Thursday, 28 June 2012

Ladang teh take two

I did it, I did that thing that all people do, or are told to do or are asked if they’re doing. I went to a full moon party on ko phangan in thailand. And you know what, surprisingly I had fun.
When ignoring the fluro coloured people, the matching fluro outfits, the fluro lights, body paint and the fluro fucking everything, hip hopping your way around the bottle, tin, plastic covered dancefloor (underneath is beach) and dodging the couples swaying uncoordinatedly to the tunes, I found that a fun time can be had. As always, its not where you are, its who your with. And I had been staying with some fantastic people. I was camping in the spare room of a family that own a restaurant on Haad Salad beach, Jang and Chris, and they had some damn hilarious and energetic Thai ladies working with them, we decided late in the night to hop in the back of a ute and go to the party.
I had a wristband slapped on my arm, and we entered with a bottle of whisky and a couple of tins of chang beer in bag. I hadn’t seen this many white folk in a long time, and I couldn’t stop laughing, god we can be bloody ugly, especially when we’ve digested copious amounts of alcohol. Girls with mascara running down to their bellybuttons and boobs popping out, boys flirting their body about, sweat dripping, breath stinking of too much drink, and a stab in the back with someones uncareful cigarette flick. We went from one stage to the next, and with the bottles passed around generously all ended up a bit wonky legged. After dancing wild at a few different stages till we were sweating profusely, we noted that the beach was scattered with bodies, passed out or making out and decided that we’d too had enough and caught a taxi back to home. I had a long day of travel ahead of me as I was making my way back into Malaysia. An hour sleep, pack of bag, and tap on the door to wake Jang up, my mother for that week dropped me to the boat and caringly sent me off with rice and pork skewers, a bottle of water, and warm, sincere hug. I will miss you Jang!
Ahhhhhhhhhhh hangover! I forgot what you were like, you’re a bastard! You hurt and I don’t like you. This day was long, a 3 hour boat ride, and 12 hour trip in a squishy bus to Penang, I could have gone all the way to Ipoh, but I decided to rest. The room was the size of a cupboard, I liked it, its simplicity and cheapness, but it rained that night, the tin roof so loud it felt like it was raining on my brain. I caught a ferry and 3 buses to arrive at Lenggong, Amy picked me up, and I was back in the serenity of Ladang teh farm (permaculture perak)
Ladia and Amy were going to Japan for 2 weeks, and needed someone to look after the farm. I said that I would be more than happy to come back. It was also a great opportunity for them and i to have their first artist in residency program!
I had a day with them, getting all the last minute advice, and then I was on my own for 3 days. These 3 days, were challenging, and I began to think that I was in a little over my head, but I survived! The farm requires a lot of your time caring for animals, and they had just got a new cow, so It was interesting developing a relationship with this beautiful big creature. The goats were predictably sneaky and difficult, and the poultry, loud clucky and always hungry. The rabbits had just given birth to 6 babies, and a Mother hen one chick. It was a time of birth and it was beautiful.
I had a testing afternoon on my second day, when too many (male) visitors came to check out the land for sale above, and made me feel a little uneasy staying alone on this property, but it wasn’t too
confronting until Billy, the male goat got his neck rope caught in a billion vines. As the sun was setting, the goats had all returned to their room to get comfortable for the night, when I realised that Billy was not with them. I opened my ears and could hear his bleets of desperation, and ran to see what was wrong, after stomping through deep mud sludge, through spikey lantana and down a small creek, I found billy in a small clearing with a hundred or so vines wrapped around his neck. I ran back for the machete, and then back again through the marsh and spikes. It was a bad situation, and it only seemed to get worse. The sun had set and it was dark down this gully. Billy was in panic mode, bucking everything within his reach trying to free himself, and he had managed to get caught on top of a red ants nest.
So it was testing having this one on one battle with Billy, me holding his horns and cutting through the vines, while he is constantly bucking me, whilst slapping off the red ants that were biting aggressively defending their territory, they were in my hair, my clothes, my pants, between my fingers and toes. It was painful. But he was free after one last chop and he did a leap in the air to celebrate freedom. Started running toward his home turned around, gave me a nod of thanks and continued. Whoooh, what a day.
The next day Rizal my good friend from Jatiwangi, Indonesia arrived. I was so excited to see him again, but this meant that I would have to drive the car into town and pick him up. The car is an interesting one, a rust bucket on view, with a paper clip to switch the engine on, and a roll start to get going, but in lives a beefy engine, good wheels, and a heart well attuned to a bumpy as hell road. I made it down to Lenggong, with a few issues, the down was easy, it’s the up I was worried about. A boy on the side of the road with guitar, backpack and flanno jumps in, a smile, then off to the market to get dried coconut for the chickens, chicken heads for the dogs, and some food for ourselves.
View of Kilang and out over the valley
The greenhouse, and building new planting boxes


The next 6 days were great but challenging, this was a really amazing opportunity for me to experience owning a farm, and all the responsibilities involved. The goats were sneaky as hell, they really enjoyed walking up the hill to graze on the fresh mountainous grasses, but the loggers did not enjoy there company, so we were on constant watch to not let them pass, this was a draining job at first, but after a few days a bit of routine was developed and their movements were somewhat predictable. Until of course one day when we lost the cow and the goats, a big run up the hill following the soft droppings they had left along the way, thinking to ourselves surely the cow couldn’t be up here with them, cows hate hills! But not this one, it wanted to be one of the goat family, so yes it had followed them all the way up the hill and its head was popping up with the 12 other goats knowing they had been sprung, and were going to get in trouble!
When we were not feeding the animals, chasing the goats, playing with the pups or planting and harvesting, Rizal was making a junk percussion Jam space, and I was painting some banners for a new yoga space at the farm. We had so much room in the kilang( tea drying house) to get creative it was great. We played music and talked about life, cooked amazing meals and relaxed in our spare time. And there was nothing I enjoyed more than being able to wash every day in the fresh water flowing down from the mountain to our personal Jacuzzi.
The sunrise and sunsets here were magnificent, One day Rizal and I were playing music outside looking over the mountainous ranges, when a monkey came and visited us, high up in a tree. I heard a loud noise across the river, just next to the Sugarcane plantation and I thought it was another monkey, it would have been a huge monkey! And after closer observation we realised it was a wild elephant feeding on bamboo, I was jumping up and down with excitement, I had never seen a wild elephant in my life, only in zoos or in Elephant farms in Thailand and Indonesia, it was such a beautiful experience to think I was living in a place where an elephant will walk by of an afternoon, I was truly in the jungle, and it felt great.
cats whiskers, such a beautiful flower

the plantane almost ready

Lachumi, the farms new escape cow.

new life!

new life!

new life!

After a week David, a new volunteer arrived, he is from England, and is “permaculture travelling” he has just spent 5 months in India visiting various permaculture/sustainable farms, and then came to Malaysia. We shared stories and had great conversations about the food of different countries, and travelling. At the age of 22 this boy was something else, so intelligent and switched on, it was a pleasure meeting him, and if anyone reading this is interested in permaculture in different countries please use his blog for guidance.
With David at the farm it made things a lot easier, with dividing the jobs, a change in conversation, and listening to his knowledge on the specifics of planting and bush food, it was great to learn from him, we drank lots of interesting teas, and ate healthy food.
Ladia returned from Japan, and in a bamboozle of being grateful to be home and an influx of new ideas, sure enough, 100 new small projects were underway.
Rizal and I were supposed to do some workshops with children and locals in the next following days, but due to bad advertising and the farm being so far away from anywhere no one came. We were a little sad, we had built a great junk percussion area and were all prepared for some stencil fun. But that’s how it goes I guess, nonetheless we had a sunset performance where we all participated in some singing and playing of music, including Amy playing her new accordion found in a junk shop in japan (beautiful!) and followed by a delicious feast.
After a couple days of painting and cleaning, Rizal, David and I decided to head to Taman Negara Perlis a magic rainforest on the border of Malaysia and Thailand, we stayed in a dorm 2km into the lush forest for a couple days, and one day walked to Thailand and back to have breakfast and so Rizal could extend his visa.
Perlis is truly a special part of Malaysia and I highly recommend anyone travelling here to visit this place. It is located just outside of a small village, and the locals are so friendly, lending us there motorbikes and enjoying each other’s company. We had a night where Rizal played some experimental music to some of the local children, and a day where we went on a beautiful walk through the jungle to a massive cave up in the mountain dripping with beautiful large stalactites. There are no tourists here, so visit while it’s pristine and empty! But please be respectful.
After this short trip, Rizal and I sadly said goodbye to David “safe travels, don’t die”and caught a bus to Kuala Lumpur, where we almost froze to death under an open speaker. Arriving in the early hours, we sat at a coffee shop and awaited the sun to rise.
My pumpkin patch, planted one month before this photo was taken,
they grew so amazingly fast, the soil here is magic

following the elephants path through the forest
The massive Kilang and me enjoying some painting.

the crazy car

what a ride!

the main street of Lenggong

Junk percussion space ready to go!

A beautiful afternoon at sunset playing some music

Sunset performance

The goats came by to have a peep at Rizal playing,
as you an see this mumma is heavily pregnant!

Anarchy, the most special dog i'v ever met.

Goodbye Landang! a heaven above the clouds.


  1. This is beautiful Ellie. Such a magical full life.

  2. thanks for sharing some of your magical journey with us. I am left with that incredible feeling that life is freakin' amazing. terima kasih banyak!