Taking a break from island life
For a little over a year, we've called the enchanting island of Lombok our home. It had wrapped us in its warm embrace and nestled itself deep in our hearts. Until recently, we enjoyed the privilege of renewing our visas from within the country. But with the easing of COVID restrictions, this arrangement had come to an end, necessitating us to apply for our new visas from outside the country.
We saw this as a golden opportunity to take a brief “break” from our island life and embark on a "holiday" to another captivating destination. After some research on flights and places that beckoned to our wanderlust, we found ourselves drawn back to Malaysia. It had been 15 years since our last visit, and the memories still lingered, enticing us with its charm. Our plan was a week in Malaysia, divided between the bustling metropolis of Kuala Lumpur and the heritage-rich town of Melaka. According to the tales from the YouTube travel channels, Melaka is a favoured haven for expatriates when they make their transition to this diverse country.
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One of the many privileges of residing in Asia is the proximity to a number of exotic countries, a striking contrast to our homeland, South Africa. The three-hour flight from Lombok to Kuala Lumpur came at a mere $200, a steal when compared to the costs of domestic flights back in South Africa.
Our Air Asia flight touched down in Kuala Lumpur at 8:30 PM. To our surprise, the weather was not as humid as we had expected, or perhaps we had simply acclimatized to the warmth after a year on Lombok. Right from the arrivals terminal, a convenient walkway led us to the KL Airport express train, effortlessly whisking us into the heart of this modern metropolis in a mere 28 minutes.
Kuala Lumpur greeted us with a symphony of skyscrapers, towering apartment complexes, and colossal shopping malls adorned with dazzling advertising screens. The City Centre, known as KLCC, invited us to explore its bustling streets, anchored by the iconic twin towers. These towering marvels loomed large on the cityscape and offered the most breathtaking view from the KLCC park, a sprawling 50-acre urban oasis replete with jogging tracks, serene lakes, a vast children's playground, and a myriad of outdoor activities. In the early morning, locals embraced the park, engaging in morning runs and peaceful tai chi sessions. As night fell, the Lake Symphony fountain came alive with mesmerizing sound and light displays.
Our days in Kuala Lumpur were spent wandering the vibrant streets of KLCC, immersing ourselves in the outdoor food markets that added a dash of local flavor to our adventure. One memorable evening led us to Jalan Alor, a renowned food street that transported us to a different world, far removed from towering skyscrapers and shopping malls. Rows upon rows of food vendors lined the street, tempting us with some of Malaysia's finest culinary delights. Here, we not only savored the diverse flavors but also soaked in the rich culture of Malaysia.
We share a table with a young Malaysian couple and we strike up a conversation with them. They are both professionals and have taken a break from the children to come and grab a meal. We share our story of Lombok and how things in KL are very pricey compared to the island. Interestingly they spent their honeymoon in Lombok, what a coincidence. They finish their meal before us, and we say goodbyes and tell them to look us up if they ever visit Lombok again. I ask the owner for the bill when we are ready to leave only to be told that our “friends” paid for our meal. Embarrassing… But a very nice gesture.
From Kuala Lumpur, we embarked on a comfortable two-hour bus journey south to Melaka, our anticipation fueled by countless YouTube videos. This charming city, a UNESCO World Heritage site, had evolved from a humble fishing village into a captivating cultural tapestry. Our chosen abode in the Indian district, nestled close to Jonker Street at the heart of Chinatown, ensured we were within reach of the historical sites that showcased the mingling of Dutch, Chinese, Indian, and Malay influences. The city's meandering river added an extra layer of charm to its picturesque beauty.
In Melaka, it is not necessary to adhere to a strict itinerary. Instead, we allowed the winding streets to guide our explorations, unveiling hidden treasures with every turn. Cafes, museums, and quaint shops beckoned, each offering its unique allure. One culinary highlight was Pak Putra, an Indian café where the dining tables spilled out into the parking lot. Here, two massive tandoori ovens on the sidewalk worked their magic, crafting exquisite tandoori chicken and warm naan bread. Amidst the hustle and bustle, we savoured tandoori chicken and curry like never before. If you have an affinity for curries, this place is a must-visit.
Kuala Lumpur had injected a dose of modern city living into our souls, while Melaka had immersed us in a rich cultural tapestry. However, after a week in Malaysia, an unexpected revelation dawned upon us – we were missing Lombok.
It was a yearning for the laid-back lifestyle that we had become accustomed to. We missed the natural beauty of Lombok, the gentle sway of palm trees, and the simple pleasure of morning swims at the beach. A scooter ride along the beautiful winding coastal road. The morning walk to the corner shop for fresh bread and fruit.
Above all, we missed the charm of the local people and their vibrant culture, which had become our way of life. "Selamat pagi, apa kabar?" – we missed those familiar greetings.
The local cuisine of Lombok, with its Gado Gado, Satays and Nasi Campur, was another craving we couldn't ignore, especially when we considered the prices we had paid for similar dishes in Malaysia.
But it wasn't just the physical aspects of Lombok that we missed. It was the spiritual connection, the island's ability to provide a serene sanctuary for those seeking inner peace.
As our week in Malaysia came to an end, we realized that what we needed wasn't a break from Lombok.
Lombok was our break.
Lombok was home.
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