Hibiscus. National flower, Malaysia
Yes, today I’m off to Malaysia Lah – and, as I said in my book – Naked in Budapest: travels with a passionate nomad,– it’s my favourite Asian country!
So why “lah” and why “favourite”?
To lah or not to lah that is the question. Many Malaysians add this ‘non-word’ to sentences, peppering it around , flavouring their words just as you do with the spice.
For explanations of all the meanings attributed to the word see here.
Some include these
Coaxing: Come on, lah; don’t be like that-lah; please-lah
Forceful: Shut up-lah! Get out-lah!
Fed up: Enough-lah!
Definite: Of course-lah; sure-lah
We Kiwi also add a sort of non-word to many sentences – ours is ‘eh’ – pronounced ‘ay’, like the letter ‘a’ and it’s used to tag question or emphasise a statement – not nearly as versatile as the Malaysian Lah!
However, my parents, clear-speaking Christchurch folk, were horrified when their North Island born grandchildren moved south with the casual ‘eh’ added to their comments and queries alike – they considered it very ‘lower-class’. It was ‘regional’ but it has slowly moved to the South Island but it’s still not so common there – and many people throughout NZ still consider it a sign of a lack of education and or money.
And, now, why ‘favourite country’? Well, my first visit to Asia, and Malaysia was in the late-90s, landing in Singapore, on my way to Thailand where I was keen to see the gold temples and Buddha’s. Malaysia was really just a two-week route north. I thought it would be ‘just another colonised country’ and gosh was I wrong!
As a Kiwi (New Zealander)I got a 3-month visa as I crossed the border, bused to Malacca and promptly fell in love with the country, the food and the people: Think Assam Pedas a spicy-sour fish for breakfast, sweet-corn ice-cream, great sights, history, friendly people of different ethnicities and religions, and of course their “Open Homes”.
These open homes are a truly Malaysian way of celebrating all festivals or celebrations including religious and ancient events, when everyone is invited to someone’s home for a great meal. Staying in Malacca for ten days meant I was there for the Hari Raya celebrations (end of Ramadan) and much to my surprise was welcomed into the home of the Deputy Health Minister.
I tell much more about my time in Malaysia in my book, but to finish this blog, I can tell you I finally had to make a rush to the Malay-Thai border on the last day of that 3-month visa, hating leaving, and knowing I would return.
I’ve been back a couple of times but this is my first visit to East Malaysia (Sarawak & Sabah on Borneo) and for the next 2 months I’m looking forward to seeing both the differences and what’s similar – follow my adventures here and on social media.
Heather Hapeta: the kiwi travel writer
See here for my social media links – so you can choose how to follow my travels, the food, the creatures, and the nature of this tropical island 🙂