THE Hari Raya mood is still in the air. The balik kampung exodus of the first week of the celebration saw hoards of families returning to their hometowns, putting up in the homes of their parents or relatives.
Where there weren’t enough rooms, the hall would become an instant spot to rest and sleep. Out came the mattresses, rolled out on the floor and the vantage spot would be right in front of the television.
Switched on 24/7 (who would want to sleep during Raya!), the TV would show Malay films and dramas, and local entertainment shows with more loud antics of artistes than music and songs.
Often, no one would be really watching, as everyone would be busy chatting and catching up with one another. Children would make the loudest noise, while others would be glued to their mobile phones.
With big families, bunking in a small house would be most uncomfortable. To put up in hotels would mean having to book many rooms. It could cost a bomb, and already Hari Raya expenses were burning large holes in the pocket.
The solution? Homestays. You rent an entire house with the number of rooms of your choice. The cost is a small fraction of hotel room rate.
In most towns and rural areas, the average rental rate for homestays is in the region of RM250 per house with four to five rooms.
Some come with air-conditioners and you’ll have the entire house facilities at your disposal, including the kitchen with cooking utensils. And cooking own food for large families away from home means savings on food bills.
Plus, you can have your Raya feasts in the homestays at any time you want.
From the rental home, you make your Raya rounds and at the end of the day, you have a comfortable place to return to, just like a home.
The Malaysian homestays have evolved since about two decades ago. In the initial years, many homestay owners took part in the then hugely popular Cuti-Cuti Malaysia domestic holiday programme.
They took in guests as their “adopted” relatives and put them up in spare rooms furnished to an acceptable standard under the government’s homestay guidelines.
They received financial aid from the Tourism and Culture Ministry to convert their kampung home toilet and bathroom to a modern one.
Some 2,800 homestay operators from more than 140 villages across the country are licensed and trained to take part in the ministry’s homestay programme that promises tourists and local guests the experience of life in the country’s rural areas.
The guests will get a taste of the way of life of their hosts or adopted parents.
If they are rubber tappers, the guests will also tap rubber trees. They will eat what their “parents” eat, often simple kampung fare of rice, fried fish or chicken, some curry, ulam and sambal belacan.
They will help out in the kitchen, learn to cook traditional cakes and snacks, play kampung games such as top spinning, and watch traditional performances and craft demonstrations.
They will join in other daily activities as well, such as riverside fishing and farming. These activities vary depending on the location of the village.
If the groups of guests are big, the kampung will turn into a huge fiesta ground. Grand welcome complete with kompang and bunga manggar (a traditional Malay decorative item), lavish feast, traditional performances, including mock traditional Malay wedding and fun games, will be part and parcel of the homestay experience.
The homestay room and board in many locations eventually evolved into kampung stay. Guests check into designated houses in the homestay programme and will enjoy the privacy of home. They can choose the kampung stay itinerary or just do their own thing.
Some of the more successful kampung stay homes have become like resorts, complete with swimming pool and other facilities.
Then there are the houses purely for day rent and these have mushroomed in recent years all over the country.
They make excellent options for family stays and for festive periods, it’s best to book in advance or you’ll find them all fully booked. That’s how popular they have become.