Thursday, May 3, 2012

PLKN @ Benum Hill Resort, Raub

Little that we knew of the existence of Benum Hill Resort despite passing through the place every time we "balik kampung". It was only when Kakak was offered to attend the National Service there in January 2012. We were contemplating not to allow her to go and trying to make up all kind of reasons. Well, so many incidents that we heard in the news since PLKN started few years back but at the same time Abah wanted Kakak to get the experience of mixing with a different group of people. So, we finally decided that she should just go and see what PLKN has to offer.

We sent her off at Zetro in Wangsa Melawati. When we arrived there were already so many buses going to several PLKN camps and few buses were sending the students to LCCT for camps in Sabah and Sarawak. Luckily she was not selected to go there! For those that were not from boarding schools, parting with the families can be very hard and 3 months is a long time. There were lots of tears when the buses finally left the Zetro compound. We said goodbye to her and promised that we would visit her come Sunday. Families are allowed to visit their children on Sunday from 8am to 5pm sharp! That's the rule you have to abide by. There was once when we arrived 10 minutes before 5pm and true enough we were given only 10 minutes to meet her before we say goodbye.

That was the start of our routine every sundays for the next 2.5 months. We are quite fortunate that Raub is only 1.5 hours drive from KL. We usually leave home around 10am so we could reach Raub in time for lunch. We would stop to buy lunch at our favourite stall, "masakan kampung" in Raub and Ibu would bring her "mangkuk tingkat" to keep all the food. Well, the lady at the stall already recognized us and I guess she knew what our favourite "lauk" i.e Sambal Lodeh Pahang. When we reach the camp, we would look for the best place to have picnic and we were not the only one since all other parents do exactly the same. Finding the best spot can sometimes be challenging.

From the stories that Kakak has been telling us, we know that she enjoyed herself there. There were three of them from MTS Tanah Merah, three boys and she being the only girl. She was lucky to have stayed in a chalet with two bathrooms shared with 5 other girls, one of them is a chinese. They have to follow strict daily routine from training, praying, attending classes and sports. But I know that the food there is good, no complaint since they are given 6 meals a day! Just imagine how much the government spend on taxpayers money to pay for the National Service. Each trainer is paid RM50 a day for their meals, no wonder they put on weight at the end of the training rather than loose wait from all the hardcore routine exercises.

All in all, it could be a good thing for the kids to attend PLKN. They get to meet with people from other races and schools and learn to make friends and live together. They learnt and acquired knowledge from the lectures on character building, Integration (culture and races) and physical activities conducted there. Learn to be tough and discipline from the training. Learnt how to use M16 which not everyone will have that chance, not even Ibu who is a daughter to an army officer! At the camp, they called Dini as "Ustazah", probably because of the school she went to and her longer than usual hijab. We told her that she should share her knowledge in Islam with her friends there and be a role model. True enough one of the Wira from MTS was the "Imam" and everyone look forward to him being the imam in solat because of his excellent recitation.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

TaNaH AiNa FaRrAh SoRaYa ~ A Journey of Love Back to the Nature

Have you heard of this place? We accidently bumped into this place when Ibu was goggling for a place to stay in Raub. It was during March school holidays and we wanted to fetch Kakak at PLKN Camp in Benum Hill Resort in Raub. She completed her National Service after approximately 2.5 months training and we thought we should have a family holiday. We decided to attend her graduation ceremony on Friday and shoot off to Fraser's Hill for 2 nights.   That was the plan and Ibu booked a room at Shahzan Inn. Just few days before we commence our journey, Kakak informed that she could only be released on Saturday. Rather than heading to Fraser's Hill and coming down to Raub to fetch her and going back up again, we decided to find a decent place to stay in Raub. That was when we discovered Tanah Aina.  

Little that we knew that Raub has so much to offer. During our trips to Raub to visit Kakak almost every weekend, we came across Casabrina, a high end resort located on top of a hill with magnificent view. The price for one night stay can give you a heart attack! Nevertheless, it is a beautiful resort especially for those nature lovers. Back to Tanah Aina, the reviews in the web about this place were excellent and the price is more affordable compared to Casabrina. Regardless which type of accommodation you select, the price on average is RM250 per pax comprising 4 meals, 1 guided jungle trekking to the waterfall and 1 night walk. We chose the biggest chalet, Chalet Ulam Raja that can accommodate 4 pax right at the end of the resort. Full payment has to be made in advance prior to your arrival to secure the chalet. That's how in demand this place is.

So, we left for Tanah Aina without Kakak. On arrival, the driver already waited for us to take us to the resort. We had to endure the 4WD to get to the resort from the main road. The driver is so skillful having to constantly negotiate with the uneven terrain. We could not contain our excitement and kept wondering what is install for us at the resort. When we finally reached the place, we had a wonderful surprise. The place is just awesome with a river flowing through the resort. All you could hear was the sound of water splashing and the air breezing. We were served with welcome drinks, syrup with mint (their signature drink) just like a 5 star hotel service, so refreshing.  Later we were shown to our room. An English style chalet in the middle of a rainforest with river passing through, what more can you ask for? 

It took us a while to settle down from admiring the beauty of the resort. The chalets that were built along the river and the bathrooms located outside. We were later told that the bathrooms (modern designed) were built a distance from the river to avoid it from being polluted so that the water remain fresh and clean. Infact, Tanah Aina only supplied organic stuff like shampoo and shower gel to protect the river since waste water will flow back to the river, they do not want the water to be contaminated with non-organic liquid. You need not carry your toiletries except for tooth brush and tooth paste when you come here.  

Our first activity after a wonderful home cooked lunch was to go to the waterfall. Be prepared to get wet since you have to pass through the river to get there. Not to worry since you will be accompanied by experienced guide who will carry all your belongings in waterbags. The trek was about 30 minutes depending on your stamina. Since we were the only family going to the waterfall during this trip, we took our own sweet time. It's not easy for those who are not fit and have not been exercising to endure the journey but it was all worth it when you finally view the dashing waters that flow from top. Then you start to wonder how many more beautiful waterfalls that you have not seen in your own country! 

To make your journey more exciting and worthwhile, there is a platform built for you to jump into the 20 feet deep pool called "Leap of Faith". Everyone had their chance to experience the jump except for Ibu who spent more than 15 minutes at the tip of the platform thinking whether to make that leap into the " Fountain of Youth".  It was more like "commit suicide" jump for her! Not sure if she will still be alive after making the jump! Well, not everyone has the gut to jump from such height into such deep water and the gushing waterfall makes it worst. That was what being told to us by our guides. Half way back, Abah and Adik followed the river to go back to the chalet while Ibu and Abang followed the original track. Ibu had butterfly in her stomach all the way after the attempted jump! Tea was ready when we arrived. Nice hot tea after a hot and cold and tiring walk. When we returned to our chalet, the boys had another round of swim. Our chalet had its own private and secluded area that you don't have to worry about wearing hijab while taking a deep. 

That night after dinner we just spent time at the resort playing pool, table tennis and watching movie. There are also karaoke and many other indoor games available.  We decided to skip the night walk, still recovering from the exhaustion of the jungle trekking. We settled to bed nice sleeping in the middle of the rainforest, with sounds of river and wildlife. Well, just make sure that you go to the toilet before you go to bed. Going there in the middle of the night can be quite scary!

The next morning, we just relax while having our breakfast. Spent the rest of the morning wondering around and explore the resort while taking more pictures. You just couldn't get enough capturing the majesty of the natural surroundings. Adik attempted the flying fox but you need to have a minimum of 10 pax for this activity. Throughout our stay, we have been served with very good home cooked meals, so tasteful and delicious made from fresh ingredients, some are planted at the resort itself. Infact, all the staff at Tanah Aina are so friendly and most of them have been working there since the resort was opened. I was told that the owner, Puan Sri Sharifah Sabrina developed the place for her family to relax but due to the demand from friends and relatives, she decided to open it to the public. Not sure how far this is true. For us, she has done a noble job to protect the nature and we truly admired her determination to preserve mother nature. 

The resort is a fabulous weekend escape, not far from the Klang Valley. A bit further up from Bentong and just before Raub. It's excellent to build family bonding because you are cut off from civilisation, off and on reception for your mobile, no tv or internet connectivity. So you ended up spending more time with your loved ones. If you are looking for more challenges and not bothered about comfort, try their camping tent. It comes with all the amenities except for fan...but all the chalets and dormitories are awesome. The place is clean and we were told that Puan Sri is very particular about the cleanliness. They clean the toilets so very often. Before we left, Ibu took the opportunity to write in their guest book and we were very fortunate to have the chance to met the owner herself, Puan Sri Sabrina, such a pretty lady and so down to earth. We will definitely return to this place and tell the whole world about this discovery. Thanks to all the crew at Tanah Aina. You guys are just awesome.

A bit about Tanah Aina. It is a collection of four estates totalling 88 acres in Pahang, comprising Tanah Aina Azareena, Tanah Aina Fareena, Tanah Aina Farouq and Tanah Aina Farrah Sorraya.  Aina is a collection of four estates totalling 88 acres in Pahang, comprising Tanah Aina Azareena, Tanah Aina Fareena, Tanah Aina Farouq and Tanah Aina Farrah Sooraya – all belonging to Puan Sri Sharifah Sabrina Syed Akil, who is passionate about protecting and conserving Malaysia’s rainforests and natural environment. More info in their website or Like their facebook page Tanah Aina.

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