“Since 1995 Malaysia has been promoting a programme which is targeted towards those travellers who do really want to enjoy that perfect local experience.”
Called Programme Homestay, the intention is to offer visitors the opportunity to become part of a kampung (village) to become immersed in the local lifestyle.
Programme Homestay is very structured, and to participate villagers must be properly registered with the Ministry of Tourism and must adhere to strict guidelines, particularly those regarding quality of accommodation and sanitation.
Homes and villages that are registered can be either traditional or modern, but they must provide basic necessities such as electricity, running water and adequate sleeping arrangements.
Homestays are not expected to offer hotel-grade accommodation as the whole idea behind the programme is to offer visitors a genuine local experience.
“Visitors must also have realistic expectations about ordinary Malaysian conditions.”
Likewise, Homestay is for visitors who wish to actively participate in normal village life, which means eating with host families, and learning how to cook Malaysian cuisine, in order to help prepare meals.
Other types of activities depend on where you stay, as each state and region within Malaysia is unique and local customs and activities do differ.
One of the idea behind Homestay is for visitors to keep occupied during their stay. Each participating kampung will have its own programme, which can include playing the game of Congkak, which is a board game played with marbles. Gasing, top spinning, is another popular pastime, as is Wau, or kite flying for which you get to fly giant, elaborately-decorated kites.
Some programmes get visitors involved in local work activities, such as rice planting, fruit harvesting (and tasting!) or fishing.
Needless to say, cultural performances are always an important element in kampong life, and many visitors also opt to dress in traditional weddings to participate in mock weddings.
Of course, Homestay also gives participants a great opportunity to learn the rudiments of the local language Bahasa Malaysia.
Homestay is suitable for all types of holidaymakers, be they individuals, family groups, clubs or organisations, students or corporate groups.
At last count there were 166 participating villages in every state and region of Malaysia, each offering unique programmes.
Malaysia is a proudly multicultural country, which means that traditions and beliefs differ across the country. In order to take part in the Homestay programme, participants do need to respect local beliefs and customs, even if some of those traditions may be alien to them.
“To enjoy Homestay to its fullest you need to be tolerant, understanding and non-judgemental.”
After all, you have been invited to stay in someone else’s home. You will have a much more fulfilling time if you adapt to local conditions and simply absorb the local cultural identity during your stay.
For more information on Programme Homestay contact your local Tourism Malaysia branch or visit them online.