Co-founder of Experience Travel Group, Tom Armstrong, discovered the hidden riches of Malaysia. On an in-depth research trip, he found some fantastic experiences you could include in your holiday, the Suka Suka Homestay is but one example. Here he reviews his time with Aziz and family, the hosts – I hope you’ll feel inspired.
Anyone interested in getting close to traditional Malay culture will be drawn to the fabulous Suka Suka Lake Homestay. I had the good fortune to spend three days there exploring its surroundings and I am already looking forward to returning to a place that feels like a home away from home.
Suka Suka has achieved a wonderful balance between private relaxation and the opportunity to engage in fun activities with your hosts. Accommodation is in eight traditional, stilted wooden houses which have been painstakingly sourced from around the region, deconstructed and re-erected in a lakeside garden plot. Six of the houses are set aside for guest accommodation, each with a double and twin bedroom, simply furnished but with comfortable beds and hot water showers. Luxury this is not, but the charming houses are welcoming and provide all you need for a good sleep. Doors are never locked; a sign of the peaceful life here.
During the day, you’re really made to feel part of the family by Aziz, Asiah and their son Azam. Aziz retired early from a career in IT and retreated from his former life in Kuala Lumpur in search of something more remote, tranquil and satisfying. After much deliberation he finally found the place he had been dreaming of when a friend introduced him to the Chendorah Lake and the surrounding hills. He was immediately smitten and remains so to this day, over twenty years later.
Aziz and Asiah limit the number of bookings they take at any one time, and the number of days a month that they host, to ensure that they are able to give their all to each guest whilst also maintaining a healthy balance with their family life.
A stay at Suka Suka tends to revolve around the main house, which dates from the 1920s. It is here that meals are prepared and served, games are played and coffee and tea consumed throughout the day. Aziz takes great pride in explaining the cultural and architectural traditions of the village as well as pointing out the huge variety of flora in the Suka Suka garden. Whilst there are no shortage of activities on offer, doing very little and discussing a broad range of topics with your hosts on the veranda is also a relaxing way to pass your time.
Aziz and Azam also lead us on a really interesting two-hour walk around the local village, introducing us to neighbours, buying us coffee in the market, visiting nearby farms and generally catching up on the gossip!
Suka Suka have their own boats and kayaks which can be taken out throughout the day. Aziz can also arrange fishing trips and longer kayak trips if time permits. We spent hours out in the lake just paddling around and exploring the islands that dot the landscape.
Asiah’s cooking is truly exceptional and we were treated to a never ending supply of varied meal choices. In line with the ‘local’ theme, the cuisine is all traditional Malay with an emphasis on dishes that you may not already be familiar with. Cooked with great care, every meal at Suka Suka, is a treat.
On our final night the family put on a more traditional evening, showing us how to tie and wear the local sarongs. Sitting together on the reed mats, we ate with our hands, learned culinary customs and no-doubt committed numerous cultural faux-pas, all the time sharing tales and laughter.
Aziz and his family are truly exceptional hosts and a sense of warmth and spirit runs through the charming Suka Suka property that can’t help but filter through to its fortunate guests.