This is my second story for @ourbetterworld a Singapore-based NGO that highlights organizations doing work with social impact. The destination: Kampung Batu, one of five villages that make up Ulu Geroh, a Semai settlement about half an hour’s drive from Gopeng, Perak.

Though I’m no stranger to kampungs, my jaw dropped at the sight of Kampung Batu.

Spread out over undulating emerald-green grassland thick with fruit trees and flowering bushes, and fantastical giant boulders, for a minute I thought I was in a scene from Lord of the Rings.

Kampung Batu is known for its proximity to Rafflesia sites – the world’s biggest flower – but that’s not all it has to offer. Over the years, locals have expanded offerings from Rafflesia day trips to include immersive homestays.  Visitors can experience a centuries-old lifestyle deeply intertwined with nature while helping the Semai to protect the forest and their livelihoods.

In my 2D1N stay, I learned about the architectural ingenuity of traditional Semai dwellings: fortified with bertam palm leaves and bamboo stems, these natural eco-lodges can withstand heavy rain and are equipped with space-spacing compartmental shelves that would give Ikea a run for its money.

I marvelled at the skills and knowledge that go into making basketry and hunting tools out of basic forest materials. .

I ate some of the best food of my life, ferns foraged from the jungle and fish freshly caught from the nearby river – who knew durian made such great sambal?

The icing on the cake was seeing FOUR Rafflesia blooms. The climb up a continuous 45 degree elevation was tough, but damn worth it. I’m told that some people have to make multiple trips to see even one flower 😱😱😱 .

Thanks so much to Bah Insan from SEMAI and  John Chan from @mynatureinspired for organizing this unforgettable outing.