I witnessed racism, extreme kindness in Malaysia – Elozonam Ogbolu

Former Big Brother Naija competitor Elozonam Ogbolu tells NOAH BANJO about his experience in Malaysia

Wwho countries you visited?

I have been to Ghana, Dubai (United Arab Emirates), Malaysia and the Republic of Benin.

In which country did you have your most memorable travel experience?

It must be between Dubai and Malaysia. I experienced a culture shock because our cultures are very different, unlike Ghana or the Republic of Benin which have cultures similar to ours. Malaysia is a third world country but is very advanced.

What are some of the things that fascinated you about Malaysia?

Everything about this place fascinated me. They are very technologically advanced and a lot of people go through them. There would be Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Australians and other nationalities. It’s a very lively country and there are a lot of (fashion) designers there. In fact, everything you would find in America is there.

What makes Malaysian culture unique?

Malaysia is a Muslim country, so you would see a lot of women wearing the hijab. Their culture is vibrant. In a way, it’s also like stepping into another side of Japan because they have similar cultures. They experiment with everything, especially fashion and style.

What are some of the foods that tickled your taste buds in Malaysia?

I didn’t really try Malaysian food when I went there as there were fast food places like Burger King and KFC. They also have large food courts (on multiple floors) in malls. The malls are so big that you might not be able to get around them in a day.

However, I tried the Ramen noodles like an Asian would. It’s as far as I have come in terms of food.

How receptive have people been to you?

They were nice. I have witnessed both racism and extreme kindness in Malaysia, so it’s a mix of different things. As a black man in an Asian country, one would stand out like a sore thumb.

The same day I experienced racism, I also experienced something different. They were really nice and confident people, so that taught me something.

Did the people there know Nigeria?

I think yes. Lots of Nigerians are in Malaysia so I guess they would have some sort of knowledge about Nigerians.

What tourist attractions did you visit during your stay?

I remember going to a place called Sunway Resort, which looks like a water park. They have an artificial beach with artificial waves, as well as water slides. Any fun activity you can do with water is there. There is also a hotel in the resort. I was actually stunned by the place.

I also went to the Twin Towers Mall which has an indoor amusement park.

They also have islands and highlands but I couldn’t go because I didn’t have enough time.

What other countries would you like to visit?

One country I’ve always wanted to go to is Japan. I was going to go to the Olympics (Tokyo 2020), which were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I also want to go to South Africa and Kenya.

How do you rate the safety of life and property there in relation to Nigeria?

It’s a much more organized society and they are very strict on a lot of things, so safety was paramount. We could lose something in Malaysia and find it either at the security post or in the “Lost and Found” section. That’s not to say there aren’t some bad apples out there. Every society has its ups and downs.

Did anything in Malaysia remind you of home?

It was only the Nigerians (whom I saw there) that reminded me of Nigeria. Everything was foreign to it. Imagine walking on an air-conditioned pedestrian bridge. We’ve been building monorails for a long time here, but over there the monorails work. The monorails would drop one off in front of the malls, so immediately we would finish shopping, just get in and out of the monorail. There is so much convenience and you don’t have to deal with traffic jams. The roads are superb and well lit. There is hardly any need to drive with the headlights on. There, if you broke the law and didn’t pay the specified fine on time, you would be arrested.

Is there anything you saw in Malaysia that you would like to see reproduced in Nigeria?

All! I wish the roads in Nigeria were as beautiful as those in Malaysia. I also wish the malls were as big and as exciting as the malls in Malaysia. If you go to the malls around here, you would see that many stores have closed because no one is going there to shop. But in Malaysia, there might be a promising designer who sells amazing products in the mall. From the ground floor you would see the most popular and expensive brands, but by the time you get to the fourth floor you would see local brands, and a lot of people go there to shop. You don’t have to break the bank to rent a store in Malaysia.

What advice would you give to potential travelers?

I would tell the person to go there and have fun. It would be nice to have someone on the ground to avoid doing something you are not supposed to do by mistake.

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