As we wanted to pay for our breakfast, with a deadpan face, the Malay owner of a streetside warung (small restaurant) that we’ve returned to three times for our meals, said to us, “We can’t give you a discount today, it’s impossible to give a discount…because we are treating you to this meal, as you are going back to KL (Kuala Lumpur) today.”
My eyes widen in a pleasant yet hesitant surprise. My husband and I wanted to return his gift of generosity. “No, no, I protested. We want to bless your business too.”
Placing his right hand on his heart, he smiled and gave us the gift anyway.
As we cycled back the short distance to our hotel, my heart burst open in joyful amazement of their genuine generosity, and I almost cried in gratitude. That was our parting memory of Langkawi. We were there for two weeks of work and travel.
It’s been a few weeks since we are back from this beautiful island. Not a day passed where I didn’t think of our experience there. And of our new Malay friends from the warung.
In fact, on the second day of our return, I received a Whatsapp from one of the ladies there, with a simple keeping in touch message of asking if I’ve started work, “Sudah mula bekerja ke?” “Have you started to work?”
Of which I proceeded to chat and connect with her, fumbling with my iPhone’s English language keyboard which insisted on changing the Malay words to something else.
I’ve never really had Malay friends, especially friends who don’t speak English.
And I’m usually more guarded. You know, as in, urbanite-guarded. Often, I tend to stick to the usual and familiar surrounding. Watchful and uncomfortable to go beyond.
But with travelling, it puts us in a new environment every day. Especially when we travel with our bicycles; without a holiday-maker mindset but with an explorer mindset instead. Where we tend to favour eating where the locals eat. And minimise being demarcated to tourist strips.
Bicycling has this fantastic advantage where we can go further, slower, and meet new friends. Even if it’s just offering a smile and a wave—it’s like leaving the fragrance of flowers wherever you go. The giver and the receiver, both blessed.
Our Langkawi stay has been like that. A beautiful memory of immersion with the Malay community, eating *nasi lemak, nasi campur, pulut ikan masin, speaking broken Malay interspersed with lots of smiles, cycling along kampung road and houses, with cute kids and old folks alike waving and smiling to us as we pedalled passed them.
For the urbanite us, we were in wonder of a completely different environment and lifestyle. The pace; slower. The people; friendlier, kinder, generous with their smiles. Perhaps a simpler way of living—leads to more generous and happier people.
*for my non-Malaysian readers. : ) Nasi lemak: fragrant coconut rice. Nasi campur: rice with a selection of dishes, mini buffet style. Pulut ikan masin: Glutinous rice with fried salted fish. Kampung: village.