KUCHING: Sitting on top the Penrissen Range some 2,000 metres above sea level and 50km from the buzzing city life, is the Borneo Highlands Resort.- a result of the pioneering vision of Tan Sri Lee Kim Yew, who transformed what was logged land into an exclusive wonderland of golf course and bungalows snuggled in the midst of flora and fauna of a rainforest.
Just as he had raised the present-day ‘Mines Resort’ in Selangor from disused tin mines into a Malaysian success story, Lee was here over a decade ago on Sarawak’s invitation.
The developer was to decide if his Midas touch could yet work another wonder, and stood gazing across 1,000 acres of timber over logged jungle straddling the border with Indonesian Kalimantan.
As the story goes, Lee said he would pick up the gauntlet if he could call through to his wife on his handphone, this, in the days when mobile phone reception was near-miraculous in remote parts, where ‘Borneo Heights’ was. Amazingly, the call went through, and the beaming Lee made his decision… and the rest is history.
The Borneo Post adventure team ascended the steep winding road from the base of the range to the resort in a test drive of Isuzu MU-X yesterday.
It was not drive for the faint-hearted but the powerful 2.5 litre engine of the Isuzu SUV made light work of what would have been an arduous drive up the mountain.
The location of the resort has a rich history of legends with its own version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ romance in the midst of a war among the tribes of who lived on the range.
Marketing and IT Manager Bernard Tiang related that long ago when during the tribal war marriage between the different tribes was forbidden.
“But a couple originating from two tribes fell in love,” Bernard explained. “when their love affair were exposed they were chased by their own people. They were cornered at the ‘rumah panggah’ (a house where headhunters guarded prized skulls) and while it was taboo for women to enter, the desperate couple in grave violation, hid in it.
Bernard added: “When they were in hiding from the enemy, a lightning bolt struck the ‘rumah panggah’and turned it into a large boulder. Today, the accursed boulder or ‘batu panggah’ as the locals call it, is just a one-hour trek away from the resort and the viewer can vaguely make out the face of a man and woman etched on the stone.”
Bernard recollected that in 2002, a guide leading tourists to visit the boulder, came back claiming that he saw the figure of a man and a woman by the stone!
The unfortunate lovers are not the only spiritual beings residing on the range Bernard said as the locals believe the land is protected “seven princesses”.
According to him, Mount Penrissen which soars above the resort, on the Kalimantan border, is believed to be the home of the seven guardian princesses and sometimes they could be seen playing around the top of the mountain.
“It is believed that the sacred mountain is a ‘stairway to the heavens’ where prayers are offered to help souls of the deceased ascend to heaven. They believe their prayers can complete the journey of their dearly departed through the mountain.”
Back down on earth Bernard said when night falls on the sprawling resort virtually turns into a playground for creatures we do not see by day: the nocturnal visitors include wild boar, white moonrats, barking deer, civet cat, and even the elusive Borneon mousedeer.
We did not get see or hear those ‘things that go bump in the night’ as we have to drive back to Kuching before sundown leaving behind the seven princesses and the stone lovers.