My family has always consisted of mainly, architects. From my grandfather to my uncle to my dad, right down to my brother. Thus, I have always had such a rich lineage of architectural juices running through my veins, which has taught me how to appreciate everything around me more. A building is never just a building. A place is never just a place.
On the drive to Yan, Kedah, my dad kept telling us that his friend was the one who designed the place we were going to. That we would love it. He looked into the rearview mirror right at me and said, “You’ll love it especially, Mistika”.
So we drove past one paddy field after another, the day was beginning to end, but the sun was still etched upon the sky as if to say, “Keep the adventure alive, guys”. Finally, we made it onto a tiny road with just barely enough room for our car to squeeze through. It would have been easily missed if one is not paying attention (Read: we missed it three times), but the sign at the turning reads, “Zamani’s Place”. It was painted in small letterings on a wooden board. When we finally arrived, it is at first similarly to driving into an ordinary home. Yet, I soon start to notice the white beaches surrounded by azure seas and the majestic peak of mountains waving to us. The vast and almost endless fields overlooking the Straits of Malacca. All this surrounding where we were. For a city girl, it was pretty amazing.
Even though Yan is such a small town, there was a myriad of things for us to do. For instance, hiking up Gunung Jerai (the second highest peak of Kedah) where we huffed and puffed, but made it up to the panoramic view of everything beneath us. Visiting museums at the top of a mountain, you know, where museums are usually located. Going to waterfalls where the water flowed so clearly it made me wonder how things could be so easy. We also got to feast on Malaysia’s best tropical fruits, such as rambutan, durian and mangosteen picked straight from the kampung’s trees.
Not only that, but the experience was enhanced when all the guests living at Zamani’s Place got together to socialise. We shared stories and laughter. We talked to writers from the UK who told us that if they ever get writer’s block, they were going to come right back to Yan because it inspired them to be more. We talked to retired lawyers, who cracked me up by telling me yo mama jokes throughout the whole weekend. We met backpackers who just happened to stumble upon the resort and sat down with us to talk about their journey. I felt like I was travelling to all these different places, when, in fact, I was just sitting there. I have never been so comfortable being around so many different types of personalities and with people older than I was. Maybe it was the scenery that put everyone’s hearts at ease or maybe it was the durian, but somehow it just felt right.
I always feel that people in Malaysia are always so eager to travel overseas when they have not seen how blue our seas can be. So eager to see higher mountains, when they have not seen that our mountains reach for the skies. After all, everything is always greener on the other side. Well, I say the grass is pretty darn green here too.
My father told me once to never look at a place just as it was but to take everything around it and put it together the way I saw it. I never knew what he meant. Now, I think I do. A place is never just a place, It never is, is it?