Weekend Escape – Janda Baik

Weekend Escape – Janda Baik

Categories: Kuala Lumpur
by Manjeet Dhillon
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Categories: Kuala Lumpur

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sarongtrails

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Janda Baik

The lesser known Janda Baik is a stark contrast to its neighbour across the hill. Tucked amidst a tropical forest, here you find the meandering Sum Sum river, accompanied by narrow winding roads leading to a quaint village (Kampung Bukit Tinggi) at its foothills. A serene and picturesque landscape, just a 45 to 60-minute drive from KL, invites you to roll down your window and relish a breath of fresh air.

I suggest taking a drive through Jalan Gombak (federal route 68), a charming route winding past traditional kampung houses. If you’re fortunate, you might catch the sounds of the kompang, signaling a wedding procession. As you journey along Gombak’s kampung, you’ll be skirting Taman Rimba Klasik Sendayu, a coniferous forest adorned with waterfalls, accompanied by cheeky monkeys and cyclists exploring the trail alongside you.

Take a moment to pause at the Orang Asli Museum, gaining insight into the indigenous communities that lived here before us. Here you’ll learn about the many different communities spread throughout Malaysia, along with their history and traditions. 

If you’re looking to support the Orang Asli, community, here’s a quick list of responsible organisations working alongside them:

Gerai Orang Asal 

Founded by Reita Rahim in October 2004, Gerai OA is a pop-up stall run by volunteers. It sells crafts, books, and materials made by or related to the Orang Asal of Malaysia. Beyond selling, Gerai OA actively documents and revives local craftwork. The stall collaborates with artisans to enhance heritage crafts, building upon the community’s existing skills. Through craft-making, the Orang Asal actively participate in forest conservation by generating non-timber forest products. Every penny collected from sales goes back to the artisans, thanks to a dedicated group of volunteers who cover operational costs and contribute their services for free.

Contact: Gerai OA Facebook Page

Gallery Gerimis 

I want to do justice to the team, so let me quote directly from their social media post: “Gerimis is a collaborative artistic and archiving collective that co-produces artworks and cultural content with indigenous Malaysian (Orang Asli) artists and artisans. Through exhibitions, publications, workshops, and talks, GERIMIS advocates for the Orang Asli’s customary territories and the return of these lands to their custodianship 

The gallery space is dedicated to indigenous arts and culture, featuring works from Orang Asli artistes and artisans,  as well as stories from our archives. This is where we hope (re)connections happen—with our indigenous people, our age-old forests, and the richness of their arts, culture, and tradition that are intimately connected to the land.

As you walk through our gallery, we want to bring you what is otherwise remote by giving you a better insight into the world we experience with the Orang Asli, because ultimately, it is your world too and it calls for each of us to protect and nurture this home together.

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Follow their Instagram page to stay informed about events and their impactful work with our Orang Asli.

Contact: https://www.gerimisart.com/gallery-gerimis  /  Gerimis IG page  /  Gallery Location: GMBB, Unit GM-3-18 & 3-19 at, 2, Jalan Robertson, 50150 Kuala Lumpur

Temuan Indigenous Artist: Leny Maknoh

At first glance, Leny’s artwork might be mistaken for a photograph. Upon closer inspection, you’ll likely do a double take in disbelief. The intricately detailed work before your eyes is entirely rendered by pencil, showcasing her exceptional drawing skills.

Leny draws inspiration from her roots—an isolated village in Negeri Sembilan known as Kampung Guntur. Her art often reflects the rich cultural heritage of the Temuan tribe, a Proto-Malay ethnic group predominantly found in Selangor, Pahang, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, and Malacca. This tribe stands among the largest Orang Asli ethnic groups in the country.

Leny also crafts jewellery using natural “jelai” (Job’s Tears) beads, a material still commonly harvested and utilised by the Orang Asal.

Contact: www.lenypencildrawing.com / IG: Leny Handmade Jewellery and Leny Pencil Drawing

Tompoq Topoh

Tompoq Topoh is the Mah Meri women’s first weave initiative. It translates to, ‘the start of a collaborative effort’. In 2023, Tompoq Topoh celebrates their 20th anniversary. Since its inception, it has successfully revived the art and practice of weaving, while strengthening the role of women in the community and household.

The Mah Meri are one of 19 culturally and linguistically distinct groups of Orang Asli living in Peninsular Malaysia. They are coastal people living along the coast of Selangor from Sungai Pelek up to Pulau Carey as well as Pulau Ketam. They are known for their nipa and pandanus weaving, spiritual masks and sculptures, and traditional dance and music.

Contact: FB: Tompoq Topoh

Kampung Bukit Tinggi

I usually stop here for a quick meal (at Fantasy Valley, see Eat list below) before heading up to Janda Baik for coffee at Pinto’s. Due to the narrow and often crowded streets in the village, I prefer parking closer to Jalan Bukit Tinggi (parallel to Karak Expressway) and walking around. Don’t miss the numerous shops selling the renowned Bentong ginger, known for its heightened pungency, spiciness, and higher price compared to regular ginger. To experience its distinctive taste, step into one of the local restaurants and order a ginger fried rice paired with ginger kampung chicken.

If you have some time to spare, take a leisurely stroll around Kampung Bukit Tinggi. I personally enjoy wandering down the little laneways towards the villagers’ homes, quietly pottering around. There’s joy in the discovery of hidden gems!

Stay

Villa Bayu

Perched 500 meters above sea level on an expansive 5-acre hilltop expanse, Villa Bayu offers breathtaking 360-degree panoramic views of the surrounding rainforest. Here, you’re likely to spot numerous feathered friends, and if not, hear their calls echoing in the wild. A highlight at Villa Bayu is the private batik workshop conducted in collaboration with Suria Artisan Batik.

Bookings: www.airbnb.com/h/villabayu

Rest Pause Rainforest Retreat

A serene escape from the urban hustle, at an elevation of one thousand feet, the retreat promises spacious and comfortable accommodation with forest views. Enjoy moments on the wooden veranda, play in the stream, or stargaze during a barbeque dinner.

Bookings: https://rest-pause.com/our-story/

IKAN Residence

IKAN Residence offers a serene escape with its contemporary architectural design. Featuring a tea bar and a miniature Japanese zen garden, this tranquil retreat is enveloped in misty landscapes from 7 am to 3 pm, during the months of September to December.

Bookings: https://www.ikanresidence.com

Eat

Pinto coffee+ 

If you only have time to grab just one bite, then it’s got to be Pinto’s, .known for its coffee beans sourced from Gayo Highlands in Central Aceh, Sumatra – an earthy and fruity blend. Picture a rustic treehouse, books to while your time away or simply just sit and be at one with nature. The upstairs deck is my favourite, allowing you to lounge on the floor while watching butterflies flutter away. When it comes to their menu, top picks include the delicious keropok lekor (fish crackers) and their carrot walnut cake.

Open: Tuesday – Saturday and most public holidays except Hari Raya. Closed every Monday.  Best to check their IG before you head up.

IG: Pinto Coffee+

A Little Farm On The Hill

Experience a weekend communal lunch (booking required) where they serve the freshest organic produce, homemade jams, and house-smoked meats, all varying with the season. It’s a beautiful farm-to-table experience, offering the magic of a relaxing meal with sophisticated yet comforting dishes. Picture slow-roasted organic meats with prunes and apricot, baked pumpkin goat cheese with toasted almonds, homemade flatbreads and dips, and baked trout with bunga kantan (ginger flower in Malay), all enjoyed in the clean, fresh forest air.

Open: weekends only

Website: https://alittlefarmonthehill.com/

Tanah Aina Fareena Cafe

Requires a drive away from Janda Baik, so perhaps this could be for lunch if you’ve stayed the night at Janda Baik. Located in the heart of a picturesque farm, this rustic cafe serves a variety of dishes and beverages crafted from fresh, locally sourced ingredients.

Open: Tuesday to Sunday from 8:30am to 10:30pm. Closed every Monday.

Website: www.tanahaina.com/fareena/

Restaurant Fantasy Valley

A short drive away from the foothills of Kampung Bukit Tinggi, Fantasy Valley Restaurant offers Chinese cuisine, with riverbank side seating. If you happen to arrive for an early dinner around 6 p.m., you might be lucky enough to spot a family of wild boar near the car park. Signature dishes here are curry wild boar meat, scallion tofu, and steamed chicken. And, of course, don’t forget a round of hot ginger tea.

Open: Wednesday to Monday from 11:00am to 9:00pm. Closed every Tuesday.

Pineyard Cafe

Nestled in an open-air setting, The Pineyard features scenic surroundings where you can unwind amidst lush greenery.  Primarily a Western menu with the one curry pasta dish.

Open: Monday to Sunday, 09:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. / Facebook: Pineyardcafe

Istana Lemuni Cafe

A charming kampung style setting inspired by Terengganu palaces, food here is traditional Malay cuisine and a small Western menu for breakfast, lunch, and high tea.

Open: Thursday – Sunday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. / IG: LemuniCafe

Do

Batik Workshop

Immerse yourself in the world of batik art with a workshop (booking required) by Suria Artisan Batik. Set amidst the serene and lush landscapes of Janda Baik, this hands-on experience will introduce you to the art of batik making using canting tools. Unveil the secrets of this ancient craft as you create your own masterpiece amidst the verdant forests and tranquil ambiance, providing the perfect setting for a creative and inspiring batik masterclass.

Website: Suria Artisan Batik

Sentosa Gallery

Spread across four acres of landscaped garden, Sentosa offers a guided tour (booking required) of their garden and three art galleries. Discover the history and stories behind the displayed artefacts and artworks, sourced from both the Nusantara region and around the world.

Website: https://sentosajandabaik.com

Waterfall hikes and abseiling

Lata Tampit, also known as Ulu Tampit, is a 7-tier waterfall suitable for hikers of all skill levels. The journey involves a scenic and rewarding 40-minute, moderately uphill trek through the forest, leading to either the twin falls at level 4 or the level 5 fall, leading to a pool perfect for swimming. YAccess to Lata Tampit requires a forestry permit, and the Radiant team can facilitate the necessary arrangements for you.

Website: www.radiant-retreats.com

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