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She’s come so close that I can feel her breath; I dare not move one inch but I’m staring. She looks surprised rather than fearful and I let myself be moved by her delicate beauty, the beauty of Faline really, Bambi’s love. Someone’s coming, a shiver runs though her brown coat; she’s gone.
I’m on Bambi’s farm, I mean Rayan’s Deer Farm, a property that stretches over 20 acres of undulating landscape set against the backdrop of Mount Singai some 45 minutes drive from Kuching town. It’s been a splendid afternoon spent strolling through Kampung Apar, a hilly Bidayuh village on the banks of one of my favourite rivers, Sungai Adis.
It’s Friday night and we’ve been invited along with a small group from the Sarawak Rivers Board. The barbecue fire was started early and chicken is simmering inside large bamboo. Phil, who is the owner’s son manages the farm which also offers home stay facilities. I’m always on the look-out for what’s great to see, fun to do and where to stay in Sarawak, so I ask him to show me around.
Right now, we are in the Traditional Singai Longhouse, a bamboo and wood structure like the Bidayuhs used to build when whole village populations used to dwell under one single roof (this tradition is still very much alive in other areas of Sarawak). There are 7 rooms, each equipped with 2 single beds and a ceiling fan; the windows open to a deer enclosure where my Faline came from.
There are also two beautiful bungalows which I noticed when I arrived; one is really a log cabin. Both chalets are fitted with air-conditioning units, each has its own terrace and there’s even a soaking pool at the back!
I join the guests on the wooden veranda; there’s a bar and a karaoke space. Dishes are starting to come and beer is flowing; the chicken wings are yummy but it’s the chicken stew that wins me over. It’s been simmering inside a large bamboo with tapioca leaves and marinated in tuak (local rice wine). This is an absolute delight!
William Jinep, our host explains: “To make it good, you must use the right bamboo, and the right tapioca leaves”. He is also quick to point out that it would have tasted even better if he had cooked it himself the way his grand ‘ma taught him. I believe him and make a mental note to come back for more of this.
An invisible hand keeps filling up my glass with beer and I notice a bottle of local moonshine has been spirited out of nowhere. By now tongues are definitely loosening, a couple is singing iban hits and the dance floor is quite busy. Jokes too are beginning to liven-up the evening; William even serves us grilled squid caught in Sungai Adis, the river, and it’s a giant squid!
We talk about food, about dreams of future things to do and of things we’ve done. William tells us of his grand-parents who brought him up and taught him everything he knows and loves of the Bidayuh’s cultural heritage. The recipes are grand ma’s but the knowledge of hunting trails and rituals are definitely grand-pa’s.
I ask the meaning of copper rings still worn by some Bidayuh women who live in Semban Highlands; are they for protection? “It’s a beauty thing, beauty and wealth.” is Wiliam’s answer and I can see other Bidayuhs around our table are nodding in agreement.
The self appointed MC is calling my name; it’s my turn to sing Jambalaya. “She’s from France” I hear someone explain and as if to confirm my origins, the background video is of the Champs Elysees!
Rayan is William’s grand son’s name.
Mount Singai is also a Catholic pilgrimage centre.
Rayan Village Deerfarm-Stay Resort , Jalan Apar-Segong, Off Batu Kawa / Bau Tel: (60) 82-765807 Fax: (60) 82-765607
Mobile: 012-8923279, 012-8895951
Rates: Between MYR 60 and MYR80 per room
Food Options: The log cabin has a kitchenette. Meals can be ordered at any time, including deer meat dishes and BBQ.
Jungle trekking or up Mount Singai,
Excursions to villages and to Sungai Adis
Lot’s of story telling
Transport: About 40-45 minutes from Kuching town.
They do provide airport or city pickup and drop-off for a very reasonable fee. They can also drive you around on excursions.
And if you have your own transport, here’s the direction to follow:
From Kuching follow Rock Road towards 3rd Mile and Batu Kawa
Go straight in the direction of Bau – Lundu – Sematan
From Batu Kawa bridge (there’s no sign there but the Sarawak river is big!) continue towards Bau – Lundu – Sematan
Cross Sungai Moyan and continue in the same direction.
13km from the 1st bridge, turn right towards Kg Apar – Barieng – Segong – Sagah and Redeems Centre Bamboo Park
300m from the junction turn right to RAYAN DEERFARM. The access is quite steep.