Arriving in a foreign country can be somewhat of daunting experience as one is often confronted by a culture, way of life and language that is very foreign and different than one is accustomed to. To many travelers, including yours truly, our attitude about a new destination is often shaped by the first several encounters we have with some of the native people.
Case in point - I arrived in Malaysia with no real advance preparation for my visit, other than planning my itinerary and booking my hotels for the duration of my 13-day stay. I admit that I really didn’t know much Malaysia other than it was a Islamic State and former British crown colony in addition to being considerably more tropical and biodiverse than Thailand, Malaysia’s well-known neighbor to the north. I was also familiar with the story of the legendary Jim Thompson, a legend of sorts in Thailand and former WW2 pilot, who mysteriously disappeared in Malaysia’s Cameron highlands in 1967.
Getting back to my story - shortly after landing in KLIA, the international airport located just outside of Kuala Lumpur, I proceeded to the currency exchange booth to change some monies. The gentleman who worked behind the counter, Mr. Kamarozaman B Abdul Rahim, was tremendously helpful and informative about the ins and outs of currency exchange. At the airport he explained, there is a small service fee of $4.00USD for cashing traveler’s checks up to $500, however at any of the currency exchange outlets in town, the rate of exchange would be more or less the same, but there would be no service fee. I went ahead and cashed $300USD in travelers checks anyhow (the rate of exchange being 3.55RM for 1.00USD). He volunteered this information freely without me having to extract it from him. I commended the young man for being so honest and forthright. Thanks to this goodwill ambassador, my initial impression about Malaysia was a good one - he definitely made this traveler feel at ease.
Next up is a story about Eddie, the best airport taxi driver in Kuala Lumpur and another fine ambassador for Malaysia.