MERSING: Most Malaysians are aware of homestays as an alternative to holidaying in a hotel, but not many have been bold enough to give the experience a try. After all, if one were on vacation, wouldn’t it be better to enjoy the luxuries of a hotel?
But a homestay can be just as comfortable and, if there’s a bit of the adventurous spirit in you, you might welcome the chance to step out of your comfort zone.
FMT Lifestyle recently vacationed at Homestay Kampung Air Papan and discovered that true kampung life is something urbanites should get a taste of at least once in their lives.
Kampung Air Papan is a quiet coastal village in Johor, located about 10 minutes from the Mersing town centre. With a population of just a little more than 300, it is about as rural as it gets. Its residents are mostly fishermen and farmers.
The village itself is named after Pantai Air Papan, a nearby stretch of beach which is worth visiting during non-monsoon months.
The FMT Lifestyle trip was organised by Tourism Malaysia. The idea was to give the team a taste of the true rural Malaysian experience.
FMT Lifestyle stayed with Muhammad Aini, 63, and his wife Rahimah Hassan, 57. They would host the team for the duration of the stay, and much of its memorability can be attributed to them.
Aini owned a small business before the Covid pandemic struck, but has since turned to farming. For that reason, coconut trees dominate the land surrounding his single-storey home. “I can sell up to 3,000 coconuts during the Raya season and maybe a few hundred in non-Raya months,” he said.
Rahimah is a housewife and a great cook. “We met through Facebook,” Aini said, adding that he was then already a widower and she a widow. They got married in 2017.
When she is not busy with household chores, Rahimah crochets. Selling her crochet bags is her source of income and quite a few of her neighbours are her customers.
Aini has been in the homestay business since the 2000s. He said he has hosted people from around the world. “I have had Singaporeans here, some Japanese, a few Australians, a couple of Arabs. Oh, and that one African student who was too tall for the bed.”
The guest bedroom was not like a luxurious hotel room, but was comfortable. There was no air-conditioning, but temperatures at night were cool enough to sleep comfortably with a fan.
The team had a hands-on experience with village life, with Aini showing how an ordinary day working on his farm was like. They were also treated to fun village activities like fishing in the paddy fields and playing ball in the irrigation canals.
A fishing competition was held in which homestay guests were divided into two teams, Blue and Red. FMT Lifestyle was in the latter. The object of the contest was to see which team would catch the most fish by the end of the day.
This was the first time most of the participants had ever gone fishing, let alone with simple fishing rods made from palm stalks. Safe to say it was a lesson about the art of patience.
On a positive note – the Red team won, with FMT Lifestyle contributing a grand total of one fish to the final tally.
Afterwards, the teams faced off in the water-filled irrigation canals in a muddy game of futsal. By the time it ended, the players were coated with thick mud from head to toe.
The homestay experience is probably not for everyone, but it is certainly worth trying at least once in a lifetime. Spending a day or two in rural Malaysia can be enlightening to one who has spent all of his or her life in a city.
Homestay Kampung Air Papan
1478, Kampung Air Papan