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.