HOMESTAY: THE CITY ESCAPE

HOMESTAY: THE CITY ESCAPE

Get away from the city. Explore life back in the olden days by the most traditional means, and immerse yourself in a foreign culture wholly

By: Toh Jia Xi

 

Each and every country is unique and attractive in its own ways; different languages, different cultures, different people. There are many more things to learn by stepping out of one's home country.

Do you know that a change in accommodation can tweak your whole travelling experience? Instead of hotels, homestays are fantastic choices for those who would love to experience a country authentically. For those who would love to explore the countryside for an urban getaway, there are now many homestay programs available in rural places of Asia. With such choices readily available now, not only can travelers participate and become more involved in a foreign culture, they can also learn the ropes of rural life and get closer to nature.

 

Here are some benefits of staying at a homestay:

 

- Homestays tend to be commonly found in rural areas and are an important element of ecotourism. You can experience life in the countryside, enjoy nature sites, that you will not be able to experience at home in the city.

- Get to stay with locals and have a true cultural immersion. It's not just about shopping and touring around famous sites.

- An opportunity to personally witness the life of a local. You may also get to experience living like a local by engaging in daily activities with your host family, during your stay.

- Have intimate interaction with locals and learn about them. This is something that you will not be able to experience by staying in hotels or guesthouses.

- Learn their way of life, and learn from their experiences. Hosts may share stories of their encounters that may be interesting and inspiring.

- Improve and pick up foreign language skills as you get the chances to possibly communicate with locals in their native tongue.

- Uncover many different places as hosts can bring you around their area.

- Taste homecooked meals by the host family, some of which may be traditional.

- If interested, you may even get to learn how to cook their authentic dishes and obtain recipes.

- Some homestays are deemed as cheaper alternatives for accommodation too.

 

Why not plan a trip soon and experience a homestay in the following Asian countries? (Note: The host families will attend to one group of visitors or an individual one at a time)

 

 

 

Thung Dong Farm - Thailand, Chiang Mai

Thailand is one of the hottest tourist destination in Southeast Asia. For those who would love to explore  rural Thailand, Chiang Mai has a few homestays that one can apply for. Thung Dong Farm is one of the well-favored homestays available in Chiang Mai. It is a slightly different homestay experience as it is more like a farm stay where travelers can interact with local hosts and do activities in the farm at the same time. Thung Dong Farm positions itself not as a resort nor hotel nor guesthouse but as a working farm that is available for travelers to visit and stay.

Being an avid animal lover, the owner of Thung Dong Farm renovated the old buildings which were originally used by chili pickers to his current farm today. His farm consists of various animals and some of which were rescued such as their pink buffalos and mountain pigs. The animals are never used for food and sold for slaughter. They also grow a variety of crops in their farm, which they use for cooking.

At Thung Dong Farm, they offer various kinds of rooms that are suitable for different groups of people and also for solo travelers. Do log on to http://www.thungdongfarmstay.com for more information or make a reservation.

 

Activities that guests can do:

-Feed and play with the farm animals. You can even get to ride on a pink buffalo.

- Short treks from the farm into the jungle, and get to see a waterfall.

- Ride a bike and explore.

- Visit to a nearby hot spring.

- Learn how to cook northern Thai dishes from villagers.

- Basically just relax and enjoy the natural views! Or visit nearby attractions.

- You can request for any activity that you would like to do!

 

Price:

Depending on the type of room, prices range from 1200 Thai Baht, (~S$48) to 2400 Thai Baht (~S$96) for two adults for two nights. (A minimum stay of 2 nights is required) For solo travelers, a deduction of 400 Thai Baht can be made from the room prices. The prices are inclusive of three meals. Additional fees may incur for other requests.

 

 

 

 

Bamboo Village - India, Kerala

Being rich in culture and natural sights, India is a popular country among tourists. Located in the southwest region of India, Kerala is well known for its ecotourism initiatives, backwaters and beautiful sightseeing spots. National Geographic Traveler crowned it as one of the top ten paradises in the world.

Located in the Northern part of Kerala in Wayanad district lies Bamboo Village. It is an initiative by Uravu - a non-profit organization that implements programs to generate income in rural areas, and Kabani - a tourism-focused company.

Bamboo Village was thus developed to offer homestays and ecotourism to provide income opportunities for the villagers. Also, a portion of the money goes to their community fund for farming, training, education etc. Travelers at Bamboo Village can get to stay in a local family's house, have meals with the family and do things together with the local family. There are currently seven host families in the village that are welcoming travelers for a stay, and they treat each guest with care just like their own family. Do log on to http://indiauntravelled.com/bamboo-village-wayanad for more information or make a reservation.

 

Activities that guests can do:

- Hikes and short treks around hills and enjoy nature.

- Visit a temple.

- Volunteer in farming or household chores.

- Walk around plantations.

- Visit a local school and interact with the people there.

- Learn about traditional folk music and try out their dance.

- Indulge in nature beauty and find a good area to read a book or simply take photographs.

- Learn traditional local cooking.

 

Price:

For solo travelers, it costs 2500 Indian Rupee (~S$52) per night, inclusive of all three meals. For double occupancy, it costs 3250 Indian Rupee (~S$68)  per night, inclusive of all three meals.

 

 

 

Hanok Homestay - South Korea, Seoul

The hallyu wave has been in trend for many years. South Korea has risen to fame, becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations that many people desire to go to nowadays.

Although Seoul is nowhere near rural, it is definitely a must visit for all Korean fanatics and travelers.  For those who would love to experience staying in a Korean traditional house (hanok) and experience life as a Korean, Hanok Homestay in Jongno district of Seoul is the place for you!

The Hanok Homestay Program was launched in 2010, to provide an opportunity for visitors to experience staying in a traditional hanok with a Korean family, and learn more about the Korean customs through interacting with locals. These hanoks that belong to the host families, are rich in heritage and provide the appropriate atmosphere to learn the traditions of Korea. One of the highlights of staying in a traditional hanok is sleeping on the floor with the presence of the ondol - an under floor heating system that keeps one warm and is especially useful during winter.

There are quite a number of participating families in the homestay program. Travelers can choose which family that they are interested in when making a reservation online. Do log on to http://homestay.jongno.go.kr/homestay/open_content/intro for more information or make a reservation.

 

Activities that guests can do:

- Try out the traditional Korean costume (hanbok).

- Learn some simple Korean language.

- Learn how to cook Korean dishes such as making kimchi.

- Immerse in the culture through traditional Korean Art and Music, such as learning about Korean calligraphy and musical instrument.

- Walk around the town and observe the Koreans' way of life in the traditional part of Seoul.

- Visit tourist attractions of the region such as the Gyeongbukgung Palace.

- Basically just experience life in a traditional Korean house and explore.

 

Price:

Prices vary from 30000 Korean Won (~S$37) to 70000 Korean Won (~S$85) per person per night, inclusive of breakfast.

 

 

 

Kampong Pelegong - Malaysia, Negeri Sembilan

Malaysia is considered to be pretty well known and well established in the Southeast Asian region. The country consists of diverse ethnic groups, beautiful islands and sightseeing attractions, making it a favorable country to visit.

As the Malays form the biggest community in Malaysia, much of the Malay culture can be commonly felt in the country. There are several homestay programs hosted by the Malay community available in certain states of Malaysia and most of which, are very traditional.

In the olden days, the Malays used to live in kampong houses (a malay word that means village houses). Many kampong houses have been demolished to give way to urbanization, but some are still preserved for its residents in this day. Kampong houses were originally made out of attap palm trees, but these houses have since modernized and are no longer just built using the most basic materials. Nonetheless, the locals who live in a kampong today still enjoy a traditional and laid back lifestyle.

Kampong Pelegong in Negeri Sembilan is one of those that offers a kampong homestay program. Visitors will get to stay together with their host family in a kampong house, have meals that are thoughtfully prepared by the family and do activities together.

The friendly Malay families participating in this homestay program will certainly make guests feel like they are at home. Visitors will also get to interact with other villagers of the kampong and engage in traditional activities. There is also a mock traditional Malay wedding ceremony arranged in its program lineup, for visitors to experience the atmosphere of it. It is surely an extraordinary experience for one to learn more about the Malay culture. Do log on to http://www.go2homestay.com/homestay-pelegong/ for more information or make a reservation.

 

Activities that guests can do:

- Tour around the kampong.

- River trekking and fishing.

- Experience rubber tapping.

- Try out traditional folk dance, traditional games and instruments such as congkak, caklempong.

- Learn some simple Malay.

- Learn about Malay cuisine and its recipes.

- Experience a traditional Malay wedding.

 

 

Price:

For 2 days 1 night package, it costs 150 Malaysian Ringgit (~S$56) per person, inclusive of all three meals.

For 3 days 2 night package, it costs 250 Malaysian Ringgit (~S$93) per person, inclusive of all three meals.

 

 

 

The Ajimumachi Green Tourism Society - Japan, Oita

Japan has always been known for many things; its technology, food, politeness, punctuality... The country is also filled with many amazing sights, historic castles, shrines and it is not an unfamiliar choice for traveling.

Apart from all the hustle and bustle in major cities such as Tokyo, several ecotourism programs had been launched in the rural areas of Japan to increase awareness of the countryside. These programs allow travelers to learn about the ropes of rural life, and appreciate Japan's natural wonders.

Most of the ecotourism initiatives can be found in rural cities of Kyushu Island. In 1996, Ajimu town in Oita prefecture was the first to provide ecotourism and farm stay/homestay opportunities in Japan. Ajimu town has a really peaceful and beautiful environment, making it an ideal place to relax from your busy life. It promotes itself by emphasizing on its natural resources and simple lifestyle. Ecotourism in Ajimu has since gained much recognition and serves as an example for other rural cities to follow such an initiative, which benefits the locals and travelers alike.

Travelers will stay overnight at a local farmer's house and be engaged in agricultural activities. Since it is the rural part of Japan, travelers can get to experience Japan in the olden eras as they will get to stay in a traditional Japanese house with traditional tatami flooring and have meals around an irori - traditional Japanese sunken hearth. Being able to enjoy locally harvested and hunted for food is one of Ajimu's ecotourism highlights. The meals are largely made up of fresh and organic ingredients such as wild boar, deer and homegrown vegetables. 

 

Do log on to http://www.ajimu-gt.jp for more information or make a reservation.

 

Activities that guests can do:

- Experience agricultural lifestyle: Help out local farmers in farming on fields, and care for livestock.

- Try out handicrafts such as making chopsticks out of bamboo.

- Explore around the town, visit natural landscapes and interact with locals.

- Visit nearby Ajimu Winery and taste their famous wine and nearby hot springs.

- Learn about Japanese cuisine and try making some such as making the mocha.

- Basically just experience life in a traditional Japanese house and explore.

- You can request for any activity that you would like to do!

 

Price:

It costs 5300 Japanese Yen (~S$60) for one person per night, inclusive of all three meals. Additional fees may incur for other requests.

 

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