Durian Guesthouse - INTERVIEW

Updated: Nov 27, 2019

Durian guesthouse is an Airbnb unit hosted by Thai Soon and his wife Isly, located in Jalan Durian, Kulai New Village. Kulai New Village is known to the locals as 古来新村 (gu lai xin cun) since the 1950’s after the government relocated the Chinese villagers to this place. As you can expect, there is some historical values to this beautiful guesthouse!


Anyone who appreciates traditional architecture and nature-themed furnishing will find the place absolutely delightful. Here you will see plenty of items that reminds you of the good old days - traditional typewriters, old-model electrical switches, along with wooden tables and long benches are just some of the nostalgic items that you can find here.


As you might read about in the interview below, Thai Soon has taken it upon himself to include a farm just outside the guesthouse. We’ll leave it to him to explain more about his experiences working on the farm and maintaining a guesthouse at the same time, but we have to say this - Fruits and vegetables can’t get any fresher than what’s provided in Durian Guesthouse!

In any case, our Airbnb host here has taken over 14 months to renovate the traditional house into one that the guests will find to be a nostalgic and comfortable stay. Thai Soon has quite some stories that he would love to share with you today.


Continue reading to find out more about this unique guesthouse!


1) Please tell us about yourself and the story that contributed to you becoming an Airbnb host.

Hi, my name is Thai Soon. I work several jobs that many would consider to be boring in Singapore after I graduated. I first worked as an engineer for 2 years, before I took on a job as an illustrator for a game company for the next 5 years. In the last 5 years, I ran a mobile phone retail shop. So I had been working and living in Singapore for about 17 years in total.


I felt a desperate need to change my life as I wanted a job that is much more meaningful, so I decided to go back to Malaysia. I enjoyed developing the lifestyle that I was looking forward to, and it was at that time that I became an Airbnb host.

My wife Isly graduated as a graphic designer. She works as a freelance graphic designer. In her free time, she designs and creates handmade bags as well.


2) What is the idea or concept behind the name of “Durian Guesthouse”?

Our guesthouse is located at “Jalan Durian”, and so we named the guesthouse “Durian Guesthouse” for ease of reference.


3) What is the reason that you choose the particular old cottage house in Kulai for your guesthouse?

I love the overall feel of old houses, especially the ventilation and natural sunlight. It is simple yet comfortable. The reason I chose the location in Kulai is because it’s very near my mum's house.

4) During the 14 months of reconstruction with the contractor, is there any challenges in the progress of reconstruction of the house?

Contractor worked for us for about 4 months only. We did the rest of the job - touch-up, renovation and furnishing. We are very new to this, so every part is challenging yet fun for us.


5) Why would you use raw timber to build the house and furniture? Is there any particular reason?

We are looking forward to a more sustainable lifestyle. The reusing of materials is our first priority when we reconstruct the guesthouse and raw timber is the best material we could find for this purpose.

6) Could you explain what is Permaculture and why do you use it in your farming system?

Permaculture refers to “permanent-agriculture”. This term is typically used for farming and agricultural references, but it can also applies to the philosophy of my life as well.

With a good practice of permaculture farming, we are able to minimize the usage of natural resources and and get the same results through more effective means.


7) You have a lot of fruits and vegetables in the front yard! What is your top challenge to maintain them?

It’s not so much as the farming troubles than the extreme weather. As you can expect, it is difficult to farm them because it’s too hot most of the time.

Global warming takes a toll on keeping the plants healthy.


8) How’s the life of being a farmer and a host in the village? What’s your daily routine like? Since I have a deep interest in being a host and a farmer both, I found my daily routine to be quite enjoyable and satisfying. Usually, I would wake up and have my breakfast before sunrise, then start to farm to avoid the afternoon heat. In the afternoon, I would stay indoors to work on other stuff around the house - make jams, prepare drinks, reply e-mails, continue marketing efforts and more.

9) Having hosted so many guests from around the world, do you have any particular or unforgettable guest that makes a great story to Durian Guesthouse?

Durian guesthouse have too many unforgettable stories. We have many guests who eventually become good friends.

They help us without expecting any return and that motivates us to become better a guesthouse host and a better person overall.

10) We can tell that you love DIY a lot! You also make many handmade products that are sold in very limited units. Could you tell us which is your best selling/ most popular product and how long it takes to make?

So far, the top products are “Senna Alata Ointment” for skin disease and “Roselle fermented drink”. The ointment take a few hours to prepare and roselle drink take 3-4 days for fermentation.

11) Can you introduce your lovely guard dog Dapper to us? How did you come to adopt him?

Dapper is a calm and lovely guard dog. He is very patient with kids, and so the kids like him even though he has a fierce face! Dapper came to us as a stray when we were renovating the house, and just like that, we decided to adopt him.


12) Is there any signature dishes of Farm to Table or any other dishes that you proud of?

We are proud of our curry chicken, herbal roasted pork and vegetables harvested directly from our farm.

13) Any hidden gems around your guesthouse that we should not miss while we’re there? My personal favourite spot to visit would be the morning market nearby. There are some goods here that you simply can’t find in typical supermarkets or malls!


14) What other food would you recommend in your area?

Within walking distance we have “Thirteen month”, Warung Okres”, “Three and a Half”,

“Cafe Jufei”, “Nasi Lemak Wat Kentut”, “Father and Son” and many other food places.

All of them are pretty decent, so try them out when you stay here.


15) Any plans for Durian Guesthouse in the near future? We are planning to have more animals in the farm!


16) Anything else you'd like to share with our friends before we end the interview today?

Durian Guesthouse also has a volunteering program. People who are interested in natural/ organic farming or sustainable lifestyle can consider joining us for this experience!



And that’s it from our prized host this month! Having more animals in the farm sure seems like a genuine kampung experience that many of us can rarely experience in these modern days. That’s an awesome guesthouse upgrade that we are looking forward to!


It’s always a refreshing experience to stay in a guesthouse that reminds us of our younger days visiting our grandparents’ house. If you are one of the many city-dwellers looking for a short getaway in a quieter area, Durian Guesthouse would be the perfect place to start!

Durian Guesthouse have 2 double bedrooms and 1 backpack room (6 beds), the place can accommodate up to 10 adults. Apart from staying with them, they open the guesthouse for public to visit upon booking. Please make appointment before going, they will serve homemade drink and sell their fruit and vegetable during opening hour.


Book your stay now by contacting Durian Guesthouse via the means below!


Durian Guesthouse 流连宿

Airbnb: http://bit.ly/durian-guesthouse-airbnb

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/durianguesthouse


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P.S. Do you have any unique Airbnb/lodging to share with us? Leave us an email and we'll reach out to them!

P.P.S This is not a paid advertising, all the interviews are done by invitation only.


#interview #homestay #guesthouse #malaysia #johor

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