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Dad’s guide to Malaysia: The extended version

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Dad’s guide to Malaysia: The extended version

story by: House of Travel

By HOT guest blogger: David Agnew

Gold Coast, been there, done that. Fiji, tick. Disneyland? Kids too short, US Dollar too strong. Adults must travel so where to next then? The itch to travel wasn’t going to take care of itself so where to go with one six year old and two four year olds? Was it going to be a holiday and is it ours or theirs? Lessons learned from the past told us that the best laid plans for that relaxing family getaway will collapse in a crying (and whinging) heap if the children are treated as excess baggage. So, was the answer to make it about them then? Was the reverse psychology going to work?

We knew little about Malaysia except it was where Matchbox cars were made. It was affordable, hot all year, rainy in the west from April to October and in the east during the Kiwi summer. It would be similar to Thailand without Nepalese suit salesmen pedalling tuxedos to the kids. There was much to get excited about and the kids were sold on Legoland, Sunway Lagoon in Kuala Lumpur and the unfulfilled promise of ice blocks, daily. As paying adults we had a minor say and Malaysian food held considerable appeal, surprising as it was in actuality that satay sticks weren’t on every street corner. It would become apparent mobile phone parts and reversing cameras were easier to get our hands on.

Before leaving New Zealand, we’d prepared for the worst case. We were duly warned by friends and family of the 12 hour flight like we hadn’t checked the map. We knew the shorter flights to Australia and Fiji were the logical choice for the more logical people among us and we couldn’t upgrade and leave them in economy. We cushioned our midnight flight from Auckland with a two hour stay at The Emperor Lounge and the $120 outlay was money well spent to feed and quench the family, sit in comfort but importantly, occupy the kids with cartoons. It was a heads-up play and the right way to kick off the adventure. Ultimately, there was some turbulence on the flight but nothing to do with atmospheric conditions or the Air New Zealand pilot.

To avoid constant badgering over Legoland we didn’t wait long to get there after arriving in Singapore and crossing the Malaysian border into Johor Bahru. It was very warm but the kids were rookies and charged off, demanding the life-saving park stroller within minutes. instantly upon entering, the kids were in heaven but what resonated with this former Lego architect was the detail the theme park had gone to and how the atmosphere was perfect and impeccably…Lego. The CRAGLE had been utilised everywhere. A staged scene of a Lego car crash with characters arguing in front of a Lego cameraman was unusually comforting and human.

Meanwhile, kids rode in large Lego cars, boats, planes with an interactive and physically exhausting Lego fire to put out before lunchtime. At the end of two days the adult consensus was, the park was cheerfully a ‘beginners’ theme park and served its purpose perfectly with enough thrills next door at the water park to satisfy older kids and parents. Unfortunately, the upcoming 4D Ninjago attraction was three months shy of our visit.

If Legoland was for beginners then Sunway Lagoon in Kuala Lumpur was for theme park surfers looking for the next big wave. With fierce independence, Sunway Lagoon does its own thing. All housed in a meteor crater landscape, the diversity of rides and features look like the eccentric owner was in competition with the late Michael Jackson for the best personal amusement park.      

Highlights for the kids, ironically the adventure parks weren’t the main adventure and the elementary facets of daily life in Malaysia become the experience that will hopefully live long in the children even if they don’t remember. The cultural shock of foreign toilets and their nuances may be something we block out but the simple learnings that the world talks differently, eats differently and dresses differently will hold their worldly imaginations in good stead. 

With our own fierce independence we took it a step further and self-drove our way to Kuala Lumpur as a way to see the countryside. The dual purpose was to also make a pit stop at Malacca, renowned for its history of marauders during the days of spice trading which thanks to the pioneering Portuguese, can now be found at your supermarket. While the historic and colourful Malaccan lanes and alleys could barely fit a car, the Malaysian roads were smooth, straight and safe; the right lane on the highway however, wasn’t for 1300cc Toyotas. It soon became apparent how easy and economic it was to get around KL with three kids and the car was ditched. 

By immaculate design, the last five nights on the island of Langkawi was mum and dad’s time at the resort. The kids had had their fun. A cross between Rarotonga and Thailand struck us in the first moments  as a ring road around the island passes beaches and  bays and locals’ humble houses with the tied up family  cow keeping the berm trimmed. The stares of loitering monkeys burn a hole in the car window. We wanted this exotic element for the kids who knew the animals at Auckland Zoo by first name.

Not your everyday resort, Berjaya Langkawi wanted to be different and it pulled it off. Like a courtesy fruit  basket of mango and starfruit, Macaque monkeys  welcome you to your room and look at you like you  owe them something – not ‘you may have something’  – to eat. They almost expect a percentage of your personal wealth but their sheer presence provides a point of wonderment and interest each and every day and reaffirms you are in their forest. Squirrels scuttle  along the chalet rooftops, flying lemurs or ‘Colugos’  glide from one tree to another and metre long lizards  stroll the tarmac like they’re on their way to the shops  for milk or insects.

For the kids, the memories will be etched and they already want to go back to see the monkeys. 

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