This American uses kopi-O as his licence plate in California

PHOTO: The Straits Times

PETALING JAYA - If you are ever in California and see a four-wheel drive go by with a "Kopi O" licence plate, relax.

He's not that kind of "kopi-O licence" driver Malaysians are all too familiar with, but someone showing how much he loved his time in Malaysia while announcing his favourite drink to fellow motorists.

After returning home from a round-the-world trip, 29-year-old Scott Burkhalter decided to register the personalised plate, or vanity plate, because he developed a taste for kopi-O (black coffee) on his visit here and also as a reminder of his travels.

"I love coffee, and since my car is black and the new vanity plate is in California's classic black, I thought black coffee would be the most suitable.

"Getting that in English would be fine, but I thought it would be more unique to get something related to my travel experiences. 'Kopi O' was the perfect choice!" said Burkhalter, a tow truck driver for a police department.

During his 26-month trip, Burkhalter and his girlfriend visited Australia, South-East Asia, India and Europe.

They visited peninsular Malaysia last year and wanted to leave after only three weeks as they did not feel a strong connection to the country.

However, things changed when they were invited by outdoor travel company Radak Adventure to volunteer at the company's guest house in Gopeng, Perak.

"We helped prepare the Gopeng Guesthouse for its opening, worked at the riverside camp for the company, enjoyed observing Ramadan with our crew, and had plenty of kopi O," Burkhalter said.

"Two months went by and I grew to love Malaysia. I made lots of new friends and developed a deeper understanding of local life."

Radak Adventure founder Mohd Hasrol Kamis, who introduced the drink to Burkhalter, said the adventurous American drank kopi-O every morning.

"Today he texted me. He said he just got a new car, a new job in the US, so he will put 'Kopi O' as his licence plate to show that he really loves and wants to come back to Malaysia," Mohd Hasrol said.

Burkhalter said his relationship with kopi-O was love at first taste.

"Beverages, and how to order them, are unique to Malaysia. The first time I ordered kopi-O, I didn't know exactly what I would get, and like all the other drinks (in Malaysia), I loved it immediately," he said.

After leaving Malaysia to continue his travels, he felt a need to return to Gopeng to see his friends and savour the food again before going back to California.

"We returned to Malaysia once more before ending our long trip to see Gopeng Guesthouse open and running, and reunite with our friends, and of course indulge in the amazing food!"

Burkhalter may have left Malaysia, but with "Kopi O" on his car, he will always have a reminder of the country with him wherever he goes.

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