Seven years ago, when her sister asked her to come to Malaysia for three months to help out at her new restaurant, Luan Morgan didn’t know what to expect.
She couldn’t point out Malaysia on the map and had never left Europe.
“As I flew into Langkawi, I could see Bon Ton Resort with its traditional Malay houses and the lovely, lush greenery. Before the plane even landed, I felt like I had come home!” says Morgan, 36, who was then a secretary in London.
“It’s the most bizarre thing, and I wasn’t even remotely scared or anything.”
For Morgan, it was love at first sight. On her first week here, her sister took her to Phuket. She experienced culture shock and couldn’t wait to return to Langkawi.
“In England, you’re judged by what you wear, how much your salary is, your car, and how well-connected your family is. It was utterly superficial,” says Morgan.
“Here, people would talk to me even if I were the pot washer. It made no difference to them. I love that!”
The first house Morgan lived in had no hot shower or fridge. She found it refreshing to get back to basics. Her sister already had an established circle of friends so there was no problem socialising.
Besides, the locals were friendly and English was widely spoken.
“I had the softest introduction to Asia you could possibly ask for,” admits Morgan. “But I’m a total Mat Salleh when it comes to spicy food – I can’t handle it. My sister ran an Italian place, so food wasn’t a problem.
For almost a year, Morgan partied hard and every sen she earned went straight to the bar. Then one night, at a friend’s party, she met a guy who changed her life. Raden Mustaffa, 41, was everything Morgan liked in a man.
“He makes me laugh. He’s very intelligent, a real gentleman, and talks to me like a person,” says Morgan, gushing.
The problem was, Raden was already married with kids. But the two couldn’t ignore the strong chemistry between them. Langkawi being a small island, people talked, and Morgan couldn’t escape the gossip.
“I know this sounds awful, but I knew my place as a mistress,” says Morgan. “So if our plans got dropped, and he had to go running off to his family, I had no right to kick up a scene. I chose to be in the relationship.”
Their relationship grew and when they decided to have a child, marriage seemed the next logical step. When she told her parents, they were worried sick.
“They had visions of me living in some beach hut with a dreadlocked beach boy,” Morgan chuckles. “Then they came over here, met Raden (a marina manager), and found that he’s respectable and looks after me well. Now they love him to bits.”
Morgan’s mom, in her 60s, comes from south England. She and her friends are pretty conservative.
“So here she is with a coloured son-in-law. That makes her very cosmopolitan among her friends,” she adds laughing. But Morgan found herself constantly on edge when she and Raden went back to England for a visit.
“When I told people he’s Malaysian, they said, ‘No, he’s Paki (a derogatory word in UK for anyone who looks Indian)’,” says Morgan. “Over here, I never once felt threatened because I am a different colour. I’ve friends who’re Malay, Chinese and Indian.”
Morgan says she prefers to bring up her son here.
“I think he’d learn more being out here than he would in England. I want him to learn about the different cultures and religions,” says Morgan, now a homemaker. “I think the education here is good enough. If he’s determined and works hard, he can achieve whatever he wants.”
Morgan doesn’t mind having to share her husband with another woman.
“I see myself as the second wife, and I feel like I’ve intruded on her life. But he never lets us feel lesser. He takes care of all our needs and never complains.”
Raden’s parents and siblings have accepted Morgan as part of the family.
Does Morgan see herself being stuck in Langkawi?
“For me, Langkawi isn’t cut-and-dry ‘this is it’. It doesn’t feel like a dead end. There’s so much potential here. There are still things I don’t know about the culture, the people. There are things that I still don’t know about Raden because we come from such different backgrounds.
“I guess that’s what keeps the relationship going.”