“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson, The Silverado Squatters
Amanda has been one of my best friends from the time we met in 2011, so I responded to the news that she would have to leave Malaysia and take up residence in Cambodia by going through all the Kübler-Ross stages of grief in no particular order and in repeat cycles.
As the date of her departure grew nearer, we developed a sense of equanimity (at least, as close to equanimity as we could achieve) about the impermanence of all things and how we would still stay in touch via email, Facebook and blog and visit each other as often as our schedules would allow.
I made the decision years ago to give experience gifts instead of tchotchke and other material gifts, and so I decided that my pre-departure gift to her (There is to be no goodbyes or farewells between friends) would be a gathering of some of our closest, dearest friends in Sekeping Retreat, Serendah, a little jungle hideaway I have read about for years but have not had the good fortune to visit. So arrangements were duly made and a room was booked, and as the photos below attest, we had a wonderful time, and not a single tear was shed, which is to me a sign of unequivocal success.
I had booked one of the Glass Sheds for the 5 of us -- Amanda, Rangamal, Poh Lin, Nicole and me -- and just arriving there and seeing it for myself filled me with delight. It exceeded my every expectation. The design was ingenious and afforded us a surprising amount of privacy and comfort despite having transparent walls.
The Sekeping retreats are the brainchild of landscape architect Ng Seksan, who obviously loves nature and has found a way to incorporate living trees and nature into his aesthetically incredible designs. His buildings let in so much natural light and ventilation that you almost feel as though you are floating on air, or not in a building at all.
Our spacious, minimalistic and comfortable living room. Since we were all Crazy Cat Ladies, we could not help but notice how cat-friendly the wire mesh furniture is. Nothing that could be clawed or shredded!
The tidy little kitchen in our Glass Shed.
It had rained earlier and the little stream trickled and flowed merrily under our Glass Shed.
Our open-air bathroom, surrounded by trees, insects and birds. What bliss!
Poh Lin, Nic and Amanda arrived and promptly started unpacking and unloading food and booze into the fridge.
Nic and I having munchies on the deck, before we go for a walk around the retreat.
A little friendship keepsake for Amanda -- a black cat-themed scrapbook card with photos of some of our best memories with Amanda.
As soon as it was dark and cold enough, we got the retreat caretaker to come and light our barbecue pit. And what a feast we had! It was the Ultimate Vegan Barbecue. So good that even the non-vegetarians among us did not miss anything.
Rangamal arrived after work, just as we had got the barbecue grill going. We spent most of the night drinking, chatting and reminiscing about good times in our little living room.
Off on our nature walk early the next morning! It's good to have friends who share your passion for animals and nature!
Ficus with fruits that look like tiny Granny Smiths.
Poh Lin and Amanda fish-watching by the little manmade pond.
Jelutong (Dyera costulata), one of my favourite indigenous trees.
The inflorescence of the Lantana camara.
A bantam rooster and his two wives!
A rainbow eucalyptus (Eucalyptus deglupta)! I've always wanted to see one!
The Glass Shed is that-a-way!
Of course, I had to be the contrary one and point in another direction.
We walked up to the crazy-gorgeous Warehouse 1, which wasn't occupied at the time.
We love the exposed brick walls and the metal pipes and parts repurposed as art!
Love the airy loft bedrooms!
An infinity pool at the end of the paved walkway after the Warehouses.
And this is the other swimming pool, surrounded by gorgeous trees. Wish we had more time to swim.
I know I made the right decision in choosing to organise a cosy little get-together in this jungle retreat before Amanda's big move, and I am glad we all took time off from our busy schedules to make this a success. Being close to nature put our chakras back in balance and reduced our anxiety about her relocation. Wonderful memories were formed, souls nourished and friendships strengthened during the course of our little jungle getaway.