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Malaysia: a feast for the senses

No 3, Vol.12, November - December 2015


I was very excited to be invited to Malaysia by my friends in Gaya Travel Company. Quickly I made the decision. I got the passport and prepared everything within a week. Everything was ready the night before departure. I only needed to wait. I could not believe it. I got to go to Malaysia.
The plane landed in Kuala Lumpur airport at 8.35 a.m. Before the plane landed, I got to take a peek out the window. In front of my eyes were endless green fields.
The people here were all friendly and happy. I was greeted by smiles everywhere. The women in Malaysia are beautiful in their traditional clothing with hoods. Before I ran out of surprises, it was time to take the plane to Kuala Teregganu. This was the destination for my five-day Malaysia trip.
I stayed in hotel Permai. It was comfortable and warm. It was an island, but it is very lively. The streets were crowded even when it was at 12 p.m. But it did not make me lose sleep. I slept before I even knew it. In the morning, I was woken up by the local people's peaceful chants. I went to Pulau Redang Island at 8 a.m. by ship. The warm weather let me enjoy the overall beauty of this beach. The water was emerald blue. Looking down at the water, I could see the underwater coral. This beautiful scene attracted a lot of tourists. I took a deep breath to feel the clean air running into my body.

On this trip, I had a chance to join in a local special festival - Terengganu International Squid Jigging (2/6-7/6). As I knew, it was the second time it took place. In the evening, we were divided into small groups to sail with local fishermen. The groups of boats sailing smoothly on water took us out pretty far. I took part in a squid jigging at night. How should I say it? It was a great experience. I was instructed in detail on how to jig squids. It is not complicated, but it requires patience. Time passes by slowly. Surrounded by water, I started to feel cold. The night was pitch black; only lights on the boats remained. It was past 7 p.m., but I had not caught anything. It taught me that fishing is not easy and I came to sympathize with fishermen who do this for a living. The yell of my friends interrupted my thoughts. We caught some squids. So it was not too bad. We all felt lively again and we had a delicious BBQ out in the sea with the fresh squids we had just caught.
I left Redang the next morning. Longingly, I looked back and it felt like Redang was waving me goodbye. I missed the sincere fishermen, the friendly waiter who waited for me in front of Laguna Jetty Resort and took me to a small corner which had a picture of Vietnamese refugees coming to Pulau Bidong in May of 1975. It was a land with no people and the Malaysia government helped them stay there. At one point, the number of Vietnamese people here increased to 40,000 people. Since 1991, the government helped them to return to their motherland and on 28 August 2005, the last Vietnamese refugee left. It was a wonder that in such a faraway country, there was a place which was once a home to many Vietnamese. He talked so enthusiastically that it almost made me late for the boat. The good news is that if you want to visit the historical island of Bidong, the resort has boats coming at 9 a.m. to take you there in 30 minutes. I will visit it the next time for sure.

Leaving Redang Island, I visited Kenyir Elephant Village, a nature reserve for elephants. I have always wanted to visit the Central Highlands in Vietnam to see the elephants there. But I never got to do it. Luckily, this time in Malaysia, I had the chance. Kenyir Elephant Village was as wide as a forest. I got to see the elephants. Are they big? Yes they are. Are they aggressive? Not at all. They all seemed tamed; some could even perform tricks. It was an interesting experience which I could only see on TV. They even waved goodbye to visitors by spraying water.
On the 4th night, we came back late after visiting China Town because that beautiful and lively place with its noisy atmosphere and Chinese culture blending with the Malaysian attracted many tourists. The main colour here was red, and it was everywhere, from houses, shops along the streets decorated with classic lanterns, to Chinese women. As I came on the weekend, I had the opportunity to see the traditional lion dances and bronze drums.

Photo: Hoai Phuong
Finally, I got the chance to go shopping at a local market, Pasar Payang, near China Town. They sold a lot of batik cloth - a special cloth made by Malaysians. You will be surprised by its special decoration pattern, with the main theme being natural and bold colourful geometry shapes. It feels light and cool to touch. A piece of batik cloth is not just clothing, it is like a painting. I bought some after choosing for a while. You should also try the mangoes here, as they taste really sweet and good. If the airport did not prohibit bringing this fruit on planes, I would bring a lot of them back home as gifts for my friends in Vietnam.
And there still are many great places; the culture village of Setiu where I could dive and pick pretty clams and be greeted warmly.
A week passed by really fast... I thank you all, the beautiful country of Malaysia for letting me enjoy many different feelings and meeting many good international friends during my stay. I wonder when we will meet again. I will never forget you. See you again, Malaysia.n

Text by Hoai Phuong; Photos by courtesy of gaya Travel Magazine
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