When Jelito de Leon announced that he would be visiting Malaysia (finally) for the first time, a couple of his 142,000 Instagram followers offered to take him around Kuala Lumpur. But first, de Leon had to take care of business which was the main reason for his trip. The lifestyle-cum-travel photographer was a member of the delegation of social influencers who was taken on a tour to discover Kuala Langat District, organised by Selangor State Economic Unit (UPEN Selangor).
De Leon, who is from Manila, the capital of the Philippines, said, “I remember reading about Malaysia at grade school. During a History lesson, my teacher informed us that Malaysia is in Southeast Asia and is one of our neighbouring countries. As it would be my first visit to Malaysia, I was pretty excited. It was a spontaneous trip as I had just returned from an 11-day tour of Indonesia. However, the thought of celebrating my 24th birthday in a foreign country made me look forward to the trip so much more.”
A delayed flight into Kuala Lumpur did not dampen his spirits. “The excursion to Kuala Langat allowed me the opportunity to visit places off the beaten track. If I had planned my own holiday, I would have gone to more popular places such as the PETRONAS Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur Bird Park and Batu Caves. Instead, I visited the BOH Tea Farm in Banting, Kampung Sijangkang Mangrove Recreational Park, Kampung Endah which is said to be one of the most beautiful Malay villages in the country and Bukit Jugra, among other places.
“While my very first meal in Malaysia was a late dinner at a Chinese restaurant in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur, I was soon introduced to the many different types of Malaysian food, such as chicken satay, nasi lemak, ondeh-ondeh and kuih koci! Interestingly, the villages in Banting are highly populated by people of Javanese descent. Hence, I also had the chance to sample original Javanese cuisine, which reminded me of my recently concluded Indonesian expedition.
“One of our stops was at Tanjung Hani Homestay in Sijangkang. Our dinner was the authentic Javanese dish of ‘nasi ambeng’. It was my first time sharing a meal but the huge communal platter of rice and noodles with other dishes mixed in, served its primary objective of having diners bond over food. It was a unique concept to me. As it was my birthday meal, I believe that it will stay in my memory for a long time to come, especially that I got to share it with new and old friends.
“At another stop, I was able to see a potter manually shape his wares. It was very hypnotising to watch a slab of clay turn into a bowl.”
Visiting Mozid Racing in Sijangkang, de Leon, who does not drive, had the chance to go behind the wheel of the go-kart. “I was very nervous because I have never driven a vehicle before but I was glad that at least I gathered enough guts to try,” he revealed sheepishly.
Talking about cars, de Leon’s five days in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor weren’t enough for him to get used to sitting on the “wrong” side of the car. He said, “In the Philippines, we have left-hand drive, so when riding a car, I would automatically go to the right side of the car. I always get confused when I try and get in the right side but when I open the door, the steering wheel greets me. Hahaha!”
As a professional photographer with a natural eye for artistry, de Leon found the architecture of the many buildings that he came across, fascinating. “One afternoon, my friends needed to perform their prayers so I was brought along to the Federal Territory Mosque. It was totally unplanned but the exquisiteness of the mosque made me go ‘wow’ numerous times! It was my first time inside a mosque. The details on the doors, walls, and windows were so intricate. Everything was so beautiful!” he exclaimed.
De Leon’s five-day sojourn was packed but he enjoyed it totally. “It was a positive experience to see a different side of Malaysia during my first visit to the country. I’m sure this won’t be the last. I am already looking forward to my next, which I hope will happen soon. Malacca, I’m looking at you!” he promised.
Note: An edited version of this article [Five days flew by] was published on 1st October, 2016 in the now-defunct The Malay Mail.