Always wanted to visit France but it got too expensive once the kids came along? Here’s your answer: check into Berjaya Hills Colmar Tropicale French-themed resort in Bukit Tinggi, Malaysia!
We heard that there is a super-Instagrammable place in Malaysia modelled after 16th century French village of Colmar, Alsace. Even better, as it’s perched on Bukit Tinggi, a hill just west of Genting Highland, the temperatures there are supposed to be much cooler than here in Singapore. A taste of France just next door? It sounded like the perfect getaway for a long weekend!
Getting to Bukit Tinggi
Most people heading to Bukit Tinggi from Singapore would either drive up or take a coach. The fastest route is to take a quick flight into Kuala Lumpur (KL) and arrange with the resort for a van transfer. However, if you’ve got all the time in the world and enjoy travelling the scenic route, try taking the old-school train! It’s cheap (about $23 per adult and $17 per child for a one-way trip), convenient, pretty comfy, and best of all the fun begins long before you get to your destination. You can purchase tickets online up to 30 days in advance.
Here’s how it’s done. Catch the first train at Woodlands Train Checkpoint for a five-minute ride across the Causeway to JB Sentral. As you pass both Singapore and Malaysia immigration before boarding the train, it’s hassle-free once you arrive in JB. Just head to the next platform to catch the second train – this takes about 4.5 hours and gets you to Gemas, Negri Sembilan. Along the way, you’ll pass little towns like Segamat, which is famed for its durians! Remember to pack some snacks and drinks.
Malaysia is in the midst of converting the train system to a modern high-speed electric one, which is why you’ll have to switch trains at Gemas. The third and final train picks you up from the same platform you alighted at and take you to KL in just over two hours. It’s super high-tech and cool – we mean this both aesthetically and temperature-wise, so you may want to pull cardigans out of your luggage – which can be stored overhead or at the front of each train car – for this leg of the trip. There’s even a snack bar on this train!
Checking into Colmar Tropicale
The resort offers a shuttle service to and from Berjaya Times Square in KL. However, that’s four monorail stops away, and with luggage and cranky kids in tow, we advise simply catching a taxi from KL Sentral. You can book Grab or Uber cars too. Depending on traffic getting out of KL, you should be approaching this gorgeous view of the Berjaya Hills Colmar Tropicale French-themed resort in about an hour.
We had booked our stay via Agoda, and checking in was a cinch. Getting to our room afterwards wasn’t as straightforward, however, because we had to keep stopping to take in – and photograph – the beautiful setting! We had arrived in the evening and it was really quite magical. The outdoor temperature was a lovely 22 degrees Celsius, where it would hover for the rest of our stay.
The rooms are contained in separate blocks in two rows. When we stepped into our one-bedroom suite, the first thing that crossed our minds was: It’s huge! There’s plenty of space for the kids to run around in. It came with a kitchenette, cosy dining set and living room that seemed as large as those in most HDB flats. Our suite was on the fifth floor and offered a lovely view of the Berjaya Hills golf course below and misty Genting Highland in the distance.
In the spacious bedroom, a private balcony opens onto the same view. En-suite is a powder room, leading to a huge and beautifully tiled bathroom, with a separate shower and bathtub. Children from three years and up must request for an extra bed, while littler ones can stay for free. Other options for larger families include the Family Room which has two bedrooms with a shared bathroom, or the two-bedroom suite which has two bathrooms.
The Next Morning
A stay at Colmar Tropicale comes with daily buffet breakfast, with a spread of Western and Malaysian fare. You can choose whether to dine indoors or al fresco. Imagine starting your day having breakfast at a Parisian sidewalk café! Other dining options around the resort include five restaurants serving up anything from fresh Italian pizza to French fine-dining and Asian delights. There’s also a casual all-day French bakery and a bar where adults can unwind after the kids have gone to bed.
Strolling around the picturesque grounds, you’ll find that every corner is a photo op waiting to happen. You can get a photo souvenir taken at the ‘drawbridge’, or look over the sides and spot white and black swans in the ‘moat’ below.
At the far end of the ‘town square’ stands an observation tower that’s worth a climb. Facing in, you’ll find a stunning overview of the resort. From the opposite corner, look out to a green vista of terraced hills.
Don’t forget to bring swimsuits. There’s a children’s wading pool next to a good-sized swimming pool, surrounded by deck chairs and beautiful landscaped grounds. Alternatively, adults can choose to relax with a spa treatment – or head to the gym – while the kids are having fun.
Carnival Fun and Games
Speaking of fun, flanking the cobblestoned ‘main street’ are a variety of shops and fun activities for the kids. They can handcraft their own plaster figurines, or simply choose a ready-made one to paint. The scenes of Colmar Tropicale make for a memorable souvenir to take home. Afterward, stop by the ice cream parlour for a yummy cone!
For more old-school excitement, test your shooting skills and win stuffed toys at outdoor carnival games. There are also kiddie rides for the little ones, while the older kids can play their favourite games at the arcade. Or have a 6D motion adventure experience together!
Need more entertainment? The stage by the town square fountain sees a family-friendly cabaret-type show happening a few times each day. Entertainers range from clowns, jugglers and fire-eaters to costumed dancers who might invite you up on stage to join in!
Shuttling to Adventures
For even more excitement, catch Colmar Tropicale’s quirky shuttle buses that run at intervals throughout the day. These take you to various attractions in the resort’s vicinity.
A favourite with children and animal lovers in general is the Animal Park. Cuddle up to rabbits in the bunny yard or feed the docile spotted deer around the outdoor playground.
Kids can also go on pony rides, or just hang out with the resident fowl, from chickens to peacocks. There’s also an indoor play set and ball pit for little tots.
At the Adventure Park, adrenaline junkies can scale a rock-climbing wall or cross the canopy bridge suspended above the rainforest. Or challenge the high rope obstacle course that culminates in Southeast Asia’s longest flying fox single zip-line at 530m! You can also go off-road and manoeuvre an All-Terrain Vehicle through the adventure park. Children under 13 years have to ride with an adult.
If you’d rather ride a horse instead, then saddle up at the Berjaya Hills Horse Trails. The cool highland climate makes riding around on an elegant Palomino or Appaloosa across almost 6,500 hectares of spectacular open countryside a dream.
Visit ‘Japan’ Too!
Arguably our favourite part of the trip had to be exploring the highest accessible point of Bukit Tinggi. Do note, however, that it requires climbing up a fair number of steps, but it’s definitely worth it. The Botanical Garden was perfect for a morning ramble.
Look up at any point in lush, leafy rainforest and find yourself dwarfed by towering tree trunks that seem to go on forever. Look down and around and you may spot all sorts of little critters, from shy skinks to colourful butterflies and grasshoppers.
Time for lunch? Pop into the Japanese restaurant that sits overlooking the rainforest floor. The menu offers a selection of bentos, sushi sets and rice bowls. If you get the chance to sit by the windows or on a veranda, keep an eye out for birds, squirrels and chipmunks. The chipmunks scurry up and down the trees like lightning, and are adorable to watch!
Afterward, take a stroll through the Japanese Garden. Once you enter, you’ll surely forget that you were supposed to be in a French village – two contrasting cultural experiences at one go! The biggest attraction here is the Japanese Tea House. Dress up in kimono and pose for photographs as you wander through the beautifully landscaped garden. You can also sign up for a traditional tea ceremony.
(See also: 10 Most Family-Friendly Hotels in Tokyo)
Whether you are looking to explore nature, get high on thrills or simply relax and bond with family in a mediaeval French village-themed setting, you’ll find it at Colmar Tropicale. Ready to start planning your trip? Check out the resort’s website for more information and get ready for a cool time in the mountains!