A unique homestay experience

An expasive front view of the Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing longhouse.

An expasive front view of the Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing longhouse.

IT derives its name from a local fruit called Gerumbing by the Bidayuh.

This fruit, also called Belimbing by the Malays or known as star fruit (local) in English, is sweet although not very fleshy. It can make a nice decoration on the table, especially if we can have the red ones.

Pink Gerumbings are also available in Sarawak.

Because star fruits are abundant in their area, one of the Bidayuh sub-ethnic groups within upper Padawan had named their village Kampung Gerumbing about almost a century ago when they were still pagans.

Gerumbing was eventually replaced with Belimbing when the villagers moved to the new location, about 60km from Kuching. The original site was about 15 minutes by foot from the present one.

Kampung Belimbing is divided into two sections — one  is called Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing, the first Muslim Bidayuh Longhouse community settlement in Kuching Division.

This longhouse has been quite a popular countryside homestay to travellers or tourists who love the rough ride and rustic life. Backpackers in particular, will appreciate it.

The facilities are not for city dwellers but people who love nature and the green belt. The location is appropriate for people wanting to spend a few days in a typical countryside village and explore the surrounding attractions.

The road leading to the village itself offers scenic views of mountains, lush tropical forests and natural greenery.

Staying with a host family at the Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing homestay is also an opportunity to experience the lifestyle and culture of the Bidayuh Muslim community.

Visitors, especially foreigners, can learn about the Bidayuh Muslim culture and also pick up their language in a friendly home atmosphere.

Besides, the very reasonable rates make this homestay an affordable short-term housing alternative to guesthouse or apartment.

Villagers helping out in the sacrificial meat preparing process.

Villagers helping out in the sacrificial meat preparing process.

Day-to-day life

There are 22 participants and 22 rooms in this longhouse.

Programme coordinator Raie Omar said homestay visitors could share the day-to-day life, traditional Bidayuh Muslim meals and special social activities at the village.

According to him, the programme includes activities such as jungle trekking, Rafflesia tour, bamboo raft safari, Bidayuh longhouse culture and cultural performance.

Raie said the Rafflesia site is about 2km away, adding that experienced guides would show the way to latest rafflesia bloom.

The Rafflesia is as unusual as it is spectacular. Much of the flower’s biology remains a mystery to this day. It has no specific flowering season, no roots, leaves or stems.

Scientists are still unsure how the seeds of a Rafflesia germinate and grow.

What is known is that it takes several hours for a flower to open fully. There are usually five thick and fleshy red-coloured petals, covered in lighter coloured spots, warts and blotches.

The Rafflesia only blooms for three to five days before it starts to blacken and rot. Raie said Rafflesia near Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing normally blooms in June or November but visitors could  still visit the site to the see the plant for themselves.

Along the jungle trek, there are also opportunities to observe the many types of medicinal, flowering and bamboo plants herbs, as well as wild local fruit trees and other flora and fauna.

Raie said the Kampung was equipped with several infrastructural facilities such as a multi-purpose community hall, a baruk, a sundry shop, a sportsfield, public phones and toilets.

He added that all activities, including cultural performance, would only be organised upon the visitors’ request.

“We have a cultural club which train dancers to perform upon request. Although we are Muslims, we still preserve our Bidayuh culture and our traditional attires are still Bidayuh-based.”

Concrete man-made belimbings at Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing.

Concrete man-made belimbings at Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing.

More memorable

The homestay would be even more memorable if group visitors adapt to the village life and help with various tasks around the house. The more the visitors learn about their hosts’ customs, diet and habits, the more rewarding the experience.

Group visitors are normally welcomed with traditional performances in the evening

and they can also participate in the performances and other shows.

During the day, a community sports programme, including events like stilt walking, rafting and traditional fishing competition, may be organised.

According to Raie, a night at the homestay costs only RM65, inclusive of breakfast, lunch and dinner, prepared the hosting family.

He said homestay participants normally treated guests as their family members and made sure they were always safe and did not go hungry.

To help market Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing as tourist destination, the Tourism Ministry recently launched the Hari Raya Korban package for foreign visitors.

Tourism Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg said the village was selected over others because of certain uniqueness it could offer to visitors, particularly among the Muslim community.

“As we all know, the people in this kampung are made up of the Bidayuh community whose religion is Islam and while they still maintain their Bidayuh culture, they also celebrate Hari Raya Korban like any other Muslim communities.

“This is something unique that we can promote and sell to outside market, particularly the Muslim communities from other places such as Singapore and peninsular Malaysia.”

The Minister described the Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing homestay as rich in biodiversity and having plenty to offer and Hari Raya Korban was just an additional product in the package.

He expressed optimism that through aggressive marketing, many Muslim visitors would be interested to visit the homestay during this period to see for themselves how the community celebrated Hari Raya Korban apart from other programmes offered.

A house belonging to one of the homestay programme participants.

A house belonging to one of the homestay programme participants.

Yearly population increase

Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing headman Hussein Banyak said Islam came to the village — still called Kampung Gerumbing — sometime in

1963.

The number of Muslim families increased from year to year and by 1979, all had moved out to the new longhouse.

“An Arab king suggested we move out of the previous village after visiting our kampung with the late Tun Abdul Rahman Yakub, then the Chief Minister.

“At that time, while the king was making a speech, he heard the sounds of bulldozers under the bamboo veranda that ran the full length of the longhouse.

“So he suggested we move to a new location since the place is not conducive from the Muslim community,” Hussein recalled.

He said the king also pledged RM280,000 to build a new longhouse settlement for the Muslim community there.

According to him, Islam in the settlement started with seven families, then increased to 14 before expanding to 40 doors a year later when the Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing was officially launched in 1980.

He said there were now some 110 registered Muslim families in the area, including those within the parameter of the Christian families.  The villagers practise shifting hill paddy cultivation.

Hussein said although they were Muslim they still preserved the Bidayuh culture.

“We may be Muslim by religion but we are still Bidayuh and maintain our Bidayuh culture.

“Even our Bidayuh dishes are also maintained although during big events, we may not be serving Bidayuh food.”

Hussein said although there were only 22 participants out of 40 doors in the longhouse, the homestay programme in the village involved everyone.

“It’s just a part-time business and we want everyone to get involved. The others may participate in cultural performances, as tour guides, event organisers or selling of souvenirs and handicrafts.”

It is said Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing Homestay programme offers comfortable and clean accommodation, daily “longhouse” traditional  Bidayuh-Islam style meals and email access for international visitors and their families.

The entrance to Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing.

The entrance to Kampung Darul Islam Belimbing.

Source