This Sanctuary Named Aman RimbaOctober 27, 2011 | 41,018 views
“Nestled in the hills of Janda Baik, Pahang resides a secret haven by the name of Aman Rimba. Laced with endless natural tropical beauty, timeless tradition and serenity of the highest level, Aman Rimba is a private getaway from the world you have come to know.” (excerpt taken from Aman Rimba’s official website)
The brief moment when Chris of Pureglutton extended this invitation for a two days, one night retreat at Janda Baik, I was skeptical. Searching frantically for online information led me to a few reviews and websites on resorts utilized for team building projects. You know, the generic dorm-like environment that reminded me of one remotely memorable experience back in Langkawi two years ago.
That was sheer horror.
This is not.
And then I was told that the place was going to be Aman Rimba. From their website, and several blog posts published on the net, the overall feedback was magnificent. The idyllic retreat looked promising from the pictures posted online, and the prospects of spending two days away from civilization sounded so much more bearable.
I was actually looking forward to that weekend. And guess what? This turned out to be one of my most unforgettable travel moments of 2011.
Warning : A crazy load of photos after the jump. I can assure you, if the thought of wandering into the wild and yet well within the backyards of Malaysia for an ideal getaway never crosses your mind, this post might just change your perception.
Signature ‘kampung’ (village) fares greeted us the moment we arrived at Aman Rimba. A refreshing shot of ‘umbra’ juice was the welcome drink to quench that thirst, after the one hour-odd drive from Kuala Lumpur.
Yes, only an hour’s away. Slightly above sea level, the temperature at Aman Rimba hovers around 4 degrees below the temperature of the city beneath. That explains the chilly breeze come night time, and the advice to bring along a light sweater if you’re a hypothermia-prone soul.
Day One’s LUNCH : Ayam Hitam (literally translated to “black chicken”, was this sweetish dish of chicken cooked in a dark soy sauce concoction, with a faint hint of spices and chillies), Kerabu Mangga was a zesty mango salad not unlike our Northern counterpart’s, stir-fried Pucuk Paku (wild ferns), a piping hot Sup Tulang (or was it?) and not forgetting the Ulam (raw vegetables served with sambal belacan and the amazing sambal machang).
What’s this “Sambal Machang”, you ask?
Machang (or Macang) is an indigenous fruit grown within the compound of Aman Rimba; a slightly tarty and more fibrous version of the mangoes. When made into a sambal concoction, the sourish tinge of the fruit blended in perfectly with the spicy chillies, injecting some oomph to whatever dish that you intend to complement this with.
How did this concept of a private estate come about?
Sabri and Wati are the brains and the brawns (to some extent) behind Aman Rimba. Conceptualized from their desire to have a private gathering spot big enough to accommodate 20 rambunctious kids, this 3 acres land was gradually molded into what it is today.
The emphasis on the back-to-nature lifestyle of the ‘kampung’ folks from the days of yore, but not without the modern elements of comfort, elegance and the basic amenities.
Wait. Did I say 20 kids?!
Lest you had this twisted (in an imaginative way) idea of the love machines churning out offspring one after another, let me clarify this; Sabri and Wati are rewarded with two children of their own. The other 18 children (now young adults) were ‘adopted’ or rather, hand-picked by the couple for a special 15 years grooming module named Young Achievers Club (YAC).
Listening intently to their story after lunch, it dawned on us how amazingly selfless people can still exist in this country today. That there is hope after all, in the midst of political turmoil, racial disintegration, economic meltdown and social disharmony. Read more about the YAC from their website.
Sireh; the first structure to be built on this land. Still remains Wati’s favourite lot, the exterior of this ‘kampung’ home exuded a rustic aura of charming architectures of the yesteryear’s, while the abundance of classic ornaments, soft lighting and various knick-knacks scattered around the living hall complemented the ambience perfectly.
You can tell that an immense amount effort have been invested into decorating Sireh into what it is, and the fact that equipping the premise with modern ventilation means (ie:air-conditioners, electrical fans) did not take anything away from the experience was a clever touch of class.
Halia and Kunyit; both shared the same design and layout, parked adjacent to each other facing the swimming pool (yes, even with jacuzzi capabilities!) that is located right smack in the middle of the land. In both of these rooms, there is one four poster queen-sized bed and two smaller single beds (presumably for the kids).
This sulphur-crested cockatoo (also known as parrot, or ‘burung kakaktua’) had this annoying aversion to the male species. Yeah, while the females in the group were happily teasing and stroking away at this bird, the moment I raised my hand nearer to the steel mesh, it flew away.
Talk about distinct arrhenphobia.
There is a lake in the middle of the estate; with a couple of black swans and one solitary white one (the partner’s passed on), as well as a few ducks wading happily across the waters.
Although the water was far from pristine, there are various species of fish residing in the lake. And you can even fish here too, if you wish.
Majestically constructed facing the beautiful scenery of the lake juxtaposed against the lush greenery and the hills on the horizon beyond, Kantan consisted of two units (Kantan 1 and Kantan 2) side by side, and with connecting partition at the living rooms.
Comparatively larger than the other rooms, Kantan can easily accommodate up to 5-6 persons with ease, on each unit. The design of the bungalow incorporated modern touches yet never neglecting the basic motives of Aman Rimba; living in tandem with nature. Hence, you will see the dominance of solid, wooden structures.
Serai; the most strategic of all the 6 rooms, this was my sanctuary for the two days.
Why strategic, you may wonder?
“Serai is what we call the old man’s room. Since this is right smack in the middle of the whole estate, and nearest to the kitchen, dining hall (Pandan), the staff quarters and even the communal games room, the resident(s) don’t even have to bother walking far for anything and everything.”
How appropriate. He must have premonitions of this old bones being creaky and all prior to my arrival.
The whole structure is built from bricks, with minimal rustic, wooden elements yet the brightest room of them all. In the middle of the room was this gorgeous four poster bed, a reclining rattan chair by the side and surrounded by windows of all forms at every corner of the room.
Literally, I felt naked.
And then there’s the wonderful open shower option. Freezing cold water from the mountains channeled through the interesting bamboo structure, with thick foliage of trees and bushes to protect your modesty.
As tempting as that may sound, I chickened out and settled for the conventional rain shower. I don’t have the body of a Greek god. And I sure did not feel like sending the other bloggers, staff and animals into shock.
The Games room had a pool table in the middle, a TV set with Nintendo Wii gaming console and a foosball unit. You can also choose to cycle, fish, go on an adventurous hike to the waterfalls, or just chill. Like us.
Pity it was not the season yet for tropical fruits. They have durian, rambutan and mango trees all over the orchard. Wait, there was no fruit orchard. Not even a dedicated space for plantations to begin with.
Everything’s growing from everywhere.
This was a land deserted and left to Mother Nature’s natural cultivation before being developed into what it is today. However, Sabri/Wati decided NOT to ruin the beautiful landscape and natural resources within, choosing instead to build the architectures around the trees and vegetation.
Therefore, you will bear witness to trees growing through the roofs (at the Kantan units), and lush plantations surrounding most of the other rooms.
After the initial tour around the estate, Sabri and Wati bade us goodbye and made their way back to the city. They will always make it a point to welcome the guests by sharing the same table for lunch on the first day, or at least during one of the meals.
I took the opportunity and went on a short walk around the vicinity.
A plus point is that, at Aman Rimba, you can leave your doors and windows unlocked, all belongings unkept, and stash your worries away. I did not even bother to carry my mobile phone or wallet around.
Since we have the whole place to ourselves, and they only rent out the whole estate at any one time, we felt so much safer and more freedom in leaving valuables around. There is not a stranger in sight. Yes, there were about 6 or so staff attending to our needs and a chef cooking for us. But as Sabri put it in a tongue-in-cheek way;
“Our staff are best at being invisible to your eyes, yet not oblivious to your needs. They hide behind the bushes. Just call on them whenever you need them.”
A quick tea break of banana fritters and ‘bubur pulut hitam’ or black glutinous rice porridge with coconut milk supplemented us with sufficient energy, and thus we went our separate ways.
Some chose to stay back and read a good book. Others chilled and rested in their cozy rooms. Favourite pastime after lunch? The Jungle Nap. Siesta’s the best fiesta here. Or so I was told.
But we marched to the river directly in front of Aman Rimba and soak in the peaceful surroundings, interspersed with calming splashes of swift, running waters hitting the rocks. The river’s not meant for swimming anyway, since the current’s swift and the rocks are aplenty. But nothing soothes the mind more than being one with the nature.
And so, gingerly we stepped in and had a (freezing/shrinking?) fun time. Then we relaxed at the swimming pool next to the lake inside the estate.
DINNER – Korean style steamboat and BBQ. Not the most innovative of meals, yet sufficient to cure the hunger pangs. There were beef slices, chicken and fish, lots of shrimps and chewy slices of squids. Then the conventional balls (chicken, fish, squid, etc), quail eggs, sausages and crab sticks. And lots of fresh vegetables.
Amidst the serene environment and cool climate, this reminded me of Cameron Highlands to some degree.
I liked the tranquil surroundings the most. As if the world has stopped turning, and we were thousands of miles away from the city.
The crickets and toads started their nightly symphony in the background, while this boisterous lot were downing wines and sharpening their silent mimicking/acting skills for entertainment to carry us through the evening.
Or, you can also sing to your heart’s content if you wish. They have a karaoke set with projectors and all. Scream till the cows come home, for the entire place is yours.
I chose a traditional Malay massage, done by a Malay lady from Janda Baik village. They would be more than happy to plan for you if you decide to take up the massage package, but do inform the staff in advance, since they will need to fetch the masseur from the village.
For an hour’s plus of serious thumbing and pressing the pressure points, I felt rejuvenated after the tension was kneaded away. RM70 for one hour massage.
Suffice to say, that night’s slumber was one of the best in weeks.
Waking up to the chirping of birds, and gentle ray of the sun shining through the orifices around my room, it was already close to 8am.
First thing I did was turning off the air-conditioner and opened all the windows to let the fresh air in.
The crisp, cool and fresh air was nothing like the smog that we breathe in on a daily basis in the city.
BREAKFAST – Nasi Lemak accompanied by good quality crispy anchovies (the fatter ones with a clean appearance), delicious sambal with a kick, and nasi impit (compressed rice like ketupat) with kuah kacang (spicy peanut sauce) and sayur lodeh (vegetables cooked in a creamy gravy laden with coconut milk). Then there’s the omelette station, croissants and cereals if you crave for something lighter.
Oh, did I mention that coffee, Nescafe and Milo beverages are provided on a free flow basis for 24 hours a day? The ‘Hang Tuah’ brand 2-in-1 coffee bags were good though, but it’s not a local produce in case you’re wondering.
We adjourned for a short walk after breakfast, to the outer perimeters of the estate. That’s when we walked along the river in an upstream direction, and passed by a tilapia farm, some geese running about having the time of their lives, and trespassing another resort on the opposite side of the stream.
The sights along the path were fabulous.
It was like as though green is the new black. But what makes black the cooler shade anyway?
Everywhere we turned …. there were trees, shades, bushes, grasses, plants, flowers.
Huge bees busy pollinating the flowers; buzzing in harmony while staying care free and oblivious to our presence.Villagers riding on bikes and strolling on foot; living their lives the best they know how. Groups of guests at the nearby resort attending the lectures and going through their notes while seated on the plains, serenaded by the priceless companion of Mother Nature.
We would have walked all the way to Janda Baik village, had we been granted the privilege to do so.
But time is the limiting factor on the second day; lunch would served at 12pm to accommodate the needs of some of us who had to leave early.
Thus, we stayed in Kantan and mingled about. Catching up on life stories, and progresses made since the last get-together. How I spent the last one year in this city infused with steroids; moving at breakneck speed and how I embraced the transition from my previous job as a serial traveller around the silver state of Malaysia; Perak.
Lionel and Zen chose to fish in the lake. No modern rods to reel them in, but the bamboo ones with a string attached to the end. We were not optimistic, for this looked more like a pleasurable endeavour rather than a fruitful one.
Then he caught a catfish. For lunch. 🙂
And he caught the fish in time too, since lunch was about to be served. The chef was ‘imported’ from Kelantan Delights, the famous restaurant at Sooka Sentral and a second branch at Wisma Cosplant in Subang. Yes, that establishment is also owned by Sabri and wife, hence the transfer of resources.
The catfish was deep-fried after lightly marinating the meat with spices and turmeric, I believe. The flesh was of a toothsome, firmer bite probably because this was a fish swimming in the wild, rather than cultivated in smaller ponds. Hence, the tougher muscles.
Once again, the sambal machang was served as per request. Not one serving, but TWO since the condiment was walloped almost as soon as the first portion arrived at the table.
The Sambal Petai with Udang stole the limelight completely. Utterly satisfying, the crunchy stinkbeans paired perfectly with the abundance of fresh prawns, in a moderately spicy sambal paste. The other dishes were good, but not stellar. Though I personally enjoyed the brinjals cooked in a thick slurry of gravy; the copious amount perfect to douse the rice with.
The chef from Kelantan Delights; on a mission to appease the cravings of these 12 gluttons.
It was almost too hard to believe that the two days were gone.
At Aman Rimba, we were spoilt in every sense of the word.
The service was splendid, the place magnificent and the experience? Priceless.
You may not be a “kampung” boy/girl at heart. But leave all expectations, burden of work, tension from any arising conflicts and open up your heart to an unforgettable, therapeutic experience promised to revitalize your mind and body.
“Do you know what is the BEST activity to do at Aman Rimba?”
“It’s doing NOTHING.“
AMAN RIMBA PRIVATE ESTATE
@ JANDA BAIK, PAHANG
*Package rates from RM5,500 (2D/1N) and above, not inclusive of meals. Preferable capacity of 20 pax, up to 30 pax maximum. For more information, please refer to their website – www.amanrimba.com
*Thanks to Sabri and Wati for the wonderful experience. This review of Aman Rimba was by invitation. Big thanks to Chris as well for extending the invitation to us.