马来西亚来信(二) / Letter from Malaysia — Part Two

马来西亚来信(二)

挑选度假目的地就好比选鞋,其中掺杂了很多对风格、品味、舒适度的个人喜好,还有经济承受能力、季节天气以及安全等因素在内。

虽然马来西亚旅游局制作了一系列非常诱人的电视宣传片和印刷材料,但对我而言,选择当地作为黄金周休假的目的地,这些外部宣传都只是一种促进,而不是启发。

上周我写过,我已经是第二次去云冰了,所以知道那里有什么可以期待。除了垂钓之外,那个宁静的小去处还有很多美食,包括新鲜的海味。当地人很友好,周围的自然环境也充满了各种有趣的植物和野生动物。

重要的是,从香港去那里很方便:乘飞机不到四小时就可以抵达新加坡,两边的机场服务都很快捷,之后从新加坡开车去云冰也只要四个小时,而且路况非常良好。

开车从新加坡出发,你会路过喧闹的马来西亚小城新山(Johor Bahru),那儿与新加坡的关系就如同深圳和香港。在新山的居民中,有15,000人需要每天乘车前往新加坡从事薪水较高的工作,所以过境时最好选择避开交通高峰时段。

在新山,我发现一个非常特别的卖咖喱粉和其他香料的地方:一家名叫Shariffs Grinding Mills的印度家族老店。那里前店后厂,一边是生产香料的磨坊,一边是摆满香料展示木匣的店面,气味辛香扑鼻,让你立时觉得饥肠辘辘。

Letter from Malaysia — Part Two

Choosing a destination for a holiday is a bit like selecting a pair of shoes. It involves a very personal mix of preferences with regard to style, taste and comfort, and additional factors such as affordability, seasonal weather, and safety.

Although the Malaysian Tourism Authority has a very attractive series of TV and print advertisements, these reinforced rather than prompted my selection of Malaysia as a destination for the recent golden week holiday.

As I wrote last week, as a second-time visitor to Rompin, I knew what to expect. Apart from great fishing, it’s a small, quiet place with great food including good fresh seafood. People are friendly, and the surrounding natural environment is filled with interesting plant and animal life.

Importantly, it’s relatively easy to get to from Hong Kong: less than four hours’ flight to Singapore, with very efficient airports at both ends of the trip, and a four-hour drive from Singapore to Rompin on good roads.

Once you exit Singapore by car, you drive through the bustling Malaysian city of Johor Bahru, which is to Singapore a bit like Shenzhen is to Hong Kong. Some 15,000 people live in JB and commute every day, mainly by road, to higher-paying jobs in Singapore, so it’s best to avoid the rush hour traffic jams at the border crossing.

In Johor Bahru I found an exceptional place to buy curry powder and other fresh spices: a long-established, Indian family-owned shop named Shariffs Grinding Mills. On one side of the premises are the grinding mills where the spices are processed. On the other side, the spices are on display and for sale in wooden boxes. The aroma is pungent. Guaranteed to make you hungry on the spot.


我的心水咖喱店,不知为何还很受鸽子欢迎,所以千万不要站在正下方。 / My favorite curry shop, also very popular with the pigeons for some reason. Best not to stand directly underneath.

再往北,杂乱无章的城市外延很快被道路两旁大型的棕榈园所取代。和印尼一样,棕榈油也是当地的主要产业,为了种植棕榈树,大批热带雨林遭到砍伐。

从新加坡往北行驶大约两个小时后,就能看见我平生第一次遇到的提醒车辆注意过往野象的指示牌。(这让我想起在澳大利亚昆士兰州桥边常见的警示牌,上面画着大型咸水鳄,如果化作文字,应该是在说“嘿哥们儿,别在这儿游泳啊!”)

Further north, the suburban sprawl soon gives way to huge palm oil plantations on both sides of the road. Palm oil is big business here, as it is in Indonesia, and large expanses of rainforest have been felled for its cultivation.

About two hours north of Singapore you come to the first road sign I have seen which cautions drivers to be on the lookout for wild elephants crossing the road. (This reminded me of warning signs around bridges in Queensland, Australia, with images of large saltwater crocodiles: in other words, “No swimming here, folks.”)


小心野象穿行。 / Watch out for wild elephants crossing the road.

路边的田野上散落着一些没有窗户的水泥建筑,大约有3、4层楼高,没有明显的门窗,显然不是供人居住的。后来我才发现,原来这是一项致富创意,是为了生产在中国和其他华人聚居区热销的高价商品——燕窝——而建的。

路边的很多居民都因为燕窝发了大财,他们的秘诀就是盖些简单的盒子房,吸引野生燕子筑巢,并持续播放燕子交配叫声的录音。这会让燕子处于高度兴奋状态,刺激它们分泌更多的唾液,筑成售价昂贵的燕窝。

这个买卖看上去很直接:前期投入和运营成本都很低,几乎不存在人员问题,但利润却极高。听上去鸟比人干的活要多。

一些当地人告诉我,由于供大于求和质量问题,当地燕窝的价格已经从几年前接近3,000美元一公斤暴跌了不少。所有市场——甚至燕窝市场——都存在着循环周期。

马来西亚小城镇的商店和餐厅都由华人经营。由于许多早期中国移民都来自于中国南方,所以马来西亚华人大多仍以闽南话和粤语作为母语。大部分人也会讲普通话,年轻人还可以在学校里学习汉语拼音。

我去的时候,从福建来了个垂钓旅行团,引发了小小的轰动。当地人当然希望这只是个开始,今后还会越来越多,这也是很有可能的。

马来西亚风光秀丽,拥有迷人的海景、丰富的水上运动、繁多的野生动植物、新鲜美味的海鲜、多种多样的新鲜水果(一些云冰人说当地的榴莲和西瓜比其他任何地方都甜),旅游潜力十分巨大,可以成为中国新一代出境游的目的地。

马来西亚最大的彭亨州——也就是云冰的所在地——应该向中国云南学习一下如何开发旅游基础设施。

要挖掘中国潜在的出境游市场,彭亨必须改进基础设施,而且要以有利于环保的形式进行。修建小型的地区机场、较高档次的酒店和度假村以及带清洁卫生间的餐厅都很有必要,但这些投资都需要较长的时间才能获得经济回报。

问题在于,当地政府及国家是否切实有意开发这一产业。

The fields on both sides of the road are also dotted with windowless concrete structures, 3 to 4 stories tall. With no visible doors or windows, these clearly do not look like peoples’ homes. As I found out, they have been a great source of wealth creation, by supplying a high-price commodity in hot demand in China and among Chinese communities elsewhere: bird’s nests.

Among the communities along this road live many bird’s nest millionaires. The key is to build these simple box-like buildings, which the wild swallows nest in, and to constantly play recordings of the mating calls of the birds. This keeps the birds in a state of high excitement, which in turn spurs them to produce more of the saliva which they use to make their prized nests.

This looks like a fairly straightforward business: very low upfront and operating costs, few HR issues, high profit margins, etc. Sounds like a business where the birds work much harder than the bird-keepers.

Some locals told me that due to oversupply and quality issues, the price of local birds nests have plummeted from their recent years’ high of nearly US$3,000 per kg. All markets — even bird nests — have their cycles.

In small towns throughout Malaysia, many shops, businesses and restaurants are run by ethnic Chinese. Because many early Chinese immigrants were from South China, the native dialects still spoken by Malaysian Chinese are mainly from Fujian and Guangdong. Most also speak Putonghua. Younger Chinese today are also studying Hanyu Pinyin in school.

During my visit, the arrival of a sportfishing tour group from Fujian caused quite a bit of notice. Locals obviously hope this is the start of a growing trend, and it probably is.

Malaysia, with its beautiful scenery, great beaches and water sports, wild animal and plant life, fresh seafood, and rich variety of fresh fruits (some in Rompin claim their durian and watermelons to be the tastiest anywhere), holds tremendous potential as a tourist destination for the new generation of outbound mainland tourists.

Malaysia’s largest state, Pahang — where Rompin is located — would benefit from studying what China’s Yunnan Province has done to develop tourism infrastructure.

Tapping into China’s outbound tourism potential will require better infrastructure in Pahang, which can be done in an eco-friendly manner. Investment in new small regional airports, higher quality hotels and resorts, and restaurants with cleaner and better toilet facilities will be needed, but the economic returns on this could be substantial.

The question is whether local and national authorities are really interested in developing this business.


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