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Category: Malaysia

Secret Sanctuary A Stone’s Throw Away From KL

Janda Baik is known to be one of the more popular natural getaways for local KL and PJ urbanites. With umpteen crisscrossing streams flowing through the area, it is a…

Janda Baik is known to be one of the more popular natural getaways for local KL and PJ urbanites. With umpteen crisscrossing streams flowing through the area, it is a popular site for weekend picnickers and small corporate group meetings. Over the recent years, Janda Baik has soared in popularity with new signposts emerging along the winding road leading into the area. From kampung style homestays to conference-type resorts, Janda Baik offers a variety of lodging options.

However, the option of private estates is rare, especially if you are looking for pure exclusivity and excellent hospitality. Aman Rimba was an excellent find. Situated within Kampung Janda Baik, this three acre private estate houses six villas, four of which embodies the Malay kampung (village) style built up. The six villas, Sireh (betel), Serai (lemongrass), Kantan (ginger flower), Halia (Ginger) and Kunyit (Tumeric) named after Malaysian typical well-loved herbs is able to comfortably accommodate up to 25 people, ideal for small corporate groups or large family retreats.

Aman Rimba

I made my way to Aman Rimba on a weekday afternoon in time for lunch. Ashari Shuib, the resort manager greeted me as the sturdy wooden picket door opened into the estate. Cobbled staircase led up to Selasih, an open air pavilion where I was offered a glass of cucumber and lemon house blend. I was immediately drawn to the surrounding garden, an amalgamation of manicured landscaping and rugged kampung lawn. Heliconias, hibiscus, wild orchids, Ixoras and lilies are just a few of the many blooms speckled around the estate.

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I ventured further into Sireh, the first kampung house built on the estate, as Ashari unravelled the story of how Aman Rimba came about. Owned by Sabri Rahman and his wife Wati, Aman Rimba initially started off as a family weekend getaway hideout. “It literally started off with a park table, some chairs and a platform next to the river in front of the resort,” says Ashari. Then Sireh was built and that was the weekend home for Sabri and Wati. Years went by and the couple received many requests for the place to be rented out and eventually, another kampung house came into being, and then another, and finally in 2009, Aman Rimba was open to the public.

The organic growth of Aman Rimba is one of the secret ingredients of why it has retained its homey feel. Leading up to Sireh, the family home, is a large living room area with comfy plush sofas, a selection of good reads, a coffee table and hand-picked furniture and fixtures dating all the way back to the 1950s. One can imagine the spacious living room used as a family space for tea time chats and children playing congkak, a traditional Malaysian game using marbles. Sireh has only one bedroom with a massive four poster bed drabbed with silky linen cloth and a sizable bathroom with a glass ceiling above the shower area.

Aman Rimba Villa Interior_Aman Rimba_Ardent Traveler_2013Bathroom_Aman Rimba_Ardent traveler_2013

Halia, Kunyit and Serai are slightly modern kampung houses with beautifully crafted wooden door frames leading into the house. There is so much attention to detail when it comes to the interior and exterior design of these houses. Every tile, sculpture, bed frame and lamp is hand-picked and each kampung house is different aesthetically, although the layout may be similar.

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A particular highlight in the estate are the newest units; Kantan I and II, a modern and lux dash to kampung living. Kantan features a grand sense of space with a high timber ceiling living area overlooking a pond with bobbing ducks and black swans. The unit offers modern day comforts such as high definition flat screen tv, air condition, power jet Jacuzzi, semi-open air shower area, a massive four-poster bed, unlimited supply of coffee, tea and milo, and a small day-bed cushioned with plush embroidered pillows ideal for daytime lounging. It does get better… as the tall wooden vertical glass windows open up to an outdoor verandah overlooking the entire estate.

Aman  Rimba Villa Aman Rimba Villa Daybed_Aman Rimba_Ardent Traveler_2013

However, at Aman Rimba, the most utilized space is D’Pandan, the common dining area. This is where all the chatter happens and delightful meals are served. Breakfast is thrown in if you stay a night at Aman Rimba, but one will not be satisfied with just breakfast given the selection of local dishes to choose from. From a variety of grilled meats marinated with Malaysian spices to slow cooked curries, from Chinese steamboat options to a blend of western-fusion offerings to soothe your palate, nothing is too difficult for a whip up at Aman Rimba. Ashari jokes, “Sometimes our guest jovially ‘blames’ us for the extra kilos they put on after a stay here.”

D Pandan

I was treated to a generous spread of nasi campur (mix rice) with choice of grilled ikan keli (fresh water fish), ayam goreng berempah (fried spiced chicken), ulam (local herbs), sup tulang (peppery meat soup) and pajeri (slow cooked brinjal) to pick from. Ashari explains that some dishes are cooked in their small in-house kitchen, while other local favourites are bought from the local stalls in Kampung Janda Baik. “We have a select few vendors that we often patronize. It’s our way of giving back to the community,” says Ashari. He adds that some “fresh herbs are plucked from our small herb garden.”

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A mere mention of durian after lunch sent Ashari hunting for the king of fruits. Lo and behold, durian pulut (durian served with glutinous rice) was served for tea. Swimming in a bed of creamy durian santan gravy is block of puffy pulut and golden plump durian. The dish gave new meaning to the king of fruits as the flavours of sweet, salty and decadently pungent merged into a perfect dessert blend.

Durian Pulut

As if there was not enough feasting! Dinner was a huge platter of fresh meats and veggies over a steaming pot of clear broth. After tea, we made our way to the local farmers market in Bukit Tinggi to shop for fresh veggies that will be consumed for dinner. Much to my amazement, the selection was aplenty, with uncommon fresh herbs, veggies and edible flowers to choose from.


Aman Rimba is designed for families in mind; however it is also ideally suited for corporate groups. With facilities such as a swimming pool, games room, small gazebos sprawled over the estate for small group discussions or quiet contemplation and bicycles for bee lining around the estate, both children and adults will appreciate this place with the exclusivity it promises.

Before I bid farewell, Ashari and I took a walk to Kampung Janda Baik, taking in all that this destination had to offer. Meandering into small gravel dirt lanes, Ashari introduced me to Kampung Janda Baik where wild farms grow uninhibited and cattle roam free. Janda Baik is after all a haven to weekend urbanites, but really, at the heart of it, it is home to local kampung folks – and it is best kept that way.

Chilli Farm - Janda Baik - Ardent Traveler

And so, I left Aman Rimba with a lingering memory that will one day lure me back. Its authenticity of culture and sincerity in service has left an indelible mark of what a top-class Malaysian retreat can be. And what’s not to like? With such good food (that’s the Malaysian in me speaking), I dived into a hearty bowl of mee rebus before bidding farewell.

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Local Delights In Malacca

Take advantage of long weekends and head to the famous UNESCO World Heritage city of Melaka. Famed for its rich Portuguese and Dutch heritage from years gone by, this city…

Take advantage of long weekends and head to the famous UNESCO World Heritage city of Melaka. Famed for its rich Portuguese and Dutch heritage from years gone by, this city is flocked by hundreds of tourists on a daily basis. But if you look hard enough, you’d find great local gems away from the tourists’ hotspots.


Being in a town where food literally dominates the scene, I dived into a controlled gastronomic fare. My mantra: Eat only to satisfy the palate and never enough to satisfy the tummy. And that was how I kept to moderation! A must try is the durian cendol on Jonker Street, a creamy dessert of shaved ice, green stringy jelly, beans, corn, dollops of the durian flesh and a hearty drizzle of thick palm sugar. Look for Jonker 88, you won’t miss it as there is a perpetual line of customers waiting to be seated.

For mains, try the Nyonya Laksa and Popiah at Poh Piah Lwee located at the intersection between Jonker Street and Tun Cheng Lock. The small shop often goes unnoticed as tourists bypass it to get to the buzz at Jonker. The laksa soup is velvety with a mild piquant taste stirring my appetite for another bowl – but I resisted. The popiah, a local veggie spring roll oozed with flavour. Unlike other boring veggie rolls, this kept me hungering for more. At the end of the meal, I finally found the secret ingredient tucked among the healthy greens, tiny pieces of fried lard! (Not so healthy anymore…)



The next day I discovered another hidden gem called Baba Charlie, a haven for homemade Nyonya kuih. Located at No.72, Lorong Pantai Tengkera 2C (about 2 minutes’ drive from Jonker along Jalan Tun Cheng Lock), the house exterior actually looked like a mega-sized kitchen with trays, pots, woks and kitchen utensils decked all over. I started to doubt if I got the right place, but as soon as I stepped into the house, my doubts melted away. A colourful patchwork of delectable kuih’s filled the table. A fickle mind and a growling stomach did not help with the selection. Everything looked good and the kuih’s came in different sizes, colours and filling. A tip, ask if you are unsure. Other customers are more than willing to help you choose the best buys.


For lunch, I fortuitously stumbled on the Hajjah Mona Assam Pedas Restaurant located at No. 6, Taman Kota Laksamana (just a few streets away from Jonker). It was actually the smell that wooed me in. If you are up to a hot and spicy meal, don’t miss out on this. This Malay restaurant serves up the best assam pedas; fish bathed in red hot assam pedas gravy served with hot steamy white rice.

Finally to seal the night with something sweet, try Putu Piring, light fluffy cake dough filled with palm sugar bits that melt in your mouth. There is a warning that if you start, you cannot stop! Find the tiny stall located along Jalan Tenkera at No.252 (next to the Sports Toto shop). It only opens in the evening from about 7pm till late.

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Frangipani Langkawi Resort & Spa

Self-learning and discovery is what Frangipani Resort and Spa promotes. Dispersed all over the resort are little notes, reminders and thought prodders informing guests of their green practices and encouraging…

Self-learning and discovery is what Frangipani Resort and Spa promotes. Dispersed all over the resort are little notes, reminders and thought prodders informing guests of their green practices and encouraging them to participate in this noble effort. The green team at the resort are well trained environmental wizards with a flair for communication. Throughout our stay there, new features, ideas and innovations were revealed to us – from the way the new eco-friendly building was constructed to incorporate a garden rooftop to reduce heat transference to the guests’ rooms to the traditional sophisticated method of waste water channelling.

This modest resort tucked away on the quiet stretch of Pantai Tengah, Langkawi, Malaysia boasts of its seclusion and family friendly features. A generous expanse of rugged beach spans the resort overlooking several bold and luscious islands across the horizons. Families enjoy day activities offered by the resort and settle in at night with music at dance at the Mentari Restaurant serving local delights that suit the international palate.

Frangipani is seriously committed in putting the 3R concept (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) into practice by monitoring, managing and innovating new ways to minimize waste generated in the resort. With the water shortage concern on the island, the resort is mindful of the impending scarcity and has built 85 water tanks to harvest rainwater. The rainwater is treated and channelled to various pipes for washing and gardening. The resort even has its own wetlands where grey and black water enter from septic tanks. This waste water is naturally treated by a precise selection of plants such as water hyacinth, convolvulus, mimosa and water lilies coupled with a mechanically induced aeration pump. The treated waste water is then pumped out of the wetlands for gardening and sustaining the veggie patch and animals on its little farm.

Blessed with 10 to 12 hours of sunlight a day, the resort has taken advantage of the natural light and heat by installing solar panels on each building. Hot water offered to the guests’ is heated by solar panels as a result eliminating the need for electric-generated heaters.

Generous and passionate about educating guests’, travellers and local communities, Frangipani frequently hosts environmental education workshops for student groups from universities and local schools at the resort. On top of that, Frangipani is committed to support local communities through a mesh up of environmental education and economic support. One such example is a social project with the single mothers at Tuba Island to produce and sell handicraft made from recyclable and natural materials such as newspapers, sea-shells washed ashore and pandanus leaves.

Frangipani Langkawi has come a long way and its success story lies in the owner’s vision to see the resort as one of the greenest properties in Malaysia.

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Shangri-La Tanjung Aru

Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, may be a large sized resort renowned for its impeccable service and beautiful surroundings; however it is what happens behind the…

Shangri-La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, may be a large sized resort renowned for its impeccable service and beautiful surroundings; however it is what happens behind the scenes that makes this hotel outstanding. The resort has been recognized by Wild Asia as one of the finalists for the 2009 Responsible Tourism Awards because of an array of best practices that have been adopted and applied.

One of the best practices of responsible tourism is “Their participation and Support of the Local Community through a range of philanthropic activities”. They sponsor many schools in the area, including La Salle secondary school, Sabah College, and Seri Mengasih, a school for mentally challenged students. They have adopted 4 students this year and have helped to provide an education for these children. They have raised funds for and donated various items to the schools, such as books, magazines, play grounds, recycle bins and others. The resort has also involved students in environmental activities, such as beach clean ups and recycle buy back centers within the school.

Another responsible tourism best practice worthy of noting is “their strong commitment to local employment and worker’s welfare”. Shangri La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa guarantees excellent staff conditions, as well as extensive training in environmental management for all employees. Over 90 percent of staff is from Sabah, and many of them have worked at the resort for over 20 years. It is not uncommon to find two generations of a family working at the hotel.

Finally, Shangri La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa is involved in a range of “innovative environmental activities that promote conservation”. They have adopted Zero beach, a public beach located adjacent to their resort property. They have accomplished a dramatic cleaning of the beach area, and try to promote local environmental awareness through education in surrounding schools. The resort has an organized and efficient recycling separation process, as well as composting all organic waste with Bokashi, a microbe enzyme that speeds up the composting process. Recently, the hotel has taken the initiative to involve both local schools and hotel guests in making EM mud balls containing this microbe in order to release into polluted streams. The mud balls slowly dissolve and release microbes into the water stream to help improve water quality. The resort has also taken on the immense uphill battle of helping to clean up the neighboring water village, wrought with layers of rubbish.

Shangri La’s Tanjung Aru Resort & Spa understand the importance of being a leading role model in local environmental conservation and social empowerment. They have a long uphill battle presented before them, but are committed to improving the surrounding natural and cultural heritage.

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