This Boutique Homestay is Hidden Inside Malaysia’s Secret UNESCO World Heritage Site

In offbeat Perak, a new boutique homestay is throwing the spotlight onto Malaysia’s least-known UNESCO World Heritage Site. By Marco Ferrarese. Photographs by Kit Yeng Chan.

Sep 29, 2020

I want to share my passion for my hometown, its pristine nature and Malay culture,” says Abdul Nasir Jalaluddin—or Nash, as friends fondly call him—as we cruise down Lenggong’s only street in his 1973 Jaguar XJ6.

This vintage ride is just one of the highlights of the three-day Heritage Stay that Nash, a former Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts employee, bases out of his childhood home, Rumah Tiang 16 (doubles from RM1,300, all-inclusive). Supported by 16 wooden pillars, this beautiful Malay stilt house is Lenggong’s only heritage boutique homestay—a real first in out-of-the-way northern Perak.

Carved by a meteorite impact 1.83 million years ago, Lenggong Valley is Malaysia’s fourth UNESCO Site, inscribed in 2012, and noted for its burial caves and various archaeological discoveries.

Its best-known artifact is the 10,000-year-old Perak Man, the oldest and most complete human skeleton in Southeast Asia. Somehow, all of this virtually unknown to Malaysians, much less international tourists, and there is little state support—an issue locals are concerned might threaten the town’s UNESCO status.


Butterfly pea–flower tea and sticky rice.

So, boutique offerings like Nash’s are critical in boosting local tourism infrastructure and getting Lenggong on the map. Now, while many borders are still shut, is the perfect time for this under-appreciated destination to steal a share of the spotlight.

“The idea of this trip is to let guests experience Lenggong’s hidden Malay heritage,” he tells me. Wrapped in an authentic baju Melayu tunic and donning a traditional Malay hat, he starts each three-day program by welcoming guests from Rumah Tiang 16’s breezy veranda, then offering a delicious drink brewed with local flowers and served with sticky rice.

The rest of the itinerary is all about immersion in century-old local experiences. Guests visit homes where people still hand-make the traditional cosmetic bedak sejuk, and use wooden poles to beat fresh vegetables and spices into pulpy kebebe, a piquant Malay starter. On the second day, guests sit in an orchard inside a dangau—a traditional thatched hut— to share grassroots culinary secrets with a local family.

Trips are fully customizable, from breakfast hunts through Lenggong’s morning market, to visiting Malay kite makers, and cruising lake Tasik Raban or Chenderoh Dam, dubbed “Malaysia’s Mini-Amazon.” Believe it or not, this angler’s paradise is filled with rare South American peacock bass… yet another secret Lenggong is ready to share with the world.

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