It is something to travel. To travel across borders is something else. But going over there and seeing that more the things seem different, more they are the same, has held firm. Every single journey that I have undertaken. It didn’t disappoint this time either. We went to Malaysia for a certain number of days that can be aptly described as ‘few’.
The big difference this trip, was we were going ‘agenda-less’. We didn’t have places to see or items to tick off a checklist. No Lonely Planet. No fervent reading of bloggers who had traveled there. We landed there, and eased ourselves into the home of our friends who live there. The idea was to catch up with our lives. That it was a ‘phoren’ was incidental. Well, almost. By the way, I had a deal with the missus. This holiday was also meant to be a holiday from the internet. I was apprehensive but not as bad as I had feared it to be. That story for another time.
The immigration official at the KL airport extended a grimace at our long names South Indian tongue twister of names. But a polite grimace that almost went unnoticed. In quick time, with a laborious movement of the hand, landed the seals on the passport and let us into the country. A board screamed in small letters :”Salamat Datang”. “That must be ‘welcome'” hissed the missus. I nodded in quiet agreement. Seemed like it. And disagreements at the border are not wise.
From that time on, till the time we said “terima kasih” (Thank you) a good ten days later, we were completely taken by the inviting beauty of the land and its people, the rich tropical climes, the surfeit of connected history and of course, the many culinary delights that shook up our taste buds. We took to the roads and drove to Southern Malaysia in one of the most inviting roads that I have ever driven on, made a dash to Singapore and then settled to discover unfamiliar nooks of a familiar culture in KL. It was one hell of a trip and I am furrowing my brow to remember all that I wanted to write about. Perhaps over the next couple of weeks a few posts from my Malaysian Diaries would unfold here.
Malaysia catches multiple cultural winds. One that flows in from India, another aggregation that comes from many lands that are collectively (and often unfairly ) bunched together as ‘ASEAN countries’, not to forget stiff whiff from China. Indian and Chinese traders set up shop in the first century AD. So there! The unfortunate and traumatic tragedies of Malaysian Airlines would have acquainted the world with more of Malaysia than it would have otherwise known. But what seems a rather small land mass in the map has a striking, profound and rich stuff to offer. Far more to offer than what the maps and tourist brochures indicate.
Malaysia has got a population of about 30 million people ( Mumbai has a population of 12 million, to give you a sense of scale) but large tracts are still forests. There is rain almost everyday. There are Sultans and kings and a confederated way of working that seems to be working! Daily life has options that are both modern and traditional to choose from. Modernity doesn’t come in the way of tradition. Nor does tradition come in the way of progress. There seems to be a peaceful embracing of each other. A joint flowering of sorts. Like the flowering of the lamps. Lamp post designs that I found rather striking.
The roads are clean. The buildings are good. The cars are modern. There is no honking. The fuel is cheap. The wildlife is pretty. The food is awesome (and not expensive). But above all this, people are warm and very inviting. A way of living that is inviting, not mandating a ‘fit in’, but rather letting the person be and kind of envelope them with charm. A culture that seemed relaxed and at peace with everything around. For that last reason, if all the previous reasons don’t resonate with you, its a must visit place.
As we boarded the flight back home, I didn’t feel a sense of loss that our holiday was done and we were to start for home as is the case normally. “I think we will be returning here”, the missus said. I stared out through the airplane window looking into the Malaysian skies. ‘But of course’, I thought. Our reasons were different. But thats besides the point.