled for Traveloka’s ‘Super Stays’ posts, a bi-weekly hotel special featuring our top picks!

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