Building A Treehouse In The Rainforest

A while back, I posted about my visit to a place in Johor Malaysia where treehouses sit in the canopy of the rainforest. A few months later, I went back to help Ah Yao (founder of Rainforest Treehouse), Salim and Wira, two Orang Asli (literally “original people” in Malay language), build another treehouse. The four photos below show from start (left) to almost finish (right).


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Treehouses – Skyscrapers in the Malaysian Rainforest

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A treehouse that can sleep a dozen adults!

We tend to think of a treehouse as something for kids to hide in and spend a lazy afternoon reading. Do you know that there are traditional people who spend their entire lives staying in treehouses? We visited a place in southern Malaysia with treehouses for adults (and kids alike). It is located at the foot of the mountain Gunung Pulai.

Previously, I wrote about the traditional Malay houses of Malaysia. They are typically constructed with wood and built on stilts with pitched roofs. Contrary to the simple aesthetics, the house is highly sophisticated and designed to handle the climate of the humid tropics to keep inhabitants as comfortable as possible without the need for energy-consuming technologies like air-con.

Treehouses have existed in Malaysia for a long time as well, probably even way before the traditional Malay houses. They are the traditional houses of the Orang Asli (literally “original people” in Malay language). The Orang Asli are hunter-gatherers and reside in the rainforests of Malaysia. They can put together a treehouse with nothing more than a parang (machete), a saw, a hammer and some nails. The materials (wood, bamboo, and palm fronds) are all taken from the forest. Continue reading

Maejo Baandin – Building Houses with Mud

After leaving Mindful Farm on the second day of 2015, we once again hopped on to our neglected motorcycle and went on the road. After taking a few wrong turns, getting lost, and asking around, we finally got to our next destination – Maejo Baandin. Maejo is the name of the village, “baan” means home in Thai, and “din” is earth. Not surprisingly, we were greeted by many beautiful mud structures in the premise.

Found the entrance at last!

Found the entrance at last!

Maejo village is a remote village located 2 hours drive North of Chiangmai city. In this village within walking distance to one another, there are three places that promote sustainable living – Maejo Baandin, Pun Pun, and Panya Project. Pun Pun promotes mud building and seed saving for self-reliance. Panya Project is a community of volunteers and they regularly teach permaculture courses. Continue reading

Mindful Farm – Cultivating Oneself

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A sanctuary to calm the monkey mind

I ended year 2014 and stepped into 2015 at a farm a few hours northwest of Chiang Mai city in Thailand. From the name Mindful Farm, you can probably guess that it focuses on mindfulness and meditation. The farm was started by a former monk Pi Nan (literally meaning ex-monk) and his Japanese wife Noriko about 2 years ago. They have a baby girl Nobara who is very calm compared to most city kids that grew up with the ipad. Continue reading

Practical Permaculture Course in Malaysia

Practical Permaculture CourseIt’s one thing reading about permaculture on the internet and another learning in-person from an experienced practitioner. I was lucky to spend 10 days over the 2014 New Year holidays with Sandot from Tacomepai Farm in Thailand. Sandot was traveling in Malaysia to help a friend design and build a permaculture farm called the Green Forest Project at the foot of Genting Highlands. The objective of the Green Forest Project is to be a healing center for cancer patients and permaculture educational centre. Sited in a valley within beautiful forests, the founder Sharley envisions the 3 acre land to be secluded from the outside world. Food will be grown organically and served to the cancer patients who will live very close to nature in simple huts. Continue reading

Building Houses in the Air

Malay house under coconut treesI’ve been reading a lot about the traditional Malay house. Contrary to its simple and humble appearance, there is actually a lot of thought that goes into the design. Thoughts that factor in climate, available resources, and lifestyle. This house is evidence of human ingenuity before we started relying on air-conditioners and big diesel-guzzling lorries.

Books have been written about the simple Malay house and there is too much to be said. In this post I will focus only on how the house has been adapted to the humid tropical climate. Continue reading