Is France more conservative than Malaysia
Hospitality in Malaysia - An unforgettable encounter in Ipoh
Ipoh is a city between Penang and the Cameron Highlands. For most tourists, the city is just an annoying transfer point where someone puts them on another bus. When it comes to sightseeing, the city doesn't have as much to offer as the Highlands, Georgetown or Melaka. But what made us visit the inconspicuous city? Now, after we were in Penang and the Cameron Highlands, we didn't want to move straight back to the next tourist stronghold, but rather settle down for a week in peace.
We read about many cozy cafés in Ipoh, and street art like Georgetown should be there too. For us the place seemed perfect to work in peace, to stroll comfortably through the city and to be able to simply switch off after the eventful days. But that we had one of the greatest experiences of our trip in Ipoh - we hadn't expected that before ...
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Of course we had booked our private accommodation again through Airbnb. Azizul, the owner of our accommodation, offered to pick us up from the bus station. Strike! With a look at our luggage, we of course gladly accepted the offer. 10 minutes after we had sent him a text message, he started driving. Azizul is 33 years old but looks at least 5 years younger.
His casual, easy-going manner was more reminiscent of someone in his mid-twenties. Like all Malays, his skin has a healthy tan, he has short hair and a round face which was partly hidden under a 3-day beard. The fact that he is interested in simple architecture and stylish design could be seen almost perfectly from his clothing style.
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Where are we? Welcome to Ipoh!
With a very warm "Welcome to Ipoh“We were greeted by him. I think everyone knows this feeling: You have never seen someone before, but with the first few words you immediately sympathize with each other within a few seconds. While you could only talk to some people "tense", with other people the words and laughter flowed from the lips. It was the same with Azizul. And so it didn't even take half a car ride before he asked us if we would like to stop by his café later. We could also get to know his wife, who would come back that day after working in Saudi Arabia.
Of course, Bolle and I didn't have to be convinced for long. On the contrary. After he told us about the homemade waffles, pancakes and the countless types of coffee, it couldn't go fast enough for the sweet tooth of both of us. We agreed to meet in the evening. He was still busy and we still had to catch up on an hour or two of sleep.
Later in the café we were welcomed very nicely by his team. We treated ourselves to waffles, tea, coffee ... The table was full to the brim with goodies! Unfortunately, Azizul himself had a lot on his mind (as it turns out he always does), but we still enjoyed the time in his café. All the drinks weren't listed on our bill. We were only charged a few ridiculous rupees for the waffles.
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Any attempt to be able to pay for the drinks was refused with thanks. If you know the feeling of sympathy described above, you probably also know this “powerlessness” of not being able to do anything except politely say “thank you”. We had drunk a lot, experienced great hospitality and now we should just say thank you and leave? For me personally it was a totally unsatisfactory feeling.
However, on our journey we learned to accept this feeling. For some people, hospitality is actually something that we take for granted, it fills them with joy. We have met the kindest and most honest people in Malaysia. At first we couldn't believe it. “Are they really that nice here? Or do they just want to sell us something after all? ”No! They were always sincere, helpful and just genuine!
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A little story on the side
On Chinese New Year we were outside in our garden and chatted a bit. Suddenly someone set off countless bangers on our street. Of course we went to the street to see what was going on there. Our neighbors celebrated the Chinese New Year with their children. We wished you all the best through the fence and sat down in the back again. After a few minutes we heard someone pushing the entrance gate to our house - the neighbor family came by!
They actually brought us a couple of beverage cans and nuts and wanted us to take part in their party! The man introduced us to his wife and his two children, asked us beforehand we were coming and what else we had planned. It was really a very nice conversation, the children were totally shy but really cute! After a few minutes the family said goodbye and wished us a good time. Bolle and I just looked at each other incredibly ... How cool was that !? What an incredibly nice gesture!
Eating together with the family
The hospitality should go even further. When Azizul brought us delicious waffles one evening, he asked us if we would like to accompany him and his wife to dinner with his parents. Please what? Has he just invited us to his parents' house? We thought it was great, of course, and didn't hesitate long to accept our offer. When do you have the opportunity to come into contact with locals like that? We were of course very happy about this invitation! The closer the day got, the more nervous and insecure came to the fore.
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Like the majority (60%) of the Malaysian population, Azizul’s family is Muslim. Of course we both knew something about this religion and culture, but we were still afraid to step into one of the countless faux pas. I mean, generally speaking, who knows ALL the rules and customs of another religion? If you feel addressed now, you are welcome to stretch your hand up! ... You see, nobody, I thought so :)!
We couldn't even judge how his family thought of us. We weren't married but slept in one bed. Bolle did not wear a headscarf and had a lip piercing. Are these absolute taboos or is everything not so wild? How conservative are his parents? These thoughts may sound completely exaggerated, but when you're really in this situation, they just run through your head. Fortunately, in the end, Bolle and I are not people who rack our brains forever. "Oh, just wait and see and drink tea, everything will be half as wild" is our motto quite often.
When the day came we were really excited. We just didn't know what to expect. Together with his wife, Azizul picked us up at our house. On the way he got us some “chakoi” (a kind of churros) and coffee. And again we had no choice but to say thank you politely. In the car we asked him how we could best greet his family. He and his wife had a lot of fun, of course, when Bolle and I tried to use the Arabic-Islamic greeting "As-Salamu alikum“Saying fluently without stuttering and breaking your tongue. Gorgeous!
After 90 minutes of driving, we stopped at a large wooden house. Along with a handful of other wooden houses, it stood secluded on the edge of the beach. His mother, his wife's mother and his wife's sister, whom we had already met in the café, were already waiting for us at the entrance. Can you imagine how nervous we were? But we weren't even anymore. The warm welcome without big words swept away any nervousness immediately!Fortunately, a smile means the same in every country!
After a short chat in the seating area, we went to the set dining table. There were easily 10 plates full of (partly unknown) delicacies on the table. Rice, fish, meat in different variations, salad, sauces, ... There was actually nothing that wasn't there. The table was only set for 5 people. When asked whether the others don't want to eat, Azizul replied with “No, they cooked everything for us. They are also quite shy and prefer to leave us alone ”. It's a real shame!
Other countries other manners
Bolle and I watched curiously as Azizul, his wife and his sister-in-law filled their plates. Well, it wasn't that different from ours - except for the teapot. We didn't immediately understand why they washed their fingers with tea? When it was our turn we laughed. It was just normal water. "Served" in a teapot, with a saucer for the water we used, in which we actually assumed the candle to keep the tea warm.
The explanation of why we had to laugh naturally made them laugh a lot. But yeah, how should we know that? The food was really delicious! Despite “no spicy” sometimes spicy (anyone who is on the road in Asia knows that!), But luckily it was limited. Only eating with your fingers took some getting used to. You always eat with your right hand (important! The left hand is considered to be unclean), but you scoop up with your left hand. Apparently it was fun to watch as I tried to get some more meat from the fish with my totally untalented left hand.
The right hand wanted to help, but thanks to the sauce it was completely breaded with rice! In the end it was worth an experience! For more practice, maybe next time I should eat my padthai with my fingers. And so that you know how it is, you are welcome to cook deliciously and leave the cutlery in the drawer. When it comes to lasagne, spaghetti Bolognese or roast beef, you will know what I mean, "takes getting used to".
Hospitality at the highest level
Together with Azizul and his wife we made ourselves comfortable in the sitting area, talked about life here, the school system and the family. We hadn't even finished chewing when we were handed coffee and cake. Oh, the family was just so great! Then we watched a program on TV about some famous cat from Malaysia. So we were all sitting on the living room floor right in front of the TV.
To this day we have not understood why this cat was and is so famous. But it was fun and just another cool, crazy situation. At the end we took another photo and thanked everyone for these great hours. We were absolutely delighted with the food, the stories that were told and the traditions that were explained to us.
Our stay in Ipoh was an absolute enrichment. In no other country have we experienced so much warmth and hospitality as in Malaysia. We are totally grateful for these moments and wish that it would be the same everywhere. But again this feeling remains. Just the unsatisfactory feeling of being able to say thank you very much. We invited Azizul to Berlin, maybe we can give something back to him and his family. Because hospitality is so simple and yet worth so much!
Azizul "rated" us as guests on Airbnb with the following words:
“The German Couple. Had a great experience with them. Really enjoyed our little city. Keep the property in excellent condition. See you guys in Berlin! ”
Such an exchange with people from different countries is the most exciting thing about traveling. You get an insight into everyday life and the culture of the locals. These experiences are priceless and simply unique. We are all the same after all and just because someone wears a headscarf, eats with their hands or goes to pray several times a day does not mean they are DIFFERENT. Yes we are all the same! We differ in our cultures, but at the core we are all human. People who only want the best for themselves and their families. We are all people who think, feel, hope, love, be happy, laugh or cry!
Book tours in Ipoh
Fancy a cool tour in Malaysia? Then it's best to browse through the offers from Get your Guide. Here you will find a good selection of different offers.
Would you like to find out more about the country and its people? Then take a look at Dumont's travel guide. Here you get all information about Malaysia on 432 pages. We also have a summary of some of the best travel novels at the moment.
We hope you enjoyed this story from Ipoh, Malaysia. On our Malaysia page you will find many more articles, information and highlights. Check out our post about the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur, take a look at our Penang Island Guide or browse through our best Kuala Lumpur highlights.
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