Saturday, September 17, 2016

Aussie on the Road: A Sabah Farm Stay Experience with Kiulu Farm Stay

Sabah Farm Stay: Conflicted Emotions

The concept of a farm stay fills me with a kind of instinctive dread.

Having been raised in the rural backwoods of Australia’s New England region, I can’t hear the word ‘farm’ without my mind being filled with images of the vacant-eyed farm boys who made my high school years so unpleasant.

The phrase conjures up images of back-breaking labour, quiet boredom, and an unwelcome detachment from the comforts that emit from the tiny smartphone that has become every bit as essential to my being as my passport and my wallet.

So, it was a with a certain sense of trepidation that I embarked on a two night Sabah Farm Stay at Kiulu Farm Stay in Malaysia.

Day One: First Impressions and being happily proven wrong

I distinctly remember a growing feeling of desperate unhappiness as the beat up old truck rattled and bounced its way down an increasingly deteriorating dirt track – the bars on my phone’s 3G gradually decreasing and then, finally, disappearing completely.

A frightened chicken fled at my arrival. I did the mental math in my head as to how many hours separated me from blessed civilization.

And then I saw it.

Like a bridge out of some teen fantasy novel, the suspension bridge acted as a kind of barrier between the real world I was leaving behind and the remarkably fascinating world that lived on the opposite side of the river.

Something remarkable happened as I made my slow, swaying way across the bridge: I cast aside my doubts and surly predisposition and I just opened myself up to the experience.

I’m so glad that I did. My time at Kiulu Farm Stay would stand out as the absolute highlight of my time in Sabah.

My accommodation for my visit would be the newly finished Fig Tree.

As you can see, it’s a traditional long house style design with a modern take on both sustainability and convenience. Built from bamboo that creaks and shifts deliciously under your bare feet, modern conveniences like comfortable double beds, hot and cold running water, and a well-equipped little kitchen make it a perfect base to explore the nearby villages and jungle.

Each night, local women would come in to whip together a delicious local feast of kampong (village) chicken, tilapia caught from the many ponds in the area, and fresh picked vegetables.

Far from being tedious affairs, my nights were filled with laughter and comfort.

Whether I was teaching my host how to play Monopoly, drinking rice wine with the locals in a dimly lit hut, or sharing stories in the riverside sulap – I would go to bed each night tired and happy.

And the sleep! I don’t think I’ve ever slept so well as those two nights in which I was lulled to sleep by the warbling river, the twittering night birds, the rustling branches, and the chirping cicadas.