Reconnecting with nature at a Penampang lodge
Published on: Sunday, March 28, 2021
By: Lorena Binisol
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The Country Garden Lodge.
COUNTRY Garden Lodge in Kg Maang is a 15-minute drive from Donggongon township. Visitors often make a phone call to the owner or drop a message at its Facebook page.

Its owners, a husband and wife team, turned the existing farm into a therapeutic place for either a day trip or overnight stay.

Judy Miki and husband Dr Daniel Fong are nature lovers. They enjoy seeing visitors become more relaxed and appreciate nature by just sitting down, or staring at Mount Kinabalu in the early morning.

Entering the place can be quite tricky as the junction leading to the farm is narrow and not so conspicuous.

“You really need to pay attention to the junction, or else, you will have to make one more turn,” warned Judy.

“We are adamant to keep the place as a recuperation and ‘getaway’ haven, especially in today’s world. People need to learn how to relax the mind by reconnecting to nature,” said Judy. 

Judy also planted many kinds of flowers, fruit trees and plants all around the place and the fragrant smell from the petals of variety kinds of flowers were very enticing, too.

Judy’s Corner has plants such as succulents and little cactus on display. They’re adorable and eye-catching, especially those who enjoy little items as decorations.

It is a form of therapy, too, said Judy on her varieties of succulent plants.

Colourful butterflies, ladybugs and birds are among the morning “visitors” at Judy’s Corner and that makes the ambience lively and refreshing adding to the sounds from the chirping birds and insects.

With her creativity, Judy also made a platform combining her colourful cactus of different types which received much admiration from visitors.

The place is also used for autistic young adults to do their farming activities.  Judy said one of the objectives had always been to provide a place for such people to find joy in “working”. It means a lot to her as she herself has two special young adult children.

Apart from the vegetable farms which they started in 2015, the place becomes more noticeable when Judy launched her stay-in lodges, a getaway for anybody who feels like “escaping” from the hustle and bustle of life.

She said the existing land used to be a paddy field in the early days, where she played and run around “chasing” buffalo, throwing muds, looking for insects, playing hide-and-seek. Those days, the sky looked bluer, clearer and kinder, those were the days, she recalled.

When there was heavy downpour, no flood occurred those days unlike today.  Nobody got worried about flooding at all as it did not happen that badly before.

When she first started to turn the place into vegetable farm in 2015, it was all sweat, hard work and self-financed. 

“I am delighted that today, after many years of labour, I see the purpose of this place – giving ‘life’ to those who need it most!  

“I get very excited when I see visitors come to me and expressed their pleasure and earnest feeling towards this place,” an excited Judy.

The good comments and satisfaction coming from the visitors made Judy and her husband work harder towards sustaining their “retreat place” even more.

Besides the ambience and stunning panoramic views, Judy also surprised the visitors with authentic traditional food and her fresh organic vegetables prepared by in-house chef, Martina Libasa, who is a Kadazan.

A group of visitors went for an overnight excursion recently never expected they would be treated with sumptuous dishes prepared by the chef. 

Judy, together with her husband and children dropped by in the evening to have dinner with her guests and that made the mood even more special for the visitors as the owners came to join in the dinner.

Martina surprised the guests with her “pinasakan sada”, a popular dish among the Kadazans, fish simmered in sour fruit with some organic ingredients.

She also prepared bamboo shoots cooked with Kampung chicken that became a hit among the visitors and Dr Fong gave his thumbs-up for its taste.

The next morning, Martina received a booking to order for her dishes by Dr Fong himself for another separate occasion. That says a lot about her dishes!

For breakfast, she prepared ‘Kodop porridge’, a wild edible mushroom cooked in rice porridge. “A real Kadazan breakfast,” said Martina.

One of the visitors, Paul, who had never tried Kodop porridge before cautioned that some mushrooms are poisonous.

Martina explained that she has been going around the jungle since she was small and she would be able to recognise edible and non-edible ones. She told her visitors not to be worried about the mushroom, she is responsible for the guests’ safety.

“Please enjoy your breakfast while you feel the air blowing on your face, smell the roses next to your dining area, relax – this is what you come here for,” said Martina.

For vegetables, she could just walk over to her farm and pluck a variety of them from cucumber, Edamame (Japanese beans), leafy vegetables, long beans to herbs, among others.

“We are so blessed with fertile soil as we can grow anything all year round.”

Martina said when she doesn’t have any other tasks, she would drive to the farm, be still and enjoy the God-given majestic view.

“A definite priceless atmosphere altogether and free from stress,” she claimed.

Judy expressed her admiration towards Martina’s willingness to help cook, especially when there are big groups of visitors to the farm.

“I definitely enjoy cooking at this breath-taking place, it gives me much enjoyment and leaves me stress-free,” quipped Martina.


Bamboo shoot dish with Kampung chicken for dinner prepared by Martina.

One of the sought-after dishes is the Pinasakan Sada. 

Judy (second right) with her husband Dr Daniel and their children Nicole, Natalie and Audrey. 

Visitors interacting with a person who was tending to the farm. 

Enjoying the afternoon delight (organic vege) – mostly plucked from Judy’s farm. 

Martina is always ready to cook her traditional authentic delicacies for visitors. 


Judy’s Corner showcases plants that are cultivated by her. 

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