It all started in September with an email by a colleague that was sharing a Call for Papers for an interdisciplinary Research Conference set at Lungkawi (one of the 99 beautiful Islands) that constituted Malaysia. A quick search at Google introduced Lungkawi as one of the most sought after tourist resorts and Malaysia as the center of visitors’ attraction in Asia, were reasons enough to tickle my tourist’s bones and I decided to go for the experience – hoping it would turn into an exciting excursion and enlightening experience.
Just contrary to Paulo’s philosophy the whole world conspired against my trip to Malaysia but seeing my determination gave up and I happened to meet the ELLTA Organizing Group_ a diverse bunch of interestingly dynamic individuals from various walks of life that have one identical feature— the passion for visiting new places, exploring novel cultures and sharing ideas to get to know the unknown.
Babur Sahib – the key spirit behind ELLTA (Exploring Leadership & Learning Theories in Asia) is a lively big man with lively smile and enthusiasm which made everyone feel a part of the ELLTA Family in the first interaction. It was a group of eight people including myself, Lively Babur Sahib, Motherly Uneza with her teenage, promising son Raamish and Roshni – brain of the conference with her little loveable niece, Darshwana. Like myself, Kashif from Liaquat University and Adeel, a young chinese face and angel-hearted lad from a private firm were the conference delegates who decided to travel in group for participation in the conference and during the journey became key members of the ELLTA Team.
We all embarked on a Sri-Lankan Airline plane a sunny afternoon. It was Dec 7 when the flight departed from Quaid-e-Azam airport in Karachi to our destination, Malaysia. It was the longest journey of my life till date that lasted for around 30 hours without a stay and included commutation by all possible means of transportation in the modern world. At our first stop, we reached the impressive Sri-Lankan airport where we were warmly welcomed by sultry looking Lankans hostesses wearing lungi style sarees in vibrant colors, strange script that had resemblance with Hindi and a Big Beautiful Buddha Statue in Yellow & Orange at the center of the airport lounge.
After going through the stringent checking process at Sri-Lanka airport where almost all passengers were almost stripped off. Finally, we were able to stretch our legs and check our emails by the night as we waited to catch our transit flight. Though we all had a typical vegetarian flight meal, all of us suddenly felt starving and rushed to the airport’s restaurant for some snacks and shakes. The shared eating time turned into ann interesting reflection session when Babur Sahib made us all think & reflect on “what we value most in life and why?” Most group members mentioned their family, friends, relations, work, satisfaction and cherishing the moment in present in response. We resumed ou journey after three hours as we boarded on a smaller aircraft – this time to reach KualaLampur. It was mid night and the whole day traveling led most of us to sleep or at least tried to sleep during the rest of the journey.
When the Lankan Steward announced our arrival at the KL airport with Selamat Datang Ke Malaysia , it was already morning. By the time we came out from the airport, it was sunny Saturday morning and a large number of Malaysians could be seen at eating out centers and markets in leisurely mood to have their brunch. We also opted for spiced boiled eggs, salads, peanuts, cakes & Malaysian Ice-tea to refresh ourselves at one such open-air eating out on the roadside. Our driver was an Indian–descent Malaysian with clear accent but rude demeanour. He refused to stop by anywhere except at a fruit market to let us buy some boiled peanuts, rambutans and other eatables in hurry. He rushed us to the Jetty from where we had to catch a ferry to reach Lungkawi.
Throughout our road journey, the breathtaking sight scenery and landscapes kept enticing us to hold the camera and peep through the windows of fast-moving coaster despite the hot, humid weather outside even in December.
We later learnt that Malaysia has only two seasons; Summers & Rains which somehow lowered the temperature but rainy winter season had already passed and rainy summers greeted us where ever we went. I covered the entire route half-awaken, half slept like most other fellow travelers and ultimately reached the jetty at Kuala by the evening. The place was dirty, crowded and smelly, washroom had no water except a water bucket outside and the Ferry we sailed through was much smaller and modest than the yacht we imagined with inside seating arrangements, more like a submarine or a local coach.
But the best part of the Ferry-ride was the realization that most Malaysian families have kids resembled my children left back at home. Then the stored chick peas with raisins turned the journey tasteful with serene ocean sights visible through the glass windows of the upper floor we discovered and enjoyed during the ride. Finally, we hit the land again by late evening. Collecting our luggage and moving trolleys was a sheer fun this time, considering the fact that we had almost reached Lungkawi… all intact with our luggage which was almost lost while an angry porter at the Kuala Jetty took it away to throw into the Malaysian sea as a reaction to the heated dispute regarding compensation.
Our host, a humble man in his 50s, accompanied by his wife was present at the jetty to pick us all, and in a convoy consisted of a car and a rented coaster, we moved to our home stay at Lungkawi. By the time we reached there, it was already 11 at night and almost all the city went to sleep except our hosts and a few neighborhood shops from where we purchased a sim to call back to our families in Pakistan.
It was a modest home at a walking distance from the city airport with small washroom, bigger kitchen, a lounge, and three bedrooms. We found the place better than any five-star hotel after more than a day-long journey and hit the comfy beds after shower and a quick meal of fruits and packed Pakistani cuisine.