Travel Spotlight: Dan On The Road
Traveling with a family in tow.
This months’ Travel Spotlight features Danial Ariff, from Dan on the Road, who loves a good road trip and the adventures that come with it. I wanted to get his perspective on what it’s like to be a road tripper in Malaysia and how it’s like traveling as a family, especially when there’s a little one in the troupe.
What is ‘Dan On The Road’ about?
Dan On The Road started off as a repository for my travel tales, as a means to document personal experiences on past journeys. When I joined Twitter and started following travel bloggers, I began changing my style of writing from being solely story-telling to a bit more informative and engaging (with a listicle or two thrown in). Now that I have an infant son, the blog’s scope has also broadened to include my perspective as a family traveler.
Your posts about Malaysia make me miss the country a lot. Where’s your favorite place to visit when you’re doing a road trip?
All the food places I can fit into my itinerary! I’m a passionate lover of local food so hometown delicacies are on top of my list. It is one of the easiest ways to learn about the lives and roots of the people who crafted it. The ingredients and cooking method provide subtle insights on their culture like Pahang’s obsession with freshwater fishes, especially patin gulai tempoyak, stems from its dependence on rivers for sustenance and survival.
What do you look for when you visit a destination?
As I alluded in my previous answer, I’d love to end up knowing a little bit more about the local culture than I had previously known. We are constantly bombarded by stereotypes on everything so it is really refreshing to travel to a destination and unravel the place through its arts, history, food and nature. I would also find the opportunity to interact with the people living there to found out we share fundamentally the same ideals and challenges.
Where’s the best place to find awesome street food in Malaysia?
Ooh, that’s a tough one! I know it is everyone’s choice but I have to admit Penang comes top as far as Malaysian street food goes. The diversity of dishes is astounding where road-side hawkers and open-air food courts are the arteries that keep the island’s heart pumping. I would also recommend Kelantan, which I recently visited, for pure Malay meals – they really embody the phrase “breakfast of champions!”
What tips could you share for readers who plan to take a road trip across the country?
Don’t be afraid to ditch the highway. Take your time driving along the back roads for a healthy dose of Malaysiana. As a city dweller, I find going off the highway to be therapeutic in a sense that time slows down and everyone you meet are more than happy to have a decent conversation with. You’re also afforded the luxury of enjoying the country’s landscape – from the vast paddy fields of Kedah to the pristine shorelines of Terengganu.
A road trip into the rural areas is particularly fulfilling to foodies too as you get to sample regional delicacies rarely found in the cities like Kampar’s Chicken Biscuit or Pasir Mas’ Gulai Serati. Most of these foods are found by the roadside in an unassuming stall with little to no signages but packed with ravenous customers. It’s one of those pleasant surprises – stumbling upon a hidden gem – you’d never get if you took the mundane expressway.
What’s it like traveling with a family now?
The dynamics of traveling have completely changed when you have a little one to take care of. We have to accommodate our son’s eating and sleeping schedule and there are times when a planned activity had to be scrapped since he was still having a nap. It might sound frustrating if the activity or sight was high on your wish-list but nothing is more rewarding than seeing your child be a part of your little adventure.
What are the must-have items to bring along when traveling with your family, especially when there’s a little one?
The whole nine yards if parents would have it their way! The essentials like wet wipes, hand sanitizer, feeding bottles, a change of clothes and spare diapers should be in every knapsack while other child’s “necessities” like their favorite blanket, pillow or toy can never be ignored. The challenge for parents is to manage these items well – not too much to be a drag on your baggage but not too little you have to buy them on your travels.
Where would you recommend for places that are family friendly?
We do not particularly seek out family friendly establishments but we make sure that any accommodation, restaurant or park provides the most comfort and convenience for our child. Our little one has been on a few domestic trips geared toward “adults” but I feel it’s a great way for him to explore his senses. I always believe that one is never too young to learn about the world.
What’s on your bucket list at the moment?
My goal for this year is for little Aqil to experience all forms of transportation. He has gone on a road trip, took a short flight, and went on a ferry ride so the intercity train is the only transport he has yet to take. The family will tick Osaka, Japan off our bucket list next year and we’re aiming for annual week-long escapades caravanning in New Zealand, voyaging across Indonesia’s Flores and (hopefully) my homecoming back to the United States.
If you were given a ticket to go anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Give me a ticket to Tashkent right now! It would be such an enriching experience to go to Uzbekistan and trudge along part of the Silk Road, visiting ancient cities like Samarkand and Bukhara which were once centers of trade and knowledge. I wish time traveling was possible so I could get a peek on how people lived back then but getting the opportunity to see this world heritage site still intact is purely unimaginable.