There aren’t many places I visit repeatedly (especially if the place has nothing to do with food), but Zaini GuestHouse is just not one of those places you only end up having a one-night-stand with. Since my first visit a couple of years ago, I’ve faithfully come back – be it for birthdays, adventures, or even just to get away from the city for a quick one.
One of my favourite escapes, this place is an authentic Malaysian guesthouse that harmoniously co-exists with nature. Resting in a tranquil fruit orchard, the land is dotted with Rumah Melayu (simple traditional wooden Malay houses), some of which are on stilts. It is owned and maintained by two very genuine souls, Zaini and Fred, of whom you can find wandering around the orchard, with their beautiful little girl, Eiliyah, trotting by their sides.
Deep within Bentong, the road-trip from Kuala Lumpur takes about an hour and brings you through a couple of sleepy kampungs. It takes a little practice before being able to find the place though, as it’s kind of hard to spot whilst driving, so do check out their website for an exact location.
Once you arrive, you cross a river over a sturdy bridge and stroll through a green clearing. We’re so used to coming here that we just unload the cars and bring our stuff over to our regular chalet straight away, but if you’re a first timer, just holler for someone or try calling Fred on her cell.
Zaini offers an array of activities, including jungle trekking, survival camping, 4×4 night safari, and fishing, amongst other exciting outdoorsy things, though we always just end up stuffing our faces, singing, playing games, and other “wholesome” activities at our chalet. There’s even an area for bonfires! BBQ pits are provided, but not the coal, fire-starters, or food, so do make a trip to the supermarket before you set out! Our routine itinerary for Zaini’s goes along the lines of this:
1. Pack fun stuff (frisbee, football, board games, etc.) and necessary items (towel, toiletries, clothes, multiplug, etc.) the night before
2. Buy food and required BBQ stuff @ Giant in the morning
3. Drive to Janda Baik and arrive between 12 and 6pm (depending on what we did the night before)
4. Set up bluetooth speakers, music, BBQ, and musical instruments
5. Eat and hang out, maybe build a bonfire before nightfall
6. Bonfire yo!!!
7. Hang out, enjoy music, play games – ’til late
9. Wake up and get the BBQ going again
10. Eat, pack up, and leave – between 12 to 4 PM (they’re super chill about check out times)
We usually book The Club House (a new price of RM250 per night, which hasn’t been updated on their website yet), an open air house on stilts that can accommodate up to 30 people (though we’re usually only about 10-15 people). The house has a cement-floored area beneath it, where we BBQ and hang out for the duration of our stay. We usually lay out a mat for our chill-out area. There’s a small stream that runs alongside The Club House, which adds to the Jungle Orchestra that plays a complimentary soundtrack to your activities.
Up the wooden stairs, above the cemented area, there’s a wooden house on wooden stilts, with a wooden balcony/platform. Sleeping mats can be found stacked in a corner, some pillows and blankets are provided, but sometimes there aren’t enough, so we tend to bring our own for just-in-cases. It’s really peaceful to wake up to the sounds of the jungle on a misty morning, and to rub the sleep out of your eyes with the leaves and branches of fruit trees rustling to greet you. My brother brought his hammock on our last visit, and we were all very jealously admiring how comfortable any one person looked in it.
This place is pure friendly; family friendly, group friendly, couple friendly, solo friendly. They welcome all, and I think that’s what I love most about it…It’s so laid-back. Zaini and Fred encourage visitors to pick fruits when they are ripe, as they have so much of it. Depending on the season, they have durian, mangosteen, rambutan, and other popular local fruits. Plus, the surroundings are beautiful! A little oasis, not too far away from the city, where, rain or shine, it’s always peaceful.
Do take note that the only way to secure a booking with them is to bank in a 50% deposit of your chosen chalet. Also, they only offer shared bathrooms (cold showers) and no towels or toiletries, so make sure to bring your own. Worry not, the cold showers leave you feeling so refreshed, you end up looking forward to them. Also, we have yet to encounter an infestation of mosquitoes, but we always bring some mosquito repellent with us in anticipation of one.
If all this doesn’t stimulate the wanderlust within you, perhaps Zaini’s mantra will. He believes in providing the impression that guests are as close to nature as possible, to teach them the respect that it’s due.