By BERN MORLEY
Around three months ago, I received an email that was the equivalent to winning my own personal lottery. It asked me if I, along with 5 other chosen bloggers, would like to “Discover Malaysia” for Malaysia Airlines and Tourism Malaysia on behalf of Mamamia?
Would I? Hmm, hang on a minute, would I like to stay in possibly some of the most opulent hotels in the world, eat delicious bass AND get to partake in experiences that money cannot buy? Hmm, let me think about it for .2 of a second – YES YES YES!
I could sit here and give you a completely straight and factual run down of every sight I saw, every place I stayed in and every dish I tasted but these guys, supremely regarded food writer Rebecca Varidel from Inside Cuisine , Thang Ngo, the magnificent and knowledgeable go to guy for all things food from Noodlies, World traveller Anthony from Positive Travel, super seasoned traveller Caz from Ytravelblog and the always stylish Candice from SuperKawaii Mother, that’s their thing, it’s what they do every day of the week and they do it a whole lot better than I ever could, so I encourage you to go on over to their blogs to discover Malaysia through their eyes. Right after you read this that is.
See, the thing is, I think I may have discovered Malaysia a little differently to the other guys simply because the last time I held a valid passport and travelled overseas, I was partying like it was 1999. That’s because it WAS 1999. It’s like I looked down and by the time I looked back up again, 13 years, a wedding, a mortgage and three children had passed me by.
So where do I start? The orangutans? The Twin Petronas Towers? The MAS Flight Simulator? The Sky bar? Snorkelling in blue heaven? Having small fish eat the dead skin from my heels? Let’s start at the very beginning as this is a very good place to start.
The flight time from Melbourne to Kuala Lumpar takes just on 8 hours. I can confirm that in that time, you can watch at least three new release and on demand movies on your own personal screen, eat two pleasant and surprisingly excellent meals (which included a Wiess Mango Bar!) AND have a few sneaky wines to pass the time.
We were lucky enough to be hosted by the Shangri-La Traders Hotel on the first two nights of our stay. Besides the fact that the bed was probably bigger than my lounge room and even though there were three freshly baked cupcakes awaiting me upon arrival and despite the fact that there was a Chupa Chup on my bath towel this view, this is what absolutely knocked my socks off: AMAZING.
I slept like a baby that night. ie. Erratically and unsuccessfully (anyone that has had a newborn baby knows that’s a completely shit saying) I was just too excited.
We all woke the next morning, ate too much at the all you can eat breakfast buffet and strode out into the 33 degree heat to our waiting and air-conditioned coach to journey on down to Royal Selangor and The School of Hard Knocks. Now, I have to admit here, I didn’t exactly research what this was all about and kind of had it in my head that it was going to be a school of singing homeless people.
Don’t even TRY to work me out, BUT it turned out it was actually a workshop where we got to make our own Royal Selangor Pewter bowl. Not only that, we were then given the chance to make a piece of freeform jewellery from scratch. Admittedly mine looked more like something a two-year-old might have made at day care than a Tiffany masterpiece, but my word was it fun to do. This is me trying to knock some indents into some pewter. I should point out that I wasn’t particularly skilled in this area.
From here we headed over to the Batu Caves, believed to be around 400 million years old. I’m not even sure I can explain why I loved seeing the caves so much. It was more the calm I felt when I reached the top. I mean, the walk up was a little hard (note to self: be fitter) but worth every one of the 272 steep steps. Also to note, if you suffer from vertigo, probably best to avoid this. I think I’ll let the picture do the talking here:
Next we got to crash a plane! No really, okay well not really, but we all got the chance to take part in a Flight Simulation session at the Malaysian Airlines Flight Crew Training Centre. This is where the legitimate Pilots learn to fly and sit regular exams. I’m not sure our instructor was all that impressed with our deliberate downing of our particular plane but wow, did it feel real. I also now have a new found respect for all pilots.
After that and many giggles we headed back to the Traders hotel and got ready to have a drink in the World Famous SkyBar together. This place is particularly MAZING. Not only does it overlook the Petronas Towers, it is set around a pool. I mean LOOK at this place. Some mojitos, the BEST music any person born in the mid 70s could ever ask for, some chilli dusted prawns and it was certainly a night to remembe. The biggest mystery is how not one of us ended up in that pool by night’s end.
We all had an early night (yah right) and woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed to partake in a 3 hour walk that took in such sights as the Central markets and the Jamek Mosque to name but two. This is also where I was persuaded, after much shrieking and carrying on like a 13-year-old girl at a One Direction Concert, to put my feet into a pool and have small fish eat the dead skin cells from toes. This by the way is UTTERLY disgusting.
Sadly then, after much MUCH more eating and a tiny spot of shopping, it was time to pack up and all go our separate ways. Thang and Rebecca headed to Penang whilst Anthony and Candice travelled on to Melaka. Caz and I, via the generosity of Malaysian Airlines, believe we may very well have gotten the sweetest deal as we got to head on over to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo. A short 2 hour flight and we were shuttled off to the Paradise that is the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort. My suite, the Manhattan suite, was larger than MY HOUSE.
Seriously though, this resort , the Shangri-La Tanjung Aru Resort– check it out HERE, was exquisite. This is probably where I missed my family the most. There was a water play area complete with Water Balloon launchers, slides and so much more. There is a kids club for children aged 4 and above and babysitting at night for only $10 an hour. It is somewhere I would definitely consider bringing them all back to, sooner rather than later.
I guess the absolute highlight of this trip needs little introduction. This picture really is all you need to see to understand why I loved this part so much:
That’s how close we got. I know right! We also learnt about the rehabilitation program these beautiful creatures have gone through after being orphaned by their mothers due circumstances beyond the mother’s control. I mostly remember the keeper telling us that an Orangutan would NEVER leave it’s child unless it was left no choice. Very sad. These cheeky Orangutans hammed it up for their audience and certainly knew how get a laugh.
Too soon though, it was time to leave and make our way to the Mari Mari Cultural Centre. This is described as “Time Travelling into prehistoric Borneo” with visits to Tribal houses designed as they way back then. We tasted Montuku (distilled rice wine – tasty but STRONG), we learned to start a fire without lighters or matches, made our own dinner inside a piece of bamboo, got scared to death by the Head Hunter tribe and jumped around on a Lansaran (traditional trampoline like floor).
We ate, we watched a ceremony on stage that had to be seen to be believed and then blissfully fell asleep on our way back to the hotel. I’ll be honest, I’m not usually one for things like that but to partake in such cool activities, learn and experiencing their culture surrounded by the eerie late night jungle was just something else.
Our last day came and went all too quickly. We spent it Island Hopping and snorkelling. The Sapi, Mamutik, Gaya, Sulu and Manukan Islands are just paradise and despite my sunburnt backside, I could have snorkelled all day.
With that though, we had to head on back to the airport and fly into KL to regroup with our fellow travellers. We swapped tales in the Golden Lounge (which is like NOTHING I have ever seen before – NOTHING) We all had a wine, some dinner, charged our myriad of electrical devices on the multiple outlets , took some photos, kissed, hugged and regrettably, headed on back to Australia.
One of the questions I was asked on this trip, especially by the team that put this tour together, was “Would I consider Malaysia as a destination to bring my family”. I honestly would say that before I went, I had other places in mind that we wanted to see yet after being here, delighting in possibly the most friendly people on the face of the planet and partaking in the wonder that is Malaysia, I would bring them all back there in a heartbeat. It’s reasonably priced, clean, glorious, endlessly entertaining and welcoming.
So I guess the thing is that when I discovered Malaysia, I did it through the eyes of a 37 Year old Married Mother of three that evaluated every single moment of my trip wishing that her family was right there to experience it with me. I longed for them to be able to share in the wonder of having an orphaned orangutan not one metre away from where they were standing.
I wanted my flight obsessed son to be the one pretending to fly, crash and land planes in the MAL flight simulator. I wished that my husband was the one being served delicious seafood dishes that he would appreciate far more than I, possibly the pickiest eater in the world, ever could. Mostly though, I wanted them to be just as happy as I was for those 5 days.
Don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware the requests for “Muuumm, can you piggyback me??!!” halfway through completing the trek up the 272 stairs to Batu Caves may have made me see things a little less magically, but to see their faces when they too discovered Malaysia through their own eyes would have been worth every single minute.
There is a tradition in Malaysia whereby they will place their hand on their heart as way of greeting you. This is said to represent them embracing your into their hearts. After discovering Malaysia, they will forever have a special place in mine.
Bern is a Gen X, child of the 80′s. Kept busy being a working mother of 3 children, she writes beautiful and amusing posts on her blog which you can find here.