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Escape into another world

Escape into another world

After exploring Sentosa Janda Baik at Kampung Sum-Sum, the next agenda in the Islamic Tourism Writers Workshop (ITWW) programme was to visit a place called Istana Lemuni at Kampung Chemperoh in Janda Baik, Pahang.

A scenic drive along a small road surrounded by lush greenery will take you to a beautiful Lemuni Orchard Villa complex, built amidst verdant hills and mist-covered mountains. Within its courtyard stand exact replicas of traditional houses collectively known as Istana Lemuni, a historical Terengganu palace from the 1800s. They were constructed in Terengganu then carefully disassembled and transported to the property.

These buildings traditionally served as the home for the Sultan of Terengganu’s wife and children. They stand today amidst a kampung style setting in Janda Baik that somehow reminded us of our childhood when the simplest of things brought us so much happiness.

Escape into another world
~ An actual Terengganu palace brought to Istana Lemuni to be reconstructed out of its original building materials.

Arriving at Istana Lemuni, we saw that the sign said “open”, but the gate was closed. Moments later a ‘hulubalang’ (roughly translated as captain or commander of a traditional Malay army or palace guard) appeared behind the gate and uttered a ‘pantun’ verse for us to answer before they could allow us in. A nice touch indeed. Fortunately, one among us was quick to come up with a reply, in ‘pantun’ style of course. Gates were opened and we made our way across the bridge from the entrance into Istana Lemuni’s courtyard, where we were welcomed with a traditional Malay ‘silat’ performance as we helped ourselves to some warm lemongrass tea.

This was followed by a brief introduction of what Istana Lemuni is by its owners, after which we were ushered to the open deck of their kampung style eatery Lemuni Café. The surrounding landscape and views of the houses complemented our lavish traditional Malay lunch splendidly, as we tucked into delicious servings of Kari Kepala Ikan Jenahak, Patin Tempoyak, Talapia Bakar, Ayam Berlado, and ulam with sambal belacan and sambal tempoyak, as well as traditional desserts and fresh fruits – including rambutan and durian!

Escape into another world
~ Delicious food and a splendid view at Cafe Lemuni.
Escape into another world
~ Yes, we got to try some durian as well.

Aside from the food, we also had the opportunity to visit an local Orang Asli family nearby and take a look at an old actual palace which was still being put back together after it was brought in from Terengganu. Located just several meters away from the Lemuni Orchard Villa complex, it was being reconstructed out of the original wood used to build it all those decades ago.

Escape into another world
~ Workshop participants trying to hit one of the cans with a slingshot at Istana Lemuni.

For a bit of fun before we called it a day, we were given the opportunity to try a game of ‘lastik’ or slingshot, much to the delight and excitement of our fellow writers who had never held a slingshot before. After all that, we headed back to the café for refreshments and a certificate presentation by the Islamic Tourism Centre for our participation in ITWW.

Escape into another world
~ Certificate presentation to one of the participants of ITWW.

A little bit after 5pm, we bade farewell to the kind owners and staff of Istana Lemuni and made our way back to Tamu Hotel & Suites in Kampong Bharu, Kuala Lumpur.


The ‘magic’ of Kampong Bharu

Kampong Bharu, a historic Malay village located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, is one of the last remaining traditional Malay villages in Malaysia’s modern metropolis. It contains within it well-preserved architecture and cultural heritage of the Malay community in Kuala Lumpur.

Escape into another world
~ Rumah Limas in Kampong Bharu, built in 1931 and rebuilt in 1949 after the war.

The charming village was last on our list on the final day of the programme. And to experience its beauty and charms, we had local guide Fuad Fahmy take us on his ‘Magical Kampong Bharu’ tour and learn a bit more about this unique little spot amidst the glitz and glamour of KL.

The village was established in 1899 as a settlement for Malay farmers and artisans and has since grown to become a vibrant community with its own unique culture and customs.

On our tour, Fuad took us to see the less touristy spots such as Pangsapuri 17 Tingkat, one of the earliest high-rises in Kampong Bharu, which is now overshadowed by the towering 43-storey Legasi Kampong Bharu – a new addition built as part of the village’s revitalisation plan. Just nearby is one of KL’s newest attractions – Pintasan Saloma (Saloma Crossing) that connects Kampong Bharu to the city’s most popular tourists draws such as the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.

Escape into another world
~ Pintasan Saloma as seen from the streets of Kampong Bharu.

The real “magic” happened in the old streets of the village though. As we walked past traditional Malay houses from the 19th century, with their unique architecture and old-world beauty, we forgot that we were in the midst of a modern city. Only when we took a step back to get a general view of the old houses did we see the stark contrast between those charming abodes of old and the shiny new skyscrapers of Kuala Lumpur behind them.

Escape into another world
~ A stark contrast between old and new.
Escape into another world
~ Shiny skyscrapers stand tall in the background while an old house is left deserted amidst the bushes and grass in Kampong Bharu.

Among the highlights of the tour was a quick stop at a local resident’s house, where the homeowner was all too kind to let us harvest some of her deliciously sweet rambutans. What a treat! Fuad was also very kind as to buy each of us a container of homemade Malay cookies each from one of the famous local shops along the streets of Kampong Bharu.

Escape into another world
~ Picking rambutan fruits at one of the residents’ houses in Kampong Bharu.

Finally, before the tour ended, we made our way to the beautiful home of Fuad himself, where we had the chance to meet his lovely family, had some Malay treats and a little chit chat with the host before we ended our tour and made our way back to the hotel.

Escape into another world
~ One for the album – ITWW participants in front of Fuad’s house.

Overall, the Islamic Tourism Writers Workshop (ITWW) had been an amazing, eye-opening experience that offered a look into what Muslim-friendly tourism (MFT) was all about. There is more to MFT than just visits to mosques and religious sites. In fact, MFT caters not just for Muslim tourists, but to non-Muslims as well, what with so much to do and so many things to see.

Thank you, once again to the Islamic Tourism Centre for having us as part of ITWW.



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