When asked by Malaysians what I like about the country, I usually reply that it’s easy to get out of. Quizzically, they look at me in surprise, but I then qualify this by saying that as an Australian expat, being able to visit many countries within a two-hour radius of Malaysia is a real bonus because after two hours of flying in Australia, you are still over desert or water. While Australia is one of the most isolated countries in the world (with Perth being the most remote city on the planet), Malaysia is one of the most-connected travelling nations.
Being so close to some 20 countries ensures that there are many places to discover from a Malaysian base, as well as the wealth of cultural and natural diversity within the country. For these reasons, Malaysia is a dream destination for those who like to travel, which must certainly be everybody. (Surely anyone tired of travel is tired of life.)
Tourism Malaysia really nailed it when they took ownership of the Malaysia, Truly Asia tagline. Most expats are here because they enjoy being here, right in the thick of a part of the world that will fuel growth in almost every aspect over the next century. Visiting destinations both within and around Malaysia is very rewarding for me and I’m sure, every other expat living here. I’m continually amazed at the energy and vibrancy of Asia, and while big cities getting bigger is not necessarily for me, I’m fascinated by such growth.
I also lament once-remote resort destinations becoming overcrowded and less appealing over time, but accept they can’t stay remote and small so that I can revisit them every few years for a nostalgic journey back in time. I continually hear regular and experienced travellers bemoan the fact that some places aren’t like they once were. “Oh, if you think Koh Samui is nice now, you should have travelled there 20 years ago; it was paradise, but now it’s overrun with tourists and destroyed,” is something commonly heard. Admittedly, there are many places that I wouldn’t return to for similar reasons but this then becomes my inspiration to seek out new destinations that appeal to me.
Travelling around Asia appeals to me because there are still places that are less explored and cheaper to travel through than in many other parts of the globe. While Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar have opened up in the past decade, there are many parts of these countries that see few tourists and I’m happiest when discovering and exploring such destinations.
There are parts of the region that buzz around the clock and, depending upon my mood and interest, being amid the urban mayhem of Bangkok, Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh City, or Shanghai is as fascinating as sitting in a small boat spotting wildlife along Sabah’s Kinabatangan River.
I must admit though that I’m happiest when off the beaten path, revelling in a new destination and simply watching how people go about their daily lives. Grand structures, buildings, and natural places aren’t always of interest, but I can stand at a set of traffic lights for hours simply watching people come and go.
While most travel for either work or leisure, being a travel writer, I travel for both. When my friends exclaim that I’m hard to contact because I’m always on holidays, I usually retort that no, I’m always working. Don’t get me wrong, but frolicking in a private pool villa at a fivestar island resort, researching the merits of the property’s room service menu, and checking the temperature of the mini-bar Champagne, is in fact, work. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it despite your howls of protest. Somebody’s got to do it, and it might as well be me.
On a less flippant note, when I visit those places that most travellers only dream about, it is for work and there’s no such thing as a free stay. Rarely do I get to relax by the pool, experience the extensive array of watersports, sleep in, sleep early, or doze off under the skilful and manipulative hands of a spa masseur. For me, there is a reason for everything, and documenting and photographing the experience is more important than simply enjoying what is on offer.
My travels have taken me to many places to work for many different clients. I feel privileged to be able to do what I do and to be able to record these journeys so that others can share in them through my writings. It’s also rewarding to work with publishers and editors who continually request stories and books, such as the Enchanting series that I’m currently writing for a United Kingdom publisher.
Travel is one of the greatest joys of life, and from it we learn more about the world and its people.
Source: The Expat October 2013
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