“And then they all stared at us in total silence.”
This trip was one of the biggest adventures of my life. My family was planning to go to Malaysia in the beginning of January, but unfortunately I couldn’t join them due to my school and work commitments. I was recruited to work as an event coordinator at the parliamentary session of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) held in Moscow in 2007 and be a host liaison to the organizations of Chile, Peru and Mexico. Even though I was excited to have this amazing opportunity, I was still jealous of my family’s trip to Asia.
Fortunately, due to favorable circumstances I passed my exams well in advance and had one week off before the event. My family was already enjoying sea, sun, golf and spa in Borneo. In the morning, when my girlfriends and I had just come home after a busy clubbing night, a phone call woke me up.
Dad: Hey daughter!
Anya: Hey dad (really unhappy to be awake)
Dad: So do you think you’re pretty wild?
Anya: What the …? Hmm, I guess (rapidly reviewing the events of last night)
Dad: So come! We miss you here.
Anya: Ah ok (uff!). Wait, what do you mean?
Dad: I mean you have a week off, so why don’t you join us in Malaysia?
Anya: Just like that?
Dad: Just like that.
Anya: Ok, will do.
I called the Emirates airlines and purchased a business class ticket as they didn’t have any seats available in coach, which made me even more excited as daddy was paying. My friend dropped me off at the airport, and here I was, ready to take on my next adventure.
Everything about this trip went perfectly from the very beginning. At the gate, the airlines representatives announced that due to the overbooking of business class, Emirates upgraded some passengers to first class. I wasn’t even surprised when I heard my name among the lucky ones. The plane took off right on time, the service and food were incredible, and the flight was smooth. I had a 4-hour layover in Doha, Qatar, where I enjoyed delicious Arabic entrees and fine red wine. In ten hours I found myself in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and the former host of the second tallest building in the world—PETRONAS Towers. From there I had to take a flight to Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah province located on the northwest of the island of Borneo, which administratively belongs to three countries—Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia. In almost 24 hours I finally made it to my family’s villa at Nexus Karambunai Resort & Spa.
The first thing we did was night bathing in the waves. Borneo (Kalimantan) is an island surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and not protected by any kind of natural barrier, so the waves there are very impressive. And after a hot day, the water warms up to almost 86F. It is indescribable how much fun we had jumping and diving in the waves under the endless starry sky. Our villa was situated right on the seaside, separate from the rest of the resort. And the hotel management generously provided us with a golf cart to easily navigate within the resort. As I arrived at Nexus past midnight, I didn’t have a chance to actually see the place. In the morning, I had enough time to explore and admire its beauty. The enormous, luxurious complex included dozens of villas, extensive golf courses, several restaurants and a spa. But the best part was the beach. The sand was white and soft, and the beach line stretched out for miles. So every day after lunch we took long family walks full of these precious moments when you realize how happy you are to be with your loved ones.
Besides spending the best time in Borneo, we also signed up for a two-day excursion in Kuala Lumpur. We climbed up to the observation deck of the PETRONAS towers to contemplate a 360-degree view of the city. We also visited the Blue Mosque in Shah Alam, the country’s biggest mosque and also the second biggest mosque in Southeast Asia after Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta, Indonesia. But what impressed me most was the city of Putrajaya, located to the south of Kuala Lumpur. Putrajaya is a planned city that serves as the federal administrative center of Malaysia. It takes your breath away with abundance of spotlit skyscrapers and beautiful modern architecture.
Local gastronomy was another benefit of going to Malaysia. The food there is amazing. Most of the restaurants do not serve pork due to religious reasons, but they do display dozens of cascading aquariums with various fish and seafood as a tourist attractions right at the entrance. So when somebody walks in, a prepared servant is ready to take the order. All you have to do is to point at the aquarium. All my family members are seafood lovers, so for us every dinner in Malaysia was like a holiday. The first time we saw it, we just couldn’t concentrate and ended up ordering three kinds of fish and multiple seafood platters. That night we were the only tourists in the restaurant, so when the waiters started serving our dishes all at once, locals just stared at us in total silence for a while. There were red grouper steamed in soy sauce, delicious lobsters in cream sauce, savory clams, mussels and other kinds of exotic shellfish, the names of which I don’t even remember. It was an unforgettable experience indeed.
After the restaurant we stopped at the local fruit market and bought fresh mangoes and an odd looking fruit with a very unique odor. Later we discovered it was durian, known in Southeast Asia as “king of fruits.” It smelled so strong that though covered under three layers of mangoes, it completely gave itself away when we approached the hotel. The manager didn’t want to let us in with it—apparently there were signs “no durian” all over the place. And the only reason that convinced him was that we lived in a separate villa isolated from other guests. However, it turned out that the argument was completely unnecessary, because the fruit tasted awfully, at least to me. I’ve met people who think it’s flavorful and sweet, but there is no way I will ever try it again.
For those who’ve never been to Southeast Asia, I definitely recommend exploring Malaysia. It’s an amazing country with time-honored traditions, delicious cuisines and friendly people.
P.S. I really enjoyed writing this post, as it evoked so many good memories 🙂