FAMOUS for its lush greenery and scenic cycling routes, Janda Baik, or loosely translated as “the good divorcee” or “good widow”, is one of the top recreational places in the western part of Pahang.
Due to its strategic location, 45km away from Kuala Lumpur, the small valley is a favourite weekend gateway for families and nature lovers wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of the city.
To the less adventurous seeking a relaxing day out in green spaces, this resort town is for them. It offers plenty of places to go hiking, walking and jogging, swimming and having picnics.
The resort town is littered with hotels, chalets and homestays.
Many companies, corporations and associations hold retreats in Janda Baik. It guarantees peace and tranquillity.
Amid much folklore about the origins of Janda Baik, one particular story is often related by Pahang folk.
In 1932, the late Sultan of Pahang, Almarhum Sultan Abu Bakar Riayatuddin Al-Muadzam, first visited the town when it was a village known as Kampung Tiga Haji. The village was named after its founding trio who had performed their haj.
The story is that Sultan Abu Bakar did not like the name of the village and wanted to change it. When discussing a new name, the village elders related to the sultan a famous story about an Orang Asli chief called Tok Batin Wok, who had lived in the village. Tok Batin Wok and his wife Siah were separated following an argument.
She later left the village.
In those days, separation was frowned upon by the society, and the village folk started referring to Siah as janda (divorcee).
Siah, however, returned to the village a month later and villagers referred to her as Janda Balik (the divorcee returns).
The sultan loved the story so much that he decreed that the village should be renamed Kampung Janda Baik.
One of the most popular swimming and picnic spots is situated along Sungai Benus. The river is one of two that surround Janda Baik.
The other river is Sungai Sum Sum. Both rivers create a cooling environment in the area, making it the best spot during hot spells.
It is said that the Pahang royalty often stopped here during their travels in ancient times.
Sungai Benus is located in Pulau Santap, a small village in Janda Baik. Although “pulau” is the word for island in Bahasa Melayu, this village is not an island.
It was believed that a small “island” rose above the meeting of the two rivers, creating a cool and relaxing space for the sultan of Pahang to have his meals while travelling in the state.
The “island” no longer exists today due to erosion caused by development.
“Santap”, a Malay royal term for eating, is believed to be the reason why the place is known as Pulau Santap.
Janda Baik is said to be a self sustainable place for residents due to the abundance of natural resources. Many aspiring farmers rented or bought plots of land to start farms near Sungai Benus.
More contract farmers owned plots of land near the rivers to gain side income or spend time away from the city.
The New Sunday Times met a farmer, who wished to be known as Azli. He had moved to Janda Baik, setting up his farming business close to Sungai Benus.
“I got to know about this place through a friend who set up a small ‘plantation’ of edible plants here.
“Most customers are our neighbours. It is a nice and cooling place. A perfect hideaway from the city life,” said Azli.
During our trip to the river in Janda Baik recently, we were greeted by scenes of gushing river waters and birds chirping.
Once you reached the river, you can find picnic spots. A carpark is available nearby for visitors.
There are wooden gazebos for families to have picnics while taking a dip in the river.
You can choose to bask in the sun or take a dip in the water-pools of the waterfalls and feel your body being rejuvenated.
Visitors can pick camp sites, which start from RM50 per camping slot, with access to public toilets and parking, or pay RM20 for a riverside gazebo for a day.
After a splashing time in the river, if you’re up for more fun with family and friends, there is a paintball range next to Sungai Benus and ATV rental services for rides into the forest.
Janda Baik is also famous for its cuisine.
Holidaymakers wanting to try Pahang delicacies, such as tempoyak patin, will be happy to discover a number of restaurants in Jalan Sum-Sum Hulu.
There are cafes close to the nearby Coniferous Forest, leading up to the Sungai Benus recreational area.
Several resorts and homestays bank on the ikan patin craze by setting up ponds to rear the fish. The resorts will usually cook fresh dishes for guests.
The best thing about food in Janda Baik is that all ingredients such as fruits and vegetables, are sourced from farmers in the surrounding areas.