As the Malaysia airlines flight descended into Kuala Lumpur International Airport at sunrise, all that was visible through the naked eye was a large carpet of greenery. The entire expanse of the descent was covered by majestic and plush palm trees, their large branches swaying to the music of the wind. Just looking below gave me a sense of serenity, a feeling of peace and tranquility, a belief that it was a good decision to move here. It is no wonder that the Global Peace Index crowned it the most peaceful country in South-East Asia, with it now advancing towards entering the top ten most peaceful countries of the world; I have no doubt it would achieve this target soon.
My first encounter with Malaysia was aboard the Malaysia Airline flight. Much to my comfort, there was ample leg room (even my husband did not complain like he usually does about lack of space due to his height), pleasant odor filled the cabins, the seats were clean with their covers bright and cheery (each seat had a different color blue, orange, pink and green) and their staff was courteous yet firm. It was an example of how disciplined Malaysians are (something I saw in the days to come, as to my surprise people actually stood in queue while waiting for trains rather than pushing people to get aboard, something which is not visible in even the most popular train or metro stations), as their staff were politely firm with passengers who were not adhering to the routine orders before landing. With a smile on their face, they did their job right; no arguments, no hard feelings.
Having my own food blog and sharing recipes has invoked a sense of food critique in me, hence I could not spare the airline food either. Twenty minutes after we took off, dinner was served. The choice was between lamb biryani and grilled chicken with vegetables. As it is discouraged from eating red meat on the plane due to its long digestion period, I would have opted for the chicken. Alas, that was not to be; I could hear the steward telling people that the chicken was finished. Hence it was lamb biryani for me. The tray consisted of raw salad, lamb biryani, berry strudel and a dinner roll. Saving myself from getting an upset stomach, I avoided the salad and started with some bread and butter, no problems there. Next was the lamb biryani, it looked good with saffron colored rice, sprinkled with fried onions and a side of curried carrots. The rice was flavorful as were the carrots, but as I delved deep into the foil bowl, I found the thick chunks of lamb. One bite and my palate exploded, there was way too much curry powder. It was not spicy (I would not have had a problem with that) but too heavy on the masalas, it was a sure shot way to get indigestion. After my sad experience with the main course, I was looking forward to my dessert, which looked like a strudel with a thin layer of custard. Seemed as if it were not my day, food wise, the strudel was hard and the berry jam had a very synthetic taste to it. So my only friend on the flight was the dinner roll and butter. It may have disappointed my palate, but it could not dim my hopes for the food I was going to eat in Malaysia. The excitement continued.
Eagerly anticipating Kuala Lumpur International Airport, one of the best in the world, I was in awe. It seemed to me like the country itself, the airport was in two parts as well, connected by a train that took us from the Satellite Building to the Main Terminal. The large signs that dotted the entire stretch made it very easy to navigate for the first timers. Met by University of Nottingham representatives at the airport, we made our first steps towards a new beginning.
Mountains covered with trees and the plains bejeweled with large palms ran side by side as we made our way to our new home in Semenyih. Selamat Datang; a phrase we were greeted by through most signboards. We found the same hospitality in our landlord, Mr. Tazari, who welcomed us, showed us around the place and then drove us to Tesco for our bulky shopping. Tesco was my playground, while my husband shopped around for household items, I scanned every food aisle, picking up Tom Yum paste, hoisin sauce, five spice powder and other South Asian specialties along with the basics. After dropping off our shopping, Mr. Tazari was kind enough to show us around campus.
The sprawling campus of University of Nottingham in Malaysia is breathtaking. The majestic buildings can be differentiated by their color theme and the fountains marking the center of the campus are sensational at night. As far as the eye could see, mountains and greenery were visible. The restaurant at campus lets you soak in the atmosphere, wooden ambiance, open air and gorgeous views of the palms. Eat, drink and be close to nature, what else could one ask for?
It is a new journey, a fresh chapter and the destination is called Malaysia, multi-racial and multi-cultural. Its a fine mix of east meets west. Excelling at hospitality, gastronomy, culture and daily life; it is an adventure I would want to savor every moment of.