Cowboy Lim - the first famous trishaw driver in Malaka
It was simple, NO TRAVEL GUIDE! Also no looking up travel information on the web either. I was going to Malaysia and Singapore, two countries where most people speak English and I’ve been travelling for twenty years, so wasn’t it time I did something different.
Don’t get me wrong. I think travel books are great! They’re motivational and inspirational, encouraging wayward spenders to forsake some excesses and save for a dream holiday. I remember the magic of buying a Lonely Planet to India and reading about rat temples, Shiva and the countless Indian gods, Varanasi, the Himalayas and countless other exotic and exciting Indiapeadia. But travel books can give you too much information!
Mother and son releasing birds on Guanyin's Birthday
Many travellers end up in the same hotels and restaurants, go to the same tourist sights and experience nearly the same experiences because of travel guides. Obviously, this is very sociable and a great way to make friends but most of this socializing is with people from similar backgrounds. Thanks to guide books, many people don’t need to talk to people in the country they’re visiting; hotel workers, waiters and travel agents being the exceptions. Add in modern devices such as Ipods, GPS, laptops, Wifi and this result is multiplied.
Me and Tan Hoon Keong at La salle's St Joseph School
So to inject ‘the need to communicate’ into my travels I ditched the travel guide for a two week trip to Malaysia. I had been there before and I knew that English and Chinese was widely spoken and in general Malaysia was a medium cost and easy country to get around. It wasn’t that radical but the results were, especially in Malacca, the place where I‘ve never been before and had no contacts.
Some school children taking photos at St Paul's Church
In Malacca, I kept meeting people and I built up an impression of Malaka that extended beyond places. The history came alive as different people gave their version of it and not only the history of Malaka but personal history too. I met some people a few times and got taken to places that I think I’d have gone with a guide book.
But the best part was how warm and generous people were with their time.
A woman visiting a temple for Guanyin's birthday