From banking to writing
Since 1979, Walter François has been to Malaysia 40 times. The visits and air miles have transformed him completely – he has switched from a career in the financial sector to the life of a full-time writer. "Saya jatuh cinta dengan Malaysia (I have fallen in love with Malaysia)," says the 60-year-old in perfect Malay.

It is a surprising sentiment from a man who hails from the historic city of Ghent, not only because the language was self-taught but also Ghent in Flanders is off the beaten track of regular tourists to Malaysia.

Brandishing his two books on Malaysia at the 50th Merdeka anniversary celebrations in the plush Conrad hotel here, François reveals the secret of his route to learning Malay. "I picked up a book at a shop in KLCC. It promised to make me a Malay speaker in 365 days," he says.

For 30 years, François was with the General Bank – "Now known as Fortis Bank. They own a 30% stake in Maybank Insurance, you know" – and he also gave talks to interested parties on the economies of South-east Asia in Belgium.

He says that for leisure and research he travelled extensively to Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Indonesia and, of course, Malaysia between 1994 and 1997.

"I was surprised because not many tourists from Europe, not Belgium at least, went to Malaysia. I then had this naive idea about what I could do to make Malaysia better known in my country," he says.

He had no experience as a writer but embarked on the idea of writing for Malaysia. He made four journeys to Malaysia with photographer Yvan Deweerdt, and the result was their collaborative work Malaysia.

Encouraged by the result of his first venture, François decided to write another, this time he was accompanied in his travels only by a Nikon F5 camera, to the northwest region of Kedah.

"Langkawi – Island of Mysterious Legends is completely my own work," he says proudly.

He is also proud that his book Malaysia was chosen by the Foreign Ministry for distribution to delegates at the OIC conference in Kuala Lumpur four years ago.

Now feeling the itch to travel again he is planning his next book. This time, he says, he wants to do a photo essay on Selangor. – Merdeka Press Secretariat.

Source: The Star
Date: 19/09/2007
Author: Wan A. Hulaimi

Other articles:

•  2011/01/28 Former PM launches Book
•  2011/01/19 For the love of Malaysia
•  2011/01/17 Malaysia 'kekasih' Walter (Malay)
•  2011/01/07 Belgian writer launches his fourth book on Malaysia
•  2010/12/30 Wherever you go, have respect!
•  2008/09/19 Walter François: "Maleisië is echt geen apenland" (Dutch)
•  2008/08 Ghent in Kuala Lumpur, a photographic exhibition by Walter François
•  2008/08 Ghent in Kuala Lumpur
•  2008/06/18 Bonding two nations via photographs
•  2007/09/19 From banking to writing
•  2006/11/17 Gemeente Lochristi: Exotische sfeer in gemeentehuis (Dutch)
•  2005/12/27 Walter François's new book on Langkawi
•  2005/12/27 Penulis Belgium hasilkan buku tentang Langkawi (Malay)
•  2005/12/14 Belgian writer's new book On Langkawi out next week
•  2005/11/02 Belgian Banker-turned-author promotes Malaysia through books
•  2002/02 Walter François presents Malaysia
•  2001/06/11 Belgian banker to publish picture book on Malaysia
•  2001/06 Kekaguman warga Belgium terhadap Malaysia (Malay)
•  1999/07/03 Borneo anders bekeken (Dutch)
•  1999/04/28 Pictorial book on two States being compiled
•  1998/06/26 Dok Mungki Walter
•  1997/07 Tentoonstelling 'Borneo 2000' (Dutch)
Preview Gallery
Below a small selection of pictures which are featured in Walter's latest coffee table book. Click on the pictures to see the larger version.