MELAKA – Forty-four years ago, Mark Ruffin (picture) set his foot for the first time in Malaysia and never had he thought he would one day call it home.
The 66-year-old American said the beauty of Malaysia and the uniqueness of its multi-racial and multi-religious society had truly made him fall in love with the country and its people.
Born in Indiana in the United States, Ruffin said he had followed his father to work with a defence company supplying ammunition for armoured vehicles in Brussels, Belgium in the 1970s.
“The first time I heard about Malaysia, I had to look it up in an encyclopedia. Back then, there was no Internet and searching for information must be done manually.
“Throughout my 12 years’ stint in the defence company, I had the chance to travel to many countries and Malaysia is the only country where the people tend to be most patient compared to other people I have met in the Asia Pacific region,” he told Bernama here in fluent Malay.
Growing up enjoying music, sailing, hunting and mount-climbing, Ruffin admitted that he was excited to explore the natural beauty of Malaysia even though the country was still facing the communist insurgents’ threats in the 1980s.
He said his exploration began when he bought a boat and set sail from Port Klang in Selangor to Port Dickson in Negeri Sembilan before a friend suggested that he proceeded to Tanjung Kling in Melaka.
“Here, I found the beach so beautiful and decided to rent a house with a friend and turned it into our weekend getaway house,” he said.
Ruffin said the last time he returned to the US was when his father died in 1989, which also triggered his resignation from the defence company.
“With a small fortune that my father left me, I bought two bungalow lots in Tanjung Kling and turned it into a resort. It also has a restaurant and I regularly invite local bands to play their music there,” he said.
Known as the Grandfather of Campervan Malaysia, Ruffin, who is also the administrator of the My Campervan Malaysia group on Facebook, said he also owned a campervan that had taken him and his wife to many places in Peninsular Malaysia just to enjoy its natural beauty.
The man said he had also opened a special camping site in Klebang for campervan enthusiasts early this year.
Unfortunately, the site had not received the expected number of visitors due to the movement control imposed by the government to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“Malaysia has numerous beautiful and interesting tourist spots that can be visited and explored. Malaysians don’t really have to go abroad to play tourists. Just use the Google Earth app and you can find interesting places to visit here in this country.
“Of late, campervan adventure activities are increasingly popular among Malaysians and it has the potential to be developed if the relevant agencies can sit down and discuss suitable policies for the activities,” he added.