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Borneo, Sabah: Sinurambi


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Headline: Sinurambi - a paradise atop Crocker Range

Date Posted: 11/14/2004

The Borneo Post : Nov 14th, 2004

Harjinder Kler

It is said that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, in which case the most important part of this story is in the pictures itself, as Sinurambi’s beauty and uniqueness are worth more than a thousand words.

“Terry calls this his ‘Taj Mahal’; for me it’s home,” said Rose Mills when asked about how she and her husband feel about Sinurambi.

And what a home it is!  Built with an L-shaped design, the building is perched about 1,000 feet above sea level on the Crocker Range, providing majestic views of the outlying islands stretching from the Tunku Abdul Rahman park all the way to Kuala Penyu, while Mount Kinabalu can be seen to the North.

Sinurambi, meaning jungle hut in Dusun, is the vision of the Mills who searched for the perfect site to build their home for years before finding this property and the right architect to conceptualize their ideas.

The couple had first seen the property in mid 1999 when the access road was still bad and the property uncut.  They thought it was a beautiful site but they didn’t take up the property then and instead, engaged a land broker to find them the right site.

After a year of searching, the broker called them at their home in the UK at 2 in the morning to tell them that he had found what they were looking for.  Amazingly, it was the same property they had seen in 1999, only now it was cleared because Telekom was planning to build a tower there.  Fortunately the owner had said no and instead sold the land to the couple.  “You can say that the land found us,” Rose summed up about their home located near Penampang.  That however, was just the beginning of Sinurambi, for after purchasing the land, they had to find an architect to design their home.

“We started out by putting an advertisement in the papers but surprisingly, no one responded. So next we approached six local architectural firms. Two of them could not be bothered to respond, three submitted ideas for a ‘holiday resort’ with no conception of what we were trying to create” recalled Rose. “Then along came an architect who stepped foot on the plot and proclaimed that the opportunity to design a house in such a beautiful setting would only come once in an architect’s career.”  That was Ling Fah Shing who first visited the site with Terry in the pouring rain.  The two men stood under an umbrella as they came up with a concept for the house.  Ling suggested the idea for an L-shaped design to fit the landscape of the original eight-acre site.  The three storey L-shaped house took two years to build and even now if you ask Rose if it is done, she would reply “Yes and No. As a home owner, you are constantly adding to a house; so I don’t know if I could ever say it’s finished but if we had to do it all over again I think we would do it with a more simple design.” 

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Photo Credit: Mills collection