Selamat pagi! That’s ‘good morning’ in Malay and Indonesian, and a Nichijou reference, in case you didn’t catch that series. My family and I have just gotten back from an enjoyable vacation in Malaysia, on the island of Penang, an up-and-coming tourist destination in Asia that has a lot of fun activities to offer. We had a great time, doing all the usual things like snorkeling through exotic reefs, eating various Asian foods at open-air stalls, and shopping. I’m tired and sunburned, but I got some real relaxing done, so the trip was a success.
In a lot of ways Malaysia strikes me as the opposite of my adopted home country of Japan. Over the course of its history, Japan has had relatively little influence from the outside world, successfully fighting off Mongol invaders twice with the help of conveniently-timed typhoons that wrecked the invading fleets (this was the famous ‘divine wind’) and completely closing the country to Westerners from 1633 to 1868 when the influence of European powers started to become a threat to the stability of the country. This helped to create a homogenized nation in which 98% of people believe themselves to be of the same genetic stock. (Actually this is a form of national self-hypnotism, since there’s plenty of Korean, Chinese, Mongolian, Russian and other DNA sloshing around Japan’s gene pool…including some of mine.) Malaysia has had a very different history, with massive cultural and linguistic influences from many different sources resulting in a fascinating country of many languages and cultures including Chinese, Malay, Indian and European.
When we arrived at the hotel, we went to the tour desk to look at various day trips they had to offer, which included tours of beautiful temples, hikes through the jungle to see orangutans and so on. I wasn’t surprised to see a Japanese-language tour being offered for potential “long-stay retirees” who wanted to visit supermarkets, shopping malls and hospitals in preparation for a possible extended period of retirement. Countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Australia are all the rage in Japan these days as enjoyable destinations for retirees who want to walk on the beach and play golf while enjoying a cost-of-living that’s often well below Japan’s. Malaysia is especially popular in part due to the lower costs: while a “mansion” (what they call a condominium here) can easily cost $2000 or more in a Japanese city, units can be rented for much less in Penang, and retirees can enjoy sunshine and golf all year-round.
I had a fun vacation in Malaysia.