Think you have explored every nook and cranny of Malaysia? Think again. There are plenty of “forgotten” towns worth exploring in Malaysia — one of them is Jelebu, a sleepy district of hills and valleys just 30 minutes away from Seremban. I was intrigued about Jelebu after reading about the remnants of its Minang culture after the Minangkabaus migrated there from Sumatra, Indonesia hundreds of years ago. So one fine weekend, I decided to drive up to Jelebu to learn more about this enigmatic region. Here goes…

1) Day 1 – Morning: Explore the Hidden Hakka Town of Titi

I began my adventure by going on the scenic route from Hulu Langat. The road began at the massive Semenyih Dam and from there on, I crossed rolling hills and dense jungle to get to the quaint little town of Titi.

The locals of Titi are predominantly Hakka Chinese who migrated here by the early 19th century to work in the booming tin mining industry. I loved Titi’s “stuck in time” vibe of charming pre-War shop houses and busy kopitiams where locals catch up for a (rather long) morning chat.

I was also excited to discover street art painted on unassuming walls of back alleys and a Chinese temple.

2) Day 1 – Afternoon: Sample Authentic Kuih at Soong Seng

While I was roaming on Titi’s main street, I saw a wooden shop packed with customers. Apparently, the unassuming shop is the legendary bakery, Soong Seng.

Soong Seng sells a wide spread of home-made kueh like angkukocibingka as well as seri muka, which has become quite the rarity nowadays. These colourful kuehs were neatly spread out on round metal sheet pans. Customers were frantically pointing to the desired sweets.

(CC by 2.0 / Yun Huang Yong)

(CC by 2.0 / Yun Huang Yong)

Of course, I had to join in the frenzy and sampled a bit of everything. Each kueh was so chewy and delectable! By the time I decided to buy another round, everything was sold out!

3) Day 1 – Evening: Experience Real Farm Life at Titi Eco Farm

Just across the town centre is Titi Eco Farm, a farm that doubles up as a resort. The 40-acre farm is fully organic, and it allows visitors to pick the crops and eat them on the spot!

Photo credit: Titi Eco Farm

I signed up for a farm tour and it was the first time I was able to check out a coffee tree and its fruits!

Photo credit: Titi Eco Farm

Photo credit: Titi Eco Farm

We then visited the chicken and fish farms followed by a petting zoo. I had so much fun playing with the furry rabbits and feeding the curious goats until I didn’t realise it was getting dark.

Photo credit: Titi Eco Farm

Photo credit: Titi Eco Farm

Dinner time was a treat as we feasted upon dishes made with ingredients from the farm – truely a farm-to-table experience. The steamed tilapia was really moist and fresh while the kerabu-style salad gave a solid crisp and crunch to every bite. I definitely had a good night’s sleep right after!

Photo credit: Titi Eco Farm

4) Day 2 – Morning: Test Your Mettle at Challenging Gunung Besar Hantu

I woke up early the next morning before daybreak and made my way to Kampung Ulu Kenaboi, an Orang Asli village which is the starting point to Negeri Sembilan’s highest mountain, Gunung Besar Hantu.

After registering at the park entrance, I hopped on a four-wheel drive that took some hikers along a logging road to the start of the hiking trail. From there on, we could only see thick jungle foliage and massive bamboo groves along the trek.

Photo credit: @marymaryshin

The hike up was tough; the air became colder and the morning mist grew thicker. After a much-needed rest at the Kem Orkid halfway point, I finally conquered this 1,462-meter high behemoth three hours later.

As cheesy as it may sound, I felt as though I was standing on the shoulder of giants!

By noon, the mist finally lifted, rewarding us with sweeping views of mountains and valleys. A fellow hiker told me that the towering mountain nearby was Gunung Nuang and if we had continued hiking a bit further, we would end up in Pahang!

Photo credit: @marymaryshin

Photo credit: @darwisyahkasah

5) Day 2 – Evening: Soothe Those Sore Muscles at Drmind Farm Guesthouse

I descended late in the afternoon and drove all the way to Drmind Farm, a cosy guesthouse by the edge of the forest. All of Drmind Farm’s accommodations are made from bamboo. My room came with natural ventilation, direct sunlight and even a hammock!

Breathing in the unblemished jungle air every day was bliss. I got a shock when I showered – the water was freezing but was jolt-refreshing at the same time. When night fell, the weather became so chilly that I had to wrap myself in a blanket!

6) Day 2 – Night: Crunch on Sate Tulang, A Jelebu Specialty

Before I tucked in for the night, I ventured out of Drmind Farm to sample a local speciality – Sate Tulang. Made from leftover chicken bones, Sate Tulang originated from Jelebu and has made its way to Seremban. I saw sticks of this fire-grilled goodness at ABM Sate Tulang, a Jelebu mainstay for over 50 years.

Unlike the usual satay, I had to bite carefully at the bones for meat. My effort was rewarded with the savoury chicken meat seasoned with a super-secret spice recipe!

7) Day 3 – Morning: Walk Around Minang-Inspired Kuala Klawang

My final day in Jelebu was mainly spent at Kuala Klawang, the administrative town for Jelebu. Kuala Klawang was the main centre for migration of Minangkabaus and traces of their culture can be seen from the pointed rooftops on the buildings.

I marvelled at the buffalo horn-styled roof found perched on top of the municipal council building, the community hall and stadium’s grandstand. There is even a little Minang clock tower in front of the magistrate court – like a mini version of Bukittinggi’s Jam Gadang.

 

8) Day 3 – Morning: Learn About Customs and Tradition at Muzium Adat

Right across the Minang clock tower is Muzium Adat, a three-storey building containing a treasure trove of Malaysia’s customs and traditions across all ethnic groups.

I learnt about different customs governing various aspects of life, some of which I had not heard of such as adat melenggang perut. I also liked the display of tanjak, traditional Malay headgear, which differs in the pattern according to each state. The final gallery showcased Adat Perpatih, a custom brought by the Minang where familial inheritance is only passed down to the women of the family.

9) Day 3 – Afternoon: Get Hot Over Restoran Fatimah’s Fiery Minang Cuisine

The intellectual walkabout at Muzium Adat worked up my appetite so I made my way to Restoran Fatimah, a restaurant known for its fiery “masak lemak cili api” cooking. Meat is cooked in a turmeric-seasoned coconut milk stew littered with bird’s eye chilli.

My lunch was a plate of catfish masak lemak cili api, cassava leaves and tempeh with a full portion of rice. My face turned red and my tongue burned as I took the first sip of the stew — so spicy! The spicy stew added an extra kick while the fried tempeh and rice offered me some respite from the heat.

10) Day 3 – Evening: Make A Splash at Jeram Toi Recreational Park

After an incendiary afternoon, I decided that I needed a place to cool down. So I dashed south to Jeram Toi Recreational Park. Jeram Toi is a multi-tiered waterfall with a wading pool popular with locals and day trippers. I arrived quite early in the afternoon and had the whole place to myself!

Soon after, more visitors arrived and the soundscape turned from one of tranquillity to that of laughter and big splashes of excitement.

 Photo credit: @bellepongwl of Belle Journey

Jelebu is a breath of fresh air to weary city dwellers like me. It is a hidden corner of Malaysia that offers a short trip to cleanse myself physically, mentally and spiritually. So if you too are in need of a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, Jelebu is perfect for a quick getaway.