Sekeping Serendah, which opened in 2000, is a private retreat that embraces its environment and intentionally keeps its impact on the surrounding area as minimal as possible.
By Palau Shavin
Weary city folk hankering for a break from the cacophony of urban living need not look far – or even overseas – for a well-deserved respite. Just a mere hour north from Kuala Lumpur lies an oasis of serenity, tucked in the jungle fringes of Serendah, about 10km from Rawang town.
Sekeping Serendah, which opened in 2000, is a private retreat that embraces its environment and intentionally keeps its impact on the surrounding area as minimal as possible. It does this by offering very basic sheds and amenities. You could call it “glamping” – something my six friends and I quite happily took to recently over a 3D2N weekend break.
Over a series of 60 or so emails, we merry bunch had sorted out the food, cutlery, drinks, toiletries (insect repellent!) and other creature comforts we would need for the duration of our stay. It is no mean feat – there is no in-house café to grab a quick snack or meal here, and the nearest convenience store is located in 10 minutes away, through a narrow path through two orang asli villages. (You do have the option of catering meals from the caretakers, who would provide an Indian rice meal for you at RM20 per head per meal, with a minimum number of pax.)
Intent on eating well, we decided to bring enough food for 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 2 dinners, as well as assorted snacks. One of the dinners was a BBQ, so we also brought along lamb shoulder chops, sausages, prawns, potatoes and chicken wings, as well as two large Coleman containers to store the meat and ice for drinks. We also brought our own pots and pans, spices and condiments, as well as pasta, rice, tinned food, instant noodles, bread and salads.
Getting to Serendah turned out to be a breeze using the NKVE and the NSE – turn off at the Rawang exit, and head up to sleepy Serendah. Just turn right after the police station, and follow the long, long winding road past the orang asli villages, ponds, etc. You’ll come to a small sign pointing to the retreat, and have to manoeuvre over a potholed dirt road to get to the entrance.
Check-in time is 2pm, and the caretakers are very strict about this. There are 10 sheds – timber huts, glass houses, mud huts, and warehouse – in all at the retreat, spread out over a five acre area. We booked Timber Hut 1, which is closest to the caretakers’ lodgings and entrance to the retreat, which is the brainchild of noted landscape designer Ng Sek San.
Nestled beside a babbling brook, the all-wooden and very open hut had two rooms, each with a double bed and a single bed, and an en-suite outdoor bathroom. There was also a fairly large living area, with a concrete table top on one end housing the stove and serving as kitchen and prep area. The kitchen also had two small refrigerators (no freezer), a kettle, a small wok, and an oven toaster.
The living room furniture was a real let down – wire metal frame chairs with a thin cushion that did little to make for a comfortable seat. As such, we spent most of the time sitting on the long wooden bench that ran all along the veranda (pic), or sprawled on the floor. All the flooring and beams were sourced from old homes, and give the hut a truly rustic feel.
But while one the rooms has proper walls to keep prying eyes and critters away, the other is quite open – the walls have planks placed edge wise, instead of flat, allowing very clear view of the living room and kitchen area, and offering no privacy at all. The beds have mosquito netting (pic), and mosquito coils are also provided, but we found little issue with the mozzies – the other creepy crawlies were more a worry.
From our hut, you can’t actually see the other sheds, as they are cleverly concealed among the foliage. But you can hear the occupants when they are particularly boisterous. But by and large, you will be amazed by just how tranquil the experience is, with crickets chirping, chickens clucking (yes, there are chickens, a resident rooster and one guard dog on the premises) and plump squirrels hopping from branch to branch.
The air is fresh and clean here, and the evenings and mornings can get quite cold. If you are an early riser, sitting on the wooden bench amidst the jungle sounds offers the perfect opportunity to meditate on life. Indeed, Sekeping Serendah has hosted a number of such meditative and yoga retreats for city folk seeking a balm for their soul.
This is the perfect place to de-stress: data service is practically non-existent, and even cell phone reception is spotty, so you can forget about constantly checking for Facebook updates, or even the office email. They will just have to wait until you leave.
If reading and chatting with your fellow hut mates gets dull, you can always head off to the swimming pool, which is situated at one corner of the retreat. Or you can try one of several hiking trails, go fishing at the Orang Asli village or even head to a nearby waterfall for a cold dunk.
Or you could choose to just connect with your friends, discuss retirement plans or share belly laughs in an impromptu game of charades.
All I know is that I went to Sekeping Serendah stressed over work and the rising cost of living. I left there appreciating that you don’t need much to be happy.
For more information on Sekeping Serendah, please visit its website.