Travel

An Expat Home in Sarawak's Countryside

A HOME IN the country is a luxury that few Malaysians can afford assuming that they can find some countryside in the first place. In Sabah and Sarawak, however, there are many more sites for sore city eyes.

A growing number of people are leaving the cities in search of a better life in the country. A few brave families who want to live away from the relatively madding crowds of Kota Kinabalu and Kuching have undertaken this mini migration, which has gathered force over the past few years.

Country living in the surrounding areas of these two East Malaysian cities is still possible and the outskirts of the city have managed to ward off the urban sprawl that is gradually claiming vast tracks of land. Those who have now made the countryside their home are engaged in an experiment to discover how to live satisfying lives away from pollution, noise and the concrete jungle.

Imagine living in a place where in the mornings, mist comes down from the mountains. During the day, no matter how hot the sun is, a cold wind sweeps over the paddy fields reminiscent of Bali.

For MM2Hers Jacobus and Mina Trang Witte, the move to the country was a momentous decision. Being globetrotters, travelling where Jacobus job as an aircraft engineer with Fokker took them, they had very little idea about where they would finally spread roots.

The answer came naturally when they decided to build their dream home on a plot of land out in Padawan, about half an hour’s drive from Kuching, Sarawak. The house sits on a hillside with a marvellous view of miles upon miles of paddy fields and the Penrissen Mountains in the distance.

What is truly astounding is the fact that Jacobus, with the help of local craftsmen, built the home with his own ingenuity and bare hands. Anyone visiting the home during its construction would have seen Mina and Jacobus tiling the kitchen or doing the other 101 things that go into building your own home.

For Jacobus, the challenge was to build the home the way a home should be. There were a lot of doubts as to whether I could really do it, he says. I am extremely pleased at the way it is turned out but it was a challenge in more ways than one economically, financially and technically. It is obvious that the couple loves the house and have imbued it with love and care. We like it and talk about it,says Jacobus. We are also grateful to have had the determination to make it. We also have a good relationship with the people of the surrounding kampungs.

The couple say that it a blessing to live out in the country with its blazing sunsets and nature surrounding them. There can be few settings for a home as idyllic as theirs, nor can there be a better feeling than sitting back and relaxing knowing that it has all the fruit of your own labour.

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It's a feeling shared by Polycarp and Louise Teo Sebom who have created the ultimate escape at Damai. Tucked away in the foothills of Mount Santubong, this tiny coastal enclave offers the ideal sanctuary, and is appropriately named Nanga Damai meaning peaceful spot.

Not many are fortunate enough to have a home with a stunning view of the South China Sea, the majestic Mount Santubong as a backdrop and a torrential waterfall as a neighbour.

We enjoy the house so much that we really don't feel like venturing out too much so we love it when people come over, says Louise.

When evening comes, there is the orchestra of crickets and the sound of the waterfall providing the euphony. Uninvited guests can also encompass a band of lively monkeys bent on showing off.

The biggest decision the couple seem to have to make is to whether they should go swimming or gaze out to the open sea. When friends arrive, and these days they seem to do so often, they gravitate towards the open-air terrace and savour the night air and watch the nocturnal activities of flying squirrels and bats. If they are lucky, they may hear the sounds of barking deer or a wild boar in the floodlit jungle that surrounds the house.



Another couple to have lived this dream is Terrance and Rose Mills in Sabah. When they got married some years ago they decided that they were going to build their first home together. But even they could not have foreseen what a huge undertaking that would be. The location is truly magnificent. Situated about 30 minutes’ drive from Kota Kinabalu, the house, aptly called Sinurambi, meaning a jungle abode in the Kadazan language, is perched about 100ft above sea level. Look in one direction and you'll see high mountain vistas with Mount Kinabalu holding court. Look from another window and you'll spy Kota Kinabalu in the distance and a sweeping view of the South China Sea. The little floating islands enhance the tranquillity.

Even the owners themselves could not have foreseen the kaleidoscopic slideshow that nature puts on for them every day. The winds blow down the ridges that make up the Crocker Range and sweep right into the house, and after a downpour, the mist slowly surrounds and creeps into the house before descending into the valley. On other days, the sun reflects off the house with shimmering hues and the glorious sunrises and sunsets are truly indescribable.

Terry and Rose can certainly attest to the theory that building a house from scratch is a huge undertaking. It certainly is and being a foreigner unfamiliar with the customs of the country just complicated the issue, says Terry. Furthermore we were still on our sailing adventures around Indonesia and Thailand as well as making frequent visits to Europe and the States so we didn't get back to see the house half as often as we should have. In retrospect we should have been much more closely involved in the day to day construction. It has taken us a lot of time and effort to rectify the mistakes made by the initial contractor.

But end result has made the effort worthwhile. In fact, one of the most enjoyable facets of their lives in Sabah is the wonderful group of friends they have made. Both Rose and I love to entertain and the house is a perfect spot to gather our friends around us, says Terry.

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There is always a party waiting to happen, whether it's held at the house or on board their magnificent Halvorsen 80ft yacht which berths at the Sutera Harbour Marina.

Their idyllic lifestyle is reflected in the way they live and precious times are those that make memories that last a lifetime. For example, awaking early to watch glorious the sunrise over the mountains, breakfast on the balcony outside their bedroom with Mount Kinabalu in full bloom, sitting on the deck in the evenings worshipping the sunsets, or sitting in the lounge in the evening watching the town glittering below, and listening to the sounds of the jungle at night when their only nearby neighbours are the wildlife. You can't really ask for more, conclude Terry and Rose, who feel that they have been truly blessed by the peace and tranquillity of this secluded home.

 

 

This article has been edited for Expatgomalaysia.com 
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