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The Dusun: a hidden gem in the hills of Malaysia: Part I

One of the most appealing things about living in Phuket is the opportunity to travel around Asia. As a resident of Phuket I made my first trip to Malaysia, but not for a visarun, as you might think.

Sunday 27 December 2015, 09:00AM

Dasha Suleyman

Before moving from Moscow to Thailand, I learned about some beautiful, mysterious and secluded
place somewhere in between the mountains in the state of Negeri Sembilan. Looking through photos on the website of the jungle resort, The Dusun, it was easy to guess that the place is something different from the typical hospitality standards we’re accustomed to.

Instead of luxury, I was surrounded by picturesque views on a mountain range; instead of brunches and all-night parties, I was surrounded by maturing durian and mangosteen trees, creative neighbours and wild animals.


The Dusun began as a retreat from the city for just one family more than 20 years ago. Helen and her family found a special place in the Mantin hills of Negeri Sembilan. And this is where The Dusun was built.

All the rubber trees were removed and durian seeds were planted by Helen, David and their five children. Year by year the Dusun expanded and more wooden houses were built. In 2009, Helen and her family decided to turn it into a nature resort.

Each house within this resort is unique and set apart from the others so guests can enjoy privacy and a sense of space, what this family enjoys most.

It’s easy to fall in love with this place. The Dusun is 800 feet above sea level in the foothills of the Titiwangsa – the main Malaysian mountain range. So wherever you look there’s an exciting and picture-worthy view.

Next to it there is the Berembun Forest Reserve, comprising 4,000 acres of protected virgin forest rising to an elevation of 3,900 feet. This forest isn’t very well-known outside the Orang Asli community, which itself is rich in birds and plants of all kinds. 

Here you can meet wild boars and deers, monkeys and even creatures you’d probably prefer to avoid, such as giant millipedes, leeches and snakes.

The Batang Penar river flows through this reserve and is the main source of water for the Seremban community, the capital of the state.

The trip from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Dusun took around an hour by car. On the way my driver, Mohammed, told me that some tourists get scared as they approach the jungle and usually ask for the car to turn back!

“But what did they expect, it’s The Dusun!” my companion laughed. Well after that amusing story, I soon relaxed and fell asleep on my backpack.

I woke up as the car was shaking attempting to climb up the hill. I looked out the window and all I could see was this endless steep hill and it made us feel a little on edge.

I looked ahead and noticed high iron gates. The only thing that we could see was a hotel, with a sign on the gates with the The Dusun inscription. Whatever it was, I was ready for it. One of the main rules of the hotel, according to the website, is the utter respect of guests’ privacy.


My first impression was the deafening silence. All you could hear was the sound of the birds and some very calm staff members, who mostly are inhabitants of the two nearest villages. They
are from the real Orang Asli community and understand this area and local nature better than anyone.

I met Haanim, Helen’s daughter as well as her husband Cee. One of my goals was to try and get an interview with Cee as from my understanding, he is a talented musician and a member of the Malaysian band, Bass Sekolah. He is also the organiser of Asian tours for plenty of underground electronic musicians and a resident of Red Bull Music Academy (you can read more about my interview with Cee in an upcoming issue).

“We’re going to have lunch, join us,” Haanim said as he led me to a spacious terrace with just a few tables. As all other features within the resort, the terrace sits on a mountain of poles and under the shade of a number of beautiful, mature trees.

“We planted these trees ourselves,” Haanim said while we were having lunch. I came to The Dusun on Halloween eve (October 30), so after a short interview and a walk to Cee’s home studio, my hosts transitioned into their entertaining Pirate and Red Ridinghood costumes and left to party the night away, while I stayed with Asma, a nice young member of The Dusun staff.

Asmaq took me on a wonderful tour of the resort allowing me to see the place from different angles – as a hotel, as a retreat and also as a community.

For the first time since I moved to Asia I saw how durian and mangosteen grew – sprawling fruitfull trees down the hill.

“This year the mangosteen didn’t bring any fruit. But when it does, we give the fruits to our guests,” Asmaq said pointing at the trees. I was quite impressed that the resort grows its own fruiting trees.

We had took a walk to see how all the six houses were equipped for guests (there are also houses where the owners live). Each of them looks unique and has its own name. But the buildings also have a few common features, the unforgettable view of the retreat and lovely green mountain range.

As we tried not to violate the main rule of The Dusun – privacy – we approached each house with Asma whispering the stories, all the while looking up at shadows roaming around the house and the sounds of happiness and laughter.

But luckily one of the units was empty – Perling house. This house is one of the best located buildings here and has a well-equipped, open-air kitchen on the terrace. It would have been nice to sit outside and eat our morning breakfast, while taking in the charming view; definitely something to do if we ever come back!

The unit is divided into two private sections.

“It suits two pairs of friends or couples perfectly. Most of our guests come here with their families or in couples”, Asmaq told me.

Be sure to tune into part two of my story in next week’s edition of The Phuket News.

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