How 24 Hours in Malaysia Changed My Life
Malaysia has always been a special country. It’s a country that is unique in so many ways with diverse cultures and people from different countries visiting on a regular basis. My first visit to Malaysia was 5 years ago – though I have visited this beautiful city countless times over and again.
I spent less than 30 hours in Malaysia on my first visit but those hours were well worth it and I will never forget how this beautiful country changed my outlook and perspective on life in Asia.
It’s a well-known fact that you develop faster when you’re out of your comfort zone and my life experience in Malaysia is a testament to that fact. As a matter of fact, traveling overseas with no one to welcome you at the airport, knowing how to speak the language in a country filled with millions of people commuting and transacting – it can be scary for a foreigner.
When I visited Malaysia, I was about 24 years old and the truth is this trip will forever remain in my heart. I can’t forget it. There were some special people that crossed my path especially in Kuala Lumpur, and they left me with valuable lessons that have stayed with me till date.
Early 2012, when I was newly landed in Malaysia, I didn’t know what I was really doing and I ended up spending about 2 to 3 hours searching for the exit at the airport. I couldn’t find the signs in English and that was really confusing. I found myself lost in the Kuala Lumpur Airport and for what felt like long hours, I finally found the section for taxis and hopped into one.
“Where are you going to?” The driver asked in English. It was a relief to converse with the driver in English and I replied, “I have no idea. Where would you recommend for a tourist?” There was a long pause from him and then a chuckle, “You don’t know where you are going? Who comes to Malaysia without knowing where they are going?” Sensing disappointment in his voice, I responded. “I’m in Thailand for a couple of days so I took a flight down here to experience the country for 24 hours!” His face lit up when he heard that. There was an astonishing joy that was priceless.
As he drove off, I flipped through a tour booklet I had picked up at the Airport and asked him a series of questions. He told me about the transportation system in Malaysia. How they use trains for longer destinations and taxis for short ones. We also spoke about the use of rentals and he was quick to point out the availability of Car Rentals in Kuala Lumpur (visit http://www.wahdah.my/) and how life was really easy going and fun here in Malaysia.
According to him, Chinatown was a “must see”. “Really?” I responded. “You must take me to ChinaTown” “No, no. You not stay there in ChinaTown. Dangerous place alone”
At this moment, panic rushed through me. This driver knew I was alone and anything could happen. No one in their sound mind jumps a plane without having a clear idea of where they are heading. Now, the driver knows I’m alone and anything could happen. I noticed a rush of anxiousness run through his face.
About 10 minutes into the drive, we had settled into one another as we chatted about everything from there. He told me all about the cultural differences and why Malaysians valued respect a lot. He also told me some few greetings in the local dialect especially how to say hello and thank you. I also exchanged stories about Europe with him as I started to relax.
The ride was quite fun and we ended up making stops at different hotels until I found a place that I liked while he waited outside. The best part was that he didn’t charge me extras for these stops. When I found a place that I really liked, he told me to give him a heads up on my call time so he can pick me up and drop me off at the airport. I thanked him for the service and paid him off.
What I Learned
Before this short trip to Malaysia, I had always been wary of traveling to unknown places without being accompanied by a friend or family. I worry a lot especially about intentions of people when I meet them for the first time. I often assume the worst of people without giving them a chance. I’ve never had any business dealings with Asians so I had my natural instincts turned on when I got there. When it was time for me to leave for the airport, the driver came late and I started to worry again. My fears were coming around again and I wondered, “Shouldn’t I have used a Car Rental rather than depending on a driver that I just met?” As I pondered on this thought, a cab pulled up right in front of me and a friendly voice greeted me. “It was my driver”. I was so excited.
He apologized and told me he was worried he wouldn’t make it in time so I don’t miss my flight. He had a concerned look on him and I could tell that he genuinely cared. He apologized for the delay as we drove off to the airport and right there and then, I told myself I had to come back to this beautiful city.