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Malaysia Travel Guide

SEDAA – MONGOLIA MEETS ORIENTAL AT RWMF 2019

KUCHING: Sedaa means “voice” in Persian and connects traditional Mongolian music with the Orient which makes an extraordinary and fascinating sound, the group consists with master singers Naranbaatar Purevdorj, Nasanjargal Ganbold and Ganzorig Davaakhuu together with Omid Bahadori, a Persian multi-instrumentalist and composer also living in Germany.

Sedaa created a genuinely exotic connection that transcends borders and cultures. Their music prises you away on a journey into the wide landscape of nature moreover natural sounds produced by traditional instruments and age- old vocal techniques of their nomadic ancestors where one person can produce several tones at the same time.

The base of their modern composition is formed by natural sounds which are produced with traditional instruments and the use of old age song technologies of their nomadic ancestors with which a person produces several tones at the same time.  Ancestral overtone singing was used to reproduce the natural sounds of flowing rivers, winds, echoes of the mountains, rumble of thunder and many other natural occurrences inspired by the Mongolian landscape.

Vibrating undertone vocals and the amazing harmonic singing khömii (throat singing) with the company of the melancholy sounds of the horse head violin morin khuur and the pearly sounds of the 120 strings dulcimer (known as yochin) melt into the pulsating oriental drum rhythms to one mystical sound. Other instruments in Sedaa’s repertoire include the ikh khuur (double bass), bischgur (Mongolian oboe), dombra (a two string plugged instrument), guitar, cajón (a box-shaped percussion instrument and the rahmentrommel (frame drum).

Sedaa have been playing together and touring in hundreds of concerts all over Europe, and have produced four albums, Mongolian Meets Oriental (2010), Letter From Mongolia (2011), New Ways (2012), and East West (2018). In their later works there is a shift where they skilfully expand traditional sounds with danceable rhythms.

The virtuosity of these musicians has allowed them to evolve into a seasoned and confident quartet, honing their virtuosity in the various instrumental and vocal traditions. This is perfect crossover music mixed in a natural way.

The Rainforest in the city (RITC) takes place from July 2 – 11 at Kuching Amphitheatre from 8.00pm till 11.00pm daily, hosted by Ministry of Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Sarawak, in collaboration with Sarawak Tourism Board.  It is Free and open for public.

The Rainforest World Music Festival takes place from July 12-14 at the Sarawak Cultural Village and is organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board, endorsed by Tourism Malaysia and is supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Youth Sports Sarawak.

RWMF2019 SEDAA

For further information on tickets, festival activities and logistics, please log on to https://rwmf.net/

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Malaysia Travel Guide

LA CHIVA GANTIVA AND ANA ALCAIDE IN RWMF 2019

KUCHING: There is no doubt that Latin and music from the Spanish-speaking world is far outpacing many other genres on the world music stage. There has always been a Latin group thrown in the mix at the Rainforest World Music Festival and at the 22nd edition this year there will be two bands – La Chiva Gantiva from Colombia who will provide an insight into their roots with their sensual, upbeat, danceable and contagious music and Ana Alcaide from Spain who fuses traditional sounds from around Europe and the Mediterranean with the cultural mix of her hometown, Toledo, Spain.

La Chiva Gantiva plays music without borders. Genre bending and adventurous, they’ll make you dance with abandonment with their original combination of rock, funk, hip hop and punk with Colombian rhythms, while preserving a jam mentality and multicultural origins.

Known for their live antics and frontman Rafael Espinel’s empathy towards the audience, La Chiva Gantiva are a treat to see live but also an amazing trip around the world when any of their three studio records play at a Colombian party, at a Belgian bar, or at a Mexican radio station.

At the end of the other musical spectrum is Ana Alcaide, a singer, composer and instrumentalist from Toledo, Spain. Her prime instrument is the nyckelharpa which she came across while studying in Sweden.

Rooted in ancient traditions yet resolutely modern, her compositions deftly blend musical styles from different cultures. From the inspirational backdrop of the city of Toledo, Ana writes and produces her songs, creates new arrangements and adapts the nyckelharpa to ancient melodies that originated in medieval Spain and have travelled throughout the Mediterranean region. But her personal and artistic evolution leads her to conquer new creative fields in the recent years.

In 2016, her fifth album Leyenda reached Top 10 in the WMCE (World Music Charts Europe) as well as on the Transglobal World Music Charts. Leyenda was also on the top of some of the International radios around Australia, Canada, UK, USA and Europe. The album has received reviews from professional critics around the world including Songlines Magazine which awarded Leyenda a 5 Star Review, Top of the World.

Alcaide has presented her music in some of the most important festivals, theatres and venues around Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Canada, Bulgaria, Indonesia, Switzerland, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Argentina, Uruguay, and has performed in more than 500 concerts in 4 continents.

Since 2016 she is the Artistic Director of the ‘Toledo World Music Festival’.

The Rainforest World Music Festival takes place on July 12-14 at the Sarawak Cultural Village and is organised by the Sarawak Tourism Board, endorsed by Tourism Malaysia and is supported by the Ministry of Tourism, Arts and Culture, Youth Sports Sarawak.

LA CHIVA GANTIVA

ANA ALCAIDE - Photo by Ander Olaizola

For further information on tickets, festival activities and logistics, please log on to https://rwmf.net/

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Tourism Malaysia

10 DRINKS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO TRY IN MALAYSIA

What else is so special about Malaysia beside its beautiful tourism spots and great infrastructure? Yes, you have guessed it right! They are the Malaysian local food and drinks. Being a multicultural country, Malaysia’s diverse community offers a wide variety of drinks to choose from. The influence of this diversity can be traced back to the Sultanate of Malacca era where traders from Europe, Arab and China brought in spices and herbs from their mainland to Malaysia, thus, creating the Malaysian drinks that can be found at the local restaurants and food vendors nowadays. There are ten drinks you absolutely need to try in Malaysia, namely Teh Tarik, Sirap Bandung, Kit Chai Ping, Teh C Peng, Cendol, Air Batu Campur (ABC), Air Mata Kucing, Leng Chee Kang, Milo Dinosaur, Pak-ko-pi and Air Kelapa Bakar.

Teh Tarik

 

What is it? Malaysians consider Teh Tarik as the country’s national drink. Teh Tarik or literally translated as Pulled Tea is a drink that is famous among the Malaysian community. Its origin can be traced back to the Second World War where Indian-Muslim immigrants opened up tea stalls at rubber plantations to serve the workers there.

What is it made of? Teh Tarik is a mixture of black tea with condensed or evaporated milk. The tea used in preparing the drink is grown locally or regionally and has a strong bitter taste. The hot concoction is then pulled back and forth during its preparation between two cups or vessels from a height to release heat which results in a thick, frothy topping.

Where to get it? Teh Tarik can be found at all Malaysian restaurants, especially the Mamak shops (restaurants operated by the Indian-Muslim community). One of the most popular versions of Teh Tarik can be found in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, where Warung Pak Mat is well known for its foamy and extra creamy Teh Tarik Madu.

Sirap Bandung 

What is it? Pink coloured drinks are often associated with strawberries but it is a different case with the one and only, Sirap Bandung, a sweet and creamy drink that is simply irresistible.

What is it made of? Rose flavored syrup is mixed together with condensed or evaporated milk to create the pink coloured drink. There are many versions of Sirap Bandung that can be found throughout Malaysia. One recipe incorporates soda water for a fizzy taste while another adds grass jelly or what Malaysians call Cincau for texture.

Where to get it? This drink is famous and it can be found in almost every restaurant in Malaysia. It is also the drink of choice served at Malay weddings and during the breaking of fast (iftar) in Ramadhan.

Kit Chai Ping 

What is it? When you are in Sabah, be sure to try the modest Kit Chai Ping. This drink is famous for its refreshing properties and Sabahans love to drink it during hot, sunny days. With its sweet, sour and salty taste, the Kit Chai Ping is presumably the ‘national drink’ of Sabah.

What is it made of? The ingredients used to make this drink can be found locally in Malaysia. It is made basically with Kalamansi limes, sugar syrup, water and the Chinese salted sour plums which the locals call Ham Moi. It can also be served chilled by adding ice cubes.

Where to get it? Due to the popularity of this drink, most restaurants and cafes in Sabah have it. You can just go into any restaurants there and simply request for Kit Chai Ping, and on the off chance that you do not like it to be too sweet, say “kurang manis”.

Teh C Peng 

What is it? Talking about ‘national drinks’, if the previous drink is for Sabah, then Teh C Peng would definitely be the ‘national drink’ of Sarawak. This ice-cold drink is also called three-layer tea due to how the different ingredients of the tea are layered in a tall transparent glass. Teh C Peng would make an awesome revitalizing drink particularly on blistering hot days.

What is it made of? There are three main ingredients in Teh C Peng. The bottom layer is liquid palm sugar, over which condensed milk is poured, finished off with a top layer of strong black tea. The density of each ingredients results in the triple layers. One would give it a good mix before enjoying the drink.

Where to get it? This drink has gained popularity over the decades and it can also be found in peninsular Malaysia but if you are looking for the original Teh C Peng, Sarawak is the place to go.

Cendol 

What is it? Who can refuse the flavor of Cendol? A family favourite, Malaysians would queue up in the hot weather just to grab a bowl of Cendol.

What is it made of? A basic bowl of Cendol will have a mountain of finely-shaved ice, generously drizzled with palm sugar syrup and coconut cream. Slivers of green jelly made of rice flour add a nice texture and colour to this sweet dessert. Additional toppings can be requested such as sticky rice, durians or red beans.

Where to get it? According to some people, the best Cendol is in Melaka and Penang but rest assure, it can easily be found at roadside vans that sell rojak or laksa all over Malaysia.

Air Batu Campur 

What is it? Trifles for the Brits, tiramisus for the Italians, crème brulees for the French, banana splits for the Americans, and Malaysians have their own Air Batu Campur, fondly called ABC or sometimes Ais Kacang. The name actually means ‘mixed ice’ and it is one of the most adored dessert drink in Malaysian gastronomic history.

What is it made of? The basic components of a traditional ABC consist of shaved ice and red beans, finished off with a rose or sarsaparilla syrup as the topping. Be that as it may, the current ABC has an assortment of colours and a huge selection of toppings. Nowadays, one can enjoy theirs with frozen yogurt, palm seeds, sweet corn, grass jelly and alongside the syrup, it is ordinarily finished with sweetened condensed or evaporated milk as a final touch.

Where to get it? This dessert drink’s popularity is spread all across Malaysia and can be found everywhere. The hot and humid climate of Malaysia can make everyone dehydrated on a hot scorching day and ABC can simply quench that thirst away.

Air Mata Kucing

 

What is it? A standout among the most well-known drinks in Malaysia is perhaps Air Mata Kucing. It is a natural herbal drink which is nutritious and refreshing, particularly when the sun is blazing. It is no big surprise that Air Mata Kucing anchored the sixth place in the rundown of “50 Most Delicious Drinks From Around The World” by CNN.

What is it made of? The main ingredient of this drink is the Mata Kucing fruit (scientific name: Euphoria malaiense), which belongs to the same family as the Longan fruit. Researchers claim that Mata Kucing can help ease depression, prevent cells from becoming damaged and act as an anti-aging agent.  The other key ingredient is the monk fruit, which gives Air Mata Kucing its dark colour and sweet flavour. The undeniable benefits of monk fruit are widely known in the world of Chinese medicine.

Where to get it? The drink is sold throughout Malaysia but the most famous one is at Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur. During a scorching sunny day, people would queue up in front of the stall just to get a sip of the Air Mata Kucing.

Leng Chee Kang

What is it? Leng Chee Kang is a healthy dessert drink made popular by the Chinese community. Believed to have a cooling effect on the body, it can be served warm or cold and is particularly favoured during hot and humid days. While it is not exactly a Chinese New Year dish, it is one of the most loved treats for numerous celebrations and festivals.

What is it made of? The fundamentals for this dessert drink may differ from place to place yet the primary ingredients used are lotus seeds, longans, dried persimmons and malva nuts, which the Malays call Kembang Semangkuk. Other versions of Leng Chee Kang may contain nuts, grains, quail eggs, collagen, grass jelly and basil seeds.

Where to get it? This dessert drink is famous in Malaysia and it can be found everywhere, not only during the festive seasons. Many restaurants and stalls in Malaysia offer a variety of Leng Chee Kang but the traditional one is always the best!

Pak-Ko-Pi 

What is it? It is a type of coffee that originates from Ipoh, ranked among the top three coffee towns in Asia by Lonely Planet. Truth be told, Ipoh is a popular stopover for people to appreciate nearby attractions and obviously, to take in the taste of that renowned Pak-ko-pi.

What is it made of? Pak-ko-pi is the Cantonese word for white coffee which represents the brewing process of the coffee beans. It is processed without added substances or ingredients. The word white here means that the coffee is unadulterated or pure. The roasting procedure for a standard coffee ordinarily includes roasting the beans with sugars, margarine and wheat. White coffee on the other hand is roasted with margarine, without the sugar, which gives the coffee a lighter colour. When you drink the white coffee, you can taste the diverse layers of flavours in the coffee, which is thick and aromatic.

Where to get it? As mentioned, Ipoh is the city that offers the original white coffee. OldTown White Coffee is one of the Malaysian restaurants that is famous for their white coffee so whenever you happen to be in Ipoh, be sure to try the Pak-ko-pi.

Air Kelapa Bakar

What is it? Those who love the refreshing taste of coconut may want to try the Air Kelapa Bakar version. In addition, those who drink it swear by its medicinal properties in increasing the body’s immune system, preventing diabetes and kidney stones and promoting fertility. They say that the Air Kelapa Bakar has softer coconut flesh, the consistency of jelly.

What is it made of? Fresh young coconuts are roasted whole inside a hearth or on a grill for up to four hours until the coconut water inside has boiled. Afterwards the coconut is left to cool before it is cut open and served. Some people drink it with a dash of powdered herbs – cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and clove – to enhance the taste and aroma.

Where to get it? Popular since 2009, this drink can be found mainly in Sabah and on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is often sold at roadside stalls for RM 4.00 or RM 5.00.

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Categories
Tourism Malaysia

10 DRINKS YOU ABSOLUTELY NEED TO TRY IN MALAYSIA

What else is so special about Malaysia beside its beautiful tourism spots and great infrastructure? Yes, you have guessed it right! They are the Malaysian local food and drinks. Being a multicultural country, Malaysia’s diverse community offers a wide variety of drinks to choose from. The influence of this diversity can be traced back to the Sultanate of Malacca era where traders from Europe, Arab and China brought in spices and herbs from their mainland to Malaysia, thus, creating the Malaysian drinks that can be found at the local restaurants and food vendors nowadays. There are ten drinks you absolutely need to try in Malaysia, namely Teh Tarik, Sirap Bandung, Kit Chai Ping, Teh C Peng, Cendol, Air Batu Campur (ABC), Air Mata Kucing, Leng Chee Kang, Milo Dinosaur, Pak-ko-pi and Air Kelapa Bakar.

Teh Tarik

 

What is it? Malaysians consider Teh Tarik as the country’s national drink. Teh Tarik or literally translated as Pulled Tea is a drink that is famous among the Malaysian community. Its origin can be traced back to the Second World War where Indian-Muslim immigrants opened up tea stalls at rubber plantations to serve the workers there.

What is it made of? Teh Tarik is a mixture of black tea with condensed or evaporated milk. The tea used in preparing the drink is grown locally or regionally and has a strong bitter taste. The hot concoction is then pulled back and forth during its preparation between two cups or vessels from a height to release heat which results in a thick, frothy topping.

Where to get it? Teh Tarik can be found at all Malaysian restaurants, especially the Mamak shops (restaurants operated by the Indian-Muslim community). One of the most popular versions of Teh Tarik can be found in Kota Bharu, Kelantan, where Warung Pak Mat is well known for its foamy and extra creamy Teh Tarik Madu.

Sirap Bandung 

What is it? Pink coloured drinks are often associated with strawberries but it is a different case with the one and only, Sirap Bandung, a sweet and creamy drink that is simply irresistible.

What is it made of? Rose flavored syrup is mixed together with condensed or evaporated milk to create the pink coloured drink. There are many versions of Sirap Bandung that can be found throughout Malaysia. One recipe incorporates soda water for a fizzy taste while another adds grass jelly or what Malaysians call Cincau for texture.

Where to get it? This drink is famous and it can be found in almost every restaurant in Malaysia. It is also the drink of choice served at Malay weddings and during the breaking of fast (iftar) in Ramadhan.

Kit Chai Ping 

What is it? When you are in Sabah, be sure to try the modest Kit Chai Ping. This drink is famous for its refreshing properties and Sabahans love to drink it during hot, sunny days. With its sweet, sour and salty taste, the Kit Chai Ping is presumably the ‘national drink’ of Sabah.

What is it made of? The ingredients used to make this drink can be found locally in Malaysia. It is made basically with Kalamansi limes, sugar syrup, water and the Chinese salted sour plums which the locals call Ham Moi. It can also be served chilled by adding ice cubes.

Where to get it? Due to the popularity of this drink, most restaurants and cafes in Sabah have it. You can just go into any restaurants there and simply request for Kit Chai Ping, and on the off chance that you do not like it to be too sweet, say “kurang manis”.

Teh C Peng 

What is it? Talking about ‘national drinks’, if the previous drink is for Sabah, then Teh C Peng would definitely be the ‘national drink’ of Sarawak. This ice-cold drink is also called three-layer tea due to how the different ingredients of the tea are layered in a tall transparent glass. Teh C Peng would make an awesome revitalizing drink particularly on blistering hot days.

What is it made of? There are three main ingredients in Teh C Peng. The bottom layer is liquid palm sugar, over which condensed milk is poured, finished off with a top layer of strong black tea. The density of each ingredients results in the triple layers. One would give it a good mix before enjoying the drink.

Where to get it? This drink has gained popularity over the decades and it can also be found in peninsular Malaysia but if you are looking for the original Teh C Peng, Sarawak is the place to go.

Cendol 

What is it? Who can refuse the flavor of Cendol? A family favourite, Malaysians would queue up in the hot weather just to grab a bowl of Cendol.

What is it made of? A basic bowl of Cendol will have a mountain of finely-shaved ice, generously drizzled with palm sugar syrup and coconut cream. Slivers of green jelly made of rice flour add a nice texture and colour to this sweet dessert. Additional toppings can be requested such as sticky rice, durians or red beans.

Where to get it? According to some people, the best Cendol is in Melaka and Penang but rest assure, it can easily be found at roadside vans that sell rojak or laksa all over Malaysia.

Air Batu Campur 

What is it? Trifles for the Brits, tiramisus for the Italians, crème brulees for the French, banana splits for the Americans, and Malaysians have their own Air Batu Campur, fondly called ABC or sometimes Ais Kacang. The name actually means ‘mixed ice’ and it is one of the most adored dessert drink in Malaysian gastronomic history.

What is it made of? The basic components of a traditional ABC consist of shaved ice and red beans, finished off with a rose or sarsaparilla syrup as the topping. Be that as it may, the current ABC has an assortment of colours and a huge selection of toppings. Nowadays, one can enjoy theirs with frozen yogurt, palm seeds, sweet corn, grass jelly and alongside the syrup, it is ordinarily finished with sweetened condensed or evaporated milk as a final touch.

Where to get it? This dessert drink’s popularity is spread all across Malaysia and can be found everywhere. The hot and humid climate of Malaysia can make everyone dehydrated on a hot scorching day and ABC can simply quench that thirst away.

Air Mata Kucing

 

What is it? A standout among the most well-known drinks in Malaysia is perhaps Air Mata Kucing. It is a natural herbal drink which is nutritious and refreshing, particularly when the sun is blazing. It is no big surprise that Air Mata Kucing anchored the sixth place in the rundown of “50 Most Delicious Drinks From Around The World” by CNN.

What is it made of? The main ingredient of this drink is the Mata Kucing fruit (scientific name: Euphoria malaiense), which belongs to the same family as the Longan fruit. Researchers claim that Mata Kucing can help ease depression, prevent cells from becoming damaged and act as an anti-aging agent.  The other key ingredient is the monk fruit, which gives Air Mata Kucing its dark colour and sweet flavour. The undeniable benefits of monk fruit are widely known in the world of Chinese medicine.

Where to get it? The drink is sold throughout Malaysia but the most famous one is at Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur. During a scorching sunny day, people would queue up in front of the stall just to get a sip of the Air Mata Kucing.

Leng Chee Kang

What is it? Leng Chee Kang is a healthy dessert drink made popular by the Chinese community. Believed to have a cooling effect on the body, it can be served warm or cold and is particularly favoured during hot and humid days. While it is not exactly a Chinese New Year dish, it is one of the most loved treats for numerous celebrations and festivals.

What is it made of? The fundamentals for this dessert drink may differ from place to place yet the primary ingredients used are lotus seeds, longans, dried persimmons and malva nuts, which the Malays call Kembang Semangkuk. Other versions of Leng Chee Kang may contain nuts, grains, quail eggs, collagen, grass jelly and basil seeds.

Where to get it? This dessert drink is famous in Malaysia and it can be found everywhere, not only during the festive seasons. Many restaurants and stalls in Malaysia offer a variety of Leng Chee Kang but the traditional one is always the best!

Pak-Ko-Pi 

What is it? It is a type of coffee that originates from Ipoh, ranked among the top three coffee towns in Asia by Lonely Planet. Truth be told, Ipoh is a popular stopover for people to appreciate nearby attractions and obviously, to take in the taste of that renowned Pak-ko-pi.

What is it made of? Pak-ko-pi is the Cantonese word for white coffee which represents the brewing process of the coffee beans. It is processed without added substances or ingredients. The word white here means that the coffee is unadulterated or pure. The roasting procedure for a standard coffee ordinarily includes roasting the beans with sugars, margarine and wheat. White coffee on the other hand is roasted with margarine, without the sugar, which gives the coffee a lighter colour. When you drink the white coffee, you can taste the diverse layers of flavours in the coffee, which is thick and aromatic.

Where to get it? As mentioned, Ipoh is the city that offers the original white coffee. OldTown White Coffee is one of the Malaysian restaurants that is famous for their white coffee so whenever you happen to be in Ipoh, be sure to try the Pak-ko-pi.

Air Kelapa Bakar

What is it? Those who love the refreshing taste of coconut may want to try the Air Kelapa Bakar version. In addition, those who drink it swear by its medicinal properties in increasing the body’s immune system, preventing diabetes and kidney stones and promoting fertility. They say that the Air Kelapa Bakar has softer coconut flesh, the consistency of jelly.

What is it made of? Fresh young coconuts are roasted whole inside a hearth or on a grill for up to four hours until the coconut water inside has boiled. Afterwards the coconut is left to cool before it is cut open and served. Some people drink it with a dash of powdered herbs – cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and clove – to enhance the taste and aroma.

Where to get it? Popular since 2009, this drink can be found mainly in Sabah and on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia. It is often sold at roadside stalls for RM 4.00 or RM 5.00.

Categories
Tourism Malaysia

LIFE LESSONS IN RURAL MALAYSIA

As city dwellers, we are used to demanding for things to be done “yesterday.” We are so used to listening to the scripted customer service dialogue at fast-food counters that we’ve learned to tune it out. We are used to the mass-produced “nutrition” in polystyrene boxes. And no matter how much we “communicate” on our hi-technology gadgets, truthfully, we are actually distancing ourselves socially from more meaningful inter-personal connections.

Seriously, city life has become the bane of our existence. And I, too, have become a sad part of it! But at least I have learned to recognize it and done something about it.

My pill for life – which I pop whenever I feel I’ve become too stressed out, too deep in work, too “out of the loop,” irritated at the world – is a quick getaway. By that, I mean “get-away-as-far-from-the-city-as-possible-and-do-it-fast!”And it’s not just to any fancy resort of a certain star-rating. These places I go to are hardly rated at all. In fact, they’re not made of glitzy perfection; they don’t have turn-down service, butlers lurking at every corner nor room service.

But that hasn’t stopped them from offering the warmest and most welcoming hospitality I know. I’m talking about the more than 3,000 kind families scattered around Malaysia’s kampungs who have graciously opened up their homes to total strangers like me looking for a genuine Malaysian experience. They call it the Malaysian homestay programme. I call it first-class hospitality.

In my escape of the clutches of city-life, I have ventured to several Malaysian kampungs that have taken part in this national tourism venture, meant to give the rural population a piece of the tourism pie. The programme has actually been well-received and today, 15 years after it was first introduced in Pahang, there are more than 200 villages listed under the programme.

They have all been pleasant experiences to remind me that a satisfying life is more about being in the present moment rather than in the pursuit of the next promotion, the next big gadget, the next sleek car.

I felt this most when I was making my way to Kampung Pantai Suri in Kelantan. We had to abandon our car for a more eco-friendly transportation. From the Kok Majid jetty, we glided slowly down the Sungai Kelantan estuary on a long boat (it was the only way to get to the village). Along the way, we passed sandbanks, wooden bridges, and the sight of young boys diving off a tree into the river in wild abandon. The splashes, their gleeful laughter, the friendly teases exchanged among them reminded me of a life less cluttered.

But it’s not just the children who know how to enjoy life. Even the elder folks have a deep sense of appreciation for the present. They know that they’ve worked hard, and they know that their bodies deserve a good respite. Despite the urban dwellers high-flying life in the cities, it is these folks in these older parts of Malaysia who lead much more enriching and full lives.

At the end of my stay at Kampung Pantai Suri, I was rushing off to board the boat home. On the way, I passed by a group of elders joking and laughing away under the shade of a huge mango tree. It was high noon and the heat was searing but the shade beneath the tree was a cool place to relax. These folks were sitting around hacking away the tops of coconuts to get to the juice and fleshy insides.

They saw me in my rush and called me to slow down and join them. Not wanting to miss my boat, I hesitated, but finally, their jovial demeanour and cheery calls won me over. “If you miss this one, you can take the next boat,” they said. So I sat with them as they selected a coconut for me to drink. It dawned on me that we sometimes lead our lives with clock-work precision that we forget to stop and drink the coconuts, so to speak.

This was as natural as it gets. The wind to cool me off, instead of the air-conditioning; a leafy, shady tree overhead, instead of a zinc roof; and fresh coconut juice in my hands, instead of those mocktail glasses with the little umbrellas stuck in them.

The kampung folk’s hospitality is legendary in Malaysia. When you check in at one of the homestay kampungs, you’ll notice that it’s like coming home to your grandparent’s home for Hari Raya. Some people may find the idea of staying at a stranger’s home rather awkward, but whatever they say about Malaysian hospitality being genuine and warm is true – in fact, they could possibly put public relations agencies to shame! It doesn’t take long to bond and you’ll immediately feel like part of the family. Many “host families” and their guests have parted ways in tears at the end of their homestay duration. I know I have…!

Another thing in abundance here in these traditional villages is time. Things around here move at a slightly slower pace than in the city. An entire morning can be dedicated to the preparation of lunch. On one occasion, the womenfolk who were neighbours with each other congregated at their friend’s kitchen and commenced their preparation of the day’s meal. Amid their twittering gossips, teasing banter, the peeling, cutting and slicing of a variety of herbs, leaves and spices, and the steaming pots of what-not from the stove, lunch slowly took on the form of a feast! Just another example of teamwork at its best!

Despite being in a kampung, you’d be surprised at the variety of things to do. Each kampung is unique, has its own traditions and cuisine heritage (depending on its location in Malaysia) and lifestyle. Some of the villages are set near jungle, others may be by the sea or river. Some may be surrounded by paddy fields or fruit orchards.

A host family at Kampung Haji Dorani has their own paddy field and during the harvesting season, I had a chance to help them out in gathering the crop. I considered it as my little contribution to alleviating world hunger, and took great pride in it! They also happened to have a small fruit orchard and many an evening was spent on the patio of the house peeling away the skin of the mangoes to reveal the juicy, golden flesh beneath. There’s just something so satisfying about picking your own fruit, harvesting your own rice and catching your own fish for the night’s dinner. This is exactly what they’ve been saying about the farm-to-table concept, and there I was living the life!

The afternoons are usually my favourite time because that’s when I get to spend time with the village kids. At Kampung Batu Laut near Banting, Selangor, the children would rush down to the beach after school and practice their sailing skills. These kids are being groomed to be the next sailors and sea captains and some of them have excelled so well as to compete in sailing competitions worldwide!

Despite the age difference, there’s a whole lot to be learned from these kids — about creativity (fashioning kites from bamboo) and teamwork (building a raft made of old tires). It was way better than those corporate training sessions in hotel meeting rooms!

The Malaysian homestay experience may have some similarities with the bed and breakfast concept in Europe, but I dare say that we’ve perfected it. It’s not only a retreat for those wanting to escape the city, it’s a lesson in life about humanity, patience, and for us, Malaysians, our heritage and traditions.

So if you find yourself stuck in life, corporate meetings, a 4×4 cubicle, traffic jams, or whatnot, perhaps it’s time to take a little drive back to our kampungs and learn to enjoy the simple pleasures of life again.

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