Why do you travel? What motivates you to do it?
But, more importantly, have you ever thought of the impact that you make on the people and places that you visit, just by going there?
Tourism has become an important sector with an impact on the development of a country’s economy. The main benefits of tourism are income generation and job generation. For many regions and countries it is the most important source of well-being. But, at the same time, it can affect the authenticity and the culture of a place unless it is done responsibly.
I’ve had a really selfish view until recently. I used to think that traveling is only about the new experiences, the new cultures, and the new places. I’ve only looked for personal benefits, how can I receive but nothing to give back in return.
Last week, thanks to Be Tourist, I’ve had the opportunity to visit a small town in Malaysia, of which not even the locals know much about; it’s called Raub. In the past, it was a mining town where gold was being exploited. When the gold finished, the locals had to reinvent themselves in order to survive, so they resorted to farming, or they opened up various family businesses.
What I like in Raub is the simplicity of the place and the people. Unlike the big cities such as KL, where the appearances and the race you belong to, are more important, in Raub, all people seem to be friends and share all the joys and problems together, as in a family.
The singer baker
The first stop was in Francis’ kitchen. His family bakes Loh Mai Chi for generations and other sweet delicacies. He received us with an incredible warmth and he taught us how to cook our own Lo Mai Chi, which is a kind of rice dough, stuffed with sugary coconut, that is steam-cooked. Tradition is very important to Francis, which he wants to respect and preserve, this is why he has only handmade products, and he uses only natural ingredients, with no preservatives. But this approach has a price, it involves a lot of hard work, so he wakes up at 3 AM, every day, in order to prepare everything.
He confessed that keeping this tradition and maintaining the family business alive is unlikely to happen. The city is dying, almost no tourist visit their shop. In the age of speed, few know how to appreciate the quality of handmade products and very few want to learn this handicraft, so in this case, it might die with him. He seemed to have made peace with this fact and, before we leave, he sang a song for us and showed us his karaoke trophies.
The Cave Man
He proudly calls himself the cave man. He felt a call from the divinity since he was a child, and he chose to spend his life in the Tok Machang cave. It is located near the village where he used to live. He feels it’s his job to protect the cave and its life. On our visit, he showed us all the cave’s secrets and living beings: stalactites and stalagmites, crystals, bats, and crickets. I felt like a kid again, trying to guess the hidden forms in the cave’s walls. We often tend to forget how to be present and how to appreciate the beauty of simple things.
Even in Asia, the homemade noodles are a rarity. I know, it’s strange right? But that’s because, nowadays, not many prefer to work for hours to prepare them and choose to buy the noodles already made, sacrificing the quality and their health.
We were invited by Mr. Alan at Ah Ngoh Restaurant, to learn how to make homemade noodles and to see how much work is involved, even when you have the necessary tools: a mixer and a press conveyor. Mr. Alan had the patience to show us, one by one, how to press the dough through the band and how to give the noodles a gummy texture. It seems easy when you say it, but we realized how clumsy we are when we tried it.
Mr. Alan has told us that his family business, one of the few remaining homemade noodles restaurants, will be soon closed and the tradition will be lost. This and many other traditions are on the verge of extinction.
If we were more responsible for the tourism we chose to practice and if the government would promote their culture and traditions better, we could enjoy a more authentic tourism for many generations to come. I think it’s also our duty to preserve the culture of a place when we visit it.
A magic night at Ming He Yuan Resort
The night in Raub we spent it in an incredible resort, that gave us an amazing view of the town. Ming He Yuan Resort is placed on a hill and the ride to get to the cottages is more like a roller coaster, that anyone can enjoy it. The cottage we stayed in was very cozy and beautifully decorated, with all the amenities needed.
A 4×4 trip
After breakfast, we went with two 4×4 cars, to the Lata Berembun Waterfall, located 15 km from Raub. We have been warned that the road is a forest road, that isn’t used by tourists, but we were not mentally prepared for what followed. A few years ago I went on a 4×4 desert safari in Dubai, and I experienced the drifting in the sand dunes that give you the impression you’ll roll over; so, I told myself that this could not be worse than that; but I was wrong. We got into the jeeps, with big smiles on our faces and we waited for the adventure to start. The first part of the road was really nice, the view of the jungle was wonderful and we all took advantage of this to take as many photos as possible.
But, after this, it came the part with all the screaming and hits of all kinds: branches, DSLRs, elbows and not to forget about the bites from all sorts of insects. There were moments when the jeeps’ wheels were completely in mud, when the 4X4 cars tilted more than 45 degrees and drove over some incredibly large rocks.
There was a moment when we only had a bridge to cross to the waterfall and we were told to be a little more excited. For what? For a bridge? No! Because, just for fun, we’ll cross the river with the jeep, and not on the bridge. That adrenaline and screaming refreshed all our senses but, but I don’t regret any part of it.
Our prize was a swim in the freezing water, who reminded us that we are alive and that nothing could be better than this, at that moment in time. I felt grateful for this experience and for being able to share these moments with these awesome people.
Lunch with the town leader
We had the honor of taking lunch with Raub’s town leader. He came with the local journalists who wanted also to know more about us. We’ve learned a lot about what it means to be the leader of a town his responsibilities. Unlike the western countries, where everyone wants to get to power for their own benefit, I was shocked to find out that this job is more like a volunteering. Small towns like Raub don’t have a mayor, instead, they have a leader and their responsibilities are many: they need to make development plans for the city’s infrastructure and also for economic development. The leaders are elected by the government, depending on how much they have been involved in the community and how much they’ve helped its people. Okay, you’re gonna say it’s the same thing with being a mayor, but it’s more than that. For example, if development projects are not funded by the government, they need to find sponsorships or make projects with the private sector. Apart from this, in the community, the leader always needs to help everyone who asks for his help. Despite all these responsibilities, the leader of the town doesn’t even get the minimum wage, so he needs to have some other sources of income. The fact that he is the leader of the town is only because he wants to help the development of the community he belongs to, it’s like his family.
The oldest durian tree in Malaysia
After lunch, Mr. Tan invited us to eat durian at his farm. Durian is the fruit, you might have heard, that smells really bad. Personally, I love it, it tastes very good and, its smell, for me, is a sweet one.
Because it is not the durian season and the species we tried is the best one, qualitatively speaking, one kilogram of Musang King Durian, is 200 ringgit (50US$). We were lucky there were some Durian ripe to eat. Durian fruits grow up in trees, they look like a ball with spikes, and only when they are ripe they fall from the trees. During the picking season, the workers have to sleep in the farm, so they can hear when the durians’ fall, so they can go and pick them up right away before the ants or monkeys can spoil them. We have learned how to differentiate those of good quality from the bad ones: they have a very visible star at the bottom, that also indicated where you can cut them, by following the corners of the star. After eating the cover of the big grains, which has a creamy texture like the blue cheese does, you have to put water in the durian’s shell and with it to wash the smell of it from your fingers. In Singapore, there are places where the durian is forbidden by law and you are not allowed with it inside some buildings or subways; in Malaysia, I don’t remember to be seen any.
Here, at the farm, we had the opportunity to meet the man who planted the oldest tree of Musang King Durian in Malaysia, 32 years ago and, we were even able to take pictures of him and the tree. It was an honor.
Another type of tourism with Be Tourist, a responsible tourism
I started to see things differently after I took part in the Be Tourist tour organized for a handful of bloggers gathered from 6 countries: UK, Lithuania, Ukraine, Malaysia, Kenya, and Romania. We were invited to see how it should be a tourist experience and how to help a community when you visit it. Not everything is about how many places you can visit in a lifetime, but what impact you have on the places you visit. You can either help to preserve it or you “help” to its extinction by the ways you choose to visit it.
If we would think more on how we can preserve the places we visit and less on how many “exotic” magnets we have on our refrigerators, I’m convinced we would have more joy in our souls. In addition, we would have better travel experiences, that cannot be weighted only in pictures or in Facebook check-ins. We are trying to fill up our souls with superficial holidays, that miraculously will make us feel happy, and let’s hope, for a longer period of time. If we would travel more responsible, through ways in which we can help the community we visit in order to preserve its culture and heritage, we would feed our souls with a more sincere happiness that has no expiration date.
Special Thanks to Be Tourism for giving me the opportunity to be part of this amazing trip!
Was a pleasure to meet you guys!
- Justina and Micha from Beer For Breakfast
View this post on Instagram
Наверное все слышали выражение, что один день в путешествии по количеству знаний и опыта приравнивается к одному месяцу жизни в обычной жизни. В моём случае, хоть я и достаточно опытный путешественник, я ещё раз убедился – это чистая правда! И работает даже если это два дня 😁😁 Так и произошло с путешествием #BeTouristMY в отдалённые от туристических троп места, которые еще сохранили ту настоящую, атмосферную малазийскую культуру… 🎋🎏 Про само путешествие я расскажу и покажу чуть позже, но самое важное тут другое – путешествия могут дать не только приятные эмоции, но и осознание того, что мы можем потерять очень глубокий и большой пласт культур, внезависимости украинская она, малазийская или же южноамериканская. И это может произойти именно по причине неосмысленного туризма 😞🤔 Дело в том что туристы и туризм сам по себе очень часто могут разрушать те уникальные места, до которых они добираются 🎑 Я как путешественник, который стремиться по возможности вырваться из стандартных маршрутов в уникальные места я прекрасно понимаю, что со временем, когда они становятся широко известными, могут быть потерянными во всех смыслах, от атмосферы до экологии, именно в виду развития не экотуризма, а урбанизации, наплыва большого количества людей и безответственного бизнеса… Я вспомнил как в Украине посетил 'кришталеву печеру', которая всего несколько лет назад была полностью покрыта кристаллами изнутри, но ввиду безответственного туризма, сейчас это просто коридоры, а кристаллы которые перестают расти от всего лишь одного касания, уже давно полностью умерли. Если бы люди задумывались о экотуризме и будущих путешественника, то это место сохранило бы свою первозданную красоту и волшебство, но оно уже безвозвратно потеряно 🌌 Но в тоже самое время, именно туризм и туристы могут помочь сохранить ту первозданную культуру, обряды и обычаи, поддержать те многовековые традиции, которые сохранились в том или ином уголке нашей планеты 🌎 Если каждый турист будет ответственным, и будет не разрушать уникальные места, а поддерживать их и другие инициативы экотуризма такие как #H_O_P_E_DiscoverRaub, то даже наши правнуки смогут осуществить это путешествие во времени..