Le Grandeur Palm Resort Johor stay

The moment I step into the room, there is a sense of familiarity. I’ve stayed in a similar room here but on the ground level and I would pull back the curtains for a view of the garden while I tap away on my laptop.

View the Palm Resort Golf & Country Club clubhouse
from the Melati Course
It seems like eons ago when my friends at the resort gave me an open invitation to just come-and-stay and when I accepted the invite, I would shut myself in the room for my writing retreat.

Somewhere along the way, this resort has inevitably contributed to my success.

Incidentally, I’m back in Le Grandeur Palm Resort Johor not to write but to autograph my book, My Johor Stories: True Tales, Real People, Rich Heritage, which the resort bought in bulk to place a copy in each of their suites for the guests’ reading pleasure.

Coming back to the resort this time has a special significance, not just because I’m here to sign my books but because it’s the first time I’m back for a stay since my last minute cancelation, two years ago.

The view from my room at Le Grandeur Palm Resort Johor
I can remember it as if it was just yesterday. The date when I had arranged with the resort for my elder sister, two nieces and I to stay was Jan 14, 2016, with an afternoon check-in.

That same morning, dad was feeling discomfort from a skin condition so I made an appointment with his doctor for a consultation. As usual, after an early lunch mum and I accompanied dad to his doctor’s clinic.

I told my sister to wait in her house with our nieces as I should drop the seniors home after the doctor’s consultation before going to pick them and proceed to our resort stay.

It all sounded quite simple and straightforward but everything changed in a matter of moments when dad suddenly collapsed with an acute stroke after his consultation with the doctor.

Jennifer and I, chilling out at the balcony on level two
When dad was rushed to the Emergency Room and in the care of his doctor, I phoned my siblings to update them about this shocking incident.

One of the considerations was to admit dad into a hospital – which hospital? – because the hospital where this emergency happened, did not have any available bed.

While making urgent calls and decisions, one of the important calls I made was to cancel our staycation with this resort.

So instead of chilling out at the resort that night, I was seated on a chair, keeping vigil by my dad’s bed in the Men’s Ward at Hospital Sultanah Aminah, Johor Baru.

Since that momentous day two years ago, I have not been able to accept a stay invite from the resort until now.

This personal episode just adds to my long and eventful experience with this resort, since it was first named Softitel Palm Resort, then Mercure Johor Palm Resort and now, as Le Grandeur Palm Resort.

Afternoon tea with local snack - cucur udang - and cool
drinks like Coconut Palm and Air Batu Campur
My friends at the resort continue to invite me over for a stay and its late January 2018 when I am here again, accompanied by my friend, Jennifer Liew.

I pick an off-peak date so that Jennifer and I will have a relaxing retreat in the pleasant company of our gracious hosts, Daphne Ng and Amirah Atan, fondly known as Mira.

After a warm reception at the porch and a welcome drink, we start on the first and most important item on our itinerary: A visit to the Allamanda Suite where they have arranged my books (collected back from their suites for this purpose!) for my autograph.

I’m delighted to see that some of the books are already slightly worn and dog-eared, a jolly good sign that guests have been reading the book during their stay here!

Chef Nizam performing his
fire show at the teppan grill
I’m deeply grateful for the support and foresight of resort general manager, Jef Kong, who knows that guests staying in their suites will enjoy reading about Johor, her people and heritage from a book by a local writer.

By the time I have all the books autographed and all the photos snapped – candid and posed – taken from various arty angles (reflected in the mirror and such!) it’s time for our afternoon tea.

Then Jennifer and I are told about the instruction from GM that every Friday evening, all the heads of departments should gather for games and outdoor activities not only for the benefit of bonding and team-building but also for a healthier lifestyle.

So while our hosts politely excuse themselves to participate in this weekly activity, Jennifer and I are ferried to the adjacent Palm Resort Golf & Country Club clubhouse where we will savour a leisurely afternoon tea.

We are told that a sumptuous Japanese teppanyaki dinner is being arranged for tonight, so it’s just nice to have a light snack of local fried fritters – cucur udang – with a side of chilli dip sauce, along with our choice of drinks.

Chef Nizam writes out
My Johor Stories on teppan grill
Their coconut juice flavoured with palm sugar or Gula Melaka and filled with slices of young coconut flesh comes highly recommended, so Jennifer decides to have it.

I pick ABC – Air Batu Campur – shaved ice with condiments but request that they don’t top it with a scoop of ice-cream because I want to taste its original syrupy flavour.

For the next hour or so, Jennifer and I enjoy a panoramic view of golfers playing their game on the well-maintained golf course before us while we savour our afternoon tea.

I’m familiar with the Food & Beverage outlets in the resort and am delighted to be back at the Sobasei Japanese Restaurant which shares its premises with the Xin-Shan Long Chinese Restaurant.

Daphne and Mira, are dining with us around the teppan table, laid out with placemats and the first course with small dishes of vegetable pickles and fresh salad appetizers.

Then the talented Chef Nizam joins us and keeps us entertained throughout the teppan meal with his cooking skills, presented in an energetic performance.

One for the album with Chef Nizam's artwork on the grill!
We put on the linen aprons provided and the chef kicks off our dining experience with a flourish of traditional teppan rituals followed by a skillful show of knife juggling and finishes with a dramatic flaming stunt!

“Be careful, you don’t get your eyebrows singed!” I yell in mock alarm as I automatically lean backwards when Chef Nizam sends the flames shooting upwards!

Armed with more than 10 years of practicing his teppan skills, these stunts that Chef Nizam performed for us, are definitely not to be tried at home…

Then we are treated to an exciting show of preparing fresh from the teppan grill, juicy portions of meat, seafood and vegetables, course after course, rounding off with a bowl of garlic rice each.

The waitress is on hand to top up our hot Green Tea and she finally serves us slices of fresh fruits.

The chef leaves us to enjoy our meal and conversation but promises to come back with a ‘magic show.’

No, I’m not expecting some sleight-of-hand or clever tricks but Chef Nizam still impresses me with his skill of writing alphabets the right way up while standing in the opposite position!

He closes his performance by writing a message memento on the teppan grill using a bottle of fine white sugar, skillfully squeezing out the hashtag symbol and today’s date and underlines it.

And when he asks, “What shall I write?”

My spontaneous reply is simply: “My Johor Stories!”

Below that line he spells out MY JOHOR STORIES in capital letters and ends sweetly with an arty symbol for cupid’s heart and shooting arrows!

Chef Ravi in action at the egg station
This is indeed a fitting close to an interesting teppanyaki meal with Chef Nizam. [The next day, Mira shared with me a video that Chef Nizam made from our time together!]

Then it’s time to enjoy our comfortable beds. Jennifer and I keep the side doors to our adjoining rooms open so we can continue our chit-chat before turning in for the night.

The next morning, we meet Daphne and Mira at the Ishwara Asian Brasserie & Terrace and when I walk around to look at the spread in the breakfast buffet, I meet my friend, Chef Ravi with his team at the egg station.

I place my order for a cheese and mushroom omelet and Chef Ravi tells me to go sit down because he will arrange to send it to the table.

It’s been a long time since I had the privilege of tasting an omelet made by the chef himself…

When I slice through its fluffy folds, I find more than the usual mushrooms inside and hug this little discovery to myself, aware that it’s specially made for me! [Thanks, chef!]

Check out the SQ flight going in for a landing at Changi!
I remind myself to keep breakfast light as there will be a generous spread to enjoy at the Sino-Japanese lunch buffet, just a few hours later.

But for now, we head out for a tour of the golf courses.

Two twin-seater golf carts are arranged at the porch and our hosts take the drivers’ seats while Jennifer and I settle in as their passengers. And then, we are off!

Guided by a golf marshal, we chug along while Daphne, who is also a golfer, provides interesting tips and info about each course and the challenges golfers face at signature holes.

The resort has three golf courses: the Allamanda, Cempaka and Melati courses, each designed with its distinct characteristics.

Jennifer and Mira on the golf cart
Observing course etiquette, we stop our golf carts at a discreet distance away from serious golfers lest we distract them from their game.

As we enjoy the sunny outdoors and panoramic vistas, I realise how these courses are located close to the flight paths of aircrafts arriving or departing from Senai International Airport and Changi International Airport in neighbouring Singapore!

Our hosts, also shows us the Driving Range and on our way back to the hotel, they cannot resist pointing out the trees where the resort’s mascot – an owl – roosts!

The morning air clearly whips up an appetite for lunch and when we arrive at the Sino-Japanese buffet, it’s just moments before a large group arrives and fills up both the
Sobasei Japanese Restaurant and the Xin-Shan Long Chinese Restaurant.

Enjoying a sumptuous Sino-Japanese buffet together
The live-cooking/serving stations for teppanyaki, sushi, sashimi, tempura as well as that for roasted chicken and duck, seem to be popular with diners who are just standing in the queue, ready to be served.

Rather than joining the queues, we place our orders for freshly-steamed dim sum and start with this. When the crowd clears, we then help ourselves from the Japanese buffet.

There’s just plenty to eat in this Saturday lunch buffet and I wisely pace myself so that I can slowly savour a bit of everything from appetizers, soups to meat dishes, with just enough space for a taste of the delectable desserts.

Jennifer and I deeply appreciate their kind hospitality as the resort has certainly outdone themselves as gracious hosts during our brief but memorable stay. Thank you!

The resort, located at Jalan Persiaran Golf, off Jalan Jumbo, 81250 Senai, Johor is an integrated golf, leisure and business destination comprising Palm Resort Golf & Country Club and Le Grandeur Palm Resort Johor. Tel: +607 – 599 6000. Website: www.palmresort.com

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