Easy, breezy and cosy best describes Kunyit 7 lodge, a charming homestay located at Kampung Bakut Berumput in Kampong Ayer.
Overlooking the majestic Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien (SOAS) mosque and open waters coupled with a knowledgeable host, it’s no wonder the vibrant cottage garnered more than 1000 stays over the last five years.
Dk Kemariah Pengiran Hj Duraman or better known as Kem, mainly credits the water village that’s filled with history, quirks and unique culture.
The Bruneian spent a day enjoying the house on stilts, its facilities and learned more about its beginning.
The lodge was initially built at the water village in the 1920s by Kem’s late grandfather, with the help of the villagers through the spirit of ‘gotong royong’ (cooperation by members of a community).
“Back then, when you wanted to build a house, everyone would come over and bring their tools and start building the place together, something we rarely see today,” said Kem.
“The house was initially longer than it is now and was rebuilt again in the 1980s by my late uncle.”
It was only in 2014 that she took over and revamped some parts of the place starting with the deck (pantaran) and she also took down a few walls to make more space.
“I installed six doors to give the place an airy feel and to ensure that fresh air comes in every time,” said Kem.
The toilets were reconstructed along with two showers for the ease of guests and visitors.
The cottage is decorated with a plethora of ornaments and trinkets collected from her various travels as well as furniture inherited from her grandparents and parents.
It was named Kunyit 7 lodge after Kem’s grandfather, Pengiran Tujoh who loved incorporating kunyit or ginger into his food and tujoh which means seven in English.
Welcoming all with open arms
Since its renovation works were completed, Kem decided to open Kunyit 7 lodge to guests and visitors alike to give them more than a glimpse of Kampong Ayer.
“We initially signed up with Airbnb and welcomed our first guest from Cayman Islands followed by a woman from Holland, Dutch.”
Kem also signed up on Booking.com and welcomed even more international tourists, adding that it took quite some time for locals to stay over at the lodge.
“But slowly locals started coming in to take a break from their regular routine, organise small events like meetings, get-togethers and even birthday parties.”
The lodge has four rooms and can accommodate up to 12 guests, along with amenities such as a baby bassinet, playpen, life jackets, laundry, dining and sitting areas.
Breakfast is provided but cooking is prohibited. However, guests can make snacks in the kitchen such as sandwiches.
“We don’t allow cooking as we want to encourage people to buy their meals from the locals nearby,” said Kem.
“This way, visitors get to explore more of the village and contribute at the same time.”
Every day, guests can truly enjoy their charm as the lodge gives out a different ambiance at different times of the day.
In the early mornings, the river is calm and quiet as the hustle and bustle only start a bit later, then guests are treated to a view of water taxis passing by, carrying people from different walks of life.
The view however is best enjoyed during sunset when the SOAS mosque glows, the water emits warm colours and things start to wind down.
“Guests love sitting outside just to take in the view and chill after exploring the whole day.”
Kem also provides walking tours or trails at $25 per head around Kampong Ayer.
“Life here is different from life on land – the walking trail is one of the best ways for people to get to not only know the people and but their way of life.”
Reuse, repurpose and recycle
Throughout the years, through workshops, conferences, and many travel experiences, Kem was inspired to practice the three Rs: reuse, repurpose and recycle.
“Some of the items inside the house are handmade from things we already have to avoid any wastage,” said Kem, adding that it is one of the things she wants to encourage her guests to do.
These include items such as plates, trays, cans, and cloth that are repurposed to grow plants, vegetables, make cushion covers, and buntings (triangular flags) used to decorate the deck.
Continuing the legacy
Taking over the cottage was not only her way of paying homage to her grandfather but to also continue his legacy.
“The house has been around for over 40 years, I felt that it was important to ensure its existence,” said Kem, highlighting the importance of Khazanah or treasure.
“It is one’s heritage, culture, way of life and if you don’t have these, you don’t have tradition or roots. It is what shapes you.”
According to her, Khazanah does not necessarily have to just be about artefacts passed down from generation to generation as it can also be through food or family recipes.
Sharing and gaining knowledge
As the lodge continues to gain local and international visitors alike, Kem has encouraged organising sessions or classes that can benefit others.
These include cooking classes where she employs her relatives to demonstrate cooking traditional dishes and cakes.
Each session would include 10 to 15 individuals depending on the popularity of the classes.
Kem has also hosted discussions among female leaders and entrepreneurs in the country as she believes it is important to share and gain knowledge from different walks of life.
One day she hopes to include organising art classes and encourages team building activities to be held at Kunyit 7 lodge.
Effects of COVID-19
The recent pandemic has definitely affected business at Kunyit 7 lodge with people canceling their bookings.
However, it has provided Kem a much-needed break not only for her and her family but to allow repair works to be done around the house.
“It’s definitely a blessing in disguise – I get to spend more time with my family as usually I’m always out and about”
“At the same time, we get to repair some areas of the house which couldn’t be done before due to the lack of time and resources,” she added.
With a spectacular view of the capital, relaxing ambiance, vibrant colours and insightful host, visitors not only go home feeling refreshed but are well informed.
Everyone is encouraged to visit the lodge and experience its charm.
The public can check their Instagram page @kunyit7lodge_bn or email Kem at email@example.com.
This article was first published on June 13, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 93
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN