Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Sabah homestay programmes offer a real taste of local life

KUNDASANG: Foreigners seeking a real taste of the local way of life and culture can opt for Sabah homestay programmes. Such programmes allow guests to escape the hustle and bustle of city life to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of life in a village.

Just two hours away by car – 92km away from Kota Kinabalu – one can get away from the heat of the city to the balmy weather of the highlands.

Beckoning visitors is the majestic Mount Kinabalu, a UNESCO Heritage site home to between 5,000 and 6,000 species of plants with 326 species of birds and more than 100 mammalian species.

The rich diversity of the flora and fauna on the mountain slopes are easily accessible from the nearby Walai Tokou Homestay.

“At Walai Tokou we offer visitors a glimpse of the local people’s way of life,” said 60-year-old Juliana Watiman.

“As host, we give guests a complete experience of what we do from dawn to dusk and they are invited to participate in our activities,” she said.

They can follow the villagers to tend to their vegetable farms or to the forest to collect wild mushrooms or fish in the river.

“We will show them how we weave mats and cook our food among other things,” said Juliana who started the homestay programme six years ago after one of her younger brothers introduced her to the idea.

Over time, the lodging capacity in her two houses has increased to 10 rooms of various sizes after starting with only one room.

“I enjoy the experience as I get to know people from all over the world. I also get to introduce our local culture and traditions to them,” shared Juliana who treats her guests especially students as her foster children.

Guests also get to learn basic local greetings and manners such as removing shoes before entering the house. They will be taken for nature walks and sightseeing in Kundasang which is well known for its beautiful scenery or venture over to Ranau town about 20-minutes drive away.