My kampung getaway
Forget about sleek city hotels and plush resorts; instead, opt for an authentic kampung experience. Explore the beaten track and reside in a local homestay, which is a novel way to go on holiday
Atraditional Malaysian village is more than just a place to live – it’s where many locals have their roots, where grandparents still reside, and where everyone returns to during holiday. These kampungs are either agricultural, situated by the sea or a river and follow a wonderfully slow pace of life.
A good introduction to the rural homestay is located a two-hour drive from Kuala Lumpur in Kampung Sungai Haji Dorani. Comprised of four smaller villages, this region isn't far from Kuala Selangor, famed for its fireflies and fresh seafood. The Javanese migrated here during colonial times and obviously liked what they saw – fertile land, a river and opportunities.
As a traveller, it’s undeniably refreshing to leave the chaotic city and arrive in the countryside with verdant paddy fields, quaint wooden houses, gaggles of geese waddling about, and roosters strutting their stuff. It’s like seeing a classic Malay painting come to life.
A typical Malay kampung house is a bit of a rarity these days with urbanisation spreading and people preferring modern living. But these houses are charming and functional, and with Dorani Homestay, you get to stay in one with a local family. Typically constructed from wood and attap (thatch made from palm fronds), some of the newer versions feature tiled roofs, and
Between slipping and sliding, getting covered in mud and not actually catching anything, this was the most fun we’d had in a long time
they’re all very homely. Rooms are simple and clean, and yes, the bathrooms are in the house. If you’re expecting air-conditioning, WiFi or LCD TVs, a sunken bath... return to the city and check into a hotel.
A rural homestay isn’t just about ‘going native’, it’s about getting to know the people who actually live there – how they make their living, their culture and history, their affinity for the land. Something as simple as watching the village children run through the fields with their kites and jump into the streams to catch fish (with their bare hands) makes you realise how uninspired we’ve become. There’re no Pokémon to be caught here, no reliance on social media to be entertained; it’s literally a breath of fresh air.
The Dorani Homestay programme is run by the affable Pak Abdul Rahman Daud and his son, Mohammed Rusdi. The legendary kampung hospitality comes into play as sweet and savoury kuih is served with sirap bandung (rose syrup and evaporated milk – tastes better than it sounds!) and introductions are made between you, pak cik (uncle), mak cik (auntie), abang (older brother), kakak (older sister) and
adik (anyone younger than you). Once the formalities are done, you become anak
angkat (foster child) – even for your short stay, you’re part of the family.
What do these kampung folk do all day? It’s not all fun and games; they work hard. Follow one of the family members as he heads out to the paddy fields. Depending on the season, you’ll be able to observe the different stages of paddy (rice) farming. On the day we were there we got to ride around on abang’s harvester as he explained the cycle of rice – all this under an eggshell blue sky in an emerald field. He even invited us to return in the mid-year when the crop turns golden and is ready for harvest.
Some of us tried our hand at catching fish in the muddy water where the rice is grown. Between slipping and sliding, getting covered in mud and not actually catching anything, this was the most fun we’d had in a long time. The local kids had a laugh watching us too.
A more civilised activity to try is batik painting using a canting (a pen-like instrument used to apply wax). The original art of batik painting uses this to trace a wax outline onto the fabric that creates the intricate pattern. After it goes through the dyeing process, the wax is scraped off to reveal the design. After all these exhausting activities, head back to your kampung house and be ready for a feast of family recipes using fresh local produce, some right from the backyard! There’s not much of nightlife here. Besides, after all that outdoor action, all you can do is look up at the clear sky, breathe that fresh air, enjoy the sound of silence, and hit the sack by 9pm, ready to wake up with the roosters. And start everything all over again.
Kampung Sungai Haji Dorani Sungai Besar, Selangor (+6013 607 7025/+6017 273 0900/doranihomestay. com). 2D/1N packages start from RM120 per person, including meals and accommodation. There are longer stays (with more activities) available as well.