Jan 22nd
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Homestay in Sabah, Malaysia

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Homestay in Sabah, Malaysia
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The Land Below the Wind

There are a lot of places in the world that offer the ‘real cultural experience’ of a country but none more so than living in a Homestay, hanging with the local families, watching your kids play with theirs, eating their food and learning their ways. The region of Sabah in Malaysia on the island of Borneo is one such place that offers this special cultural experience. The area is also known as The Land Below the Wind.

This swing bridge spans over the swift flowing Pantaran River in Sabah, Malaysia.Back in the 1960s, Malaysia was divided – the peninsula with the capital of Kuala Lumpur and the island of Borneo and its two regions of Sabah and Sarawak. Sabah offers warm weather year round and it isn’t loaded with glitzy hotels and souvenir shops on every roadway and street. You also get a good exchange rate on both the Australian and American dollar and good values with your vacation savings.

During our travels through Sabah, which included several adults and a total of nine children between the ages of 7 and 13, we chose to stay at the Melangkap Homestay in Kota Belud, which is located 31 km from the city centre in a place known as Low’s Gully. The accommodation is simple but comfortable and costing from RM50 per person, which includes a meal and bed for the night. (RM 50 approx. US$15 or Australian $20). We stayed in a two-story complex with several bedrooms and a large dining and lounge room, which is great for traveling groups (and lots of kids), allowing for privacy in your room but offering an area to socialize in as well. Shoes are always removed at the door. Electricity conversion plugs are available here to charge up your digital camera or video camera; these conversion plugs are always the first I looked for settling into a new accommodation.

Guests are well looked after by the homestay hosts Rubbin & Lotihim Guribah and their family. In fact, when I put my family’s bag of dirty clothing in one corner the next time I saw it, it had been washed by couple’s daughter Ivy and was hanging on the undercover line to dry. Now that’s the kind of service I like and it’s included in the price. Lotihim and her helpers cook wonderful traditional Malaysian meals that give you more time to explore and do whatever you want on holiday. You also can cook for yourself if you wish.

The Melangkap Homestay is located at the foot of the great Mt. Kinabalu, the highest peak in Borneo and in Southeast Asia. When it rains, you can see and photograph waterfalls flowing down the mountain from the balcony of the accommodation complex.

Right on the Homedstay’s doorstep is the beautiful Pantaran River which comes from the mountain and offers clear, cool waters for swimming. It reminded me of rivers found on the North Island of New Zealand.

The Pantaran River flows very fast and becomes dangerous if it’s raining on the mountain due to extra water that surges through small spaces but during spells of bright sunshine, the river offers a wonderful place to cool off. You can see locals swimming here and the odd person bringing their washing down to the river. There’s a large flat-faced rock on the edge of the river that you can use to slide into the water, and an extensive swing bridge over the river for those who prefer to observe the flowing river from a safer distance. The nine kids in our travel group all had a fantastic time in the Pantaran River supervised by the adults who were also in the thick of it, jumping in and going downstream before wading out and having another go.Tubing at the local swim hole on the Pantaran River.

Homestay guests can choose to explore and relax at their own pace or they can participate in what the hosts are doing. It might be crafts, cooking, fishing, music, dance, hunting, exploring caves, or puttering around in the gardens. Homestay hostess Lotihim has planted spectacular tropical flowers all over the homestay and these flower beds and borders offer great photo opportunities.

The village of Melangkap has a claim to fame that in 1994, five British solders got lost in the jungle and turned up at the tiny Dusun Village seeking help. The soldiers were nursed back to health and when fit enough, they were released back to the capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, and later returned to England. Their plight was published and the Dusun people got 5 minutes of international fame.

Low’s Gully is home to thousands of species of vegetation, flowers, animals and fish, and some of the area is still unexplored. During your stay, you can take trekking and cycling trips into parts of the jungle to see waterfalls, caves, animals and plants and view the Pantaran River from different places.

Because the Malaysian people are very conservative, and particularly in the more remote areas conventional T-shirts and long shorts are preferred for both males and females, and skirts must cover the thighs while sitting. This means no flashing cleavage or boob tubes, and no short shorts or off the shoulder garments. If you get the chance to visit one of the local village churches at the base of the mountain, long pants for males are essential. Shoulders and knees are to be covered for females.


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