This was our first farm stay and first taste of rural Malaysia. KOREF has beautiful, rustic accommodation that caters for large groups as well as family bookings like us. When we arrived we thought it might have had its day, as we were practically the only ones staying there. But the following day bus loads of other guests arrived! Groups from all over Malaysia and Singapore come to stay there to get an insight into farm life and have some fun.
Read on to discover:
1. What can you do at KOREF?
KOREF is mostly a “leisure farm”, meaning it is not for visitors to work on, but for them to relax and have fun while learning a bit about farm life. (However, you can also volunteer at KOREF through Workaway)
KOREF is designed for you to choose activities throughout the day, depending on the weather and your preferences. There is also lots to discover as you walk around the farm, such as swings over the water, fish ponds and animals. Activities include:
- bamboo rafting
- water obstacle course
- water tubing
- rice planting or harvesting
- feeding the animals
- campfire and field cooking
- lantern release
- flying fox (this was not operating when we were there)
- fish catching and release
- jungle trekking
- firefly spotting from a boat
- cycling around the farm
- visiting a nearby Orang Asli village
All life jackets and gear is provided. Some of these activities are only for larger groups and some must be booked before arriving, but most can be decided while you’re there.
We booked a trip to meet some Orang Asli people, and were very glad we did. They are the traditional people of the rainforest, and our guide to meet them was a lovely man named Tommy. He works hard to preserve their customs and traditions and mediates between the rainforest people and outside organisations.
The people we visited were gracious and welcoming, and we loved exploring some traditional housing such as a long house and tree house that was 15 feet off the ground! I was a bit worried that such a visit may be a drive-by “look at them, this is how they live” scenario, but thankfully it was nothing like that. The rainforest people were full participants in the excursion, and they walked with us while we talked as well as we could together. Tommy also translated for us so we could have proper conversations. Once all the kids warmed up a bit, language was no barrier for playtime.
Other activities we engaged with at KOREF were kayaking around the lake, water tubing at a slow-flowing stream, feeding some of the animals, and releasing a lantern on our first night. Dante was excited to try the obstacle course, but it proved too difficult for him. It is aimed at older kids and adults.
I really wanted to do some rice planting but we ran out of time for that. And we were too worn out on the second night to try to spot fireflies or go on a night walk through the jungle.
4. What are the accommodation options?
KOREF has chalets, dormitories and camping options. We stayed in a chalet that had four rooms available, though ours was the only one in use. The rooms are basic but comfortable, with a ceiling fan (no air-conditioning) and private bathrooms and toilets. Though the bathrooms are for your personal use, the shower is outdoors and is attached to the adjacent room’s shower. Just a friendly warning, there is no sound-proofing between them!
Our kids loved how our chalet was ‘floating’ over the lake, and how when you opened the back door all we could see was water. The chalet has common relaxation areas, between the rooms and above them too. It was lovely to chill out there and watch the many fish swimming about, and especially view the sunset over the water.
As with many places we have stayed at in South East Asia, standards are not always as high as we are used to in Australia. (Some things we have seen would leave an Aussie OHS&W office very faint!) We never felt unsafe at KOREF, although we did notice the differences sometimes.
3. What was the food like?
The food was abundant and delicious. All meals plus morning and afternoon tea is included, as well as refillable filtered water and other (non-alcholic) drinks. They served meals at set times and were accommodating of our vegetarian needs. Their produce is grown on their other organic farm in Kota Tinggi, and it was all very fresh and tasty. There was so much food we could never finish it all!
Anthony and I loved sampling traditional Malaysian food such as noodle and rice dishes, all sorts of vegetables, banana cakes baked in leaves, steamed buns filled with sweet beans, and pressed soy. Ant really enjoyed some chicken and fish dishes too. Our kids lapped up infinite toast and sweet hot chocolate for breakfast, and enjoyed rice and root vegetables, some egg dishes, and fresh melon and dragonfruit.
Morning and afternoon tea was more hot chocolate and coffee, steamed sweet buns, cakes and ice-cream.
I suggest if you have young children like us, bring along some of the their favourite foods and snacks. We had some bananas, apples, cucumbers, tomatoes and muesli bars left over from our previous stay, and these were great for our kids to have when they weren’t sure about some new things.
4. Where is KOREF and how do I get there?
It is in Kahang, which is halfway between the towns Kluang and Mersing in the state of Johor, Malaysia. We caught a bus from Kuala Lumpur to Kluang, and then hired a taxi to Kahang. It took nearly 4 hours total from KL.
There are regular buses to both major towns from KL and Singapore, and you can also arrange private transfers from either city. There are no transfers provided by KOREF but they can recommend drivers.
5. Other things to note
- Wi-Fi is not provided, and we found it hard to get a good signal from our own carrier.
- There is no EFTPOS facility, so be prepared to pay with cash or do a bank transfer.
- Even though there is a lot of water around the accommodation, the mosquitos weren’t too bad. The water is not stagnant, it has pipes that help it to constantly flow.