‘Mat Dan’ calls Terengganu his home

Mat Dan welcoming guests at the Ombak Kapas resort in Kapas Island. — Zabidi Tusin/The Star

Mat Dan welcoming guests at the Ombak Kapas resort in Kapas Island. — Zabidi Tusin/The Star

KUALA TERENGGANU: Englishman Daniel Tyler used his gap year after his A-Levels to travel to Terengganu nine years ago. He never left.

Terengganu’s beautiful islands captured his heart and led him to bigger opportunities. Now, the Bristol boy speaks the local dialect fluently and continues to be enamoured by the east coast state’s people, culture and food.

“I’m more comfortable speaking in Malay now than in English,” the 29-year-old travelogue host said in fluent Malay with just a smidgen of what is left of his English accent.

Tyler, who goes by the moniker Mat Dan (or Mat Dang, as it is pronounced locally), was in the news recently when Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi publicly announced Tyler’s permanent residency status.

The approval took into account his contributions in promoting Terengganu.

Tyler first caught Malaysians’ attention when he appeared in a viral video a few years ago speaking the Terengganu dialect.

Looking back, Tyler said Terengganu was never on his original itinerary.

“A friend and I plotted Cambodia, Vietman, Thailand, Singapore and Australia on our travel maps in 2009. We had never heard about Malaysia,” he said.

But fate was that they had a little time to spare after their sojourn in Bangkok.

Someone had told them about Pulau Perhentian in Terengganu so they headed for the island, where they planned to spend only four days. It stretched to 10 days.

Next, they set off for Pulau Kapas and hung around for two weeks, although they planned a short trip.

After his friend returned to Britain to pursue his studies, Tyler remained on the island.

He became a volunteer at a chalet, manning the reception desk and cleaning rooms for about four months to earn his keep before continuing on the next leg of his journey.

He returned to the island in 2010 and knew then that he wanted to build a life there.

“I started learning the dialect and developing a taste for local dishes such as nasi dagang, keropok lekor, kayu keramat and budu,” he said.

He got along well with the local folk and last year married Tereng­ganu native Nadifa Adnan. He embraced Islam in 2013 and took up the name Kareef Daniel Abdullah.

Tyler’s love of Terengganu has made him somewhat of an unofficial state ambassador as he willingly shares with others the beautiful sights, culture and hospitality.

“I do this sebab saya suka (because I like it) and the culture and hospitality you find here is unlike anywhere else in the world,” he said.

On being accepted as a permanent resident, Tyler said: “I feel indebted to Terengganu.”

Although he now spends most of his time in Kuala Lumpur for work commitments, Terengganu remains in his heart and he makes it a point to return every two months with his wife.

“I started my journey searching for something and I seem to have finally found it,” he said.