Reconnect with Mother Nature at eco-friendly resort 8 Acres, in the heart of an oil palm plantation in Raub, writes Intan Maizura Ahmad Kamal
A LAND of raw beauty. A sanctuary for adventure and reflection. A commune with the calm of Nature, and a nursery for a happy soul. This was the idea... and like all great ideas, it’s bearing fruit. And Paul Kam, owner of 8 Acres, located in the heart of an oil palm plantation off Jalan Sg. Klau in Raub, Pahang, couldn’t be happier.
Founded by Kam’s company, D’Jungle People, the recently opened 8 Acres, a bold take on the idea of a jungle resort, marries Kam’s love for nature and his desire to get people connected to the land again.
“Our accommodations are not the highlight; we seek to help you reconnect with the land, and with your own sense of harmony,” shares the 40-something bachelor from Seremban.
His love for the great outdoors stems from his childhood. “My grandma used to have a house in front of a rubber estate and my uncles always took us into the jungles and rubber estates to catch spiders and fish,” he confides.
Kam and his younger brother were also boy scouts as children, and continued with the movement well into their adulthood. “We spent a lot of time in nature and that’s how we are able to understand what nature can offer us in all aspects of our daily life, whether its challenges, or beauty or just peace. That’s what nature is all about.”
LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT
Looking at 8 Acres today (thus called because the land stretches across eight acres), with its charming lotus and lily-covered ponds, the menagerie of chicken and ponies grazing contentedly up on the hill, and with music coming from the waterfall ahead creating an endless rhythm, it’s hard to imagine that a lot of work had gone into realising Kam’s dream.
It seems that when he first clapped eyes on it, the land was in a terrible state. It was brown, dead, just like a desert. Plants grew wild and dead trees blanketed much of the area. There was hardly room to manoeuvre. It was neglected and akin to a secondary jungle. And yet, Kam saw beauty.
“I fell in love with it,” he says, his kindly eyes lighting up at the recollection. “I saw the hills, the ponds, the waterfall... I knew that if I cleared the area of the unwanted stuff, there was great potential. Everyone likes good scenery and we have that here. The pond, if you clean it up, actually looks nice. There’s a wonderful view of the sunset if you catch it atop the hill.”
It took Kam, who used to spend a lot of time with the Wildlife Department, more than five years of searching before he found his dream land. Every time he thought he had found “the one” something would arise to dash his hopes.
“Finding a piece of land with a river running through it is already very difficult. Finding one that has all these landscapes is even more difficult.
“The minute I saw this particular piece of land I knew I had to get it. That was four years ago.”
The landscape here comprises plots of land, each one broken into three to five hectare lots. Each lot is owned by small holders. The land is predominantly made up of oil palm land or durian orchards. Cocoa is also grown but in small amounts.
LABOUR OF LOVE
After the purchase was made, Kam and his team proceeded to clear and clean the land. It took a long time to get things back to how they wanted it to be. “The land before was rather toxic as the previous owner had used a lot of pesticides,” recalls Kam. “So we had to let the plants grow, then die, grow, die, grow, until we got what we wanted.” They brought in more than 400 trees, seedlings from the jungle, and planted them around the area.
8 Acres is among one of the two resorts that can be found here. It sits on the only area of land where there’s a natural pond and where migratory birds make their pitstop. “There used to be lots of hornbills here”, says Kam, but now there’s no more. “That’s why we’re planting more trees to lure the birds back, and also other animals.”
Kam’s idea was to create an area where people could be inspired. A space where one could reflect and be one with nature.
“I really hope that I can inspire people to work with the land again — and not AGAINST it. Even the structures we’ve constructed here complement the land with minimum impact on nature.”
Speaking sheepishly, he says: “I don’t have a design background. Whatever I do, its always with an eye to practicality.”
A lot of recycled wood and used material are utilised in the construction and fixtures of the various structures around the resort. Kam and his team scoured high and low for eco-friendly materials that they could use. Pointing to one of the wall panellings ahead of us, he shares: “That’s made of recycled chipwood. I got them from a place in Penang. The company normally exports them overseas. The kitchen door and the main door are originals from various places, which we then took apart and reconstructed again.”
Leading me to an outdoor hall, Kam shares that the wood they use are all recycled , while the tiles on the roof are made of clay. “These tiles are 100 years old. If you go inside you’ll notice that the temperature is cooler. Old tiles are more cooling than new tiles.”
Basic materials are the order of the day to ensure that there will be minimal impact on the environment. Most walls are of simple bricks and there’s a noticeable absence of air-conditioners. Instead, cool respite is provided by the generous smattering of fans and the natural breeze. The whole place has been designed well with an open concept ensuring that the resort is well ventilated.
As I trail behind Kam during a guided tour of the rooms available in the main lodge, it hits me just how much passion lies behind this project. The rooms have been designed with meticulous attention to detail, each one possessing its own unique concept.
One room, pristine white and with an unusually serene vibe, is aptly called Contemplation. “The design encourages reflection and contemplation,” pips in Kam, noticing my pleasure.
The next one we arrive at is called Renewal, where all the fixtures and accessories are recycled products — except the bed. The floor itself comes from the flooring belonging to an old kampong house. “We just polished it. We’re looking to make curtains from recycled T-shirts and cloth too,” says Kam.
The Geography room catches my eye. With the beds almost reaching the ceiling and minimal furnishing, the attraction here is the floor space, which has a huge and colourful map of the world. “You should climb on the bed and look down from there. Then you’ll see the world — the bigger picture,” suggests Kam. “The design of the room was inspired by my desire to get people to see the bigger picture — not only of the world they live in, but also of their life. The view from the top is awesome.”
The Discovery room meanwhile, with its dark brown walls lined with rows of book shelves and looking out onto the lake is a more sombre offering but one that’s no less impressive. “If people don’t like to walk around and discover things outside, this room is ideal. They can hang out here and make their own ‘discoveries’ from the pages of the books,” says Kam, with the smile of one who’s contented with the world .
8 Acres, Lot 7822, Mukim Gali, off Jalan Sg. Klau, 27630 Raub, Pahang.
Tel: 03 78775048. Go to www.eightacres.net for more info.