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
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.
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.
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