A stone’s throw away from Kota Baru in Kelantan is Pasir Belanda Resort — a charming place that allows a glimpse into kampung living.
Someone once said: “Today, give a stranger one of your smiles. It might be the only sunshine he sees all day.”
Quoted from The Star
What others are saying about the Homestay Experience
“Life on a kampung”
So you go to Malaysia and try to find that special location. This is that special thing. You live inside the kampung. You can cycle around and all the children will say hello to you. You can sit on the riverside patio and spot kingfishers and monitor lizards and other wildlife.
You can do a cooking course. Batik course within the camping and they can arrange much more. If you like your holiday to exist of different experiences this location is highly recommended.
Visited September 2013
“Learn Malay culture with a bit of luxury”
Very lovely place, we can recommend it. Situated in a Muslim village right next to a river bank. Staff is very friendly. Rooms are clean, spacious (even the cheaper standard rooms) and stand in a well kept garden. At nights you sometimes hear noises from the ceiling of the chalets, but we didn’t find out which animal that was and it was not really a problem. Apart from that everything was perfect at Pasir Belanda.
They have an awesome pool with great scenic view of the river while you swim, a terrace for breakfast that reminds you of the style of the colonial age. The aunt (makcik) two houses further cooks great and rich dinners and lunches at reasonable prices and gives cooking classes if you want to try to do the curry.
The workshops and activities are well organized (we took batik making, cooking class and bike ride) and definitely worth the time and money. All in all a unique experience, a great way to learn to know Malay culture with a bit of gentle luxury at a fair price.
Visited August 2013
“Stylish kampung living”
Situated in the grounds of an old colonial style house, the chalets are also designed in a traditional manner. Lovely grounds with mature frangipani trees and a very picturesque breakfast terrace and pool overlooking the river. We enjoyed the cooking class and cycling around the local area, would definitely stay again if in the area.
Stayed June 2013, travelled as a couple
My family stayed 2 nights at Pasir Belanda to experience the kampong lifestyle, a departure from our usual hotel accommodation. Upon arrival we were greeted by friendly staff. The chalet we stayed in is small but cosy and has modern amenities like the air conditioner, water heater and TV. The environment is nice and quiet and in front of the owner’s house there is a play area for kids (swings, sand pit, balancing log, tree house).
For the first night we tried the dinner done by the neighbour next door (just walk through a side gate) and it was good simple home cooked food. Breakfast was scrumptious with home made bread, egg, jam and beverages served at the terrace overlooking a river (it was choked full with water plants, otherwise it would offer a nice view).
If you don’t mind the houseflies and being waken up by rooster crowing (some can start at 2 am), it is a nice experience staying at Pasir Belanda.
The only problem we have getting there and out is that signage is not that clear and we did ‘got lost’ inside the kampong.
Stayed June 2013, travelled with family
“It defines my Kota Bharu trip”
This resort is lovely! It hides in a Malay Kampung (village) about 15 minutes drive away from the city center. Not too far away from all the attractions but far enough to have peaceful and quite environment. However, if you drive, do take note that it may not appear on your GPS (I had the location set at Waze in both my iPad and iPhone.
However, after passing through the Malay graveyards and kampung houses, in the middle of the kampung road, the iPhone screen went 100% grey, and on the Waze’s map, that’s nothing else but a blue dot at the middle of nowhere. We were panic. My sister started to search for Pasir Belanda on her Google Map and it pointed us to Kota Bharu city center which is a few kilometers away.
I decided to trust Waze and continued to drive to the blue dot direction even though there’s no more map available on Waze. Apparently Waze is correct. Pasir Belanda Resort is so deep in the kampung that you won’t see it on the GPS map! You can imagine how glad we were when we finally found this lovely place.)
The chalets are set in a very nice garden. The air-conditioned Malay style kampung chalets may not be great but the rooms are very comfortable and clean.
The staff are very helpful and friendly. They gave a lot of suggestions on what to do, where to eat, what to see etc
Why You Must Not Miss the Homestay Experience
Well, you will certainly saw loads of “sunshine” if you embark on a two-day stay in Pasir Belanda Resort, Kelantan.
Pasir Belanda Resort, comprising a cluster of traditional wooden houses, sits on the banks of Sungai Pengkalan Chepa in Kg Banggol, a 15-minute drive from Kota Baru.
But Pasir isn’t your typical resort where you laze by the pool and sink into a comatose state under the glaring sun.
As the Dutch owners Harry and Annemeike Mulder envisaged it, guests come to Pasir to savour an idyllic kampung stay, soak up Kelantan’s rich cultural heritage and mingle with the amicable villagers.
What To See During Your Visit
You will certainly got your first dose of “sunshine” on the morning of your arrival.
It helps that the resort opens its doors to the villagers. Local kids drop by to play on the swing and seesaw. The compound faces the main road that cuts through the village.
At the resort, scarlet heliconias bloom on the grassy lawn while leafy palms, frangipani and coconut trees lend a tranquil ambience.
The Mulders and their two kids, Jesse, 9 and Abel, 4, live in a 40-year-old, three-bedroom kampung house on the resort grounds.
Like the main house, the guest chalets sport distinctive Malay architecture with singhorra (terracotta) tiles, steep-tiered roofs with curved gable ends and sunbeam motifs on the roof. The sunbeam symbolizes the beginning and the end of a day.
Harry was lucky to find a talented local carpenter, Pak Suji, to build the chalets from meranti wood.
Each chalet comes with a veranda where you can plonk yourself on a deck chair, get lost in a good book or just watch the world go by.
The rooms come equipped with twin or double beds, hot shower, air-conditioning, TV and tea and coffee-making facilities. The resort can accommodate up to 20 guests.
The Attractions of the Resort
One of the best spots in Pasir is its jetty hut perched on the river bank. Guests can tuck into a breakfast of homemade bread served with jam and butter and fried eggs there, while indulging in bird-watching or gazing at a perahu gliding by.
The Mulders’ good friend, Penang-based David Bakewell, finds the jetty an ideal spot to observe kingfishers, bitterns hunting for fish and the munias feeding on seedheads.
“I’ve also watched woodpeckers, orioles and malkohas feeding in the trees next to the jetty,” says David, an avid birdwatcher and photographer. Across the river, pond heron and mynas feed in the marshy areas, and the occasional rainbow-coloured bee-eater whizzes past.
Other Interesting Activities For Visitors
Other than breakfast, the resort doesn’t serve any other meal but Harry encourages his guests to dine at his neighbour’s.
Robayah Hassan, or better known as Kak Yah, whips up scrumptious lunches or dinners upon request. Guests who want to learn to cook Kelantan delicacies can also sign up for her cooking class.
Kak Yah’s husband used to trade textiles in Sarawak. Homemaker and mother of seven, Kak Yah, 51, cooks for wedding kenduri in the village to earn extra income. Nowadays, the regular stream of Pasir guests hankering for her cooking keep her busy.
You could request a “Special” package, a RM25 per person dinner. The sumptuous spread of Kelantan specialties for this special package would be mind-boggling.
The package includes solok (fish blended with onions, shallots, ginger and grated young coconut stuffed into oversized green chillies and steamed), ikan percik, homemade acar, chicken curry with spices, pucuk ubi with sambal belacan and budu (fermented anchovy sauce) and stir-fried pucuk paku (ferns) with omelette.
A local dessert called butih nangka, would sometimes first be served. Little balls of glutinous rice flour are served with coconut milk, spiced with fenugreek, ginger and fragrant pandan leaves.
“Old folks believe that butih nangka helps release the wind in your body,” explains Kak Yah.
Kak Yah would sometimes show her guests a bunch of postcards and letters from the US, the Netherlands and other parts of Europe, raving about her cooking and congeniality.
Discovering Kelantan’s Rich Heritage Thru Homestay
The next day, armed with Harry’s detailed map, we hopped onto the resort’s bicycles to explore the nearby villages. Our first stop was a kite-maker’s place on Pantai Cahaya Bulan (PCB) road.
His shop — which is more a wooden shack — was so unassuming that we almost flew past. But inside, a dazzling array of wau (kites) in different shapes, colours and sizes hung from the ceiling.
In one corner, a small and wiry man was bent over his kite, busy putting on the finishing touches.
Sapie Yusof, 61, has been fashioning kites from buluh duri (bamboo) frames and paper for 36 years. His kites cost between RM30 and RM11,000. Sapie actively takes part in various kite competitions around Malaysia.
Though Sapie was finishing up his kites for the Pasir Gudang International Kite Festival which was in a few weeks’ time, he obliged us with a chat.
A short five-minute ride from Sapie’s shop is a keropok (fish cracker) factory in Kg Kedai Buloh.
Engku Noraini Yaacob, 49, and her husband run a small cottage industry churning out keropok lekor and dry fish crackers for the local market. When we dropped by, the factory was idle due to the shortage of fish supply because of the rainy season.
Engku Noraini dished out some tips on how to choose tasty crackers. Tamban fish (Sardinella albella) is the best and a good keropok lekor (chockful of fish and not flour) shouldn’t be oily when fried.
The usual self-guided bicycle tour includes hopping on a ferry to Kg Laut and dropping by a well-known Tok Dalang’s (master puppeteer) panggung (theatre) cum workshop.
Yusoff Mamat or Pak Soh has been playing wayang kulit (shadow puppets) since he was nine.
At the workshop, visitors learn how the puppets are created from cowhide and how the Tok Dalang brings the puppets to life via characters from the Ramayana epic.
Aside from performing nationwide, Pak Soh, 59, has also travelled to Tokyo, South Africa and Indonesia to showcase his traditional art.
In addition, you shouldn’t miss the batik “factory” run by Zahari Haji Daud.
A 10-minute stroll from Pasir Belanda, the shop — housed in a wooden shed — produces good quality hand-drawn batik priced from RM100 and above. At Zahari’s, visitors can also sign up for a batik-drawing workshop.
Dutch tourists Hendrik Jan de Ru, 60, and his wife, Anke Noorts, 53, took the same bicycle tour as us the day before.
“Staying at Pasir and in the village really stimulates your senses — different smells, sounds and sights and easy contact with friendly people,” says Hendrik.
Yes, for urban Malaysians like us, we too relish the down-to-earth village folks with their copious amounts of “sunshine” living in the heart of Kelantan.
Making A Home in Kelantan
Pasir Belanda opened its doors to its first guests at the end of 2005.
Owners Harry and Annemeike Mulder from the Netherlands wanted to live outside Holland for a while and decided on Malaysia.
“I first came to Malaysia in 1989 for a six-month internship. During my travels around the country, I found that I liked Kelantan best. I told myself I would bring my future wife to see this beautiful place,” says Harry, 40, a former mechanical engineer.
The couple settled in Penang in 2003 because they had friends there and started a travel agency to bring Dutch tourists over. It took two exhaustive years before they found their dream house in Kelantan.
The house was built in 1969 by an Englishman, Datuk Howard Foster Biles (1916-2003). Biles came to then Malaya as a marine officer in World War II and was later appointed the Protector for the Orang Asli in Kelantan and Pahang.
After he retired in ’69, he became the supervisor of the Kelantan Royal Household. Today, the Mulders lease the house and land from the home’s Malay owner.
“There’s something special about it,” gushes Annemeike, 40. “It’s a wooden kampung house on stilts. It has a great view, breeze and nice neighbours. Since we liked it, we thought others might like it too.”
The couple’s son, Abel, 4, was born in Kelantan and today, the family has blended in comfortably with kampung life. The children attend international school in Kota Baru. Harry and Annemeike speak Malay with a Kelantanese dialect and share a great camaraderie with their neighbours. A primary schoolteacher in Holland, Annemieke now teaches English to the local kids whenever they request a class.
What are the Mulders’ long-term plan?
“We just live day by day, year by year,” Annemeike chuckles.
Pasir Belanda Resort & Travel
Tel: (09) 747 7046 or 017-934 0817
- Rates start from RM149 for a standard chalet for two persons