Although Bon Ton didn't blow me away visually on first sight, its understated, weather-beaten charm grew on me with every day of our seven-night stay. It's a compact place, with a small number of traditional stilted houses overlooking a simple pool (with a lagoon beyond) and a clubhouse bar/restaurant, all within a few seconds' walk of each other.
We stayed in the 120-year old Palm, which had been found by the owners, dismantled and rebuilt in its new location. Although some of the houses have outdoor facilities, Palm's are all inside, including a handsome wooden bathtub and a corner shower, where the water simply drops through gaps in the floorboards and onto a pile of rocks below the house - simple and effective. The house was spacious and characterfully decorated, with a very high roof and wooden shuttered windows all the way along each wall, that let in plenty of light during the day.
Some small niggles re. the room: a solid headboard would have been more comfortable for sitting and reading, and the TV (DVDs only, free hire from reception) was oddly placed next to the bed, in a position that made for awkward viewing. Although the army of cleaners did a great job each morning, the bath tub wasn't 100% spotless on arrival. My sore bum also missed the comforts of upholstered furniture, although cushions were admittedly plentiful...
Bon Ton's sister resort Temple Tree is just next door, with two more pools and a colonial-style clubhouse restaurant, where your meal can be charged to your Bon Ton room. Between the two, there's a rescue centre/sanctuary for dogs and cats, under the same ownership. The cats have a free run of Bon Ton, and at Palm we had a cluster of around four "regulars", including the famous marmalade Skippy, the centre's inaugural resident.
The dogs did make a bit of noise from time to time, but it was no big deal. You're also fairly close to the airport, so expect a small amount of noise from passing aircraft, but it's a quiet airport and the planes aren't big, so again this wasn't a problem at all.
Pantai Cenang beach is just up the road, via a short, cheap taxi ride (easily booked) or a 15 minute walk (not recommended, as there's no pavement until you get nearer and it's a fairly busy road). There's a busy strip of restaurants, shops and bars - nice to have them all near, but even nicer to leave them all behind once you're back at Bon Ton, which is when you really start to appreciate the tranquillity!
The food at Bon Ton's restaurant was consistently excellent, and one of the best reasons for staying there. Tasty Malay cuisine with plenty of fresh seafood (I loved the garupa in ponzu sauce) and some terrific mixed tasting platters. Desserts are a speciality - try the palm-sugared creme caramel with a side portion of sticky black rice & coconut milk - outstanding!
Cocktail hour is 7pm to 8pm, either inside the bar or outside between the pool and the lagoon, depending on the weather. You'll be served a choice of two complementary cocktails of the day, with a tasty hors d'oeuvres dish thrown in for good measure. This soon became our favourite part of the day!
There's an additional bar, also on stilts, that looks directly out onto the lagoon, but this was sadly underused. It was a good spot for sitting in quiet seclusion on the veranda, though.
As well as the excellent food, special mention must be made of the charming bar/restaurant staff - a small team of great characters, who couldn't have been more welcoming, kind, friendly and attentive. They really looked after us properly, and our stay wouldn't have been the same without them.
Breakfast is delivered to your room in the evenings, and stored in your fridge: home-made bread, slices of cake, fresh fruit, juices and yoghurts. It wasn't the most exciting of breakfasts, but it did the job.
The expected problems with mosquitos never occurred. The rooms were fully armed to combat them, and neither of us suffered a single bite.
Car hire is recommended, and the rates are super-cheap: 100 RM (£21/$32) for a day. You'd be daft not to.
If super-sleek luxury perfection is your thing, or if you don't like cats, then Bon Ton isn't for you. But if traditional charm, offbeat character and the individual touch matter to you, then it's an ideal place to stay.
Palm is ideally positioned, and the facilities are all inside.
See more room tips
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.