"Selamat Datan!" means "Welcome" in Bahasa Melaya, the national language of Malaysia. This greeting is reflected on the faces, expressed in the gestures and unrestrained friendliness of the people, reflecting the heartwarming charm and genuine hospitality of the country.
I've been reading some things about Malaysia in preparation for my trip there in March.
Some things I've found out: Malaysia is a melange, a mix of three distinct ethenticities: Muslim Malay, Chinese and Indian. Each group holds fast to its separate religions, languages and customs and cohabit in social harmony.
I've wondered about these various customs. Are women expected (as in Morocco) to dress discretely? But apparantly in Kuala Lumpur, Muslim Malay women covered in pastel-coloured headscarves and billowing robes are alongside Chinese teenagers wearing the latest Western fashions of bare arms and torsos. The variety of wardrobes in Malaysia make us Westerners look like 'an army of clones'.
As far as the language is concerned, children learn their parent's language at home, and Baha Malaya is the country's official language. Englishis taught at school, so there is a mix of languages. Their mastery of English is melodious and engaging.
We'll be staying three days in Kuala Lumpur in the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Hotel which is near the famous Petronas Twin Towers that stand an impressive 452 m.
In pictures, K.L. looks like a space age city. It has a 'garden city' ambience because the streets are adorned with trees and decorative shrubs. The buildings are colourfully lit giving the city a unique dazzle. There are many gardens and parks to enjoy and great shopping areas. For a historical writer like me, Colonial K.L. has a great many heritage sites, beautiful mosques and museums. We'll be escorted on a half day tour of the city and look forward to exploring on our own and practicing our bargaining skills in the markets. From what I hear about the food in Malaysia it doesn't seem practical to go on a diet before the trip as we'll certainly need to go on one afterwards. From all reports the food is simply a gourmet diner's delight.
Next we fly to Langkawi, located in the north near the Thai border in the Straits of Malaca and the Andaman Sea. This will satisfy my life-long dream to spend time on a tropical island.
Pulau Langkawi is the largest island in a cluster of 99 islands all renowed for their legends. There are beautiful sun-drenched beaches with brilliant blue water, limestone hills and caves, rustic villages and scenic padi fields. The islands are abundant with flora and fauna so there are many opportunities of ecological interest. I'm already fantacising about strolling on an idyllic beach in a new bathing suit and the bright new yellow sarong my daughter gave me for Christmas, along with its matching tote.
We'll be staying at the exotic Langkawi Lagoon Restort. When I saw the photos on the internet it took my breath away! We haven't begun as yet to descide what places we'll visit during our seven day stay on the island. There are many choices and easy access to other locations including Penang "The Pearl of the Orient". In the 1700's this island city was established as the first British trading post in the Far East and is now a bustling metropolis with a unique blend of East and West.
Wherever we go, what ever we do there I already know this visit will be on the list of 'most exotic holidays" I could ever dream of, something to really look forward to in 2006!
What a wonderful beginning to the New Year.