After almost six months on the road, I travelled to the northeastern part of Malaysia for an opportunity to live in a five-star resort for two months. I had an amazing time working as a waiter during the summer season, and this break has been one of the best experiences in my backpacking adventure!
finally learned to carry a tray with one hand
While living in Bangkok, I was contemplating about the next destinations of my long-term adventure when I received this awesome news. My funds were depleting but I still wanted to travel. This was an opportunity I couldn’t resist.
How it Started
My travel buddy, who was back in the Philippines, forwarded a Facebook link about a chance to work in a resort in Dungun, Terengganu. The link was from the South East Asia Backpacker Facebook page and they posted an announcement about a “Summer job in Malaysia”.
A perfect time since I was to arrive in Kuala Lumpur after a vacation in Bali, and I didn’t really have any fixed itinerary afterwards. All I knew was that I would be in Malaysia for at least a month; but did not research on finding a place to stay. It became more challenging knowing that I was already travelling solo.
It wasn’t a hard decision to make. I figured that if I took the job, at least I had somewhere concrete to run off to during the next months. After an exchange of emails and a Skype interview, I was given a go signal.
End of July, I found myself travelling 6 hours by bus from Kuala Lumpur to Terengganu – a place that was still new to me.
Almost got lost upon arrival.
Around 4am, I arrived in the town of Dungun. I felt relieved that there was a 7-Eleven shop on this side of the state, so it wasn’t that deserted as I thought it would be. The staff picked me up and escorted me to the resort. A surprise came when they prepared one of their villas since they ran out of rooms in the staff quarters. A temporary mishap that I surely had no issues with at all!
Tanjong Jara Resort, Terengganu, Malaysia
Tanjong Jara Resort is a YTL Luxury Resort located on the East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.
I arrived at this beautiful resort with everything cared for. After settling in for a couple of days, work started.
It was a busy time after all, since this was during summer season. I was tasked to work as a host in the resort’s restaurant, and I took the work experience seriously. I didn’t want to be just a number to fill a gap for the lack of manpower.
I accepted reservations, welcomed guests and led them to their seats. I had some experience in fast food shops when I was younger, but this was a five-star restaurant we’re talking about. I wanted to learn the basics of providing customer service with class.
I also took orders, cleaned tables, served food, and delivered room service to the villas. When it’s not so busy, I learned to mix drinks and prepare desserts. The bar and the pastry kitchen were stations I’d always drop by.
It felt good when guests recognized and thanked me for the service. In turn, I felt happy when I talked to them and shared my stories about my adventures. Being on the front-end of the restaurant satisfied my desire of having short conversations with people.
A family from Germany and a couple from Italy
Guests who searched for me to have a quick snapshot before they left.
Adventures on Days Off
During my time off, I had the pleasure of joining the activities offered in the resort. I trekked a jungle to a waterfalls, which was the first time I did a nature hike since I started the long-term travel. I went snorkelling and witnessed hundreds of fishes swimming towards me.
I constantly biked to town and it was great to cycle 5 kilometers with a breathtaking view of the coastal area. I also included exercising in the gym as part of my daily routine. I’ve never felt healthier and more active!
Tanjong Jara Resort adventures – will blog about them soon.
Even if I didn’t have these adventures, the thought that a beach was a stone’s throw away was more than enough to make me a happy camper.
Friendship & Memories
Aside from the adventures, memories shared with other employees made the whole stint more worthwhile. I’ve hung out with other staff and bonded with them in this short period.
Hanging out for teh tarik after shift, or eating out at McDonald’s to veer from eating too much local food, or observing Malay tradition and learning a few words or two. These will forever be part of memories I’ll definitely mention when I have the chance to share my experiences of backpacking in Southeast Asia.
bonding with other staff in Dungun, Terengganu
This was one of those breaks that I was looking for in my backpacking adventure. It wasn’t always paradise as this was, in the first place, a physical job. I also had to juggle my online freelance tasks with being a waiter. But because I’ve been sitting in front of my laptop for hours in the past months, I gladly accepted this role. I interacted with people and I got to move around!
Seldom do people get the same opportunity so I made the most of it.
a simple life
During my last week, I couldn’t help but reflect on the experience. In a way, I am reminded of small wishes I had when I was still working in an office. Two scenarios stand out the most:
Best Job in the World
Working in a call center back in 2009, I saw an article on Yahoo! News about a guy who won the “best job in the world”. 35,000 people vied for a role as a caretaker in an island paradise in Australia. Related article below:
- Briton lands ‘world’s best job’ as caretaker of Australian island– Ben Southall beats almost 35,000 applicants from around world to land six-month contract on Great Barrier Reef island
pardon my feet for disrupting the view
a day at Tenggol Island
I thought to myself at the time, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have the same opportunity? Getting paid to live on an island and take care of animals?” It was something I could only dream about. I even thought, “Heck, even if there was no salary involved; so long as food and accommodation was free; I’d take it!”
Free Hotel Accommodation
I also remember a conversation with Alex of CrazySexyFunTraveler.com, and her experience of living in a hotel in Mexico for three months. She only had to blog about the hotel in exchange.
We all know that accommodation is one of the biggest expenses when travelling. Even if you say that you plan on choosing the most basic room available, it still eats up a lot of your budget.
stayed here during the first 3 nights since they ran out of rooms in the staff quarters. 🙂
Not only did she live rent-free, she stayed in a hotel for a long time! At the back of my head, I also wished to experience the same opportunity.
The scenarios I mentioned above may not be the exact benefits I received, but living and working in the resort was more than what I could ask for.
Law of Attraction
There were other minor instances that I thought about, too; like living in a tropical island and owning my time. Another plan was offering web advertising services to an establishment and hopefully getting a discount from their service. I even thought about volunteering for part-time work in Southeast Asia in exchange for food and/or accommodation. These were bits and pieces of dreams I wanted to do, and these were made into a realization when this offer came up.
Could this be the law of attraction? I encountered the term from The Secret – a book I read way back – and to be honest, I’m not a strong advocate of its principles yet; but I can’t deny that there’s some truth to it. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for me daydreaming about these scenes. Aside from daydreaming, taking action is another important factor. Words are too shallow if deeds do not follow.
I am now in Singapore to meet my girlfriend and I’ll be continuing my backpacking trip in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Maybe I’ll drop by Laos afterwards. We’ll see. For sure, I’ll be spending more money since I’ll have to pay for a place to stay and since I’m travelling alone now. Well, this long-term travel is on it’s near end, and I’ll go back to my home country soon.
last walk on the beach, I’m going to miss this place.
“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
Thank you Peter, for the experience, kindness and generosity!
Thank you to the Tanjong Jara Resort staff, for the welcome and for the memories!
Thank you SEA Backpacker, for being an instrument in extending my backpacking adventure!
Lastly, thank you to my travel buddy, Doi of the TravellingFeet.com, for sharing the URL. It was but a forwarded link, and now I’ve lived in a luxury resort for two months.
This experience means so much to me. It has somehow solidified a belief that kindness is everywhere, and that miracles happen. For this, I am truly grateful.
For two months in my backpacking adventure, I worked in a restaurant in a five-star resort in Malaysia. Check out my other adventures in Tanjung Jara Resort here:
- How I Lived in a Five-Star Resort for Two Months
- Snorkelling at Tenggol Island in Terengganu, Malaysia
- One More Week in Dungun, Terengganu
- Cycling to the town of Dungun in Terengganu, Malaysia
- Tanjong Jara Resort Review in Terengganu, Malaysia
I quit my office job of 6 years in January 2012. I began backpacking and living from country to country while bringing my online freelance work with me. So long as there’s internet, I could be anywhere in the world. So far, I’ve been to seven countries, of which some I only visited for a week. For those longer stays, check out my other articles as a digital nomad here:
- Digital Nomad Life: One Month in Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Digital Nomad Life: One Month Plus in Bangkok, Thailand
- How i Lived in a Five-Star Resort for Two Months in Terengganu, Malaysia
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soloflightEd.com is a travel blog by Edcel Suyo. He enjoys performing headstands and crazy stunts during his trips in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East. Now based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and working to earn a living, he takes time to enjoy the city and travel during weekends.
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