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 KINO EXCat 
ExCat: From Tasmania, Australia
BY MELVIN LIEW

Standing at the southernmost tip of Tasmania

BORN AND RAISED IN KuCHING, the capital of Sarawak – a land laden with stunning geographical  and  cultural heritage – I somehow found myself, a good 20 years later, studying in one of the most unlikely of places which I would dare  say  feels  like  “home”. Located a couple hundred kilometres south from mainland Australia, in a cosy little island of just over half a million people, it is called Tasmania. 

You’re probably wondering: “How can a home-grown Kuchingite ever feel at home  in  a  western country;  and moreover, of all the states to live in, the  one  that  is  isolated  even  from mainland Australia itself?” I used to think that too, never once thinking that it might actually grow on me. 

However  to  my  (gradual)  pleasant surprise,  it  was  not  like  that  at  all. Apart from the vast differences in temperature and humidity, Tasmania in her own way shares qualities strikingly similar to those of Kuching. The first thing that caught my eye was the tree-to-building ratio in the city that felt vaguely familiar. unlike Melbourne, Sydney or  even  KL  for that matter, a good patch of green can  be  found  for  every couple  of buildings passed in the city! Sound familiar? This in itself led me to think of the sheer amount of natural wonders Tasmania has to offer. Not too long after I set foot on Tasmanian soil, I began to start exploring these many natural gems. I remember very vividly hiking halfway up Tasmania’s famous “Nut” mountain a good half a year or so ago when it struck me how the climb very much resembles one of Bako’s trails to Telok Pandan Kecil, from the trail itself to the grasslands surrounding it. 

I  also  clearly  remember  walking through the streets of Salamanca (a local Tasmanian hotspot for grabbing a  cup of coffee/  beer)  one  sunny Saturday  afternoon,  immersing myself in the inaudible chatter and jovial environment, reminiscing to the laid-back kopitiam scenes back home in Kuching,  where  I  catch  up  with friends and family over a hot bowl of laksa/kolo mee and a glass of Teh C Peng  and  at  Choon  Hui/Chong Choon.

However,  the  one  thing  that  truly earned Kuching a place in my heart is neither her lush natural landscapes nor is it even the glorious food she provides,  it’s  the  people.  from  the smiling  Pakcik  at  the  local  mamak preparing his Teh-Tarik  to  the  old aunty  selling  her golden  pisang goreng by the roadside,Kuchingites in general have this certain sense of “realness”  in  their  interactions  –  no need for pretence or putting up walls between each other. And the reason I dare call “Tassie” home is because I’ve found people like that here, and they are  some  of  the realest and most genuine people I’ve ever met, and I guess that makes me feel, a good few thousand miles away, that home’s not so far away after all.

Melvin Liew is studying PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics) at the University of Tasmania in a town called Hobart. He previously attended Lodge national school for high school and Sunway College in KL for college.

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