Penang, Malaysia: Experiencing Kampung (Village) Homestays
Enjoy Malaysian hospitality at a homestay in Penang
Malaysia has an extensive network of village cooperatives throughout the country that run homestays for both domestic and foreign tourists. I’ve blogged about my homestay experience in Negeri Sembilan, and was given the opportunity to try out the homestay program in another state – Penang. At the Jom Jelajah Koperasi (Let’s Explore Cooperatives) 2014 media trip organized by Gaya Travel Magazine and Suhuranjaya Koperasi Malaysia (SKM), we got to visit four kampungs (villages) in Penang – the popular heritage state just a few hours north of Kuala Lumpur – to experience traditional cuisine, folk games and customs while staying with a foster family. We visited Kampung Mengkuang Titi, Sungai Chenaam and Pulau Aman (Aman Island).
Here are some great reasons why you should experience a homestay in Penang:
PLAY TRADITIONAL GAMES One of the fun things to do at a Malaysian homestay is experiencing ‘sukan rakyat’, when villagers come together to play traditional games like coconut bowling, palm leaf sledding, water bottle fishing and sack racing. The finale was a competitive round of tug of war, when all the participants worked together and gave it their all, pulling the thick rope across the open field, to win the match.
Have fun with local and other tourists playing traditional games!
LEARN ABOUT NATIVE CRAFTS & PRODUCTS
Homestay programs also provide an in-depth look at the cottage industries. At Warisan Pandai Besi Pekan Darat, a small village in Butterworth, Penang that’s been making swords for the past 170 years, we witnessed how a ‘keris’ – a Malay dagger with a wavy blade – is forged by hand. The sword makers now also use forging machines that speed up the process for commercial blades like utility knives and cutlasses.
At Kampung Mengkuang Titi, the local women demonstrated how ‘bedak seju’ or cooling rice powder is made. It is dissolved in water and applied to the face as a treatment for blemishes. Another native product is wild honey collected from ‘lebah kelulut’ or stingless Trigona bees. We even got to sample the honey, sipping it straight from the beehives with a small straw!
The island village of Pulau Aman, on the other hand, rely on fishing as their livelihood. Here, we were to shop for their local specialties like dried fish (which were really cheap!), ‘keropok’ (seafood crackers) and ‘belacan’, a Malay variety of shrimp paste made from krill.
‘Bedak seju’ is a traditional cooling rice powder to treat skin blemishes.
GET CLOSE TO NATURE
Many of the home stays we visited were located in rural areas found next to forests, mangroves and other natural habitats where wildlife may be spotted. One of the activities at Sungai Acheh near Kampung Sungai Chenaam is a mangrove reforestation project that serves as a sanctuary for fish, crabs and all sorts of birds. While taking a stroll on the boardwalk, I spotted white-collared kingfisher (Todirhamphus chloris) roosting on a nearby tree. The villagers have recognized the importance of protecting their natural resources to ensure their livelihood for generations to come.
Go bird-watching at the mangrove park of Kampung Sungai Chenaam
An even more special animal encounter we experience on the tour was spotting dolphins in the wild! While cruising around Pulau Aman and Pulau Gedong, we were very lucky to spot playful Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins (Sousa chinensis) on our boat trip back to the mainland. These dolphins are a “near-threatened” species found in coastal waters ranging from southern Africa in the west to northern Australia and Southeast Asia to the east.
Spot playful humpbacked dolphins on the boat ride to Pulau Aman!
This blog post was made possible through Jom Jelajah Koperasi 2014 – Pulau Pinang, a media tour held last April 18 to 21, 2014 in Penang, Malaysia. The event was organized by Gaya Travel Magazine and Suhuranjaya Koperasi Malaysia (SKM) in celebration of Visit Malaysia Year 2014.
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Welcome to my website! I’m travel writer, photographer and online influencer Edgar Alan Zeta-Yap from the Philippines. Join me as I hike, dive, fly, eat and do pretty much anything in between across 7,641 islands and beyond. Need to reach me? Please write me an email.