Lenggong Valley is well-known for its archaeological history, like the all-important Perak Man. But there is one other attraction: Permaculture Perak, a farmstay hidden in the lush jungle that offers a unique perspective of off-the-grid living.
Two-year-old Yanka Ladia perks up when she looks up to the sky, pointing out to her mum Amy Tan, that she’s heard an eagle.
The bright-eyed daughter of Tan and Ladia Kuta live on their farm in Lenggong, and has had a rather unique upbringing in this off-the-grid farmstay.
“It has given them (Yanka and her younger brother, Tadeus, one) a sense of great freedom, to explore and to have a very rich environment to stimulate their senses as well,” Tan told us after our visit to their rural home in Lenggong.
“Being in nature is like being in the best classroom, and there is no other better classrom that I can think of,” Tan said.
Tan was the founder and director of Zentrum, a somatic-based healing centre in Kuala Lumpur where she worked as a movement therapist and educator. Tan had been teaching and educating people afflicted with illnesses and injuries since 2004.
Since moving to Lenggong, the 36-year-old Pilates instructor has sold off her business in order to focus more on educating children and enriching others in the same environment Yanka and Tadeus are growing up in.
Kuta and Tan have plans to run an informal school — or a series of courses — for not only children, but adults too.
“These programmes will be based on nature and its elements as well as practices that promote sustainable living.”
Tan feels that getting children comfortable in a natural environment, such as the jungle, is a “vitamin” to counter the lack of nature and outdoor stimulation that children have somewhat lost in the city.
Coconuts KL discovered that Kuta and Tan’s farm resemble the romantic narratives that we often hear or read of; how urbanites yearn for a stress-free and meaningful retreat and seek such spaces as a getaway from the smoky city and demanding environments of urban living.
But they warn, as they did on their website, that facilities at Permaculture Perak are pretty basic — without the usual comforts of city life — so as to allow visitors the chance to appreciate earth’s resources.
The farm is located on land that used to a tea plantation, and they use the existing warehouses to host larger groups — professionals or college students — keen on learning about farm life and living closer to nature.
In a separate building, there are five rooms for guests who come as couples, friends or for families with young children. Kuta and Tan’s house is located just next to the guesthouse. Amidst the farm, there is a small wading pool in which guests and hosts can enjoy a dip on a sunny day.
All meals are provided at the farmstay, and guests and hosts can prepare these meals together. This usually involves making omelettes and bread, depending on the dietary requirements of visitors.
They also offer tours of the land, where they house chickens and cows, getting a daily supply of eggs. Cows offer them a consistent supply of fertiliser to enrich the soil in the farm. This tour is part of a farmstay feature, which can be booked in advanced.
They grow their own vegetables, and have a wide range of herbs, lime, tomatoes, nutmeg and eucalyptus, winter melon and turmeric – the blue and white kinds included.
“Growing our own food is a matter of prestige. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of others, I say,” 44-year-old Kuta explained. They make nutmeg candy, along with a refreshing nutmeg juice.
They also prepare homes for bees in order to harvest fresh honey.
The former structural engineer retreated to the countryside after spending years working in corporate Kuala Lumpur.
His past job involved scaling buildings to check on safety aspects for the infrastructure industry. But he longed for something more meaningful.
Kuta is from a town called Pilsen in the Czech Republic. He saw an opportunity to practice farm-styled living in Lenggong in 2008. He met Tan a few years later when she was a guest at the farmstay.
The couple is currently leasing the land from the Perak state government and are in the midst of sorting out their permanent status to reside and use the land.
“Living off-the-grid is enjoyable but it has its challenges. The farmstay that we run, helps provide us some income, “ he adds.
The farm is located about 7 km from Lenggong town in UNESCO heritage site Lenggong Valley, but it is far from being connected to the usual utilities that we may be used to.
Kuta built his own solar system to supply a low voltage of 24W of electricity to the house. This supply is used to power lights at night, a refrigerator and charge phones but this homemade power source teaches the family to use this resource more efficiently.
Permaculture Perak source their water from the mountain. All waste is recycled, reused and kitchen waste is made into a compost that will go into fertilising the vegetables.
Visitors can get to Lenggong by car, and will be picked up by the couple in their 4WD to be able to travel on the mountainous road and tackle the jungle setting.
The family’s relationship with nature is indeed a unique one as Tan summarises their lifestyle by stating that being on this farm had shown the family that it was possible to live well with very little and in simplicity.
“I would not have done anything differently since living here, because it would take the learning experience away and the experience of living (like this ) is very rich.”