Having lived in a metropolitan setting for most of my life, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a city boy through and through.
My bedroom is filled with self-assembled furniture from Ikea, weekends are spent at the shopping mall and a hot shower in the morning is considered a basic life necessity.
So just imagine my horror when I found out that I would be staying at a traditional Malay village for three nights for work.
As part of a homestay media experience, I was to stay at several Malay villages across Negri Sembilan. For the uninitiated, a homestay vacation is a form of tourism where visitors stay over in the home of a local family while immersing themselves in the culture of the community.
At one of the stops in Kampung Batang Nyamor in Rembau, I was to stay with my foster parent Badziah Dahil, a retiree with very amiable personality. My temporary residence doesn’t exactly fit the bill of an actual traditional kampung house.
Neither is Badziah’s home built on wooden stilts nor was it completely constructed out of wood, as most traditional Malay kampung homes are.
But we are pretty deep in the countryside surrounded by crowing roosters. Many old-time residents here lived a languorous life where LTE mobile signals are non-existent, and congestion on the road was more likely to be caused by cows than cars.
Also read: Malaysian whose parents recovered from Covid-19 supports balik kampung ban
During the tour of her home, Badziah stopped by a little shack of a washroom located behind her house and said I have the option of showering in the great outdoors.
Well, let’s just say hot showers was the least of my concern then.
It took a bit of getting used to the charming kampung life in the Land of the Minangkabau, but in hindsight, it was a great experience.
During my time at Kampung Pachitan, we got to observe traditional Javanese culture and heritage. Participants of the homestay experience were treated to cooking demonstrations of local delicacies such as coconut jelly, rempeyek (deep-fried Javanese cracker made from peanuts, coated with crispy flour batter) and kuih kelepong.
And over at Kampung Pelegong, our group participated in a cultural performance that included a “wedding ceremony” that observed Adat Perpatih (matrilineal system), a unique custom practised by the Malays in Negeri Sembilan.
The unique customary law gives preference to the womenfolk, particularly when it comes to inheritance and right of properties.
It did not take long for me to acclimatise to the much simpler kampung way of life. By the time our group arrived at the final location at Homestay Kampung Lonek in Jempol, the sight of golden paddy fields provided a welcome change from the view of tall buildings in the city.
At one point, we were even treated to a picnic breakfast on a river bank.
Now, one might say a hotel with room service would be a far more comfortable way to travel. But a Malaysian homestay is a good way to experience local hospitality and get a better sense of traditional Malay culture.
During the course of my trip, I spoke more Malay than I’ve ever done since leaving high school and put my palate to the test with Negri Sembilan’s signature masak lemak cili padi dishes.
If I had to summarise my homestay experience, it would be the opposite of the Malay phrase: “Tak kenal maka tak cinta” (which means, you can’t love what you don’t know).
I’m still a city boy, but now that I’ve experienced the kampung life, I can see myself living at a more idyllic pace.
This trip took place in the past. All homestays in Malaysia are currently closed, and may re-open once the movement control order (MCO) is lifted. For now, stay home and stay safe!
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