East Bound – Travel update

Petronas Towers

Image by meu336 via Flickr

Thinking hard on where to begin. It has been over a week since I got back from my maiden overseas trip, unlike most of my friends who flew west, I went east to the most marketed nation in Asia, Malaysia.

Before I flew, like any first time traveler I was anxious and excited. Going by the amount of marketing material Malaysian government has invested in their tourism campaigns ( though I wasn’t their for a holiday ) I expected nothing short of a visual delight. I was all geared up to be awed and blown away.

Off I went in the wee hours of August 30th, my first night flight and it was fabulous, I must say Chennai city looks stunning from the sky. In flight entertainment kept me occupied through the 3hr 30min flight however, the last 15 minutes was rough, I guess we were flying at a higher altitude and the descent was terribly steep, felt like we were on a free fall. We touched down safely at an sprawling, ultra modern ariport, never before had I seen anything of that magnitude, was left gazing all over like a child at a theme park. Must say it was an exciting moment.

I hit the road with my friend and her lovely little nieces, the landscape was beautiful, it was refreshing to see trees everywhere. My first stop was the sleepy town of ‘Melaka’, which is apparently heavily hyped up by the travel & lifestyle channels. Personally, I found the place boring, so much so that I refused to visit the famous fort there. I chose to spend time with the kids there instead of loitering around ruins. There were quite a few kids but little Melissa stole my heart, extremely endearing kid with a million dollar smile. Me ❤ Melissa.

Day later we moved to my actual destination, Johor Bahru City. It’s right next to Singapore. Over the next few weeks whatever I experienced isn’t worth a mention, the food was uninspiring, people looked sedate and sleepy, there’s is no concept of LOL there, people seldom smile. For me it looked like everyone was in a hurry or too very self centered. People sit in groups at restaurants but each one is doing their own stuff, there is hardly any interaction. Coming from India, where we’re used to over the top, loud and animated conversations, I found the Malaysians disinterested and deficient in enthusiasm.

So, what’s really good there? I was expecting Malaysia to be closer to a developed nation, with less than 30 million population they should have got there long ago. Anyways talking about the brighter side, People are disciplined, roads are well kept, food and retail businesses are organized and what else? hmmm guess that’s all. ( Actually, there’s lot more but nothing special to write about )

It’s definitely not an exciting place as it is portrayed in the campaigns. They have smartly developed about a dozen tourist locations and gone ga-ga marketing those centers otherwise it’s an ordinary place. If you leave out the roads, cars and malls Malaysia is clearly behind India and that for me is exasperating. The standard of education is pathetic, ministries obsession with local language has hampered the overall education levels. Standard of living is not all that great as well, any metro in India can give you a better and lavish living than what they got there. And the worst part is it isn’t a free nation, loose comments against the government or anti-government activity can land you in jail for an indefinite period. Well, I can go on bashing them for ages but it isn’t worth it.  😐

But hey, it wasn’t all that bad afterall. I met few lovely people, they were instrumental in making my life peaceful and entertaining throughout my stay. Other than little Melissa, who clearly caught my attention, Jaya was marvelous, she was a perfect host. Nobbel and his family provided the much needed sanity. Hoshan was a live wire. Nagesh and family were welcoming, her mom made lovely food but it was her beaming face which touched my heart. Last few days were terrific thanks to Nagesh, Meary and her 3 lovely daughters, they provided the best of entertainment and treated me as one of their own. Meary is an unbelievably good cook, she made the most delightful Biriyani I had tasted in ages.

However the real star was Bhairavi, I was totally charmed by her child like innocence and witty sense of humor, she was full of energy, kept me in good spirits. I can shamelessly confess, me super likes her. Her younger sister Gouri was sweet and caring, she accompanied me to watch the Petronas Towers, the best moment of my trip. The magnificent twin towers made up for all the disappointments, a stunning piece of engineering. The 20 minutes at the menara KL, overlooking the towers and KL skyline was truly special.

After all the highs and lows, I flew back with loads of memories and guess what I miss all the lovely people I met. Hoping to see them again for without them the trip meant nothing to me.