Would I get a room over the barn? Would my wife have a problem with the smell?
I will stay at a Farm Resort during my next trip to Singapore. I tried to mention it casually, but my colleagues’ reaction was like “What??! In Singapore?!”
I told myself it was just Thai ignorance. For them, Singapore would be all shopping malls and IT. Once we arrived in Singapore it would of course be different.
But it wasn’t! Even born and bred Singaporeans looked at me in disbelief: “A farm resort? Here in Singapore?”
“It’s called “D’Kranji Farm Resort,” I defended myself, but to no avail.
My project was getting more and more adventurous. Would “Farm Resort” be like “Farm Stay”? Would I get a room over the barn? Would my wife have a problem with the smell?
Looking at a map I found D’Kranji Farm Resort up in the far North West corner of the island. The red Woodland Line on the MRT will actually take you quite close. From the Kranji station, the D’Kranji Farm Resort could have picked us up with their shuttle bus – but we “cheated” and after my last business meeting of the day we took a taxi from downtown all the way.
The first impression was favourable. Scattered around a covered restaurant, barbecue and karaoke area there were several low, one storey buildings with red roof tiles. And no trace of manure in the air, only the fresh country smell of moist, fertile soil.
Further down the central lane there was a building with a sign saying Swiftlets Museum. Swiftlets are the birds that build the birds nests, but you knew that of course. That would definitely be an interesting add-on for our stay, I noted.
In the office opposite the museum we met Venisa Hang, the Assistant Marketing Manager, who had invited me and my wife to stay the weekend. Venisa introduced us to her boss, Ryan Ong, a young guy in his twenties with an easy humor and a fresh out of college laughter.
Venisa had until only two months ago worked with a local publisher. But she lived nearby up in this area of Singapore with her husband and three sons and was tempted to exchange her city job with some fresh air closer to home.
Ryan is a native from the area who as a teenager would be called home by his Dad during harvesting or whenever work had to be done to help out on the farm. His father who was also actively managing other businesses overseas, left managing D’Kranji Farm Resort to his recently graduated son.
Apart from being asked by his Dad to be in charge of the resort, there is actually also another reason for his young age. Most of his friends went on to study for MBA diplomas after their bachelor exams and then went on to do their military service. Ryan took another approach. He went straight into military service after his bachelor graduation and then as a soldier studied MBA at night. A tough choice, but one which today has put him two to three years ahead of his peers.
D’Kranji Farm Resort opened in 2008 with the first phase. Since then, the resort has continuously expanded adding attractions and accommodations. Our accommodations turned out to one of the newest villas. It was the first in the fourth row of the 35 stand alone villas that have been built next to the sprawling common area where we first entered. It turned out that the villas actually have their own convenient drive thru reception. If you have booked a villa in advance, you simply pick up your key and park right outside the front door to your villa.
Inside, our villa turned out to be the exact opposite of my childish “room over the barn” imagination. Ryan had already pointed out that “Singaporeans cannot live without air conditioning”, but apart from that, and the gorgeously equipped bed, and the super comfy sofa opposite the huge flat screen TV – yes, there is more! – it turned out that the bathroom was semi-outdoor with a dreamy look straight up into the twinkling stars of the tropical night from the big rain shower style faucet and – yes, there is more! – the two person jacuzzi next to it as well!
Not yet impressed? Then check out what is behind the glass door – your private steam bath sauna! This will make the Finns wake up, I told myself!
Behind the villa there is also a well trimmed grass lawn with a small terrace with a teak garden table arrangement for coffee or drinks from the mini-bar with a view to the farmland behind the resort. Venisa had been anxious to explain how we should protect ourselves against the mosquitoes and the room had a little pouch with all kinds of repellents and patches but in reality we were far less bothered by mosquitoes than back home in Bangkok.
Tour of the farms
The next morning after a healthy English breakfast – and rice soup for my wife – we started the tour of the farm.
To the west there are a series of small plots that reminds me exactly about the Danish phenomenon “kolonihaver” which during the industrial revolution provided small plots of land for workers who had just migrated in from the countryside. The plots at D’Kranji Farm are 8 x 30 meters and they cost from a couple of hundred dollars onwards per month to rent or about 20 percent of your turnover, if you run your “farm” as a business and sell your produce in the stalls set up inside the commercial area. Foreigners can rent, too, e.g. if they want to grow their own clean vegetables.
To the south there is an orchard farm with special papaya trees that don’t grow so tall so the fruits are easy to harvest. The area also has a banana plot and a rice field. Many Singaporean schools make excursion here to explain to the students where the rice they buy in the supermarket comes from.
Around the Kranji district, there are a number of ordinary farms located.
First farm we visited was the Hay Dairies goat farm where the son of the founder Leon Hay showed us the stock of 600 goats in total. Some 200 of the goats are with milk and the milking is done by standard milking machines. I thought goat milk would have a woolly taste, but it turned out to be delicious. And then it is better in certain ways especially for children with allergies. An 800 ml bottle costs 8 S$ if you want the farm to deliver to your home.
Nearby is also the Jurong Frog Farm which has raised American bull frog for 35 years. The frog meat is lean and high in protein and many Singaporeans like the taste of for instance stir fried frog legs with spring onions.
From the moment the frogs acqquire legs and move from tadpoles to small frogs, it takes 7 – 9 months before they reach a size suitable for slaughtering – which is done on the premises in a separate house. Apart from the meat, our host Anna Cheah explained how the Chinese and Japanese pay very good money for the ovaries of the female frogs. The ovaries are freeze dried and become a jellyish substance when prepared as a special medical soup.
The Jurong frog farm is a popular outing spot for families with children who get a chance to catch some of the frogs. A girl we saw tried to kiss the frog, too, but to her disappointment it didn’t turn into a prince.
The latest attraction at the D’Kranji Farm itself is the Swiftlet Museum which is the only place in the world where a special exhibition explains everything you would like to know about the birds and their expensive nests. Research into what exact ingredients in the birds nests that are so beneficial has only started recently. Among others they have in clinical trials found ingredients that seem to help fight certain forms of cancer and products with this ingredient is sold in the outlet next to the museum.
Finally we tried half an hour of fish spa treatment at the D’Kranji Farm, which was a ticklish fun and relaxing after the big farm round trip.
Meanwhile we watched other guests enjoy the “Hook ’n Cook” activity, which is the art of catching shrimps with a fishing rod with special bait. When you have a net full, you can relax around the grill and enjoy your catch.
There’s a different Sunday for you!