Updated: Nov 27, 2019
Looking for a nature-based getaway after the long hours in office buildings and traffic jams? You might be surprised by what’s waiting for you just barely an hour away from Kuala Lumpur. In this interview, we will be introducing you to a nature get-away experience, Tanah Larwina in Hulu Langat, Selangor.
Tanah Larwina is a self-catering lodge right in the middle of a 3-acre orchard and animal farm. Throughout your stay, no doubt you’ll be enjoying a gorgeous view of Mother Nature - a steady stream, fruit trees, and farm animals.
Our host, Faisol, has plenty to share about his experiences building up Tanah Larwina to what it looks like today. Read what he has to share with us below!
1) Please introduce yourself and the background that has contributed to you becoming an Airbnb host.
I'm a civil engineer with some crazy interest in farming, gardening and DIY. Ever since my uni days, I have always wanted to get involved in agriculture, having lived in the kampung in Kedah, and on a small hobby farm in New Zealand earlier.
As soon as I returned to KL in 1991, I started to look for a suitable piece of land to realise my dream of having a hobby farm. I had limited budgets and options. It took many years before I could afford and could find this jewel in Hulu Langat in 2011.
During that 20 years of land searching, I learnt so much about farming, aquaculture, cattle etc. It would be nice to make some money from the hobby farm. But later, I realised that for the small land that I could afford to buy, this sort of agriculture activities wouldn't generate much of an income.
The farm has to be reasonably big to be commercially viable. However, having an extraordinary villa on a unique farm that can attract people is something else. Instead of agriculture, I started to think about agro-tourism. That was how it began.
2) What is the meaning behind the name of "Tanah Larwina" and what does your villa's theme aim to say?
The place is named after Sungai Larwina, the main stream that flows along its boundary. It is one of the major selling points of this place.
The whole concept of this place, i.e. the villa and the farm is to be different. It's a retreat like no other.
3) As we know you bought the property sometime in 2011. Is there any particular reason that you chose this 3-acre of land for your villa? Anything would you like to share about the process of acquiring the land?
This land was chosen after a very lengthy process evaluating the many options available to me then. I was looking at many lots in Hulu Langat, Sg Penchala, Janda Baik and Gombak.
I weighed in various factors, e.g. legal issues, road access, terrain, rivers, availability of water supply and power, telephone signal, the character of the place, the challenges, potential problems, existing trees, distance from KL, and of course, the price.
This land doesn't tick all the boxes, (e.g. the phone signal is weak), but it scored the highest amongst all the available lots that I looked at.
4) Can you tell us more about the design of the building and the most significant challenges you faced during the construction of the villa? Are you the one who came out with the idea and concept?
The land is already naturally great with tonnes of characters. So, I wouldn't do it justice if I were to do a traditional villa. It has to be of great design. I want it to be of steel and glass, to give it the modern, minimalist look. But having great design alone is not enough; it has to be different.
My brief to Nizar Musa, the architect, was to create a compelling design that will be an attraction by itself. The idea is that, if I have the right product, it will just sell itself.
That had been the case, and there is no need for hard marketing work.
From the beginning, the villa has been occupied almost every weekend, because guests would automatically share their joy in social media, without any prompting. Having the right compelling product is a handy marketing tool in this internet age. At the initial stage, we were approached by a couple of social influencers- to promote the place for some hefty fees. We didn't take up their offers, as it was unnecessary.
For the design, I gave a long wish list to the Architect, e.g., different, elegant design, open concept, low maintenance, bright, airy and had wow-factors. He did an excellent job in fulfilling those wishes, after three years of numerous brainstorming and teh-tarik sessions.
The construction was also something else. In my line of work, I've been involved in the development of numerous major buildings. However, developing my small building in this isolated area, without a crane, big lorries and ready-mixed concrete is a totally different kind of challenge.
5) We love the idea of having the palm tree in the outdoor washroom! What inspired you to keep the palm tree and nature floor in the restroom?
I wanted to have a different kind of washroom, again, something that has the wow effect. It may look fairly conventional from the outside, but it gives a pleasant surprise once the door is opened.
No roof means it has generous natural brightness and ventilation. And it would get a good wash-down every time it rains.
6) How do you maintain such a big piece of land? Is there anyone else help you to manage the place other than your caretaker?
There are three full-time workers there to maintain the villa and the farm and to work on any new additions. There is always something new to do at this place; it's a never-ending development. I've still got lots of ideas for it to be done gradually. Occasionally when there is some major work, like concreting, we get extra help from the kampung people.
The grazing animals, goats and horses are my workers too- they are doing a great job keeping the grass nicely trimmed at all times.
7) As we know, you have many animals on the farm, any challenges to raise them?
The usual challenges in raising farm animals are feeding them adequately and maintaining their health. The significant problem at this farm is not about raising the animals. Instead, it's the challenges that the animals impose on the farm.
It's about how to keep the young trees from being harassed by these animals. The animals have adequate grass to feed on, but it seems the forbidden ones taste better. We have lost many young plants as a result.
Other orchards don't have this kind of headaches, as they don't allow free roaming animals. We just happened to be crazy enough to be willing to face these problems. In return, these creatures bring great joy to our appreciative guests and us.
8) Other than animals, there are also many fruits at the farm, including durians! When's the best fruits season to stay at TL so that the guest can enjoy the freeflow of fruits?
July or August usually is the fruit season here, but we can't guarantee the availability of fruits.
The place is pleasant all year round, and you don't need the fruits to enjoy it.
If the timing is right, then it's just a bonus to whoever staying here.
9) Have you met any unforgettable guests that make a great story to Tanah Larwina?
I don't get to see all the visitors here, only those when I'm around. When I do, it's always great to hear their comments. Malaysians are not known to be generous with their praises, but I'm happy to say that most of our guests have been so.
We've had many repeat guests, many have been here twice, or three times. One particular guest had even been here six times in the past two years. I believe that says volume about this place.
10) Any hidden gem that we should not miss near your place in Hulu Langat?
The waterfall of Sg Gabai near here is quite a well-known attraction, but it can be crowded during weekends.
What a lot of people do not know is the scenic route nearby. For those coming from the south, they should try using the Semenyih way, where the road meanders along the beautiful lake of Semenyih dam.
It's hidden because of the roadside shrubs, so look for it, and you'll get to enjoy the spectacular scenery.
11) What is your recommended food in your area?
Most of our guests enjoy doing their BBQ here or do their cooking in our kitchen. Being a self-catering retreat, cooking is one of the major activities here. Other than eating.
But for those keen to chill and not keen to cook, they can get a local caterer to send meals there. Or go to a no of restaurants outside, eg
Lunch- Bahulu Classiq (Image below)
Our complimentary Nasi Lemak breakfast is always a hit too.
12) Any plan in the near future?
Yes, many plans. I have a master plan of the area, but new elements, new ideas, new upgrades keep coming to mind. Do follow our IG for regular updates.
13) Anything else you'd like to share with the audience that we didn't ask?
Tanah Larwina is a result of a great labour of love. It has been developed gradually over the last nine years with lots of attention to details. If the place is to be run commercially, i.e. if I'm sharing this with a business partner and have to make the numbers work, and need to maximise the return, the place won't be anything like this. This is not something that can be rushed.
I'm doing this as a part-time stint. My main business as a consulting engineer gives me a decent income to pursue this rather expensive hobby; a hobby that is currently generating some reasonable side cash. I'm excited to share the place with people who appreciate the hard work that went into it instead of letting it stay vacant.
I believe I have inspired some people to do something similar and to have their weekend retreats. The advice I gave them is that they need to have the passion, and they need to be crazy enough to spend every weekend doing what I've been doing over the years.
It has been very satisfying to share my passion with others, and I trust in the process have made some people, both young and old, to appreciate the outdoors and our green environment more.
Well great on, Faisol! We’re sure that your guests leave with a newfound fascination and love for Mother Nature’s beautiful offerings. After all, it’s not everyday that we come across a guesthouse with farm animals and an entire orchard with it!
Be sure to check the guesthouse out if you’re travelling in small groups! The lodge houses up to eight guests, featuring four beds and five bathrooms in total. There are also additional pods accessible to groups of more than eight, capable of housing another eight individuals.
Only one group can rent Tanah Larwina at any one time, so you can be sure that you’re booking the entire lodge in its natural beauty for yourselves only!
Want to know more about Tanah Larwina or book your next staycation there?
Find out more on the link below!
Tanah Larwina Retreat - Hulu Langat, Selangor
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