I was amazed to see all the development upon my return to Bagan Datoh. Roads were being widened and resurfaced, the water infrastructure was being upgraded, civic buildings looked spiffy with fresh paint. Am I reading to much into it to see a political lesson here? Having your district go to PAS is bad for government investment, but having your district almost go to PAS (as Bagan Datoh nearly did last election) is fantastic for government investment.
The most interesting new development was that the whole district had been organized into a Homestay program, whereby a few homes in each village became glorified Bread & Breakfasts. Unlike with your basic B&B, here the host is part of the attraction. (The idea is not all that different from the longhouse stays that adventurous visitors to Sarawak often take. Bagan Datoh is far more tame, I can assure you.) It turned out even our neighbor two doors down had enrolled. For about RM50 a night, you can stay in an authentic village house, eat authentic village homecooked food, and meet authentic village people. And to think, I’ve been getting all this for free!
Seriously, it is a nice idea. I’ve always been fond of the place during the many trips here over the last ten years, but in a way, finding out that it was now a tourist attraction made me take a second look. Perhaps Bagan Datoh has overly informed my impression of the Malay countryside. I imagined that all of rural Malaysia was more or less this way. But if Malaysians would choose to come and stay here as tourists to experience real kampung life, than maybe what we have here is something more special and rare than I realized. Socially, the kampungs here are very tight knit, traditional, and deeply religious. The area has an idyllic quality, with it’s miles of swaying coconut trees, slow-moving canals, and beautiful wooden homes. It is lovely. I suppose it could be a tourist destination if you enjoy your vacations slow and restful.
A few resources if you want to plan a vacation to Bagan Datoh: