A green getaway for nature lovers in Hulu Langat

The soothing green landscape lends to the homestay’s calming ambience. — Photos: GISELE SOO/The Star

As the road began to shrink further, until it tapered down into a narrow path barely traversable by more than one vehicle at a time, we knew we were headed to a sanctuary that promised imperturbable tranquillity.

True enough, the moment our car was parked within the Tanah Larwina compound and its engine turned off, only the sounds of nature enveloped us. Leaves rustling in the soft breeze and water rushing in the nearby river composed a peaceful symphony.

Impressively, no bleating, neighing or clucking interrupted the serenity, despite the goats, horses and chickens roaming freely around the property.

“They’re my ‘natural lawnmowers’,” said Faisol Hussain, the green-thumbed engineer who grew his hobby garden in Hulu Langat, Selangor into this eco-friendly getaway, which was a recipient of the 2021 Airbnb Green Stays Gold Award. He explained that by letting the grass-eating animals roam free, minimal upkeep was needed to ensure the grass stayed trimmed and neat.

A quick glance around immediately informed us of the sustainable nature of the homestay. Old pipes were given a new lease of life as fences, while old kettles were reborn as flower pots. Glass bottles were repurposed as décor lining the pathways.

Old kettles are upcycled into planters; one even used to belong to Faisol’s grandmother.Old kettles are upcycled into planters; one even used to belong to Faisol’s grandmother.

The accommodations were modern in design, but minimalist enough that they did not disrupt Mother Nature’s beauty.

The main house is called Rumah Tebing, and utilised glass walls to create a seamless indoor-outdoor setup, allowing guests to enjoy nature even while they were lounging indoors. The two smaller sleeping pods located near it were strategically positioned to maximise their views of the cascading river.

“I want to encourage people, especially urbanites, to appreciate nature more,” said Faisol.

Since launching Tanah Larwina in 2017, he had continued to expand the collection of exotic trees and fruits on the property.

Taking a stroll among the greenery, we noted trees such as gaharu (agarwood), kelat hitam and terap. Interestingly, the trees here not only bore name tags for easier identification, but some also displayed small plaques of poems.

“It’s like a treasure hunt,” Faisol said, laughing, adding that guests enjoyed hunting for the poems – which he had written himself – that he had scattered throughout the property. Hint for future guests: They’re not just on the trees, so be sure to look up high or down low while exploring!

We halted at a patch of land a little ways away from the main house. Here, Faisol’s “mini Taman Negara” once flourished. “We are currently rewilding it,” he mentioned, explaining that a considerable chunk of the riverside park was washed away during the December 2021 floods that devastated the area.

The place momentarily ceased operations the following year, as Faisol had to handle the floods’ aftermath.

There was a silver lining, though. The floods dredged up roughly half a metre of sand onto the property, which he then used to elevate the grounds closer to the main house. At the same spot, he took the opportunity to build a saltwater swimming pool to complement the river’s natural wading pool, giving guests an alternative to river bathing, should they prefer a more enclosed environment.

The swimming pool and raised grounds would also effectively protect against future flooding, together with the retention ponds that dotted the well-kept lawn and the flood walls that were consequently erected along the riverbank near Rumah Tebing.

Faisol standing next to Sungai Larwin, which his homestay Tanah Larwina is named after.Faisol standing next to Sungai Larwin, which his homestay Tanah Larwina is named after.

Circling back to the house, we peeked over the stone and concrete barriers forming the flood walls, admiring the riverscape. Faisol pointed out the addition of a small platform below that jutted out over the waters, allowing guests a place to sit and bask in nature.

Alternatively, guests could revel in the relaxing scenery from the comfort of the house. Either from the small balconies that overlooked the river or the open-air kitchen and dining area, where meals could be cooked and enjoyed amid the calming river ambience.

“It took me a while to clean up this area and turn it into a hospitable homestay,” Faisol shared. It was a heavily forested, abandoned orchard when he purchased it in October 2011. Clearing works began two months later, and fast forward to six years later, Tanah Larwina (named after Sungai Larwin, the river it is located next to) was open for business.

Faisol has a pair of caretakers – a husband-and-wife duo – looking after the property, but he continues to visit it on the weekends as he, of course, enjoys gardening and tending to his vast collection of plants and trees.

Having grown up running around at his father’s kebun (garden) in Kedah, and drawing from his experience staying on a farm during his studies in New Zealand, Faisol has plenty of knowledge on gardening and sustainability that he puts to practice at his own property now.

His eco-consciousness extends to his vehicle of choice, hence there is an EV charging port near the property’s entrance where guests with their own electric vehicles can charge theirs as well.

Anyone who’s been following Faisol’s journey on his Tanah Larwina blog would’ve noticed that he mentioned building a second house on the property back in 2021. Not just any house, but one that he’s relocated from his hometown up north. Specifically, his childhood home that his father had built from the highly resistant cengal wood.

This second house, which he had tentatively named “Rumah Kedah”, was noticeably absent during our recent visit. When asked of its whereabouts, Faisol explained that he had to postpone its construction and was currently redesigning the house.

He added that he planned to relocate it closer to Rumah Tebing, to create a more cohesive setting since the property is meant to be booked by large groups of friends or family who wish to stay close together.

In the meantime, he was content with the place that he’s built and nurtured over a decade. He expressed his hopes to see more guests appreciating the act of winding down in nature, while taking time off from technological gadgets.

Here, options are aplenty: bathe in the river, watch the grazing goats, or go hunting for hidden poems!

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