We live in an increasingly connected world where the blueprint for a successful hotel or hostel seems to have been repeated endlessly. We expect to consume what’s around us without giving much thought as to where it came from or how it works. Each night’s accommodation is similar to the last, offering little value other than a peaceful place to rest your head. On a recent search for accommodation in Malaysia I came across someone doing something very different, pioneering a new way to enjoy so much more than just a good night’s sleep.
The Cameron and Sigar Highlands of central Malaysia are a world away from the humid city of Kuala Lumpur. As new roads are built land is opened up to farming. Capsicums exported to Singapore, flowers to Japan and chillies for much of Asia. It’s big business here where steep slopes offer a lot of land to grow crops on. Along the winding highland roads from Kampung Raja there is one farm that serves a very different purpose to mass producing vegetables.
The Moon River Lodge invited us for a 2 night stay to not only sample their accommodation but also teach us a thing or two about farming, gardening and giving back to nature. I was very excited by the prospect which only grew as I arrived at the pretty farm house entrance. Our host “PK” came to greet us and showed us around his proud achievement. Firstly an abundance of colourful flowers lined one of the buildings with rooms in, stepping stones in the grass take you on a journey through some cute gardens that do more than just look pretty. The Keyhole garden expertly designed to be easily cultivated, included all manner of fruits, the Herb Spiral rose in to the air and was fun to walk around and explore, the kitchen garden running nearby the dining area was packed with vegetables and garnishes. This is all just on the first level around the main building, a pretty walk over a small bridge and up some steps leads you to greenhouses, a chicken coup with turkeys too and eventually leading to a large water feature offering great views back over the entire area and surrounding farms. On aesthetics alone this place scores highly.
But it’s not just about pretty plants and ingeniously designed gardens at Moon River Lodge. Their main aim is to give back to nature, teach guests about plants, foods and gardening while improving the land around them for further cultivation.
Moon River Lodge can accommodate around 35 guests at one time with a mixture of basic rooms. The emphasis here is comfort through nature so the rooms are simple yet comfortable with mattresses on raised wooden beds. The Malaysian government have yet to electrify this area so the farm generator provides power between 7pm and 11pm. To some that may sound crazy but you soon realise it’s at no detriment to your experience. When the power comes on be sure to charge your cameras for the next day! No electricity most of the time also means no distractions from nature, while they have a TV it’s rarely used, there’s no internet either, instead a healthy selection of fun board games and an impressive collection of books too!
While the remote location of this lodge and it’s beautifully landscaped surroundings are a very peaceful place to stay it’s still an active, working farm. Vehicles come and go, workers toil the land, fix fences and ever increase the gardens and planting beds. There’s also some work on the hill nearby, improving access to the land further up and offering more flat ground to add more farm activities. It’s great to see all this in action and while you’re glad of the retreat away from the urban life, it’s always interesting to see the activity around you
Gardening for food
One of the main reasons to stay at the Moon River Lodge is the activities and educational programmes you can get involved in. They run a number of different sessions that work for all sizes of groups. On our first full day a bus full of children from Singapore arrived and I had a chance to see the lodge staff educating a large group. It was a very enjoyable experience first being taught about different vegetables and seeding, before moving on to the rows of plant beds where I got to plant more mature seedlings from the nursery. I also realised that this really is a working farm with many mature rows yielding a decent crop of Chillies, Turnips, French beans and Ocra. It gave us a respect for the farmers who do this back breaking work everyday in the sun and rain. I was lucky enough to enjoy just a few hours of education and planting. I can see how this farm-stay would be great for couples, families and groups. It’s nice to be giving something back and learning a thing or two along the way.
MoonRiver lodge had a great blend of ultra-relaxing gardens and hammocks, friendly staff who loved to chat with guests and some fun activities and treks. They have some big plans for the land here with some long term ambitions to create a sustainable and educational organic farm. If you’re looking for a place to get away from it all and do something a little different I can definitely recommend a farmstay at the MoonRiver Lodge in the highlands of Malaysia.
Check out our video of the Lodge and it’s activities. Enjoy!