About 40 minutes away from Kuala Lumpur (depending on traffic, really), is a lovely little kampung-style retreat called Carpe Diem Orchard Home Serendah.
Great for staycations, the 7ha piece of land in Selangor houses seven kampung house-style chalets designed to give one an escape from city life, and is especially great for large families looking to spend a short holiday together.
I chanced upon it on Booking.com, and was pleasantly surprised to find such a lovely getaway location so close to home. It was only for a weekend but I enjoyed myself tremendously. Having never actually stayed on a Malaysian farm before, my Carpe Diem adventure turned out to be rather educational, and I was happy to find something homegrown, because prior to this I had only experienced such a farm-type holiday experience overseas, in Australia.
Initially you might not quite appreciate the bare bones nature of the chalets – just a bed, some chairs and small tables – but after you start immersing yourself in the surroundings, you are bound to love what you see, hear and feel around you.
The entire facility comprises a three-level swimming pool, BBQ pits, bicycle paths (and bicycles), a large fishing pond (and fishing gear), a ping pong table, dart board, trampoline, a small amphitheatre for team building activities, and a huge compound filled with fruit trees, herb garden, vegetable garden, duck, chicken and goat farm, and lots more.
I was lucky to have bumped into owner Benjamin S.H. Ong one morning during my stay. Dressed in a straw hat, sunnies and a long-sleeved tee, he was quietly feeding the goats and asked me if I would like to join him.
After giving milk to a wee little kid, I was given a tour around the whole property, after which Ong began harvesting some fresh vegetables (spinach and ridged gourd) and fruit (kedongdong) for me to take home! He was exceedingly warm, friendly and generous, and I felt it so fortuitous to have met him that morning.
Ong, 61, was originally from Ipoh, Perak, but has lived in KL for 40 years. He started as a builder then turned to property development and management. He is now the group managing director of Prima Avenue, a community developer in Cyberjaya, but has no qualms about getting his hands dirty every weekend as he turns farmer at Carpe Diem.
“It’s a good weekend workout for me,” he laughs, explaining how he’s had the orchard since the 1990s but it was mostly used for private family and company retreats. For the last two and a half years, however, Ong has opened the farm for the public to enjoy as well.
The father of three (he also has a three-and-a-half-year-old grandson) obviously has a strong affinity for nature and can wax lyrical about everything on the farm – from how to harvest the fruit to the intricacies of poultry farming and bee keeping, architecture and fishing. He also knows every tree by name, when it fruits, and how old it is!
“We have mostly local fruit trees – durian, rambutan, pulasan, mango, starfruit, nangka, cempedak, kedondong, langsat, duku, longan, pisang raja merah, pisang goreng, limau purut, lime, lemon (both round and long), passionfruit, dragonfruit, breadfruit, ciku, pomelo... I also have just planted petai, jambu air, red jambu, Musang King and Asfa 50 durians, avocado and some local oranges,” he rattles away.
The herb and vegetable plot, meanwhile, feature misai kucing, belalai gajah, basil, mint, mulberries, moringa, tapioca, sweet potatoes, butterfly pea and lots more. A hop, step and a jump away, you’ll find a small colony of stingless bees. There are rabbits and birds around too.
Carpe Diem is not so far away from civilisation. In fact, just outside are a few restaurants and shops should you need meals or toiletries. But while you’re on the farm, there will be plenty to keep you busy – from going for a quiet stroll, to cycling or fishing. For me, it was a fantastic first time on an orchard. And Ong just made it all the more wonderful because he planted a few seeds of nature love in this city girl heart of mine!
I ended up cooking fresh spinach for dinner once I was back home and potting a leafy green plant I had fallen in love with, which he gifted to me as well.