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The art of getting lost in modern Malaysia – Khairul Anuar Shaharudin

August 14, 2013

I have a friend who has a t-shirt printed with the words 'You had me at get lost' on it.

Although those words have a different meaning from what this article intends to highlight, it reminded me that it is hard to get lost these days as we have proper maps and smartphone applications at our fingertips.

It can be said, getting lost is a lost art.

With Geographic Positioning System (GPS) on smartphone applications such as Waze and Google Maps with voice capabilities, it will be a wonder if you get lost in modern Malaysia.

There are also GPS gadgets like Garmin or Papago specifically built to guide those who want to reach a destination within Malaysia. Just by typing a search query for the destination you want to reach, press 'Enter' and just let the voice guides you to wherever you want to go.

However, for someone like me, who rarely use any GPS device or a capable smartphone (yes, to those who keep pestering me to change to an android phone, I will do it soon!), I depend on my wife to guide us around when we are on a road trip.

The dependence is more on the Waze application in her Samsung Note smartphone than her acumen of reading map. If most people says "Don't live home without it" when they refer to their credit card, in my case, the one I can't live home without for out-of-town trips is my wife.

On that note, let me tell you how my wife and I got lost in the modern Malaysia and our realisation of why we should do it more often.

We experienced getting lost about a week ago when during our Hari Raya holiday we visited her relatives in a part of Perak we rarely visit. The place we were going was Kampung Lasah, where the nearest small town is Pekan Sungai Siput (Utara), just a bit north of Ipoh.

Due to a saved location in the GPS smartphone application in my wife's smartphone, we made an unplanned detour into Ipoh. When we realised of our mistake, we find ourselves back on track by joining the Lebuhraya Utara Selatan.

During our brief detour, we could see how Ipoh has changed since we last visited it. As we made our way to our destination after the brief detour, we also realised the GPS smartphone application offered us an alternative route to reach Kampung Lasah.

Although not much can be seen along the alternative route, we know we were passing through a road less travelled with rubber trees plantations on either side of the road as there were scarcely any other cars along the way. It did reminded me of my years when my family lived in rural Pahang in the 1980s.

When we reached our destination, I managed to coax my wife's uncle to tell stories about Kampung Lasah and the surrounding areas. His stories comprised of how he had to live in such 'black area' as communist activities were rampant another lifetime ago and how elephants still roam the area.

I never know about these stories had it not due to our detour which stoked my curiosity about Kampung Lasah.

At around 6 o'clock in the evening, we decided to make our way to the final stop of the day, the small town of Tapah. As traffic was still heavy due to people making their way into Kuala Lumpur, we opted to travel using the old road heading southwards.

We passed through Ipoh and a few towns (even one abandon rows of abandoned shops in one of the town totally void of any activities, making it looking like a ghost town). It is another part of Malaysia I have never really traveled through as an adult due to always opting to travel northward using the Lebuhraya Utara-Selatan.

As it was already quite dark as we drove through all the small towns, we can only looked around when we stopped at traffic lights within the towns.

"I have never been to Kellie's Castle", my wife said as we passed the turning to it. I promised her we would do it one day as we promised ourselves we need to see more of Malaysia than just the well-known tourist spots.

As someone who slept in the Tapah resthouse once, which is still hauntingly in operation, when I was just a kid, I realised as much as I have traveled to so many far-off destinations, I should get to know more of my country too. If not for it was nearly midnight as we drove away from Tapah, we would have used the old road to our house in Damansara.

The detour and passing through towns we have never seen made us realise there must be a reason why so many tourists visit Malaysia every year.

Our realisation of this revelation was due to a bit of wrong reading of instructions on the GPS smartphone application (although it is well-known they are sometimes unreliable to a certain extent).

It is not that we have never tried to go around Malaysia on roads we rarely travel. We did take road trips to Kelantan and Pahang a few years back just for the food on offer there.

We did have a proper adventure a few months ago when we decided we want to have a satay breakfast in Muar and a briyani lunch in Batu Pahat as we make our way to Singapore. That particular planned excursion also made us realise the adventures we can have if we are brave enough to get lost in that part of Malaysia.

If some people are too reliable on their GPS gadgets to reach a certain destination, getting lost does brings a something fruitful. In our case, we realised, getting lost can cause adventures.

Go ahead, get lost... – August 14, 2013.

* Khairul Anuar Shaharudin is a lawyer and an author. He reads The Malaysian Insider.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.