The Secret Sanctuary: Sometimes You Just Fall In Love With A Place

December 14, 2012 in Asia, Inspiration, Malaysia, Travelogue

How do I find the words to do this hidden gem justice?

The sign over the bar says it all, “Welcome home, This is not a restaurant or a hotel,” and indeed, we felt at home from the moment we walked in.

This place truly is a Secret Sanctuary.

It’s tucked into a borough of Kuching, on the western end of the Malaysian side of the island of Borneo. It’s well off the tourist strip and it’s the home of a singular man. Cyril Lim built this place as his home, and a way to create a peaceful community for others who are seeking a quiet escape from a busy world.

On a tiny piece of property he’s managed to create an 11 room haven.

There are waterfalls, ponds full of fish that he cooks up for dinner, pools of tiny nibblers with a table and chairs set in the middle: a fish spa, a swimming pool complete with cave and green plants filling every nook and cranny. All six of us took a bubble bath together in the huge spa tub and at night we’ve sipped beers on the patio with Cyril’s friends from the neighbourhood.

Locals come and go enjoying the food and the quiet. Some drop by to visit or bring bags of fruit to share with the guests. Silk lanterns light the open spaces and a cool breeze filters between the bamboo walls even in the hottest parts of the day. Incense burns intermittently and quiet music provides a sound track that drowns out all of the busy-ness of the world around.

I dare you to come here and not relax.

This is also a spa and a place of holistic healing.

There are massage tables, Infrared light treatments, a whirlpool tub and more. Cyril is very interested in natural healing and is a believer that the body can heal itself if given the chance.

Everywhere you look there are quotes written on pictures, or window glass, or even on the side of the refrigerator in the kitchen. They’re peaceful, reflective encouragements to self love and gentle living.

I sat with Cyril over breakfast the other morning and asked him about his vision for this place and his passion for peaceful living and personal serenity. I wanted to find a way to communicate, not just the basics of his services, but the essence of his philosophy of life that so pervades every aspect of The Secret Sanctuary and sets it apart from anywhere we’ve ever stayed, anywhere else in the world.

He laughed gently and said, “With love we celebrate! Peace, Love & Truth is my passion. Here we love all worlds and cultures, appreciating beauty & the miracle of life. We celebrate a free heart spirit, love to share good thing with others,make new friends, living in harmony with true earth spirit as one,feeling joy in NOW, feeling love.”


“Some people can write books, or paint pictures, or make music that tell what they believe and what they know and are what they share with the world. I cannot do those things, but what I can do is create space for people, and so I built this, to create a space for people to feel my heart and my passion for love and truth and peace.”

I love that. I love that creating space is his art, his writing, his musical gift to the world, and he’s woven all of those things into The Secret Sanctuary.

If you’re looking for the statistics:

  • There are 11 rooms, they have mattresses on the floor and there are cracks between the walls and ceilings. They are air conditioned, and beautifully decorated with bright colours, rich fabrics and local art and handicrafts.
  • There might be bugs sometimes, although we’ve been here a week and haven’t had any biting us at night.
  • Some of the bathrooms are open air.
  • It’s got a peaceful, eclectic vibe.
  • The sound of running water is ubiquitous.
  • Gorgeous silk lanterns light the open spaces, in fact, only the bedrooms are enclosed, the rest of this unique place is open air.

But the statistics don’t do it justice.

It’s not at all about the spa sized towels or the fact that our family of six could easily have been housed in one of the rooms we stayed in. (Cyril insisted that we have two, because he wanted Tony and I to have some “honeymoon time” and some “privacy, because privacy is important and you’ve been traveling a lot.”) It’s about the peace, and the love and compassion that flow through the whole sanctuary, because of the attitude of the artist who’s created it.

I almost forgot…

Cyril is also a fantastic cook!

One evening he just dove into the kitchen to make us a “local meal” and this is what emerged:

I know Borneo is rather off the beaten track, and The Secret Sanctuary is even more off the track, but if you find yourselves in Sarawak, go out of your way to stay with our friend Cyril. Stay more than a night. We’ve had almost a week here, enough time to really settle into the peace of the place, and we’re reticent to leave in the morning.