Kamo’s grandfather’s wooden house turned guesthouse.
Traveling from Kuala Kangsar to Gerik and beyond, the trunk road will take you past countless small villages. One of these villages is Sauk.
Sauk is a Chinese new village that lies far off the beaten track in northern Perak. But in the last two years, it has been getting quite a number of visitors from as far as Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Sauk has become a destination of sorts, thanks to Kam Gin Kang, 26, or better known as Kamo, who opened a homestay in this village whose population is still counted in three figures.
Kamo House – his nostalgic, arty and quirky homestay – won attention for precisely this reason. It was eccentric but intriguing to have a guesthouse so far away in a village where there is little to do.
And visitors came a-flocking.
Kamo, as he prefers to be called, didn’t open the guesthouse to be different. He did it because he saw a need for proper tourist facilities in remote areas. And his family already owned a house here.
Sauk was one of the 450 new villages set up during the communist emergency in the 1940s. Given its remote location, many of its residents have since moved away including Kamo’s family.
It is far – three hours from Kuala Lumpur and an hour from Ipoh – but that was exactly the point. Kamo House aims to entice Malaysians to see the smallest corners of their country.
“I have wondered why Malaysians do not travel more around their own country,” Kamo said. “One reason I found was the lack of places for them to stay in small places like Sauk.”
Kamo House was born out his own personal experience.
He began his working life as a salesman but soon discovered that a life in the rat race was no life at all. So, he took up a job in a resort on Perhentian island in Terengganu.
There, he met many Western tourists whom he found to be more adaptable and innovative in their outlook. He followed in their footsteps.
He went on a journey around Peninsular and East Malaysia – on bicycle – going to the smallest places on the map. He loved all that Malaysia had to offer, except for the lack of accommodation.
And so, Kamo House was born. But the wooden house built by his grandfather in Sauk in the 1940s, was in disrepair. It took two months to get it into shape, including replacing the wiring and eradicating the termites.
“We repaired it slowly, one bit at a time, with the money that we had and that we earned from the business,” he said.
They kept the nostalgic feel of the house, filled with old inherited furniture and quirky artwork. Modern comforts are limited. Showers are cold bucket baths, and the sleeping area comprises mats on a wooden floor.
“This might be the only chance for most people to sleep on a mat. It’s an experience,” Kamo said, in explaining the uniqueness of his guesthouse.
Kamo and his girlfriend Saree Yong, 27, run the place. Despite their youth, they prefer the quiet of the village to the city lights.
Their first guests were their friends, followed by friends of friends, and the word soon spread fast on social media.
“Word of mouth is the most important. If people like the place, they will tell their like-minded friends,” he said. “People come here to relax and get away from the city’s stresses.”
For those more energetic, there are waterfalls and lakes to cycle to. The archaelogical site of Lenggong is also not far away.
Kamo hopes that as time goes by, they would get more guests who truly want to get to know Malaysia.
He has given himself five years to build Kamo House. It may not last forever, he said, but it has shown him that starting a business didn’t necessarily mean jumping onto the bandwagon of the familiar.
It was about seeing a need, and trying to fill it. He made use of the assets that they already own, and turned it into a unique offering that soon created its own buzz.
It’s been two years now, and he gives it another three years before undertaking a review.
“We aim to maintain our guests, and allow Kamo House to grow slowly,” he said.
The stories from Kamo’s travels around Malaysia are displayed in the house.