Is it true that tourists do not know the real Malaysia locals do?

By: Ayra Danisha Rizal binti Edwan Rizal

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Malaysia is a vibrant nation of undisputable rich, multi-cultural heritage that has spent much time from national progress towards the desired modernization. This, combined with its natural jewels of places hidden in this small country’s depths, resulted in Malaysia becoming a regular tourist destination which aids to our international recognition today. However, as endless as the tourists flooding into this country, do these tourists really know what is under all these attractions? The way Malaysians do? Certainly not. In fact, perhaps these tourists spend time at fabled, unauthentic features possible, sometimes unaware of the possibilities of finding the perfect warung, and come and have a look at our nasi lemak and teh tarik, or the most modest flea markets off the list. This essay will now investigate the reasons why I faithfully agree that tourists view the country on a different level and perspective than how locals do. 

To begin with, tourists only see the fabricated city we own on a regular basis. Ideally, an international traveller would have to find a travel agent who will provide them the most comfortable and said-to-be authentic experience, and as a result they only experience what a traveller is supposed to experience, likely looking forward to great dining and shopping experiences.

For tourists, image is important especially in the modern world. However, it is only efficient for the locals to be able to find their favourite ‘best-kept secret’ food stall and they do know the best times to avoid tourist crowds. While tourists wake up to find us all guarding our posts, ready to entertain them all day in our respective jobs, they might not see the daily chores locals have to do when they have their daily dose of fun. Busy mornings; waking up to the smell of Sunday dump trucks and the sounds of vigorous cooking from a neighbouring house, eager to feed anyone inside.

Conventionally, travel agents usually hide the real Malaysia from their clients in order to portray the best image to attract these travellers and for profit, without realising that their actions might cause the true colours of Malaysia to be forever hidden from the outside world thus resulting in our own economical loss. In order to keep  up with the big leagues of the world, they tend to only show Gram-worthy sites and adventures in Malaysia despite the risk of killing our cultural habits. Sadly, travel agents are not the only ones who convey this message in the modern world.

Locals like us leave our engaging traditional games such as congkak and galah panjang and turn to a more confined space of internationally-known modern entertainment such as video games and mobile games like Mobile Legends. Despite how we were used to taught to respect our traditional games and used to scrape our knees playing outdoor games with our neighbouring friends and have our own share of kueh and tea the mothers would make for the children during tea time, turn back that time to the present and it will show the difference in what children nowadays are taught. Their childhood is more boring as they do not experience the adrenaline rush of playing games outside with everyone as much as we did, instead they are taught to be more careful with strangers.

On the other hand, some people, including these travel agents, may decide to hide the gems of Malaysia due to the fear of dangerous external sources who might want to take them for their own benefit. And if there is a huge economical loss in the future, selling off land to international hands might be the safest way for higher authorities to recover their diminution.

On the other hand, us locals and tourists can absolutely agree on the fact that Malaysia is a Paradise on Earth. We have countless exotic jungles and rainforests with a beautiful diverse ecosystem and we have our own government and non-government organisations who are responsible for preserving these biological components because they are crucial to the ongoing of their species in the modern world and they are needed for the endless research and development conducted in our country for the benefit of medicinal purposes.

To illustrate, there’s the first vaccine which cured smallpox, actually a congratulatory result of research about cows. Additionally, we both share the same fond appreciation of our cultural diversity. Malaysians obviously don’t just consist of Malays, Chinese and Indians. But, we span far to indigenous tribes like Kadazandusun and Telugu people. This amazing trait makes Malaysia an open-minded society. As a result, it runs through our veins for us to accept everyone equally. 

In a nutshell, while locals do have an advantage of staying remotely in Malaysia and being able to easily overcome some of the rookie mistakes tourists do while visiting the country, there is no doubt that our differences in opinion or nationality has anything to do with it.

The beauty of Malaysia is that it brings people together, far and wide, without looking them in the face. And it doesn’t get to judge anyone, and what I mean is that everyone gets to enjoy the sublime atmosphere and cultural heritage of  Malaysia, amidst the change in time and social upbringing; Malaysia remains to be a welcoming home to us all.

By: Ayra Danisha Rizal binti Edwan Rizal

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