From Pho to Satay

A story of how I found happiness in Malaysia

By / 15 July 2021


Travel Pokok.Asia
I enjoy reading as a way to unwind

Inhaling the hot and humid Malaysian air of April 2019, hearing vehicles on the street honking every 5 minutes, and feeling the warmth of not only the local weather, but the smiles I saw around me, made me incredibly happy. At that time, I was still residing in Korea, but on the basis of always choosing happiness, I decided to put a big full stop to my chapter in Seoul, Korea. 

So I packed my bag, moved to Kuala Lumpur, and never looked back. 

Delicious…deliciouss…sssedap!!! Sedap – That was the first word I learned when I arrived in Malaysia. When exactly you asked? Right on the day, my plane landed in this beautiful country I now call home. Roaming around Cheras after a long flight, all I could think of was food. 

You know how zombies walk around asking for brains? I walked around the unknown street of Cheras, seeing unfamiliar faces, in a foreign country,  dragging my feet around looking for scrumptious local food!

While on a hunt for something to satisfy the grumbling creature in my tummy, my instinct instructed me to make a stop at a small restaurant and ordered Satay and Rojak. Not knowing how it’d taste, I gambled. After all, that’s what life is all about right? 

Travel Pokok.Asia
Na at Dataran Merdeka

Anyway, it was worth it. It was too good for me that I kept saying “delicious” to the owner of the restaurant. And he asked me “sedap?” and then I instantly understood that sedap means delicious. Until now, Satay and Rojak are still my favourite foods in Malaysia.

From my first encounter with Satay and Rojak, everything just went uphill. Well, of course, there were certainly hiccups here and there but that’s a story for another time. Perhaps Satay and Rojak were my lucky charms? And still, are? I’m not sure, never really think about it but I’d like to believe so because without exaggerating too much of my experience thus far, I’ve been quite lucky. 

Let me explain myself.

I’ve lived in some of the busiest places like Seoul and Singapore. Oh, you know, where everyone seems to always rush from one destination to another and where you get to see people walking with their heads down like zombies because they’re always working on that small and portable device we know as smartphones. No, I don’t have anything against zombies but you get what I’m saying. 

Simply put, I didn’t enjoy it. As a matter of fact, most of the time I felt stressed, rushed, and easily triggered. 

When I first visited Malaysia, I knew I’d find genuine happiness in this country. I later realized that I have become more enthusiastic, and believe it or not, even more energetic. Today, as I think about the moment I decided to move, I couldn’t help but feel blissfulness flowing through my veins. 

Had I not made this shift in my life, I wouldn’t be able to meet some of the most talented legendary personalities. Through them, I realized that there are a lot of things I have to learn, and the things I’ve learned so far have taught me to be more humble and calm. 

In my honest and most humble opinion, Malaysia is the ideal place for you to learn new things and develop as a human being. Sure, Alicia Keys may tell you that New York is the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”, which I wouldn’t deny. But perhaps, to each their own. 

Just remember that wherever you go, you’ll meet people from different walks of life, and from your rendezvous with those people, you’ll pick up important life lessons that you could carry on with you. 

As for me, I chose Malaysia. And I proudly choose Malaysia for its heritage, inclusivity, and diversity. Well, maybe there’s one more thing… a personal reason that’s making me stay in this country. 

Travel Pokok.Asia
With my diving coach in Tioman

A very close friend of mine visited Malaysia once and during his visit, he had the chance to stay at Tioman Island. His experience at that place was nothing short of spectacular and he made many new and wonderful connections; he said those were the best days of his life. Unfortunately, his first trip to Tioman Island was also his last and this was the last thing we spoke about before cancer took him away from me. 

Since then, I made it a point to visit the magical place that my friend had fallen in love with. I did it. I visited Tioman Island a year after moving to this country. My thoughts about the island? Exactly like what he said. I met some of the best human beings ever – they were lively, always smiling, laughing, and the beach life fun never ends for them. That was when I knew even more that I never wanted to leave this country. 

However, don’t get me wrong. Despite all of these new experiences, I still miss home. I miss my family and our family reunions; I miss home-cooked foods; I miss the atmosphere that’s always so different when we’re together; I miss my grandma playing with my hair while I listen to her complaining about just anything she could think of. 

Since we’re talking about how much I miss home, I have a story of how foods really do bring people of different backgrounds together. So I’m a strong believer in always sharing happiness, especially when it comes to food. With that, I decided to venture into a business where I bought some goods from back home to sell here in Malaysia – to my surprise, it was accepted well by the locals!

I enjoyed what I was doing and it wasn’t because of the money. It was more about the connections I made with my customers, which eventually became a family to me. Through that small business of mine also, I was introduced to Batik. I fell in love with its beauty so much that I even had a sweet and kind aunty tailored my Batik clothes. Frankly, I don’t know what I have done, but the connection between me and my customers was very positive. They were the biggest cure to my homesickness and I’m forever grateful for those with who I’ve crossed paths. And for those who have texted me every night at 10 pm, reminding me to sleep early, I appreciate you too!  

Things have changed since I arrived – my appearance and my outlook on life. But if there’s one thing that has stuck with me through these years, and will probably never go away, it’ll be my very Viet accent – I’m proud of it. I think that will always remind me of my roots, no matter where I go. 

Oh… how I look forward to visiting my family as soon as we’re allowed to travel again. I’m sure you do too.

But right now, we should all live in the moment and create memories and the feelings of home wherever you’re located as you’re reading my piece. I want you to know that “Home” can be whatever you want it to be. A person, a song, or even your pet cat.

To me, it’s a place where I’m able to do something that I’m truly passionate about. Because when I moved to this country, I was working on my dreams and goals, and that’s why I considered it as my home. This country is where I feel the most – I feel a deep meaningful connection with the people around me and pure happiness. 

So yes, you may be right if you’re saying the office is also a home for me. Don’t worry I take no offence to that. 

I’ve told you about how I found a home in a foreign country. Go ahead and tell me your stories because I’d love to read them and perhaps make new friends. 


Na is a Brand Activation Manager, APAC Region for C-Heads Magazine. The views expressed here are the writer’s own.

Share this on:

You may also like: