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A wooden step back in time

How to spend a night in a villa you won’t forget

Here’s an interesting question. If you had a time machine, would you go forwards or backwards?


Would you prefer to see how humans are living 2000 years from now, or journey back to a favourite time in history?


I ruminate about this solely because I’ve just had the opportunity to spend the night in a vintage wooden house that’s more than 100 years old.

The Terrapuri Heritage Village is actually a collection of 29 antique villas that are between 100 and 250 years old and have been lovingly restored and preserved on a site in Penarik in the eastern Malaysia state of Terengganu.


Terrapuri translates as ‘the Land of Palaces’ and the layout of the two-hectare site is based on the 17th century Terengganu Palace and its grounds.


The restoration project is the brainchild of philanthropic entrepreneur Alex Lee Yun Ping, who greets us as we arrive at this remarkable location.


He tells us that back in 1882 there were some 1,600 buildings similar to the ones here but fire, decay and neglect practically wiped them out.

“For us this is not just accommodation,” he tells me. “It is our heritage and we want to protect it.


“We also want it to be sustainable so it can benefit everyone.”


To that extent the village is run by locals as a community tourism project and has that delightfully rustic feel about it. No big corporate signage, no commercialism: just a group of people trying to preserve a valuable piece of their history.


I can’t wait to get to my villa and having checked in I’m shown to one at the back of the property.


Being two-and-a-half metres off the ground, actually getting into the house is a challenge, particularly with the steep steps, which are (naturally) authentic for the time. Clearly 100 years ago they had tinier feet and shorter legs!

Architects would rave about the construction of these beauties. They’re made entirely of Cengal wood, which is durable but expensive, and put together entirely without nails; Alex jokes that they are the biggest IKEA or Lego sets in the world.


The craftsmanship is astonishing, the smell intoxicating. It’s like living in someone’s boathouse.


A few mod cons have been added, such as a double bed, air conditioning, a huge walk-in shower and inside toilet, but you can almost imagine life back in the early 1900s.

Sadly, we only have one night at Terrapuri but it’s long enough to sample the food on offer. Breakfast is included in the room rate, but guests can book lunch and/or dinner in advance.


This I would highly recommend as it’s all cooked fresh from local produce right on the premises.


Unfortunately, my Malaysian isn’t good enough to tell you exactly what we had but there was a clam dish and one made from a local fruit that was delicious. Most of the meals are fish-based with chicken, beef and vegetables also on the menu. Alcohol isn’t available unless guests have asked for it in advance.

Terrapuri does have a pool where you can flop but there’s plenty to do around the area. The resort’s tour desk can arrange cycling, kayaking, guided tours, boat tours for snorkelling around neighbouring islands or a trip to the nearby Setiu Wetlands and Fireflies Sanctuary.


Time it right, as we did, and you might be lucky to see baby Green Sea turtles being released into the ocean as part of a massive conservation program going on in the area to preserve the species.


Clearly whether it’s wooden houses or Chelonia mydas, preservation is the Penarik way.

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Written by: Jon Underwood
Published: 10 October 2022

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