Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Senses ALIVE in Taman Sari !

Angela ( in black) during the introduction

Part of the Rimbun Dahan landscape

Such a welcoming 'foyer'

Angela Hijjas was our perfect guide and host on the morning the MCG (Malaysian Culture Group)members visited Rimbun Dahan. For most of the visitors, it was a first time experience that will stay in their memories for a long time. The 14 acre Rimbun Dahan with its art studios, restored village house, underground art gallery, artist's accommodation, a classic car garage, the Hijjas family home, staff quarters and garden of indigenous plants can only blow your mind away with all it has to offer.

After a brief introduction by Sue, the coordinator of the tour, Angela Hijjas guided us to to Taman Sari, the herb and spice garden near the main house.

As a garden enthusiast myself, I know that it's a labour of love to keep a garden thriving. Angela certainly has her pulse on the plants growing there. Her knowledge of the 100 species of herbs impressed us.

'Here smell this. It's the nutmeg.' We stood by the tree, lush with dense foliage and the fruits, globular -like. The fruit was halved and passed around the ladies. The red mace is indeed attractive! Looking around, it was an awakening of senses ! The exuberant expressions told me so. Personally, I love the nutmeg and never fail to bring home some nutmeg products during a visit to Penang.

A garden nurtured to this stage is a blessing. Wow, so many herbs and spices at her disposal without having to run to the local market and not finding it there. I plant a few myself - serai, kesum, curry leaf, limau purut, mint, limau kasturi, misai kuching, kunyit, chili, kayu manis, cananga odorata, papaya, mulberry That's all my garden space can fit, I think! The main thing is to keep everything growing and alive.

In this serene haven, Angela shared her knowledge. Gardeners in Malaysia struggle with the clayey soil but Angela has succeeded in making compost in the early days of Rimbun Dahan to create a good balance for a promising start to Taman Sari.

Now and then, Angela sprinkled some spicy info about Malay customs with regards to herbs.The sepenoh/euricles amboinensis is a magic plant. Malays use leaves in magic brush to sprinkle consecrated rice gruel in harvesting, fishing and wedding ceremonies. The plant is believed to expel ghosts and evil spirits from the house. The medicinal and culinary wealth of the herbs and spices is evident in this garden space.

Having spiced our walk in Taman Sari, Angela kept up the tempo in the other areas of Rimbun Dahan. What's a forty five minute drive to Angela's Rimbun Dahan? Nothing to speak of! We enjoyed such a nourishing morning for the soul in the arts and the plants! Thank you, Angela!

What's inside is indeed attractive. The lacy red mace is so lovely. So much to enjoy from the pala or nutmeg / myristica fragrans) : fruit pickled as food, shoot eaten as vegetable with rice and to treat hypertension; red mace for flavouring fish and cakes ; kernel gives commercial nutmeg ; oil is medicinal . The nutmeg originating from the Banda islands of Indonesia were grown in plantations on Penang island by the British when the spice was one of the most valuable commodities in the world.

As we walked round the garden, we smelled the different herbs shown to us.Tear a little of the leaves or crush them lightly, then smell -the daun kesum, the limau purut, etc. Of course, it smelt strange and new to some of the ladies who have not come across these herbs in the tropics. The consensus among the visitors is Malaysia is blessed super rich in flora. Indeed, our biodiversity is one of our natural treasures.

All eyes up for the pinang sireh / betel nut/areca catechu. The seed treats diarrhoea. The sliced endosperm of the seed is eaten with betel leaves, lime, gambier. I remember an old Indian maid of ours who used to have red lips chewing on this! It used to give her the little 'highs'.
For the Malays, the offering of the pinang sireh symbolizes the purity of the bride. Should it be discovered after the wedding, the bride is not a virgin, the pinang sireh is overturned! This precise function of the pinang sireh does not exist today.

Neat garden with herbs, over 100 species

The limau purut/citrus hystrix under the nose . The leaf is an essential ingredient in cooking. The rind is used in ubat jamu to drive away evil spirits, worms in children and headaches.

The aroma defines the herb. Spices enhance/improve flavour and boost appetite.

The pegaga/ Indian pennywort,(centella asisstica) in Malaysia is synonymous with ulam /salad herb. A ulam dish is not complete without it. The pegaga is valued all over the world both for the fresh consumption in stimulating appetite and the medicinal properties like treating sores, ulcers and skin problems.
Ulams/salad herbs add variety to meals and are a major source of vitamins, minerals and fibre.
Do not be deceived . Some of the ulams are 'weeds' in our garden while some are ornamental or garden plants which never crossed our minds they can be eaten!

The mulberry fruits

ps. Please click on the website on the right hand sidebar for more of Rimbun Dahan.


  1. I can smell all the good leaves and fruits...
    That place looks beautiful.
    I guess meetings like that are great way to meet new people too?!
    Happy Tuesday!


  2. I am completely delighted with this really wonderful and impressive garden. It is really beautiful experience being there and enjoying all those impressive herbs and spices and feeling various fragrances all around. Thanks for sharing this wonderful and informative post. I completely enjoyed.

  3. I would like to bring my kids to here one day!

  4. Nice and interesting nature tour!

  5. Lovely fruity post :-)
    Always nice to meet new friends :))))))

  6. Lovely, lovely walk in the garden, Keats! I feel refreshed already! Haven't been to Rimbun Dahan in a while now. Love the herb garden and the antique kampung house in her garden. Everything is so well-kept and most of all, informative and educational! I believe Taman Sari is the biggest South East Asian indigenous garden in the region. I love the art gallery in the basement also.

  7. Beautiful place..you do move around a lot. Hopefully next time or soon, we can find time to meet :) have a good week..or weekend soon.

  8. Hi
    Blogitse, it is certanly a wonderful place. The MCG is for local and expats and we learn so much from each other. An Australian introduced me to the org. and it's a great org. to join.

    MedaM, thanks! glad you've fallen in love with Taman Sari:)

    Sonia(nasi lemak lover), Rimbun Dahan is a private property. If you're a MNS ( Malaysian Nature Society) member, chances are you'll get to visit as educational tours are conducted.

    Pete,thanks to Angela for being such a superb host!

    Anya, the mCG is a wonderful org. to get to know people from other countries. it is run by a dedicated committee.

    ~Covert_Operations'78~, you're right! everything is so lovely about it:))

    M.Kate,I couldn't let this vist pass me by! have gone there before but there's always something new, especially the artist's gallery. Yah! meet soon and we can talk about our busyness!!!

  9. It looks like a great place to be. I was asked how I could handle the loss of a child. I have already moved on and do not dwell on it, but ihe is always in my heart. Soeey to answer here but I am not being morbid.

  10. Labour of love. Thank you Keats. Your personal touch adds to what is already so interesting and amazing.

  11. You really do Malaysia proud, Keats!!

    Hey, this is the second time someone complained about having trouble commenting at my site. Can you tell me what's wrong so I can fix it??

    Thanks, Keats. You're a wonderful bloggy pally!

  12. Hi
    Lucy,that morning was a real treat for all of us. beyond any doubt the loss a child is a great loss. memories are always there.

    Ocean Girl,thanks! we're blessed with people like Angela who want to create an awareness for our natural biodiversity. In Rimbun Dahan,the Malaysian experience is so alive!

    Veronica Lee, thanks so much for your compliments! Have to say, Angela comes up TOPS:)))
    I haven't been able to send a comment as it says link broken or webpage not available. This is for yours and others like Ocean Girl too. I wonder if it's my end that is posing the problem. Will try and get help to troubleshoot. have a good day!

  13. Thanks for the feedback, Keats!!

    Have a great weekend!

  14. what a wonderful journey you took me on!...loved it...the place looks worth a visit and your picture are far-out.

  15. Hi
    Veronica Lee, have yourself a good weekend!

    Nalini Hebbar, thanks! glad you enjoyed Rimbun Dahan.

  16. This place kinda remind me of the Tropical Spice Garden in Tanjung Bungah, Penang. Ever been there?

  17. It must be a heavenly place on earth. I love all the smell of herbs.

    Wonderful tour for me Keat, and complete with great pictures!

  18. Very informative and the photographs are simply great.

  19. Hi
    AJ7, yes, I enjoyed the Tropical Spice Garden but haven't been there in a while. A friend bought me a cinnamon (true) plant and it is growing well outside my house by the front gate.

    Icy BC, thanks! a wonderful place indeed! Angela also conducts monthly tours at Rimba Ilmu, University Malaya.

    Onkar, glad you gave me good marks! LOL!

  20. thank you for taking us with you in the visit! I truly enjoyed it!

  21. I would gladly follow Angela on a tour of her garden if I am lucky enough. Such a wealth of knowledge to enjoy!

  22. Hi
    Laura in Paris, thank you for visiting Rimbun Dahan.

    Autumn Belle,the odd tours are conducted when there are special requests,eg.by the MNS.

  23. I would love to visit Rimbun Dahan. It already felt refreshing by enjoying your post.

  24. Sounds like such a fun outing for you ladies. Wish I was there, I love gardens and could stay there for hours!

  25. Hi
    Rosidah Abidin, thanks so much!

    petite nyonya, have you heard of the selangor and ft gardening society? please click on my sidebar and find out more. you might want to be a member. I'm one and we're looking for members.

  26. Thanks for this beautiful tour, that I am sure my husband and I would just love to go on! I have been to someplace in Penang called 'The Spice Garden' and it was quite an interesting tour as well. But Rimbun Dahan sounds absolutely fascinating. Another reason for us to visit Penang again soon :)

    Thank you for a brilliant post.

  27. Hi
    pat,thanks! The Spice Garden in Penang is also fascinating. Hope it is drawing people there.Rimbun Dahan has lots to offer. It is a haven.


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