Sarawak, Borneo

Terima Kasih Malaysia

You never know what you’re going to get when you arrive in a new country.  We’ve found that those first few hours and even moments after emerging from the airport can entirely colour the way you feel about the place; while we immediately fell in love with Melbourne, for example,  we just as instantly detested Jakarta. Unfortunately, those first few days in Jakarta really stained our whole experience in Indonesia, so I was nervous about what we’d encounter in our next destination. Would Malaysia be the tonic we needed to help us fall back in love with travel?

Sarawak, Borneo

The Kindness of Strangers

“Welcome to Malaysia!”

The cry came from a mechanic in dirty overalls, peeking out of a garage as we walked the streets of Borneo at the beginning of our trip. At the time I was taken aback by this random display of hospitality but it turned out that the cheerful mechanic wasn’t just a one-off; everywhere we went in Malaysia we were greeted with broad smiles, kind words and offers of help.

From the family in the longhouse who welcomed us so warmly into their home to the woman in the Laundromat who insisted we join her for lunch, we were staggered by the kindness of the Malaysian people. During the course of our many adventures in Malaysia (of which I have much to write), we ended up having to rely on strangers for help and it was always willingly given. One girl we met arranged for her father to drive us all the way to a remote harbour when we discovered there weren’t any buses, while a longboat driver took us to stay at his family longhouse when we had nowhere else to go.

Andrew in the Longhouse, Borneo Malaysia

This kindness made a hugely positive impact on our travel experiences and reassured us that the world is a much friendlier place than we are often led to believe. Our time in Malaysia also taught us how we could be more welcoming to visitors in the UK – of all the tourists I used to walk past everyday in London, I don’t remember ever stopping to chat to any of them or ask if they needed help.

Falling in Love with Beautiful Borneo

It wasn’t just the people that amazed us in Malaysia; as we trekked through the wild jungles of Borneo, slept out under the stars and sailed along the rivers we fell in love with the country itself.

Although we set out in Borneo with the goal of glimpsing orangutans in the wild, our trip became, as they say, about the journey rather than the destination. It came to be about challenging ourselves to get off the beaten track; about learning to rely on the help of strangers and to trust that whatever happens and however long it takes: we’ll get there in the end, one footstep, bus ride or boat trip at a time.

Andrew at Danum Valley, Borneo

So to you Malaysia, I say: Terima Kasih – Thank you.

Thank you to all the people who helped and showed us such kindness; to the beautiful jungles we trekked through and the winding rivers we sailed along, to the lessons we learned and the amazing adventures we had. Thank you Malaysia for helping us find joy in travel again. Throughout the three weeks we spent in the country, our freedom, which had often seemed too huge and incomprehensible to handle in Indonesia, became something to relish.

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  • Kristy
    Posted at 19:37h, 12 August Reply

    this makes me even more excited to visit Borneo!

    • Amy
      Posted at 03:27h, 13 August Reply

      Borneo is incredible Kirsty, you’ll love it; I’m excited to share more about the adventures we had when we were there. We’re already planning to go back to Borneo!

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)
    Posted at 03:30h, 14 August Reply

    Those first impressions of a city or a country can really be so critical. We always try to withhold judgment until we’ve been a place for a a few days before sentencing it, but more often than not, it’s impossible to override our initial gut reactions to a place. We’ve only been in Indonesia for about 2.5 weeks at this point, but I can definitely see for people just getting their feet wet in Asia how it would be a bit of a trial by fire. Malaysia is much more userfriendly for travelers—the transportation is nicer & easier to use, the people are very friendly ad speak plenty of English, and it’s just a very nice place to visit (no need to really worry about being scammed or hustled!). I’m glad to hear it was just what you needed!

    • Amy
      Posted at 15:03h, 15 August Reply

      Hi Steph, yes, Malaysia was definitely just what we needed after Indonesia and in hindsight it would have been great to start our Asia travels there. We absolutely can’t wait to get back to Borneo one day. Looking forward to reading about your time in Indonesia to see how it compares to ours.

  • Ann Koplow
    Posted at 11:18h, 15 August Reply

    I found this blog, thanks to toemail, and I’m glad I did. I just got back from a trip to Edinburgh and London with my son, and I notice kindness and beauty, also. Thanks so much!

    • Amy
      Posted at 14:58h, 15 August Reply

      Hi Ann, thanks for commenting, I’m glad you found kindness in London. We are hoping to go to Edinburgh next summer, sounds great!

  • Patti
    Posted at 21:17h, 15 August Reply

    That’s so awesome, Amy! I’m glad you found the good side!

    • Amy
      Posted at 10:05h, 16 August Reply

      We sure did Patti!

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