How I Lived in a Five-Star Resort for Two Months

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!

bus tables

bussing tables
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”.

sea backpacker facebook

South East Asia Backpacker Facebook post

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.

tanjung jara

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 malaysia

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.

waiter soloflighted

host duties

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.

tanjung jara resort malaysia

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!

soloflighted malaysia

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.

tanjong resort malaysia

bonding with other staff in Dungun, Terengganu

A Reflection

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.

life tanjung jara

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:

tenggol 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, 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.

tanjong jara

master bed
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.

tanjong resort

the beach

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.

What’s Next?

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.

soloflighted tanjong jara resort

last walk on the beach, I’m going to miss this place.

In Gratitude

“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, 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:


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:

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Please don't forget to confirm your subscription by checking your Inbox. 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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120 thoughts on “How I Lived in a Five-Star Resort for Two Months”

  1. Ed!!!!!!!! I'm looking forward to having my first job soon too. in a coffee shop or a Fastfood outlet most likely. An end to my carefree bumming days. Sigh 🙂
    I love your adventure, this is something i could see myself doing. Haha 😛 In time, in time……. But not for good, a summer lang din, or a one time big time thing. 😛

    • @Potatoey: Ey Lauren! Still hoping I’ll be able to work in a coffee shop one of these days. Tapos na ako sa fast food outlets. hehe. Thanks for reading, though this was rather a long one! haha. Yep, can’t wait for that to happen! It will be quite an experience!

  2. Ed, maybe your next project is to work in a wildlife park, caring for animals or training as a safari ranger or mahout in an elephant park. Why not? Start sending those emails to private game reserves and wildlife parks! Ibang experience naman. 

  3. excited pd kay ko gabasa sa imo experience..and the life lessons—are the most valuable ones padayun japun kaw? hangtud na pa ka around SEA this dec? hello ed, im sendo hihi 🙂

  4. 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.
    ^ very true! I am happy that you're stint there in Malaysia is a fulfilling one. I must put some of my daydreaming cheverloos into action na rin. See you soon, Ed!

  5. It's a very compelling story Ed! It moved me in an in-depth way to look at life in a different perspective. 
    I admire you for your courage and passion! Good luck with your future travels! 

    • @bertN: Indeed it was! Not quite, there was a week where I had was focused on the summer job. Other than that, I was able to manage my online activities and adventures. Although I stayed in one place for two months, I actually had more adventures (jungle trekking etc.) because of the resort’s generosity; compared to staying for a month in Siem Reap, or in Bangkok and I only spent time in the city.

  6. ei eds! the opportunity was indeed very timely and am so happy you got the job. perfect timing jud! congrats for another dream scratched off your bucket list. wishing for more dreams to come true our way. ingat and safe travels always! 😉

  7. this is exactly what i picture myself experiencing, too!
    I've always toyed with the thought of traveling+job immersion. Did u have any issues with work visa or other paperwork like that?

    • @Kim: was only there for a few weeks and i was there for the experience. a lot of places in Southeast Asia are looking for volunteers and I was really hoping to get a chance like this. had a bit of hold up at the immigration but will write about it later on.

  8. very inspiring indeed.. grabeh akong pangarap ikaw ang nagbuhat.. basahon nalng nako imong blog, murag lisod lisod nako makabiya ug in.ana ka dugay.. 🙂 more adventures to you!

  9. proud of you Ed!  nung nakwento mu to, nainggit ako, kahet d ko pa alam na 5 star resort pala tinrabahuan mu! now na alam ko na, mas nainggit ako! haha anyway, congrats at malapet ka na matapos, ako din malapet na, palit na tayo, ako naman jan, d2 ka naman daw sa Pinas! haha 😀  enjoy the rest of your nomadic days in SE Asia! Europe naman daw next! 😀

    • @thepinaysolobackpacker: thanks gael! hahaha, toinks. naswerte lang talaga. was at the right moment. hahaha, palit talaga, sure! hehe. Europe. haha, sana sana. in the future — alangan naman in the past. hehehe ingat gael!

  10. you know what Ed,.I've been staring at this post since Friday and comment na comment nako pero I had to digest how I feel about it.You amaze me,and you make me feel sooooo proud of you.It's like seeing you coming of age or something na diko maipaliwanag.I know how fun it is and this experience is something that you can tell to your kids and grand kids in the future,yang ganyan.Deep inside me,I also wished I could have the experience,and your spirit for adventure.Ang galing.You should be very proud of yourself.I am happy for you.:)

    • @pusangkalye: Thanks Anton. I’ve always wanted to find work while travelling so that I won’t have to worry too much about money for food and accomm. I wondered how those old school backpackers earn money on the road since I rely mostly on my online job. 🙂 Thanks again!

  11. wow. great experience, i'd love to get a dose of travelling too, it's been more than a year since my feet took me out of town, it'd be nice if they'll take me outta the country.

  12. I met a Pinay last year who was working at Berjaya Redang in Redang Island, and we turned out to have both studied in Baguio and have common friends. That moment I almost applied for work there too and didn't want to leave! Haha! This experience of yours is sooo inspiring! 🙂

  13. ed, i read every word in this post and it left me speechless.
    this just fueled my belief that there's a world after quitting a job. i hope i can do the same however it's impossible for i have a family to feed. i'll just swallow office politics and gossips for now and try my best to remain grateful for big and small blessings. thanks for this blog post, ang husay!!!

    • @docgelo: ey doc! Thank you po for reading this post! Yes, there’s still a world after quitting your job. I can understand how much more work ang kelangan because of having a family to feed. I believe that you also love your work so your weekend and vacation trips seem to be alright. Thank you again for reading this post! 🙂

  14. this story seriously touched me. like for seryaz. the same goes for the rest of your blog (read about 2 articles and about me page but I have a nagging feeling i'll be lurking around for a long, long time). im currently prepping for the big leap and you and your thoughts help placate my nerves. hopefully, when Ive mustered enough balls, I get to meet you on the road. all the best!

    • travelbloglurker: hi, thank you for reading this long blog post and even for lurking anonymously. I appreciate you reading my stories. Hope that you’ll be able to take that big leap. 🙂

  15. you're always an inspiration for backpackers! Your blogs and post ,showing your ups and downs, but still keep on fighting for your passion to explore and experience many things in beautiful places that you'd never been before! kudos to you ed! Hoping i can explore as much as you did! Bucket list!! ^_^

    nice blog! how i wish, my dream to travel will come to reality.
    mka inspire imo mga laag…how i wish mkalaag pud ko in the near future. kapoy na mag call center, way to far from my Physics background.
    i admire backpackers jud… you and journeyingjames are an encouragement to me. 🙂 in God's time, moabot ra pud cguro ang para sa ako nga

  17. Your backpacking experience are way too awesome! I’ve tried it too couple of years back in europe for a month but became too busy and focus on family business after. I found your blog from poortraveler’s blog post, it makes me want travel solo again. Good luck to your more backpacking adventure in the future, there still 186 to explore. 🙂

  18. Grabe, swerte mo sir. Kung ako rin, hindi ako magdadalawang isip kapag may opportunity ganyan. At napaganda pa ung sayo, dun ka sa kwarto ng hotel mismo..hehe Kahit pagod, totally fulfilling ang ganyang experience, para satin hindi trabaho ang ganyan kundi enjoyment.

    Nice one! 🙂

  19. Hi, Ed, great piece!

    This is a condensed version, though – I want more mini-stories. 🙂

    How amazing is ‘tadhana’. But I believe fortune favors those with faith, perseverance, and undying dreams.
    Cheers to more fascinating adventures ahead of you!

    From Island Trotters


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