Envoy’s fond memories of Malaysia

Here’s to good times: Hay (left) receiving a gift from Amarjeet during his farewell party at the Royal Selangor Club in Kuala Lumpur. – IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: His stint in Malaysia is coming to a close, but British High Commissioner Char-les Hay seems to keep a “food war” going within Malaysia.

“It’s just so interesting. If you get a group of Malaysians together and ask them what’s the best laksa, you will have a really heated argument,” he said.

“They will go into absolute details about it!”

Hay made his love for laksa Sarawak known, when asked about his favourite local food.

“I have absolutely no idea how they make it, but I know it is the most delicious laksa I’ve ever had,” he said.

To him, it was indeed “the breakfast of the Gods” as descri-bed by the late celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain.

On a more serious note, he reflected on the two things that would remain in his mind about Malaysia – its friendly people and diverse natural landscapes.

Hay, who had never set foot in Malaysia before his appointment as envoy, was happy to discover the warm hospitality of Malay-sians and the beauty of the country’s nature, leaving him with cherished memories to bring back to the United Kingdom.

Having served as Britain’s top diplomat in Malaysia for the past four years, he will be returning home next month.

Recalling his first encounter with the locals during a homestay in Johor Baru in January 2019, Hay spoke fondly of the hospitality, rich culture and delicious Malaysian food.

“I spent a month in Johor Baru, staying with a family where I learned Malay. They took me into their home, so I got to experience the food, culture and hospitality. It was a wonderful time,” he recalled in an interview.

Hay said his fascination with Malaysia extended beyond its people. Malaysia, he said, was one of the world’s most megadiverse countries, boasting incredible forests and diverse animal life.

“There are amazing forests and animal life.

“I’m fortunate enough to be able to travel around and see some of that in the peninsula and in Sabah and Sarawak,” he added.

Reflecting on the challenging times brought about by the pandemic, Hay commended Malay-sia’s handling of the situation.

Despite strict lockdown measures, he was impressed by the country’s ability to manage the crisis while the people maintained a sense of openness and friendliness.

“The lockdown was quite strict but I think as we look back, we can see that it had enormous beneficial effects.

“And the people remained kind, open and friendly throughout that period, which I thought was very impressive,” he recalled.

To honour his service, the Malaysian-British Society (MBS) organised a farewell party for Hay on Monday night, recognising his contributions to strengthening bilateral relationships during his tenure.

MBS president Amarjeet Singh Ghai praised Hay for his exceptional work and his ability to build strong relationships des-pite the challenging circumstances that he faced upon his arrival.

“He’s done a very good job and has added a lot of value and changes (to the bilateral relationship).

“He came in during a difficult time but managed it well and was able to build up better relationships,” he said when met at the Royal Selangor Club where the event was held.

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