|Story and Photos by Kultida Samabuddhi
It wasn't easy to take in the view from
air-conditioned buses or lay back in hotels day after program-filled day without asking
how familiar to these places such a trip makes the traveler. It was also hard to hear
about efforts to recruit more young Malaysians into the tourist business because there's
so much to learn, from the correct way to hand guests their hotel-room keys to the art of
making the bed or the perfect smile and heart-breaking politeness with which to exhibit
while asking for permission to take away a dinner plate. The Malaysian government's every
policy was designed "to promote tourism which is the third
highest income bringing business in the country," they say, so much so that
authorities seemed deaf to the negative side of tourism which "produces
a slave-like attitude among employees that leaves no room for cultural pride and
|| The simple reason for promoting this "South to Malaysia-Langkawi-Genting-Singapore" route is
because a group of tour owners "wanted to focus on this
market." It's been slack in the past two years, since the economic crisis.
Destinations are close enough to suit tighter budgets but far enough to make tourists feel
they have "traveled."
So, five days and four nights have been packaged into a requisite
tourist program where success revolved around money and ability to "sell."
In Langkawi, the legend island of Malaysia, we heard its myths spun out like instant
noodles that were unpacked, added with boiled water, and ready to serve in a wink.
|| The "lean-out-and-look
tour" of Kuala Lumpur would have been less interesting if there hadnt been
news about demonstrations calling for investigation of the poisoning of Anwar Ibrahim.
Seeing the cloth sign saying "Justice for All" on a
hotel front was as exciting as learning from the guide about the old court building where
that trial is being held. Hours on the bus would have been boring without the political
flags coloring the streets indicating the approaching government dissolution ammouncement.
But many many tourists are content enough to be familiar with only shopping malls and
bargain prices of the respective places they visit. Thus the demand, and hence the supply
that has prompted a local guide to remark "being on this kind
of tour you probably gain nothing much."