Homestay in Malaysia at Parit Penghulu, Melaka was my first home stay program in Malaysia as I have heard so much about it over the many years but never did have a chance to try it. I had no idea on what actually went on here apart from living with a local foster family and experiencing the local village lifestyle. Overall, experiencing this in a traditional village is perhaps one of the fastest and easiest ways to get to know the real Malaysia.
There are actually a number of homestays in Malaysia which offer different lifestyles to choose from. Depending on the type, there are island homestays, agro homestays and even fishing village homestays. Most common is the basic kampung homestay which are found through every state in Malaysia. Anyway, this article talks about my visit to the Parit Penghulu Homestay in Melaka which is bordering the state of Johor. The journey there from Kuala Lumpur took about three hours and on arrival, we were all given a local kampung welcome complete with the traditional kompang troop and bunga mangga (decorative flower pole) entrance.
What happens at a Homestay in Malaysia?
After your arrival and orientation at the operations center, you will be selected by the village head and assigned to a local family in the kampung. From here, your foster parents will take you back to your new home to stay there. During your stay, you will be eating the food your foster mum cooks while helping around with some house work. Apart from the home, you will also take part in various activities organised by the village coordinator. As this village was a Agro Tourism Homestay, we were taken to many farms, fields and orchards related to the industry.
Briefing about the program held at a center in the village
Homestay Coordinator conducting the dos and donts
My foster parents were retired and in their seventies while they lived the simple life in Parit Penghulu Village. They have six children of which everyone was working and had a family in different states around Malaysia. They would only visit the parents a few times a year and mostly during the Muslim New Year (Hari Raya) or during long weekends and school holidays. Therefore since the parents had so much free time, they enrolled with the local homestay program. Speaking very little English, they conversed mostly in Malay with me but made an attempt to try and put in a few sentences in English which I admired very much.
Kampung House in Parit Penghulu, Melaka
The wooden kampung house that I stayed in was very simple and practical. There was no air-conditioning while the nights here cooling here. Usually modifications are done without disturbing the original structure and what most owners do is extend the home from the back. There were about 5 rooms in this home with a huge surrounding area. The owner has an extra plot of land where he plants Oil Palm Trees (Kelap Sawit) for extra income. Below is a video showing you the surroundings of the kampung house I stayed in.
Homestay House Video in Melaka
Foster family portrait
The kitchen area is located in the back portion of the house while dining is also done there. Traditionally, Malays would eat on the ground with a mat and using their hands but as the years have passed on, there is a little modernity here. There was a basic dining table and western cutlery available. On the cooking part, the husband would travel to the market daily to buy fresh goods to be served. Nothing elaborate but I personally had some of the best local kampung home-cooked food during my stay here.
Kampung home cooked meal
A basic meal would consist of plain white rice, one meat, one chicken, eggs and the spicy chili dip (sambal belachan). Soup vegetables with fish balls, Malay styled chicken curry, fried fish or sardine curry and fried omelet would be our dinner for one of the nights. In the day, we would have our food at the center. Breakfast was simple with bread and butter or some local savory cakes (kuih)and fruit. For foreigners, you need not worry as the program has been informed well about spicy cooking. So unless requested, you will receive non-spicy local food during your stay.
Kampung house bathroom
Lidi Broom, home grown products
Elderly lady weaves a small basket using some leaves
The finished product, a weaved container
Among the many things we did was visit some of the other homes in the village to see the homegrown products that the locals do. One of them which was an old Malay lady who weaved containers out of leaves. She was so experienced, it only took her about five minutes to make a simply container that looked like could hold a bottle. This was a skill learned with many years of experience and she now teaches her grand children how to do this.
Handling an eel or belut as they are locally called
Malaysian Eel or Belut Video
Video shows one of the coordinators explaining in Malay on how to handle a live eel or belut in the villages. Personally, it looked slimy and gross from a far but once you know the technique, it was pretty simple. The trick is to cover the head of the eel and then move it to where you wish to. Some of the girls who participated just could not handle doing this as they screamed and ran away every time an eel was brought close to them. Even the local village little boys and girlsshowed no fear of this.
Lily pond in Parit Penghulu village
A monkey poses on his masters motorbike
Chanced upon a goat giving birth to two kids (baby goats)
Dondang Sayang Melaka Video
One one of the nights here, we visited a performance which was specially done for guests. It was a Dondang Sayang Performance (A local Malay musical show) with the village elders taking stage singing and playing some of the traditional Malay musical instruments.
My overall experience here was way above my expectations as I witnessed many things I never imagined seeing in the city. From a trained monkey that plucked the coconut its master wanted it, a walk to the goat farm and then witnessing a goat giving birth to two kids, handling a live eel, watching a live performance of traditional shows and even hanging out with some of the local village people. I also made various trips to fruit farms and learned about Argo-culture in the smaller villages. There was never a dull moment as the itinerary was always filled with the uncommon activity. I would also like to thank my foster parents for putting up with a couple of city people and for the excellent kampung food they cooked during my stay at their home.
The writer with his foster family
Homestays in Malaysia
For a full list of the types of villages participating in the Homestay Program Malaysia, you can check out Go2Homestay.com which specializes in this area of tourism. They have many types of programs which include beach, hill, fishing village, local kampungs and many other choices. They are also the official portal administrated by the Tourism Body of Malaysia. To book a trip for this, there is no restriction to the number of people going. It can be a single person, couple or a group of friends.
My trip was made possible with Go2Homestay, an affiliate of Tourism Malaysia that promotes the various home stays in Malaysia. You can also get more information from the Tourism Malaysia Website regarding this subject. The kampungs that are involved in the homestay program are committed to ensuring that you experience village-style living first-hand and are used to welcoming a variety of locals and foreign guests from around the world. These kampungs have been carefully selected and conform with strict guidelines set by the Ministry of Tourism so as to bring out the best of Homestays in Malaysia.
Love Lane Inn Penang is my picture of the week. This backpacker guesthouse in Georgetown is one of the popular ones as it is located along the famous road named 'Love Lane' or 'Lorong Love'. Most of the budget travelers who come to the island will prefer to stay at guest houses around the Unesco World Heritage Site of the island. There are numerous places to choose from and some of them have catchy names too. Just so you know, the word Rumah Tumpangan is Malay for Guest House as you will be seeing a lot of these signs.
These budget hotels are usually housed in the old pre-war buildings which are connected to each other. They are also about two storeys tall and rooms here are relatively small but clean. With that, the prices are cheap compared to the normal hotels. Backpacker hostels are also found throughout Penang namely in the city and also in Batu Feringgi. While competition is very stiff here, many of these places offer extra services (no, not that one) in terms of Visa Runs, Packages to Thailand, WiFi, Budget Tours and even Laundry Services.
The most famous area for guesthouses would be around Chulia Street in Penang. This road is very well known among the backpackers and travelers who are headed or coming from Thailand. There are cheap bars, internet cafes, book shops, motorbike and bicycle rentals plus many other services located along this famous street. There are also a number of well known eateries here mostly known by locals. Well, if you have plans to visit the island which is also known as the Pearl of the Orient, make sure you make a stop over at Love Lane in Penang.
Rainforest World Music Festival 2011 in Sarawak will be held from 8-10 July and is one of the worlds most unique festival that brings together on the same stage renowned world musicians from around the world and indigenous musicians from the interiors of Borneo. This incredible show that has been running for over 10 years has attracted many music lovers from the world over to the Land of the Hornbills. A much sought after event by many, bookings have to be done in advanced as those who come here on the last minute will find themselves without lodging and end up camping in the area of Damai.
The music festival site also sets up a variety of food and drink stalls, an arts and crafts area as well as a counter for festival memorabilia, Sarawak souvenirs and CDs by the performing artists. Not your regular Woodstock but the experience of a festival in the middle of a rainforest is something definitely worth attending in this part of the world.
Currently there are 21 bands that have been confirmed for the Rainforest World Music Festival which are;
For those who have yet to book the Rainforest Music Festival tickets, I suggest you do so quickly as they have a promotion online currently. (see tickets below). The other concern would be the accommodation in Kuching as during this weekend, the entire city will be out of rooms. From luxury hotels right till guesthouses will be fully booked. Most of the regulars would book a year in advance for this event.
One of the workshops in the main hall
What happens at the Music Festival?
With a line-up of 21 bands playing a diverse range of world genres, the festival is featuring 7 different acts per night over 3 nights not including some of the special shows on the last day. Explore the Cultural Village to find the various performances for the three days.
Workshops at the Rainforest Music Festival include afternoon informative sessions, ethno-musical lectures, jamming sessions and mini concerts throughout the many unique ethnic homes at the cultural village, followed by evening performances on the main stage area.
Food and Village Mart
The Food and Village Mart is filled with interesting local Sarawakian foods, crafts, interesting souvenir items and international food and drinks. Not forgetting the famous Heineken Beer which is one of the main sponsors here. More than 30 stalls will be available throughout the cultural village.
You can be assured that the Rainforest World Music Festival store will be filled with RWMF merchandise. Available are souvenir t-shirts or your favourite artist CD which you can even get signed from the various artist during the workshops.
Once you are at the Cultural Village, you will have the best opportunity to experience the lifestyle, culture and heritage of the local ethnic tribes found throughout Sarawak which are;
I have yet to experience this event and the many times that I have visited Kuching and the Sarawak Cultural Village, I was always a month late or a month too early. Never on the spot but it has always been due to my work schedule. Anyway, for this year if things work out well on my timings, I hope to attend the Rainforest World Music Festival 2011 in Sarawak. Date: 8 -
Sound of Music Live Show in Kuala Lumpur is scheduled to open this June 2011 at the ultra new Plenary Hall in the Kuala Lumpur Convention Center (KLCC), Malaysia. Noted to be one of the best musical shows in the world, the full British production is making their way here from London and for the first time in Malaysian history and this is your chance to see the amazing stage show live as it is a limited time of six days only. This is also a brand new production that is in no way affiliated with the UK Tour or recent London Production produced by David Ian/RUG.
The Sound of Music is a musical with music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse. It is based on the memoir of Maria von Trapp, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Many songs from the musical have become standards, including the title song "The Sound of Music", "Edelweiss", "My Favorite Things", "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and "Do-Re-Mi". (excerpt taken from Wikipedia)
For Malaysian RHB Bank Cardholders, you get to enjoy an exclusive 25% discount off all price tiers for the Premiere Night Show on Tuesday 21st June 2011 and a 15% discount off the other show times from Wednesday 22nd June to Sunday 26th June 2011. The musical admits children aged 3 years and above and they will require a ticket for admission into the theater. You can buy the Sound of Music Tickets Online from the link given below.
Sound of Music artwork poster
Performance Dates in Kuala Lumpur: 21 - 26 June 2011
21st to 24th June - 8.30pm show only
25th and 26th June - 3.00pm and 8.30pm shows
Plenary Hall, Kuala Lumpur Convention Center
Ticket Prices for Sound of Music in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
RM190, RM290, RM390, RM490 and RM590
Where to buy Sound of Music KL Tickets? Tickets People (Online Tickets)
Telephone: +6 03 2287 2727
Official Sponsor/Organizer for the KL Show - Yvents
For those traveling to Malaysia in June or those who want a reason to visit this city, here is an opportunity to do so. Those who grew up with this outstanding movie and show, you would want to catch this with your family and this time, a live musical show. If you are a music lover, this is one of the shows you cannot afford to miss. For the first time in the country, the Sound of Music Live Show will be in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Bai Chay Tourist Wharf in Halong Bay is your gateway to the famous UNESCO world heritage site in Vietnam. It is here that you will embark on your amazing Halong Bay Cruise and this article shares with you the details that I experienced while I explored this stunning place in 2010. As I had a good nine days to spend in Northern Vietnam, I decided to fully utilize my time here at Ha Long. I landed in Hanoi (as most flights would) and then caught a public bus to Halong City. Usually if you book your tour through your hotel or tour agent in Hanoi, they would shuttle you via a tour van where the journey takes about three and a half hours.
Instead of doing the normal, I really wanted to experience how the locals do it so I opted for a public bus instead. The journey here took me about five hours with an ear deafening experience I will never forget. I got off at the junction of Tuan Chau Island which is just before Halong City as I was putting up at the Holiday Villa Halong Bay for two nights.
Bai Chay Tourist Wharf and Jetty
On arrival at the wharf, you will see a huge archway with the name in Vietnamese and English. The place is quite huge but there are two entrances. This one in the picture above is by the main road. Getting here, you will most likely pass through Halong City along the coastal road. Once you arrive here, you will see a prominent landmark which will be the Halong Bay Casino of your right. After that is the wharf on your left. A number of local shops line the road on the opposite site selling local coffee and food.
Halong Tourist Information Center
Once you arrive here, you will most likely be approached by the freelance vendors who will try to sell you tickets to Halong Bay. A tourist information center is on your right as you enter so if you need more information here, please feel free to use the services. Signboards are seen around the main building and in English. (What a save). However, only if you have not bought your tickets, then you should ask carefully about the type of cruise you plan to book as they offer many types of boats rated in stars.
There are generally two types of Halong Bay Cruises which is the day cruise where you pay about VND30000-40000 for a 4-5 hour cruise and the famous Halong Bay Overnight Cruise which is anywhere from US$25 - US250 depending on the type of junk boat and service you require. The day cruise departs hourly and the last junk is scheduled to leave at about 1pm. However on weekends, this may differ so please check first. The boats make their way back to the city by about 5-6 pm.
Ticket Counter in the main building
As for me, I wanted to take the day cruise so I got in about 1pm only to find out that the boat was filled fast and left earlier than scheduled. It was a weekday too. Asking around, I realised that there were no more junk boats for the day but the lady that I talked too suggested that I rent the entire junk boat as it costs only VND600,000. Immediately I thought she was mad! There were only three of us and to rent the entire boat? I brushed her off and went to have some Vietnamese Coffee across the road. Discussing with the others, it came to our senses that 600,000 VND was actually about US30.00 and not $300 as we thought. Was I out of my mind? 30 bucks for an entire junk boat to ourselves? Immediately we finished out coffee and rushed back to the jetty to look for this lady.
Ticket to Halong Bay
Finally after re-negotiating with this lady and her friend, we managed to knock the price down to VND500,000 for an entire Vietnamese Junk Boat! That was $25 each for the three of us but then again, I was a little skeptical about this whole thing. So I kept asking her if it was one of those big junk boats as I did see some very small junk boats. After the third time, she pointed out one of those larger boats that can seat about 40 people. She said 'Same same that boat' which was among the hundreds of junks parked around the wharf. Seriously, I never seen so many junk boats in one area and remembering how the postcards of Halong Bay looked like, this was not what I had in mind. On top of that, we were required to buy the VND40,000 Bay and Cave ticket for the each of us. So in total we spent a good 620,000 VND.
She also told me that it would take about thirty minutes for our boat to arrive at the wharf and she asked us all to just hang out. You can also read my guest post on WildJunket about 5 Essential things to do around Halong Bay while waiting it out if you arrive early there.
Various stalls sell food, drinks and souvenirs at the wharf
A stall selling possibly everything you need
For those heading out to do the overnight cruise here, I would recommend you buy your snacks and drinks ahead before boarding the junks. Prices on board are double of what they are on the main land. It's a tourist industry so those who enjoy snacking and drinking should prepare for this. The stalls around the wharf sell just about everything and anything. Sunblock, straw hats, toys, swimsuits and the list goes on if you forgot something for your trip.
Vietnamese Junk Boats lined up at the wharf
Passengers waiting to board their junk boats
A junk approaches and gets everyone excited
Travelers getting on board systematically
One thing I should note is that Bai Chay Tourist Wharf is swarmed with travelers from all corners of the world. You get to see the backpackers, flashpackers, luxury travelers and even the local Vietnamese people here going for the Halong Bay Cruise. With the crowds swelling here, you should be careful on which is your junk boat. Usually when you follow an agent, they will be with you and ask you to gather in one group so when your boat arrives, everyone boards safely. If you are buying the day cruise, you should ask the person that you bought your boat ticket from and they would tell you where to wait.
The security here is also quite strict as they practice the 'no ticket, no entry'. They man the main gate that leads you into the boarding area here. If you leave the tickets in the hands of your agent, please keep an eye out for him or her as you would not want to miss your boat. Boarding the boats are also very simple and basic. There is no railed walkway like proper jetties. Here, you simple step onto the boat as it docks by the wharf. The main journey out to Halong Bay will take about 20-30 minutes and this also depends on the type of junk you get. Some are faster than others while some just cruise casually with no urgency.
Locals moving around the junks at the wharf
Video of Bai Chay Wharf in Halong Bay
Public Buses to Halong Bay from Hanoi
Long Bien or Gia Lam Station (other side of Red River, 2km from Hoan Kiem Lake)
Luong Yen station to Bai Chay (Halong City)
Buses depart every 30 minutes from 6AM to 6PM and cost 50,000 dong/person each way
There is also a tourist bus from Travel Agencies near the Hoan Kiem Lake which cost US$8 per person one way.
Journey takes about 4-6 hours depending on traffic
Bring an iPod or MP3 player, trust me, you WILL need it.
What to prepare for your overnight cruise;
Bring drinks and snacks
Swimsuit or trunks
My day cruise was indeed a memorable one with all the excitement and drama in missing the initial main boat and resulted in a bonus where I had the entire boat to myself. If it worth it going on this cruise you may ask? Personally I would say yes. Every penny for the experience here. If you have the time, take both cruises as they go on different paths around the bay and visit different caves. The day cruise took me to see the Thien Cung Cave at Halong Bay and all general boats depart from the Bai Chay Tourist Wharf in Halong Bay.
Rebak Island Resort Nature Trail in Langkawi - This was the only nature walk available and during my stay here in 2010, I was pretty much excited to do this. However, you needed the in house naturalist to take you for this walk. I had spent a good two days on this private island that is also home to the Rebak Marina. Apart from the usual resort offerings, I find the TAJ managed resort on a slightly different level compared to those available on the mainland. The place sits on an island called Pulau Rebak which is accessible from the main island and takes about 15 minutes by speed boat to get here.
Well known for it's seclusion and privacy, there are quite a number of things that one can do here besides just lazing around and enjoying some peace and quiet. Our nature walk was scheduled in the morning on the last day before we departed. Right after a heavy local breakfast, we headed out with one of the golf buggies to the start point of the trek. As usual, we were also told to come equipped with proper walking shoes and a towel. As Lilian and myself brought a knapsack, we loaded it up with water as it was going to be a 30 minute trek to the other end of the island. Mind you that I am not an avid trekker so thirty minutes was a lot for me to absorb.
Start of the hiking trail
Starting near the marina, it was fairly simple with seasoned path that lead up the small hill. It was told that if it rains, we could not do this as the water would run down the hill making the pathway slippery and dangerous. As we made our trek up, I noticed a number of interesting plants and flowers blooming. Some of them had some striking colours while others were just odd.
Young shoot coming into the rainforest
A red leaf among the green ones
Ants nest on some leaves
A strange Rambutan Flower
Reaching the half way point of the trail, the path had split into three and with our guide there, we ushered us to the one that looked most challenging. I started to see ropes tied from tree to tree as the trail started to descend. It was here that the trek started to get a little tricky. Covered by the rainforest canopy, you could smell the strong jungle scent.
From here on, we took extra care as the ground was damp and a little slippery so every step was cautious. Funnily there was no leeches along this trek as the guide had assured us. The ropes were recently added due to the rainy season as many of the resort guest had wanted to go for this nature walk. There were no wildlife here but migratory birds were a common site. Among them, you could see some species of Hornbills and Pittas here. Well, I did not see any as my eyes were focused to the ground 95% of the time.
The trail continues..
A climbing creeper
As the trail got even more challenging (for my levels), sweat started to break. The huffing and puffing got louder while rest stops were becoming more frequent. Our guide laughed at us both while he kept asking us to move on as we were closing in on our goal, the other side of the island. Fine, as we moved, I noticed many creepers growing on trees which I have not seen in other parts of Malaysia. Here was the ultimate excuse to stop for a picture and catch my breath.
Stunning flora on the island
Finally after many ups and downs, lefts and rights, we had reached the end. It was a deserted section of Rebak Island which was facing the Andaman Sea. All I could hear were the waves beating up on the shore. The beach was not that clean due to the items washed up while it was absolutely isolated. Cut off from the real world, it was a paradise for sun-seekers or beach-lovers. We must have stayed there for about an hour which included exploring the Red Cave which was just a stones throw away. (More on the cave next time)
Unspoilt beach at Rebak Island Resort
After absorbing the natural beauty of an unspoilt beach and fresh sea air, we prepared to head back to the resort. Another grueling task but it had to be done. I did ask if there was an easier way back following the beach only to be disappointed with the rocks that blocked the way. Oh well, what goes up must come down, or what goes one way, must return the same way. When we finally got back to the Rebak Island Resort, all we could think about was the nice cold shower before we headed back to the main land. This nature walk was quite interesting especially with the well informed guide that we had as he took the time to explain everything that we came across during the hike.
If you have plans to visit this islands in the north of Malaysia and want something a little different from the usual and somewhere with absolute peace, tranquility and quietness with a touch of nature and exploration, I would recommend you try staying at this luxurious TAJ managed hotel. The Rebak Island Resort Nature Trail in Langkawi is an optional package and can be arranged easily.