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Published: April 17th 2011
Ali oversees Travelblog in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The computer on the right is displaying the Google search data.
Hidden within the towering buildings of central Kuala Lumpur is a place where the heart of Travelblog beats. Walking inside this austere office where computer screens outnumber desks or chairs, one would not realise that this most humble of settings is responsible for the Travelblog website that receives more than three million visits each month.
A day earlier I was finally able to meet Ali, the founder of Travelblog. Though my duties as the second longest serving moderator on Travelblog (behind Ali) has resulted in irregular electronic communication for almost five years, I never had the opportunity to speak to him let alone encounter him face to face. Our meeting was delayed somewhat by Ali’s unexpected delay on Kuala Lumpur’s public transport system, but meet we eventually did. Ali appears much like he does in photographs (as most people do) but with the addition of a delightful English accent.
That evening, we discussed travel, Travelblog, diving and photography – obviously a discussion of the highest order. After enjoying a spicy and tasty meal typically on offer in this part of the world and a restful evening’s sleep, the next morning we visited the offices of Laulima, the company founded
by Ali that manages Travelblog.
I happened upon the inner sanctum at an intensely busy time, for version three of Travelblog was in its final stages of development. Ali and the four other staff members were all quietly and intently focused on their respective computer screens; and one could almost feel the concentration levels. It was as if each person had encased themselves in an imaginary cubicle where no interruptions of the outside world could penetrate. Occasionally a whispered voice would interrupt the stillness, but the office would soon again return to its silent state.
Ali was generous with his time to explain the operation of Travelblog. Of most interest was the tool called “Google Analytics” an amazing collection of statistics where the webmaster can identify an enormous array of information that would be most beneficial in any Travelblog Trivia Quiz. If one wanted to know how long each visitor remain on the site or how many pages they visited, the information was available. So what browser do most people use and what is the screen size they view Travelblog? Well, those details were available as well.
The geographic location of Travelblog users was a particularly fascinating
map, and one could track the location of visitors from around the world, and it did show that Travelblog is accessed from the vast majority of countries and territories on this planet.
A less aesthetic yet equally interesting tool was the enormous volume of data that is a search engine stream of consciousness. This information is retrieved from first time visitors to Travelblog and it contains the words entered into the search engine and the origin of that search. An almost dizzying amount of data scrolled on the screen that showed searches emanating from Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Taiwan, New Zealand and Australia just to name a very few. It was possible to scan these entries, but Ali informed me that at peak times the data arrives so fast that reading anything becomes impossible.
Sensing the need for those in the office to toil away on version three of Travelblog, I decided to take my leave after a relatively short time. Upon leaving, I reflected that the Internet is the greatest invention of my lifetime, and it is through the power of such sites as Travelblog that this invention can be fully realised. Glimpsing the internal workings of
the site and seeing how this modest office is a conduit for millions of like-minded travellers from across the world to share and read stories and photographs was an enriching experience. I am pleased to have contributed to Travelblog for more than half a decade and intend to continue for many more years.
Prior to leaving Kuala Lumpur, I made the compulsory visit to perhaps my favourite shopping mall in the world, the Low Yat Plaza, where every conceivable portably electronic item can be purchased – whether that be computers, cameras or related accessories. Most items I acquire here cost between a third to half the price of the same or similar items in Australia so this is always a rewarding stop. The final obligatory visit in Kuala Lumpur is to the impressive Petronas Twin Towers. While there are taller buildings in this world, few can match the splendour of these towers at dusk as these illuminated buildings shine against the surrounding dusky skies.
Next stop on my Malaysian visit was to relax at the resort island of Langkawi adjacent to the Thailand border. It is a rare occurrence for me to visit an establishment such as this,
but feeling the need to have a restful time at the commencement of my holiday was the decisive factor. Sometimes I choose to relax towards the end of a holiday when the sometimes rigorous nature of my travel requires a leisurely period prior to returning to a more prosaic life, but they rarely involve a resort of this nature.
Flying across the clear seas sprinkled with heavily wooded islands, the plane made a perfect landing at the Langkawi airstrip, and after being met by the dutiful staff of the Berjaya Langkawi Resort
, a twenty minute drive through idyllic surrounds ensued. Berjaya is one of those places where the majority of people spend as much time doing as little as possible. It is a huge resort with over 400 chalets that has two outstanding features. Firstly, was its wonderful location, set amongst almost 30 hectares of natural rainforest that bordered the Andaman Sea, it allowed one to be isolated from fellow visitors, so one would never guess that so many guests could reside here. The second factor was the accommodation, for I was given a most pleasant surprise welcomed by any traveller - being upgraded to a room twice the size of
Me with Ali in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Proof that the longer you Moderate on Travelblog, the happier you become.
the one I booked. The recently refurbished Rainforest Chalet with it capacious interior was absolute bliss.
These were four very lazy days: sleeping till late in my chalet, eating a variety of food from around the region, swimming in the pool and watching a family of Dusky Leaf Monkey (also known as the Spectacled Langur) frolicking in the trees from the balcony of my chalet. The most memorable moments came during some exhilarating times on a Jet Ski darting and skipping atop the water as I tasted the salty water splashing on my face beneath a warm, bright sun.
But as is usual with these resorts they are effectively a foreigner’s enclave isolated from the usual lives of the local people. For a relaxing time in wonderful surrounds, the Berjaya Resort was an excellent choice. But in terms of experiencing the local culture and interacting with people who are not just there to serve you as a guest or customer, then Berjaya was, as expected, too limiting in that regard.
The Berjaya Resort had served its purpose beautifully. With energy levels now recharged, I returned to my usual travel preference to visit a country to absorb and
immerse myself in its culture, history, attractions, food and people. With this plan in mind, I returned to the airport reenergised and revitalised as I headed to my next destination.
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