Originally posted on the Saga Magazine by me!
Magnificent MalaysiaNew content executive, Joanne, tells us why her experience in Malaysia was simply magnificent!
As I stretched out my achy legs after a thirteen hour flight, I felt the need to pinch myself, just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Had I really just landed in Malaysia? If someone told me six months ago that I would have a new job as a Content Production Executive, and would be jetting off to the other side of the world for a work educational, I would’ve laughed and sighed wishing for it to be true. Being new to Saga and new to the travel industry, I was eager to experience the so-called ‘travel bug’ that everyone, including our customers, seems to be addicted to. It was indeed true what everyone had been talking about; Malaysia had everything to offer, amazing scenery, history, cuisine and people. Let me give you an insight into my whistle stop week-long tour.
On the evening of day one, our group of eight landed in the exciting and busy city of Kuala Lumpur, where we were met by an extremely welcoming Saga rep, Melvin, and our tour guide for the trip, Mike. They promptly took as many suitcases as they could wheel for us, knowing how tired we were. Even though it was nearing 7pm local time, the dry heat hit me straight away as I exited the airport, forming a small amount of perspiration on the back of my neck – reminding me I was longer in my accustomed home country, or even on the same continent! The cool air-conditioned coach was extremely inviting, and knowing this would be my sanctuary from the heat for the next week was reassuring!
Our first adventure the following day, and also one of my highlights, was to Kuala Gandah Elephant conservation. This is the base for the elephant relocation team, whose focus is to locate and transport problem elephants to more suitable areas and away from places that are unfortunately being consumed by plantations. Excitingly upon arrival, I could hear the elephants a few kilometres away before even seeing them. I was able to get fairly close to the enclosure they were currently in, where they were waiting to be fed by me – and they were definitely not shy in making it known that they wanted food! I was able to purchase very cheaply some sugar canes, which which I continued to feed them until I ran out. It was amazing to be close enough to feel their rough trunks and to feel their hot breath. Each elephant had its own personality with each its own story to tell for why they were there. I continued to watch them in awe as the excited baby and adult elephants were led to the murky river to have a wash and a relaxing bathe.
Kuala Lumpur at night was breathtaking. The streets were a mix of tourists exploring the city and locals enjoying their home. The high-rise buildings were shining with bright lights that reflected the sky, making every one look up rather than look were they were going. The main attraction was the Kuala Lumpur twin towers. These towers are amazing to look at during the day, but even more so at night with every inch engulfed in bright white lights.
Away from the modern busy city life is the state of Malacca, which is also known as the historical state. Malacca is exploding with history and stories, originating from Portuguese, Dutch and English ruling. The streets are lined with traditional food shops and impressive Chinese temples. My only wish was to spend more time here, but I took some pleasure in knowing that our customers will spend longer here that I would.
My trip so far had consisted of 36-degree heat with little to no wind. It was hot, but this was to be expected. According to our guide, our next stop in Cameron Highlands in Ipoh was an escape for the British colonialists who wanted to evade the heat and humidity of the lower grounds. So you can imagine my delight when I stepped off the coach and I could feel a cool fresh breeze on my face and also the distinct fresh aroma of tea! The Highlands is home to the BOH Tea Plantation where a factory tour was given to experience the making of tea from the moment it is picked to when it’s bagged up ready for packing. For a lover of tea this was very fascinating. Even if you didn’t like tea, the scenery itself was breathtakingly beautiful, especially sitting in the platform built café with a cup of loose leaf tea, taking in the amazing panoramic views. I never knew something so simple could be my favourite part of the trip. Before leaving the Highlands to travel to the final part of the tour, I hopped on a boat to visit to the Orang Utan Island. The heat of the midday sun was sweltering, but worth it to see the cute Orangutans swinging through the trees.
The days following in Penang were consumed with more culture, art, incredible temples and numerous photo opportunities. I couldn’t get over the diversity of culture, religions and overall beauty. Everywhere I looked I could see flowers and trees in an array of colours, and even the odd monkey here and there. My exploring and photo taking was endless! Being an amateur photographer, I found myself experiencing a large amount of the tour through my lens, commending myself for taking more than one memory card. The architecture in Penang was a great example of the multicultural diversity that featured both old British and new Asian homes. Some of the mansions along the way were enormous and magnificent, and usually had a story behind it. It was comforting to see some British habits in Malaysia combined with other countries’ and I was surprised to learn how many cultures have had a part to play in Malay culture, mainly including the Dutch, Portuguese, British and the Chinese.
By the final day, I had stayed at five amazing hotels with my favourite being the last one, the Eastern & Oriental Hotel, where I made the most of the free time enjoying the facilities of the pool and seaside atmosphere. Not only was my group welcomed by four drummers upon arrival, a goodbye meal was hosted also. The food was delicious, and being a vegetarian was no problem for them and the chef was kind enough to cook me something separately. The hotel staff was extremely welcoming and was always there to help and to keep the wine pouring!
It was generally sad to go and return back to work and normality. Malaysia is a destination I would recommend to my friends, family and customers. My intention is return one day in the future and maybe continue on to Borneo or Thailand.
Do I have the ‘travel bug’? Yes, I certainly do!