Google Malaysia hosted its inaugural Malaysia Local Guides meet-up at its corporate office, on the initiative of the community’s “Big brother”, Stephen Abraham.
I was indeed humbled to be one of the delegates of this by-invitation only meet-up. Not only were we given a tour of the cool Google office, but I also had an opportunity to share my journey using Google Maps and being a Local Guide with this group of established Local Guides in Malaysia.
Google Malaysia Corporate Office is situated on Level 20 of Axiata Building, just across the street from KL Sentral transportation hub, linked via a pedestrian bridge.
The meet-up began with a welcome note by Zeffri Yusof, Head of Communication Google Malaysia & South Asia. Although on vacation, he dropped by his office to personally give us an update on vital Google activities in Malaysia. He also provided an insight on yet-to-be-launched programmes, which we have to keep private and confidential as well.
During the meet-up, Stephen Abraham, or fondly called Steve, related a brief history of the Malaysia Local Guides community.
While sharing past meet-ups, he also bounced ideas off us for future programmes that would involve either guiding, mapping, photography, accessibility, fact check or more, to enhance Google Maps.
The idea exchange included visits to Ipoh, Pulau Ketam, and CSR activities like beach clean-ups. Hopefully, my already packed schedule enables me to participate in some of these Malaysia Local Guides community activities.
At the meet-up yesterday, I was given the chance to share my Google Maps journey and Local Guides experience with the delegates. Here’s the transcript of what I spoke about:
Hi, good morning! Thanks for having me. I’m Emily Lowe and I am a Level 8 Local Guide from Ipoh, Malaysia, about 3 hours by car north of Kuala Lumpur.
I have only been an active Local Guide since October last year, so I still consider myself a newbie. It’s quite strange that despite spending long hours on the internet, I had no idea about the programme, until I made a new friend, a Level 7 Local Guide at the time. He asked me how come I do not contribute to Google Maps, when I travel so extensively. That was food for thought and so, I dived right in.
Prior to that, I only had two reviews under my belt, and that was only when I was asked to leave a feedback by the property management, if I found them worthy.
A few years ago, I was writing for a community newspaper in my hometown of Ipoh. One section that I was put in charge of was a 4-page monthly pullout on tourism in the state of Perak. Ipoh is its capital city.
My dad helped me a lot in this assignment, where I had to write about things to do in each district for a 3D/2N visit. My dad is like a living map of Perak, having visited every nook and corner of the state. He threw me names of towns worth visiting and I would plot the route on Google Maps, before making a recce trip with my colleagues. Plotting the route helped us to have a smoother trip when we checked out the places of interest within each district. Knowing the direction beforehand meant that we didn’t have to drive all over town; north, south, east or west, going from Point A to B to C.
My dad is old school and he still uses the paper map. Folding it up again is rocket science, by the way. For me, Google Maps gives me an accurate distance and a good estimated driving time, making it easier for me to write about our experiences for the article. I’d like to share that the pullout won *Perak Tourism Awards in 2013* for Best Print Publication, a recognition by the Perak State Government.
On a personal level, as a content creator for my blog emily2u.com, with a primary focus on food and travel, I rely on Google Maps to provide me with the GPS co-ordinates of lesser known places, as well as new eateries. Most of the time, there would be no review on the eatery yet because it’s still new, which was why I dined there to evaluate it for myself and to review it on my blog.
Now that I am a Local Guide, I see Google Maps as an extension of what I have been doing in the past decade on my blog. I share reviews to a larger audience. It gives me an indescribable feeling when I meet visitors in town, who would tell me that they decided to drop by Ipoh after coming across my blog and researching about the attractions on Google. Emily2u.com had been recognised by the Perak State Government in 2017 with Perak Tourism Awards in Social Media Category, for efforts in promoting the state of Perak as a premier tourist destination.
My experience using Google Maps was enhanced this January when I was invited to Taiwan to promote their tourism attractions. Initially, I wasn’t comfortable accepting the invitation because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to promote the country as required as I am a banana, which means a Chinese who can’t speak Mandarin. I would be at a loss in Taiwan due to my inability to communicate, I thought. We wouldn’t be visiting metropolitan cities, where the locals can speak English. Instead, we would be going to small towns and villages. Oh-oh!
However, I accepted the 6-day trip when my tour leader reassured me that she would be my translator. For six days, it was a struggle knowing where I was but I had the presence of mind to mark every place we visited on Google Maps, even taking photos and video clips and uploading them to Maps. Upon my return, I was able to easily view from my timeline where we were, despite not being able to read the signage. In fact, these places are mostly in Mandarin on Google Maps, too. Writing my Taiwan story for Malindo Air in-flight magazine, my blog and social media accounts, I was able to copy out the business names and addresses, yes without knowing one word of it. If you thought that I had picked up Mandarin just by spending six days in Taiwan, you can’t be more wrong. Hahaha!
Being a Local Guide for Google Maps is quite an addiction. Once I started contributing, I couldn’t stop. I make it a point to share my reviews and photos of every destination that I visit, or food that I eat. Basically, whatever I do, I just need to let Google Maps have my opinion! I am a travel content creator and being a Local Guide gives me yet another excuse to explore the world.
If you are a Local Guide in Malaysia, do join the Malaysia Local Guides community. The official Facebook page is: Malaysia Local Guides
Event: Malaysia Local Guides Meet-Up
Venue: Google Malaysia Corporate Office, Kuala Lumpur.
Date: 4th May, 2019
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