My trip to Malaysia
Back in August I returned to Malaysia where the majority of my paternal family reside (my father is Malay born and bred). Despite the fact I was born and raised in Britain I still get a tingly feeling in my stomach — like I’m home.
I’ve been to Malaysia three or four times in my life and still, it never changes. My dad visits a friend Soo Fang, who he has known since school in his hometown of Ipoh, he owns a shop selling Chinese herbal medication. Shelves up to the ceiling adorned with jars — like I’ve stepped into Olivanders on Diagon Alley. When speaking of the town he says, “in the last 30 or 40 years it hasn’t changed, a couple of shops have opened here and there but that’s about it.”
Nadia from Tourism Malaysia says, “As Malaysia is blessed with various cultures, the Malaysia Year of Festivals 2015 campaign seeks to showcase and celebrate Malaysia’s bountiful and diverse cultures and festivities as a tourist attraction.” Highlights include the International Shadow Puppet Festival and the International Art Market Fair.
People don’t think about Malaysia when they book a holiday. However Thailand has been a popular destination for Brits in recent years — but they disregard Malaysia despite the fact they share a border and many similarities.
Thomson Travel Agents in Preston say, “Malaysia can be a popular destination, Kuala Lumpur is the most popular with the twin centres. We get enquiries about twice a month but it’s not an everyday occurrence.”
Another popular destination in Malaysia is Penang, an island situated North West of Malaysia is a fusion of the West and East. There are places with English names such as Butterworth and Georgetown. It’s the touristy state in Malaysia — perfect for those who aren’t accustomed to the more run down areas.
We visit the Golden Sands resort situated on the beach. There are various water sports we took part in such as the jet skis, donut boat and parasailing for the fraction of the price. As the name suggests, the sand is golden, the temperature is just right, not too hot and with the right people you have the time of your life.
Every day I would buy a fresh coconut from the street (wherever you turned people would sell coconuts and sugar cane on the back of a rickshaw) and drink out of it though a straw, that’s one thing I miss — I felt like I was straight out of a vita coco advert.
My father says, “More tourists like to come here to Penang because since the British colony, they’ve left behind their influences.”
Only 58 years ago Malaysia was free from British colonial rule. They celebrate their independence on 31st August. As well as British culture, Malaysia is considered a melting pot. Chinese and Indians have lived with Malays for generations and it shows in the food.
South East Asian cuisine has the best of both. Dishes share similarities with East Asia such as noodles and inspiration from South Asia such as curries. Or a mixture of the two — curried noodles known as laksa.
The street food is delicious. From chicken satays to samosas, there’s something to everyone’s taste. A personal favourite is roti canai, fried flatbread served with a curry dip.
One thing I’ve always found intriguing is the ability Malaysian’s have to eat. No matter what time of the day, from the crack of dawn till 4’o clock in the morning, restaurants and cafes are still engrossed with service. In the UK, people don’t step foot out of the house after dark and hardly anyone dares walk alone past 10pm.
Ian Gan, a representative for the Malaysian Students Society of Manchester says, “The most important thing to do in Malaysia is to try its myriad of dishes. To eat is a Malaysian’s past time. There’s always a reason to eat. Cheap road side stalls, hawker centres, 24-hour mamaks (cafes run by Indian-muslims), shopping mall dine-ins, luxurious sushi bars, Thai Restaurants, expensive buffets, you cannot say that you had been to Malaysia if you have not had a more than 3 meals a day with each dish being different.
One thing you don’t need to worry about when travelling to Malaysia is spending money. Food, clothes, souvenirs are half the price they are in the UK. A blow-dry and massage in a local salon costs £4, over here generally they are ten times the price.
Gan also suggests the Redang Island; he continues, “These Islands in West Malaysia (Peninsula Malaysia) are well known holiday gems. Crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches, you would want to spend your summer here. What’s even better is that there is always an Island to suit your budget.”
There you have it, whether you’re looking to explore the Malaysian culture, a beach holiday or put your bargaining skills to the test at the famous Petaling Street market, there’s something for everybody.
As Soo Fang said “Call it under developed whatever you want. But that’s the beauty of it. You come back and it’s just how you remembered it.”
10 things to expect when travelling to Malaysia.
· Bathroom etiquette. Many don’t supply tissues so you must always take your own and expect squat toilets.
· Drivers in Malaysia tend to be more reckless and pedestrians don’t have the same rights in other countries, expect scenes similar to that of Grand Theft Auto.
· Mosquito repellent is a must; being covered in itchy bites is not a pleasant way to spend your break.
· When visiting someone’s home or a place of worship you must remove shoes, therefore easily removable shoes are necessary.
· As the state religion is Islam, some places might require you to dress modestly covering shoulders and legs.
· Temperature can reach highs of around 34 °C, it would be wise to carry sunscreen and a bottle of water.
· Holding hands in public is fine but kissing is frowned upon.
· Service charges are included in most bills therefore it’s not always necessary to tip.
· However as mentioned earlier, everything in terms of price is much cheaper than the UK.
· Malaysia has a culturally diverse population, so have fun and don’t be afraid to explore each one with an open mind.
I would just like to thank Tourism Malaysia, Thomson Travel, Malaysian Students Society of Manchester and Nottingham Malaysian Society for your help and contribution.