Malaysia – A Melange of Cultures, Cuisines and Celebrations

Just a glimpse of this marvellous country is enough to know why so many opt to travel here all year round; whether they come for relishing the festive spirits around Hari Raya, the vibrant city life, the bustling street markets of the capital, verdant spreads of the awe-striking highlands, fabulous food joints– the list goes on!

By Gagneet Kaur

 

The enticing slogan ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’ continues to echo true as this incredible country is nothing but a potpourri of culture, modernity and amusement. The crowning jewel tucked in the very end of Southeast Asia, Malaysia stands cheek by jowl with the contemporary glitz of a lively city offering a unique blend of national parks with wildlife-packed rainforests, colourful and vivacious festivals, gastronomic delights and distinctive architectural and cultural townscapes.

    

When its Raya time in Malaysia!

The Muslim community in Malaysia celebrates ‘Hari Raya Aidilfitri’ also known as ‘Hari Raya Puasa’, to conclude the Ramadan holy month of fasting. Regarded as a joyous celebration, Hari Raya marks a person’s triumph and success on discipline and self-resistance which symbolises refinement and rebirth. When you see the streets thronged with ketupat leaves and bright lights adorning the mosques and offices, there is happiness in the air and everyone seems to be stunningly well-dressed — yes, it’s Raya time. TravelScapes was fortunate enough to join the festivities of Eid Al-Fitr Open House through a Media Mega FAM recently hosted by Tourism Malaysia in conjunction with MRTM Hari Raya. This included the Rewang activity where we got an opportunity to indulge in Hari Raya preparations a day before the open house. This collaborative activity aims at doing the arrangements together, from cooking food, setting and decking up halls to watching the dance rehearsals and people sharing the joyous moments together. As Malaysians opened their hearts to celebrate Hari Raya the next day, we were heartily greeted by the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Deputy Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture Datuk Mohamaddin bin Haji Ketapi and the other senior delegation from the government authorities who thereby, lead the way for a memorable open house at the Royal Museum.

“To all our foreign guests, especially the international Media, let this land of sunshine and friendly hospitality capture your hearts and create great memories of your stay in Malaysia. Being a great host and treating our guests with warmth, kindness and respect is a reflection of Malaysia’s culture and traditions. We hope you enjoy the sights and sounds that surround you and indulge yourselves in the variety of mouth-watering cuisine that our country is famous for. As they say, to know Malaysia is to love Malaysia,” Deputy PM said during her address to the audience at the officiating ceremony of the Open House.

 

The Buzzing Hues of the Capital

Kuala Lumpur, the lively capital, set in the heart of this magical country, is much more than just a stopover city. Feast to all the senses, the city is always packed with bustling markets, hawker bazaars down the Petaling and Bukit Bintang streets that are always throbbing with the energy of this entertainment city with live music playing on the streets, keeping the city moving on with the flow. We give bonus points to the thriving area outside the Park Royal Hotel where we stayed for two days and all that we did was to hang around and absorb the KL party vibes. And a special thumbs up to the alleys taking us to the Pavilion Mall, awash with the aromas of frying chowmein, crispy shawarmas and sizzling barbeques.

 

Not to forget, KL has some of the best rooftop bars but none can beat the exhilarating 360-degree view of the city from Heli Lounge Bar with the iconic Petronas Twin Towers set right at the backdrop, ideal for a selfie you can take back home as a cherished memory. The Petronas Towers are the famous landmark of Kuala Lumpur while being the highest twin towers in the world and of course, no KL trip is ever complete without your snapshot with the Petronas Twin Towers. Walk on the Skybridge connecting the two towers, visiting the observation deck on the 86th floor and some snapshots of the magnificent skyline from the top are some of the not-to-be-missed moments.

The Foodie Trails

Without a doubt, no Hari Raya is complete without the excellent cuisine typically offered up at “open houses.” Usually, people invite their friends and family to their home to partake in traditional delicacies like the ketupat, rendang, dodol and satay. This invitation is extended in the spirit of love, harmony and community. The most traditional and anticipated dish served during Hari Raya is the ketupat, which looks like a rice dumpling cooked in a palm leaf pouch and is a dish having sticky rice wrapped into triangular coconut leaf parcels held together with satay skewers. The ketupat is often served with chicken satay teamed up with a crunchy peanut dressing adding balance to the rich sauce. Also, satays of all kinds are invariably served at Hari Raya. Rendang is another favourite festival dish which is served usually with an elaborate and aromatic beef curry made with various herbs, spices and ingredients from the garden including the coconut milk. The curry is slow-cooked for hours to tease out the complex aromas and flavours and the dish is commonly served with sticky rice.

Well when it comes to food, the Malaysians indeed are a lucky lot. Having exposure to all kinds of cuisines ranging from the local Malay food to Chinese and Indian, the country offers the gastronomic delights and presents some of the ethnic cooking styles that are unique and interesting in their own way. Even the Malaysians have declared food as their favourite pastime and don’t be surprised if you are often greeted with a question ‘sudahmakan?’ meaning, ‘have you eaten?’

Our trip had just started but our stomachs were growling while we passed through the food bazaars that thronged the KL streets. A whole lot of new cafes and chic restaurants are packing up the capital’s street, making it even more deliciously captivating. If you’re in the area and craving for something very typically Indian and spicy, try The Olive Tree and Delhi o Delhi. Both the restaurants serve a buffet with some of the traditional North Indian and delicious Indian delicacies. For me, the love at first bite was having Chendol at D’ Chow Kit, a small restaurant serving some of the delicious Malaysian food. Chendol is a popular Malaysian dessert, served in a bowl with rice flour noodles, red beans and coconut milk. The best part is that the coconut milk is always fresh which further enhances the taste and if you go by the words, one bowl is never enough! Also if have an urge to have some delectable seafood, Minmax Restaurant in the capital comes to your rescue as

they serve a scrumptious spread of seafood prawns along with tofu and fried fish and the other signature dishes integrated with the best of Malaysian recipes.

 

Other attractions

The metropolitan capital of Malaysia, KL is arguably the most populous city in the entire country and there is so much to do here. However, there are other gems too that top the list of must-visits while in Malaysia. While the city of entertainment Genting Highlands mesmerises the travellers with its pleasant weather, magnificent sun setting views and attractions like indoor theme park Skytropolis, i-City in Shah Alam is reputed for being the hub of attractions/ theme parks closely packed together in the same vicinity.  Well, shopping is undoubtedly another experience to relish, the opportunities for filling up your bags are plenty with Central Market and China Town taking the attention of shopaholics. While Central Market becomes undoubtedly the best of place to look out for some inexpensive and worth-it souvenirs and has opened its doors to both locals and foreign tourists, the Petaling Street resonates the vibe of an ideal street market having the stalls of local street food, the dragons dancing on the top of narrow streets and stallholders shouting to sell you the traditional handicraft, hip apparels and many more that best suit your pocket.

Also, you must not miss:

  • River Cruising on Putrajaya Lake
  • Malaysia Cartoon & Comic House
  • Batu Caves
  • Petrosains, The Discovery Centre
  • Genting Highlands Premium Outlets

 

Stepping up promotions for Visit Malaysia 2020

Tourism Malaysia is stepping up its promotions this year in preparation of Visit Malaysia 2020, a landmark campaign that is targeted to bring in 30 million international tourists and £21.63 billion (RM100 billion) in tourist receipts to the country.

Datuk MohamaddinKetapi also said that Malaysia has all the attractions that appeal to travellers from this region, from nature retreats to modern and affordable shopping, cuisine, culture and luxury experiences and therefore, eyeing the growth from potential markets including India, the authority further plans to leverage the opportunities to the fullest which also includes their intention to work with the airlines to increase connectivity to Malaysia from several destinations.

Zulkifly bin Md Said, Deputy Director General (Planning), Tourism Malaysia revealed that the first three months of this year, the country witnessed a growth of 16.9 per cent with tourist expenditure been recorded at RM 21.4 BIL and per capita or spending per tourist went up to RM 3,201.80 and arrivals saw an increase of 2.7 per cent with 6, 696,230 Indian arrivals. The average length of stay also went up from one night to six nights in 2019. “While Malaysia is known as a multicultural, multiracial destination with over 123 ethnic groups, we are trying to create more experiential tours now,” he adds. “We have introduced some new tourist attractions such as Desaru Coast, Johor which is the southernmost state neighbouring with Singapore and the newest attractions with 3,900 acres with 17 km beachfront where tourists can enjoy golfing, staying at the international hotels. Surrounding the area are fruit farms, cultural farms and natural mangroves to explore the town of Desaru. We also have now SEA LIFE Malaysia which is a new addition to LEGOLAND Malaysia, it’s an interactive sea aquarium boasting of 13,000 types of fishes and 120 types of marine creatures. Selangor has several new tourist offerings including Sky Mirror which is an island right in the middle of the sea and is a popular tourist spot especially amongst the Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia. We are seeing the trend of indoor entertainment parks mushrooming in Malaysia with Berjaya Times Square Theme Park. We are hopeful with the Visit Malaysia 2020 in mind; we would be able to prominently pin Malaysia on a global tourist map.”

“Talking about India in particular, we have seen a tremendous growth from last few years. We have already witnessed a surge for wedding segment from India and we are hopeful of hosting more Indian weddings in the year ahead. Our offices in India have been bringing wedding planners to Langkawi to promote the destination as an ideal wedding destination and the government is happy to arrange a special site visit for them. The new segments we are looking at are the golfers and the ladies group, coming for either leisure or business. Looking forward to work more closely with the travel trade industry in India, we plan to conduct our roadshows in tier II cities, either by the end of this year or early next year. Also, if tour operators are working on any special tour programmes for Malaysia, they are open for site visits as well,” he goes on to say.

It was hard for us to bid adieu to such vibrancy and warmth, the cool evenings, lovely people, serene natural surroundings and some of the best foodie trips, which are some things that we would like to see and enjoy again. A special thanks to Malaysia Airlines for making our visit efficient and even more hospitable. Terima Kasih Malaysia! Until we meet again!

 

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