Many people have recently found their travel plans disrupted with the movement control order in full effect in the country to contain the Covid-19 pandemic. Even the Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign has been cancelled.
We don’t know for how long more this pandemic is going to last, which is bad news for travel lovers.
Travel plans in Malaysia are a no go right now. Instead try the next best thing: discover new places through the magic of reading.
Here are eight books to prepare you for a literary road trip through beautiful Malaysia:
This hefty book, which is packed with deeply atmospheric visuals, explores the history and stories of 20 streets in Melaka.
These include old world Melaka favourites such as Jonker Street, Heeren Street, Tranquerah Road, Kampung Kuli, Kampung Pantai Road, Bridge Street, Java Lane, Bunga Raya Road and Newcome Road. The authors have opted to use old street names, and if you have visited Melaka, you will know that most of these places are within walking distance of each other.
The great thing about this book is it lets your mind wander to these magical streets, allowing you to imagine the shortcuts and back alleys between streets.
A combination of history book, geographical index, map and tourist guide, Malacca: Voices From The Street also contains many gritty and haunting anecdotes from the residents of these streets, collected by the authors in the course of their research.
Sharon Cheah, a local journalist, decided to visit every state in Malaysia to get to know her homeland better.
The result is this book, which contains many travel essays spanning history, culture, religion, environment, food, myth and archaeology.
Cheah’s many adventures are told in loving fashion, including her experiences falling off Mount Murud, the tallest mountain in Sarawak, and sailing down Negri Sembilan’s Linggi River in search of crocodiles.
Author/illustrator Mimi Mashud takes a trip through her mother’s hometown on the East Coast, and this book is a visual journey of her wandering and discovering ways.
On her way, she discovers Kuala Terengganu’s artistic heritage, the state’s rich history of culture and craft, the unique Terengganu dialect and local food. The narrative is spiced up with the author’s personal anecdotes.
This is also the second travelogue-comic from freelance illustrator Mimi, her first being Beijing In 5 Days. This is as close as it gets to a unique Malaysian graphic novel on travel.
The late author Rehman Rashid pays loving tribute to Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB), a small town he loved, lived and cycled in.
The book, however, is not just the story of this quaint town, but also the story of the state of Selangor as well as this nation.
Throughout this short read (at 63 pages), you can almost picture Rehman sharing a “kopitiam chit chat” with readers as he deftly weaves history, politics, culture and nostalgic stories of the people in KKB.
Many of the stories of Penang come from its island. But what of the mainland? The books tells of the story of Penang’s lesser-known mainland through its people.
The country’s history is mirrored in Seberang Perai’s development – from its 19th century rubber and tin transport hubs such as Butterworth and Bukit Mertajam to industrial estates built in the 1970s to draw foreign investment such as Perai to a spanking new township built on former plantation land in Batu Kawan.
The small stories are also fascinating. Meet, for example, a craftsman of rattan birdcages in Kepala Batas, or pay a visit to the long-serving barbers of Sungai Bakap. Or go discover traditional old towns such as Butterworth, Bukit Mertajam and Nibong Tebal.
While the book’s subtitle says it’s the journal of a ‘blind’ hiker, author Aziff is not visually impaired. Rather, he got the name because he and his friends would travel to places blindly!
This is a collection of his impressions of the undiscovered side of Malaysia. Among his stories are his encounters in the caves of Gua Tempurung, his meeting with the shipbuilders of Pulau Duying, Terengganu, and a trip to the Siti Khadijah Market in Kelantan.
If you want the spontaneous side of local travel, this might be a smart place to start.
If you’re into train rides and oral histories, this wonderful book is a treat! Postcards From The South tells the tale of Malaysia’s historic southern line, a railway network first started in 1869 and still in use today.
For more than a century, these railway lines were a mainstay in the lives of Malaysians, a romantic symbol of travel to small town destinations (Gemas, Chamek, Segamat, anybody?) in Johor, and of power, industry and modernisation.
The inclusive-nature of this book – with scripts in Tamil, Chinese, Bahasa Malaysia and English – lends a street level feel to many of the places and people found along the train stops that lead to Singapore.
When author Lam Ching Fu (aka Fufu) returned to Malaysia after living abroad for 10 years, he realised he had never seen the whole of his home country.
He took a journey by rickety old buses to Malaysia’s small towns, spending two months visiting tiny towns in Perak, Penang, Perlis and Kedah.
His book contains 35 stories about his amusing experiences, as well as illustrations and maps. Not to forget a stack of bus tickets.
Among the places he visited were Bidor, Kuala Rui, Pantai Acheh, Beruas, Bukit Keteri and Gertak Sanggul. You can almost feel the bumps on the narrow kampung roads as this easy-to-read book unfolds.
Lam is working on a second book about nature on the East Coast next.