Take It From Me: Walter Yurt

Vibrant Malaysia has been a 'writing muse' for banker-turned-author Walter for almost a decade.

by / Published: 6 Dec 2017

Take It From Me: Walter Yurt
Photo: Walter Yurt

Occupation:  Writer
Nationality: American
Time in Malaysia: 9 years

Walter Yurt’s career as a banker with JP Morgan Chase came to an end with the financial crisis of 2008. He then worked with the Ford Motor Company, but his passion for writing remained unfulfilled until he came to Malaysia to teach English.

Since then, Walter has had two books published about his life here: Finding Myself and Finding My World, the first of which is currently being translated into Bahasa Malaysia.

This year, Walter’s first play, ‘This Place of Ours’, was shortlisted by the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre’s ‘New Play Project’, a six-month workshop for playwrights.  

First experience in Malaysia

I was picked up at KLIA by my headmaster, a teacher and a driver, the latter of whom will forever be known as ‘Mr Giggles’.

He was one of the few Malaysians I’ve met here that didn’t understand English; yet during the whole trip into the city, whenever anyone else would say something, he would burst into laughter. Just from that kind man and his funny reaction, I immediately knew I had moved to the right place.

Inspiration to write

I tell my friends that the entire country of Malaysia is my writing ‘muse’. After all this time, I still can’t believe how lucky I am to have landed here, of all the places in the world. On most days, I wake up with the feelings of a child on Christmas morning: I can’t wait to see what’s waiting for me!

The people, places and cultures of Malaysia inspire me like nowhere or nothing else in the world. I love writing about other Southeast Asian nations, but Malaysia gets my pen moving quicker and easier than any other place on the planet.

Locally speaking

While I know my share of bad words in Bahasa, I won’t share my favourite ones here. The one Bahasa word I do use a lot, especially when I am driving, is ‘bodoh’, the Malay word for stupid, which is a lot nicer word then the bad English words I could use when I’m dealing with a bad Malaysian driver. Plus, it’s really fun to pronounce it correctly with heavy stress on the second syllable: BoDOH!

An interesting side note for my excuse of not being able to speak Bahasa fluently is that every Malaysian I meet always wants to speak English with me.

Things to do in KL

You can’t go wrong with anything that the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre puts on. The Sunday afternoon editions of the performances by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra are a more reasonably-priced alternative to their great Saturday night concerts, especially if you are relatively new to classical music.

And if you are a new expat in Malaysia, the cultural events that surround all of Malaysian’s religious and secular holidays are a must!

Time to eat

As my weight and waistline will attest, I love Malaysian food from Old Town and Madam Kwan’s nasi lemak (or any reliably clean roadside stall), mee or Maggi goreng at any branch of Pelita to anything slapped down on a banana leaf at Devi’s Corner in Bangsar or Kanna Curry House in Petaling Jaya.

My Indian and Sikh friends have recently turned me on to long Saturday afternoon lunches at Sentul Curry House, where one can graze for as long as your stomach can handle it.


I love hitting the beach, my favourite being Redang, followed closely by any of the big resorts in Langkawi. I think one of the coolest places in the world is Taman Negara, the country’s 160-million-year- old rainforest. For the bluest skies in the world, coupled with beautifully nice people, give me anywhere in Sabah or Sarawak.

Camping out

I was into camping with my Malaysian friends until a few summers ago when we pitched camp a little too close to a beautiful stream in Pahang that tripled in size within a half an hour due to a downpour.

Another time when we camped out at another spot in Pahang, we found the area void of other campers that weekend, which was nice. When we got back to KL, we found out the reason that no one else was around was due to a tiger sighting in the area a few days before our staying there! I tend to stay in hotels these days.