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Malaysia

Through the smog, gently: Postcard from Malaysia

Kaushik Basu's picture

PREAMBLE

My travels in Malaysia begin at the distant eastern edge of the country, in Sabah's capital, Kota Kinabalu, the strange name a reminder of the distance I have traveled from home. Meeting local folks, regional politicians, and masters of local arts and crafts, it quickly becomes evident that this ancient island, Borneo, symbolizes all the mysteries and romance of human movement through history. The people who seem settled here forever arrived one day after traveling great distances, braving the wilds and the seas. They were then the modern people who had come to an ancient land. They would soon be absorbed and become the natives in the eyes of the next wave of arrival and modern-day visitors like us.

Frederico, Vivian, Kup (a senior officer of the Ministry of Finance) and I are received at the airport at Kota Kinabalu by a charming young woman, Intan. She is tall and has a head-scarf carefully draped around her head covering her hair. Intan explains she is part Arab, part Chinese, and part Bajau, an ancient tribal people. She smiles and adds that she considers herself Bajau.