Many hotels and resorts claim to be eco-friendly and often use it as a selling point. But how eco-friendly are they actually? Would the acts of harvesting rainwater, installing energy-efficient bulbs, use less washing chemicals and encourage re-use of towel and sheets be enough to categorize them as eco-friendly? Some would proudly claim so but the people at Eight Acres are not only doing a lot more than that, they are continuously improvising.
For the uninitiated, Eight Acres is a boutique lodge located in a valley among the fruit orchards, oil palm and rubber plantations in Raub. Like the name implies, Eight Acres is indeed 8 acres in size and was previously a basically a jungle consisting of oil palm and durian trees.
After a few years of careful planning and execution, the resort has finally finished its major constructions, which includes the Brick House (a bungalow consisting of six different themed rooms), a hydro system to power up the resort, a five-step water filtration system as well as some camping tents for the more adventurous.
Durian trees are aplenty at Eight Acres and if you are here during the durian season, you would even get to pick and eat them as soon as they fall off for a minimal fee. Two main varieties of durians could be found here: the highly popular and in my opinion the best – Musang King and D24.
And if there’s one thing Eight Acres is proud of their durians, it would be fact that they are grown without any use of pesticides. So even though the fruits don’t look as perfect as those you could buy on the streets, they taste better. The same for the water too – which is sourced from the stream hence cooling and more refreshing. Plus, it does not taste as ‘strong’ as what we get back in the city since it is void of chlorine.
Besides guests and staff, farm animals roam freely in the resort too. The idea is to rehabilitate the land back to its original condition with hopes of attracting the inhabitants of the wild that used to make their home here. Hornbills are one of them.
Among the six available rooms (Renewal, Contemplation, Discovery, Exploration, Surreality and Culture) we were given the Discovery room which can accomodate three @ RM660/night (no toiletries included so bring your own). The room has two single beds and is entirely surrounded by walls of book shelves filled with donated books.
If you look closely at the room’s finishing you will find that they do not look new although the Brick House had just been completed not long ago. This is because most of the building materials for the Brick House are from reclaimed sources. For example, the wooden flooring are recycled from old buildings, while the walls are constructed using blocks of compressed wood chips.
Outside the rooms is an open air patio that also serves as a chillax area. When night falls on a clear day and the moon shines above, the sky turns into a spectacular view to behold. It also offers an unobstructed view of the forest and mountain around.
An overview of the lodge as seen from the patio.
After we settled down, resort manager Uncle Kam took us for a walking tour around Eight Acres with stories accompanied. Then only we knew he is actually the father of the owner of this resort – Paul Kam. Uncle Kam is a retiree in his 60’s who chose to be the manager of Eight Acres after he fell in love with the beauty of this place. Here, he is lowering a ripe Musang King durian that is tied to the tree using a Raffia string.
The reason behind this is to prevent these prized durians from cracking when they hit the ground. Cracked durians often fetch a much lower price in the market, and some even not sellable. Seriously, I wouldn’t know this is how Musang King durians are harvested if not for this trip.
Signs warning you to watch out for falling durians. Better heed these signs because just minutes into the walking tour, we already saw a few ripe durians fell right in front of us. By the way, one of the activities here during durian season would be collecting these fallen durians and eating them fresh. You could even purchase them at wholesale price to bring home if you wanted to.
The hike continues up a small slope with camping tents dotted the side of the road. There are two types of camping tents available for rent, similar in features but different in size. These nomad-inspired tents are great for outdoor lovers and brings you closer to nature, but not so recommended for those who prefer a more comfortable stay.
Even if you have nothing to do at the Outdoor Hall, it is still worth visiting just to look at the materials used to build it – especially the roof tiles. Sourced from all over the country, these clay-made tiles are really durable and long lasting. Just look at the year they were made – 1868! That’s more than a century ago yet they are still so well maintained.
Each campsite has their own dedicated barbecue pit, while the bigger ones have a private and fully functional toilet. For people who camp often, you will know that the latter is considered a luxury. And if you are wondering, all the toilet waste is channeled to a central sewage system, where it will later be turned into organic fertilizer.
Walking along the path to the Tualang tree, one of the interesting sights at Eight Acres. Since you will be walking in the middle of an oil palm plantation, do expect some mosquitoes. I would advise spraying on some mosquito repellent before going on the walking tour to avoid the discomfort of being bitten – especially during rainy season when there even more of them.
Crossing a small stream, the rocks are quite slippery.
**Pic courtesy of Eight Acres
This is the only Tualang tree in the area and it is more than one hundred years old. It might look small from the photo but it is actually quite majestic and the best way to appreciate it is to look up from the roots. Being one of the tallest tropical tree species, you can even spot the tree far away, as its height sticks out from the other trees.
Apart from being a source of timber, Tualang is a also favorite spot for giant rock bees to hang their combs. The honey extracted from these combs usually fetch a higher price, largely due to the difficulty and risk involved in harvesting them. While admiring the Tualang, Uncle Kam also told us an interesting legend about involving the Tualang Bees, which you could read more at this website.
A small waterfall called Cascada can be found on the right of the lodge.
Besides skinny dipping in the pond, you can also experience a natural fish spa here. The fishes are initially shy, but when your feet are in the water long enough, they will surely nibble on you. Quite fun.
There are four ponds in Eight Acres and all of them have fishes (mostly carp and tilapia) that swim among the lotus pads. You could fish here but it is for recreational purpose – meaning catch-and-release. But if you would like to keep the fish you caught, they are glad to sell it to you at wholesale price. The money paid would be used to purchase another fish to be released back to the pond as an act of giving back to nature.
Edible lotus seeds, freshly plucked from the pond – sweet and crunchy.
Now back to the Brick House. The main hall at the ground floor is Japanese inspired and minimalistic in design with a lot of open space. Coupled with large entrances, the main hall is always cool and you could feel the difference in temperature immediately once you step into it.
Right next to the main hall would be the cafeteria-style dining hall. Free flow of snacks and various instant beverages are available here so you will never go hungry. A small living area is located at the corner of the hall and it is furnished with some sofas, a widescreen TV and a jukebox.
This jukebox is from the 1960s and still plays musics – albeit only classics and contemporaries. Just slot in 20 cents to play a song.
At the end of the Brick House would be the kitchen (even the kitchen door is reused from an old building), toilets and shower rooms. You will find Uncle Kam’s wife (we call her Auntie) at the kitchen most of the time preparing meals for the guests. If you do not know yet, the accomodation at Eight Acres is inclusive of the 3 meals of home cooked dishes, which are all prepared without MSG.
As part of the objective to being a self-sustaining resort, all the greens like lady finger, long beans and ‘bok choy’ served in the meals are harvested from the vegetable patch nearby.
Here, leftovers do not go into the bin. Instead, they are collected to be recycled into compost later. Same goes for the paper, aluminium cans and plastic you use during the stay – three different bins are provided at the side for proper disposal. Well, you know the drill.
After the walk we were already feeling hungry. Thankfully Uncle Kam offered us to sample some of his durians, and the best thing is it was on the house!
The first Musang King we had was the best ever, very creamy and delicious. Look at the color of the flesh, simply perfect. Anyway, some basic ways to recognize a Musang King would be looking at the fruit’s shell and the seed. The shell has a distinctive ‘star’ shape at the bottom, and the seeds are usually oddly shaped and flat.
We had some awesome D24 durians too!
We had our dinner at the patio under the stars – accompanied by the chirping sounds of crickets. The dishes served to us included Auntie’s signature beef rendang, sambal, vegetable, stir fried chicken and a platter of fruits. After that, we had even more durians and basically just hung around until it was bedtime.
I think we could all agree when I say when we plan for a vacation, the things we could see and do – be it shopping, trying new food or visiting attractions, these are always the top priorities. So let me be honest with you and tell you that Eight Acres more of a wellness lodge for pure relaxation and to reconnect with the nature.
Also, I am sure you will appreciate some things you may have taken for granted such as air conditioning, because there are none here! So if you are serious in wanting to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life – then this little sanctuary should be on your consideration list.
Now for the tricky part which is getting to the resort. I hope you have a GPS with you while traveling here because you will be driving on quite a lot of off-roads. After exiting Raub town you will need to go through a few rubber and oil palm estates, which looks pretty much like what I show in the pic above. Pretty scary huh? But think of it as an adventure.
One way to ensure you will not get lost is to follow these small blue signboards with “Lembah Temir”. The roads are very bumpy as well so make sure your vehicle is at a very good condition at least.
You will know you have reached the destination when you see this sign.