098 TRAVEL: A MID­SUM­MER'S DAY DREAM

A colour­ful get­away of ex­ten­sive moun­tain bik­ing, trapeze catch­ing, and white water raft­ing is pos­si­ble in the chilly moun­tains of To­mamu. Daphne Ng dis­cov­ers all that Club Med To­mamu’s brand new sum­mer pro­gram has to of­fer

Marie Claire (Malaysia) - - Contents -

Life­style writer Daphne Ng dis­cov­ers what Club Med To­mamu’s brand new sum­mer pro­gram has to of­fer

When I hear the word ‘sum­mer’, I men­tally tick off a pack­ing list in my head: Shorts, sun­nies, sun­block, and crop tops. I checked To­mamu’s weather fore­cast and quickly scrapped my pre­vi­ous pack­ing list and re­placed ev­ery­thing with heat tech, down jack­ets, and jeans – fore­casts showed rain and tem­per­a­tures as low as 8 de­grees Cel­sius. Af­ter an eight-hour, red-eye AirAsia X flight from KLIA2 to New Chi­tose Air­port, my body was barely ready for the ex­ten­sive itin­er­ary ahead of me. Moun­tain and cir­cus acad­e­mies, trekking ex­pe­di­tion, ten­nis, and a raft­ing ex­cur­sion just didn’t seem fea­si­ble.

The GO (Gen­tle Or­gan­is­ers) team at Club Med To­mamu changed my mind in two sur­pris­ing min­utes. Sen­tha was the first to greet my blurry-eyed, light-headed self. Her hos­pi­tal­ity (“Wel­come to Club Med To­mamu!” com­plete with jazz hands and a tri­umphant stance) was as gen­er­ous and in­vig­o­rat­ing as the wel­come drink and hot towel the Club Med staff pre­sented to me on my ar­rival.

All 341 rooms and suites at Club Med To­mamu are prepped for win­ter. Sum­mer in To­mamu is dif­fer­ent, but no less lovely. From my fourth floor Ne­muro room, a lush green pine for­est of­fers a serene view for the weary trav­eller. At Itara restau­rant, the re­sort’s main din­ing area, the tall ceil­ing and glass win­dows give guests a panoramic view of the rolling hills and gon­do­las. Ev­ery morn­ing, dawn cracks at four, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot a doe (everyone lov­ingly refers to all deer as Bambi) or a Ja­panese hare.

When I heard there was an in­door heated pool just a two-minute walk away from Club Med, I quickly changed into my swim­suit. Op­er­ated by Hoshino Re­sorts, Mina Mina Beach is Ja­pan’s largest in­door wave pool. From the bal­cony, I took in the per­fectly sym­met­ri­cal roof and colour­ful float­ies of var­i­ous sizes and shapes in the pool (the pink flamingo and the uni­corn seemed to be a pop­u­lar choice). I set­tled into one of the heated jacuzzis, soak­ing up the warmth while lis­ten­ing to the lap­ping pool water min­gling with chil­dren’s ex­cited squeals.

There was no bet­ter way to start my day here than with a view from on top of the world. The main at­trac­tion to both pub­lic and Club Med To­mamu guests is Unkai Ter­race. I be­grudg­ingly set my alarm to 3.45am, aim­ing to be out and about by 4.15am. By 4.30am, the queue for the rope­way gon­dola ride up to Unkai Ter­race had al­ready started — keep in mind the first gon­dola de­parts at 5am!

The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the birds got to stand 1,088 me­tres above sea level in a sea of clouds. As I took in the clouds rolling over Hi­daka and Tokachi, I re­called what some of the GOs told me: “Not everyone gets to see the clouds. Some­times it rains, some­times the fog mists over.” It boils down to the con­di­tions (tem­per­a­ture, hu­mid­ity, wind di­rec­tion) and your luck.

I made my way to dif­fer­ent view­points and decks like the Cloud Walk. There’s a huge ham­mock called the Cloud Pool that sup­ports up to 10 guests at once, and Con­tour Beach, where benches are ar­ranged fol­low­ing the nat­u­ral slope of the hill. I wan­dered fur­ther up to a sou­venir shop cum post of­fice set up on the ter­race. For 200 yen (ap­prox­i­mately RM7), you can send a post­card with­out a stamp — an easy 200 yen from me.

SEAS THE DAY

I’m not an out­doorsy girl — give me down­time in­doors with WiFi or camp­ing in the for­est, and I’ll choose the for­mer. On day two, I steeled my­self for the first sum­mer ac­tiv­ity: Moun­tain bik­ing. My guide and GO, Oliver, de­cided to take me on the begin­ner’s route. I hopped on the bi­cy­cle (com­plete with safety knee pads, el­bow pads, and a hel­met) and ped­dled care­free on the slopes of the golf course. The vista was backed by post­card-wor­thy blue skies, sway­ing wild­flow­ers, and rolling moun­tains.

Drip­ping with sweat and pumped with adren­a­line from moun­tain bik­ing, I de­cided to try out the cir­cus acad­emy. Trainer and GO Macken­zie had a nonon­sense ap­proach to guid­ing my move­ments. “Grab the bar with both hands, jump from the ledge, hook your knees over the bar, let your hands go, and swing your hands up to grip the bar again, then let go!” she said while strap­ping a blue har­ness to me. Sounded easy enough, right? “What about those who have acro­pho­bia?” I asked. She quipped sim­ply, “Don’t look down, just look straight ahead.”

I don’t have a fear of heights, but climb­ing up the lad­der to be at eye-level with Club Med’s third floor was a bit more nerve-wrack­ing than I’d ex­pected. I mut­tered a mix­ture of re­as­sur­ances and ob­scen­i­ties un­der my breath. Grip­ping the bar with both hands as strongly as I grabbed Macken­zie’s ad­vice, I swung. I achieved the tricks seam­lessly, still in dis­be­lief un­til I landed in a heap on the tram­po­line net and heard the cheers from passers-by. “I did that?” I laughed breath­lessly, face flushed with ex­cite­ment as Macken­zie slapped me five.

CULI­NARY IN­DUL­GENCE

The Haku restau­rant at Club Med To­mamu spe­cialises in a se­lec­tion of pre­mium meat. Melt-in-your-mouth wagyu slices and fleshy Alaskan crabs had me prais­ing Ja­panese yakiniku end­lessly. At din­ner, guests were en­ter­tained by a Brazil­ian dance per­for­mance – a nightly oc­cur­rence – put on by the GOs. I was awed at how much en­ergy the GOs have. They make sure ev­ery­thing goes smoothly for guests in the day, and still have it in them to put on a show at night.

If you’re pay­ing the sum for an allinclu­sive ex­pe­ri­ence, the food and drink are where you’ll be get­ting your money’s worth. Itara hosts break­fast, lunch, and din­ner. Ev­ery meal is an ex­cit­ing walk­a­bout. I al­lo­cated about two hours for mul­ti­ple main cour­ses, side dishes, and art­fully plated desserts. Ten­der­loin steaks are done how­ever you like, freshly sliced sashimi is served on a plat­ter along­side moun­tains of sweet, glis­ten­ing

ikura or salmon roe. The high­light of the dessert spread were the swirls of Hokkaido’s de­li­cious, milky soft serve. Out of the seven buf­fets I in­dulged in at Itara, no two spreads were the same.

By the end of my stay, I read­ily smiled at strangers, re­gard­less of whether they were GOs, pa­trons of the re­sort, or staff. Of course, warm hos­pi­tal­ity, in­dulging in gourmet buf­fet three times a day, and free flow cock­tails would do that to any­one – and that’s ex­actly what a pre­mium Club Med ex­pe­ri­ence prom­ises you.

Farm Tomita

Sheep graz­ing at the open fields

Moun­tain bik­ing AirAsia X flies di­rectly to Sap­poro, Ja­pan from Kuala Lumpur In­ter­na­tional Air­port (KLIA2). Ride a dif­fer­ent wave at Club Med To­mamu this sum­mer www.clubmed.com.my

The Nest Zen Bar

Cloud Pool at Unkai Ter­race

White water raft­ing

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