Culture Keeps Him Coming Back

Although not unfamiliar with Malaysia, when travel writer Lloyd Salac, 25, was invited to go on a media familiarisation trip to Selangor, he quickly took up the offer, excited to discover firsthand the hidden gems of Hulu Langat.

trying his hand at preparing teh tarik
trying his hand at preparing teh tarik

Under the Eat Travel Write Selangor 2.0 programme organised by the Selangor State Economic Planning Unit, Salac and about twenty other local and international media practitioners were recently brought together on a 4-day trip to enable them to gain hands-on experience to see how locals make and market their traditional craft products as well as to discover popular food of the district.

Salac, from Makati City in the Philippines, first visited Malaysia in 2013 with a group of travel writers courtesy of Tourism Malaysia. Since that trip where he spent four days here, Salac has regularly returned to the country, fascinated with the food, the multi-faceted culture and different sights offered by each state.

trying nasi ambeng
trying nasi ambeng

He said, “Even though I have been to Malaysia numerous times, I still find it difficult to move about on my own as public transportation is not necessarily available in the places that I would like to visit. It seems that driving is still the best mode of transport. Nonetheless, I have been to all Malaysian states except for Perlis and Labuan.”

visit Kajang Satay Gallery
visit Kajang Satay Gallery

Sharing his thoughts on the Eat Travel Write Selangor 2.0 programme, Salac said, “It was a fun weekend full of tasty discoveries. I especially had a great time finding out more about satay, one of Selangor’s heritage food, because I’ve always been told that Malaysia’s satay is the best. Seeing the different spots and kampungs in Selangor was a treat as well. As I discover more of these places off the beaten track, I appreciate better Malaysia’s beauty, food, and culture.

“At Orchard Santika Homestay in Hulu Langat, we had the opportunity to dine on the authentic Javanese dish called Nasi Ambeng, a communal tray of rice, noodles and other mouth-watering goodies, aimed to promote unity among family members or friends. I was trying to cut down on my carbohydrate intake but I certainly had to give myself leave that night! Plus, the chicken rendang was way too tasty and I loved the mee goreng. Put together, it’s a hearty dish that I’d remember for a long time.

frying Honeycomb Cookies in a cooking competition
frying Honeycomb Cookies in a cooking competition

“I think homestays are Malaysia’s best tourism product and there’s a lot more potential in them. I just hope they could be more out there, with improved accessibility, particularly to foreigners. As I have mentioned, the problem I encounter in Malaysia is the lack of transportation options in less populous areas. This adversely affects your tourism industry as tourists are limited to the usual haunts. From my experience, your country has so much to offer; they just need to be more accessible.”

Comparing Malaysia and the Philippines, Salac sees a lot of similarities in our two cultures. He offered, “We have congkak and we call it sungka. We have ketupat also, but we call it puso because our version is always shaped like a heart. These similarities prove how much we really are related, and I hope more people would appreciate that.”

learning to grill satay
learning to grill satay

Tucking into his favourite nasi lemak for breakfast, Salac talked about his best memory during Eat Travel Write Selangor 2.0: “It would have to be the time when we visited the Selangor Mini Craft Carnival which was hosted at Orchard Santika Homestay. In just a couple of hours, I learnt a lot about Selangor’s and Malaysia’s pride – from local delicacies to traditional games. I learnt to weave a ketupat, too!”

Note: An edited version of this article [Culture keeps me coming back] was published on 9th Jan, 2016 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.

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With love

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