Why did you start opening your home to visitors?
It all comes from my love of travel and meeting people when away. I tell people about Brunei but most don’t get to visit and see our heritage and culture. Opening the house gives visitors a chance to see the real Kampong Ayer and feel relaxed in a home environment. Also, for ladies travelling, I think there can sometimes be a worry, so I offer a place they can feel comfortable and secure in and know that Brunei is a safe and welcoming country to visit.
What kind of hospitality do you offer your guests?
I offer bed and breakfast, but of course try to accommodate all my guest’s requests. As I have visitors from all over the world, some have different requests for breakfast and I try to accommodate. Some want just fruit, or cereal but I try to show some of the local food too. It’s all about hospitality after all, though most are comfortable with scrambled eggs or omelettes. And if I get asked if it’s possible to wash clothes, I do have a large washing machine!
How has your enterprise gone down in the village and with your neighbours?
First of all, some say “that’s a brilliant idea” and some think “why do you want to open your house to strangers?”, but of course some people are more reserved. Most people understand it is great to get to know other people’s culture while sharing our own culture and traditions. Some of my neighbours are very friendly and ask visitors over for a coffee or to show them how we make ambuyat, our uniquely Bruneian dish.
Being progressive is to change and always get better. You shouldn’t sit and wait, you need to get out there and always ask what is next and what can I do?
In what way would you like to extend your business?
I would love to work with the community, as well as extend my house slightly. Maybe every two weeks we could have a cultural and handicraft bazaar or market here, where everybody comes together. There is the opportunity for locals, expats and visitors to learn from each other and share cultures and skills, whether it’s woodworking or cooking or whatever. Exchanging cultures is very important for everyone to benefit. Many people can read, hear or talk about us in Brunei, but to really see and experience our culture is the most important thing.
Apart from running the homestay, what other pursuits do you have?
I love sailing actually, which all started as I used to lose my husband to racing big sailboats and I said can I try on a smaller boat. I started learning how to sail in the monsoon season, so you really have to learn how to set your sails properly or you capsize. I think we capsized over 30 times at the start, but it was fun. You have to have the guts to get up again – just like in life – when you fall, you have to get up! If you think you’ve had enough, take a break and start all over again tomorrow. It’s good to be challenged – if you don’t take a risk, how will you know what is there? Don’t be complacent as you’ll never get anywhere.
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