Homestay Advantage

Johor Baru has long been considered a border town where most travellers pass through en route to cities in the north or to Singapore in the south.  This trend has changed because travellers are now planning to come to Johor Baru, not just for a visit but to stay and enjoy the attractions here.  As Nusajaya is being developed with local and international investments, Johor is welcoming not just tourists but professionals who are working with the companies in Iskandar Malaysia.  New businesses, hospitals and universities are also attracting employees from other states and abroad, and very often their families join them here for extended stays.

Façade of My Homestay Larkin, Larkin Jaya, at twilight
A range of hotels in the city may offer overnight, short or long term stays but many who plan their trips to JB in groups or for longer stays find it more comfortable and economical to opt for homestays.  I was prompted to look beyond hotels when a friend in Kuala Lumpur asked me for homestay options here when she was planning to bring her family of 15 for a holiday to enjoy Legoland Malaysia and other attractions.  A Google search in websites like and, turned up lists of homestay choices but I decided to check out the homestays in two apartments, a terrace house and a bungalow, in and around JB.

Berkah Budget Guest House, Bandar Baru Uda

I’m familiar with Bandar Baru Uda (BBU) and enjoy visiting Plaza Angsana especially for handicraft and trade fairs held in the adjacent event area.  BBU is a short drive from the city and the owner of Berkah Budget Guest House, Siti Faridah S A Rahman has given me landmarks to guide me to her apartment on the Ground floor of block D.  My trusted Google Map is very useful as it guided me through the large residential area, directly to Jalan Padi Mas 5/5 where I easily spotted the blocks of walk-up apartments.

Dining area and siting room at Berkah Budget Guest House
At a glance I can see how the owner has put in much effort to make the cosy 5-bedded homestay more comfortable for guests.  The floors are covered in linoleum and furniture is neatly grouped in a snug arrangement.  Since she started operating the homestay two years ago, Siti Faridah has hosted guests from as far as Egypt and families from other states who come to JB to attend student convocations at nearby Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM).  Other guests are mostly families who come to attend weddings and engagements and businessmen who may stay for up to a month to participate in trade fairs held in Plaza Angsana.

Kitchen with tea and coffee making facilities;
See the jars filled with sachets to make quick hot drinks?
“I’m very fortunate to have hosted some very nice people,” said Siti Faridah about her guests who have kept the apartment occupied and given it a homely feel.  “The most costly expense in operating a homestay is the laundry prices,” she added with a smile.  She said check-in time is 2pm and check-out is at 12 noon but if there was no booking on the following day, guests may extend their stay up to 4pm.  The rate per night stay is RM250 while long-stay guests can enjoy attractive and affordable packages.

Comfort Factor:

Master bedroom, compact but comfortable
Families who travel with the elderly will find this ground floor apartment to their advantage as the unit is just a few steps from the road.  A water-heater installed in the master bathroom, washing machine, refrigerator, microwave oven, rice cooker and toaster are some of the electrical appliances provided.  In addition to crockery and cutlery, guests also have the convenience to make a quick warm drink because tea and coffee making facilities is also provided.  I guess she also provided dishwashing liquid to encourage guests to keep the kitchen equipment clean!

After a day out, guests can come home to a cosy apartment and relax by watching television which is installed with Astro B.yond TV channels.  The homestay situated within an established residential area is another advantage because it is walking distance to restaurants and nearby shopping destination, Plaza Angsana.  Driving is a breeze because BBU is conveniently linked to the city, Nusajaya and UTM in Skudai by a network of expressways.

Johor LegoStay, Gelang Patah

Next, I’m off to Gelang Patah and once again, Google Map served me well because a smooth drive from the city via the Kota Iskandar Expressway brings me directly to the front of the towering Nusa Perdana Apartments.  I ask the security guard for directions because I arranged to meet owner, Lester Wong, at the lobby of block D.  I walk through the club house that has a convenience store and restaurant, pass the swimming pool and playground to meet Wong and we hop into the elevator to ride up to level 10.

Sitting room [Left] and dining area at Johor LegoStay
Wong and his wife, Carmen, are no strangers to homestays as they have been operating homestays in Malacca since 2009.  With his finger on the pulse of development in Nusajaya, Wong planned to provide alternative accommodation to travellers here before they started Johor LegoStay, their first homestay in the Nusa Perdana Apartments.  They timed the start of their homestay in July 2012 to coincide with the opening of Legoland Malaysia theme park and have happily hosted travellers from around the world including Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Australia, Austria, Indonesia, Singapore and Middle East nations.  

There are also single beds with pull-out bed below!
“When guests say thanks for a very comfortable and enjoyable stay, it’s worth it,” said Wong who makes it a point to do maintenance checks in the apartment before guest arrivals.  He is delighted that many guests are repeats because this trend speaks well for their positive experiences with Johor LegoStay.  While most guests are groups and families who come to enjoy theme parks like Legoland Malaysia and Sanrio Hello Kitty Town, other guests include professionals who are working on projects with companies in Iskandar Malaysia.  Check-in time is 12 noon and check-out is 10am with maximum 1 hour extension but if the unit is available, Wong will inform the guests and let them check-in earlier.

Comfort Factor:

The apartment's kitchen
Wong said the 4-bedroom apartment was renovated and fitted with PVC laminated floors for guests’ comfort and offered at the rate is RM379 per night but is negotiable for longer stays.  He said guests can make their own sleeping arrangements for up to 10 people and extra mattresses that come with pillow, sheet and comforter will be provided upon request at a separate charge.  There is a bathroom water heater, LCD TV installed with Astro cable TV, air-conditioning in the sitting room and three bedrooms as well as the convenience of Wifi!

He noticed that guests usually spend their entire day outside and may buy food back for snacks and supper.  This works out well for everyone because even though the apartment has a built-in kitchen range, microwave oven, crockery and cutlery, he said no cooking is allowed.  Some places of interest are listed in Wong’s website: as a guide for guests to explore JB and nearby Gelang Patah for them to savour fresh seafood and local specialties or enjoy the Sunday morning market and the night market on Tuesdays. 

Dillenia Homestay, Taman Bukit Indah

Rahman Hashim and his wife, Halwa, gave me directions to Dillenia Homestay at Jalan Indah 10/14 located near the Bukit Indah Aeon mall and in a few minutes I’m in front of their terrace house.  Taman Bukit Indah is a suburb situated between JB city and the theme park attractions in Nusajaya, planned with residential, recreational and commercial facilities.  Rahman said the unusual peaks in the building façade of their one and a half-storey house often surprises guests who curiously ask, “Am I going to stay here?”  And Rahman proudly replies, “What you see is what you get!”

The sitting room at Dillenia Homestay, Taman Bukit Indah
I step into the hall and my eyes are drawn to the staircase on my right which is bathed in natural light streaming in through a tall glass window.  The glow showed up the spotless white tiles and the furniture’s contrasting colours in a very welcoming way and I can understand why this 3-room homestay is a popular choice with repeat guests.  With well-appointed furnishings and the master bedroom in a cosy upstairs loft, this truly feels like a home away from home.  While most guests are families from north and east Malaysia who are keen to visit the theme parks here, they have also hosted tourists and business travellers from Indonesia, Brunei and Turkey. 

Rahman said that some regulars place their booking for their next visit as soon as they check-out but he feels that it is only fair to accept reservations just 2 months in advance.  He said check-in time is 2pm and check-out is 12 noon so that there is sufficient time do housekeeping before the next check-in.  The rates per night stay are RM230 for weekdays, RM250 for weekends and Public Holidays and RM300 for school holidays.  Discounts apply for stays of more than 2 nights and rates are negotiable for long-term stays.

Comfort Factor:

Spacious master bedroom in the upstairs loft
Self-drive guests will appreciate the spacious car porch which can accommodate 2 cars with the third car parked across their own driveway.  Rahman said a plus point for drivers is the convenience of nearby motor workshops in the event of any mechanical problems.  The adjacent shopping hub offers a range of restaurants and shopping for daily necessities as well as laundry services.  Public transport is also convenient with taxis available on call.  And in the unfortunate event of a medical emergency, guests may seek medical care from clinics and a nearby hospital.

The kitchen at Dillenia Homestay
Air-conditioning is available in the master bedroom and because the house is designed with a high ceiling, the good circulation keeps the downstairs rooms, equipped with fans, comfortably cool.  The homestay comes with three Queen-size beds but extra sets of mattresses complete with sheets, pillows and comforters are available upon request at a separate charge.  To minimize accidents, an induction cooker is provided for light cooking.  Rahman said one of the Frequently Asked Questions from guests who may have had bad experiences is, “Does your homestay look the same as in the photos?” and he confidently assures them that the homestay is just as it looks in the photos! Website:

My Homestay Larkin, Taman Larkin Jaya

As I head to Jalan Raja Udang in a light drizzle, I remember that the roads in Taman Larkin Jaya are named after birds.  The gates to My Homestay Larkin are wide open to welcome me and as I park in the 6-car porch, I see two ladies inside who must be Maimunah Isa and her daughter, Farhanah Mohamad Fikray.  Maimunah apologised for looking untidy because she was busy with housekeeping to prepare for their next guests.  Since the homestay opened almost 3 years ago, they have been busy with regular bookings and repeat guests who clearly prefer to stay here.

Spacious hall with stairs [Right] to the loft upstairs
With natural light pouring in through the tall windows to give the bungalow a bright and cheerful ambiance, my first impression is this homestay’s spaciousness.  The single-level house and bedrooms with attached bathrooms are a plus point for families with the elderly who may have mobility problems.  Maimunah said they maintain the check-in time at 2pm and check-out at 12 noon because she will need at least two and a half hours to do the housekeeping before the next check-in.  The rate per night stay is RM350 and discounts apply for stays of more than 2 nights.

“Our elderly guests set the tone for courtesy with us,” said Maimunah who is grateful for having hosted very nice people.  Their guests are usually families who come from north and east Malaysia to attend weddings, university convocations and family reunions during Hari Raya while corporate guests will come for job training or work projects.  She is glad that guests have been mindful of the peaceful neighbourhood and have never been a nuisance even while they hold outdoor activities or linger on the verandah. 

Comfort Factor:

Natural light cheers up each spacious room
Each room in the 4-room bungalow is furnished with Queen-size beds and extra mattresses are available upon request at a separate charge.  Three rooms are air-conditioned and the TV is installed with Astro cable TV.  The kitchen is equipped with a gas stove, rice cooker, refrigerator, cooking utensils as well as crockery and cutlery for 12.  Even as the spacious sitting room is as large as a multi-purpose hall I’m delighted to discover that they made an upstairs loft for a prayer room complete with an adjacent ablution room and this loft can also be used as a dormitory for young people. 

The cosy dining room with kitchen [Right]
Maimunah said some guests who came to attend an engagement here wanted to place their bookings a year in advance so that they can use this homestay again when they come to attend the wedding!  Whilst this is very encouraging, she feels it is better to accept bookings only 3 months in advance.  Meanwhile she is taking homestay hospitality to new heights by catering meals for her guests’ convenience.  Since she lives just across the road from the homestay, Maimunah is able to provide meal packages that include a local breakfast, a packed lunch (for takeaway) and a more leisurely buffet dinner. 

A version of this article was published in The New Straits Times, Life & Times on 29 May 2014

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your review of Dillenia Homestay ,Peggy!