I recently began a four-month tour around Southeast Asia. I have a pretty extensive list of countries that I want to visit which never gets any smaller, but I must admit that my first stop was determined simply because it was the cheapest ticket out of Korea. Now, after spending over a month there, getting to know the country and loving it, I am left wondering why people often leave Malaysia out of their southeast circuit.
Here are five reasons why I think you shouldn’t skip Malaysia:
1. The food. Yes, I’m sure you love pad Thai and pho, so you can’t wait to get to Thailand and Vietnam to eat as much as your heart desires, but what is Malaysian food? It’s amazing, that is what! I found myself thinking about lunch before I was even finished breakfast, and dinner before I was finished lunch. I reckon the Indian food is second only to India itself (and yes, better than the UK), add in some delicious Chinese dishes, a mixture of elements from the two, some yummy traditional Malay dishes and incredible street food fit for a king but often less than a dollar or two and you’ve got the food in Malaysia. Some cities are known simply for their food specialities. Roti cenai, wonton mee, and Hainan chicken…’nough said.
2. The ease of travel. As a first time solo traveller, I couldn’t have picked an easier place to start my journey than Malaysia. First of all, there is little to no language barrier. Coming from Korea where planning the simplest of weekend trips were extremely difficult and stressful without the help of a native speaker, this came as a welcome surprise. With the exception of places like the Cameron Highlands, Tioman and the Perhentian Islands, Malaysia’s accommodations are extensively represented on Hostelworld and other similar websites. For those places that are not, (and even those that are), it’s incredibly easy to just show up and find accommodation upon arrival. Every hostel seems to book tours, transfers or bus tickets to every major destination in Malaysia and Thailand, so there’s no need to book everything ahead of time on your own on the internet, and hope that you’ve booked the correct ticket. Finally, Air Asia, one of Asia’s top budget airlines, is based in Malaysia. This means that is it very easy to find cheap and frequent flights from any major city, not just Kuala Lumpur, to other cities in Peninsular Malaysia, Borneo and throughout Asia.
3. It has everything. If you want to lay on incredible beaches, trek through lush jungle, gawk at amazing architecture, chill in Chinatown, dine in a Sikh temple, dive with sharks, shop ‘ll you drop, party until dawn, go to the spa, wander through street markets, hang out with elephants and orangutans, climb a mountain, then go for it, because Malaysia has all of that, and so much more.
4. The people. Malaysia has a fascinating mixture of ethnicities and religions which I find so interesting to observe. There are the Malays whom are mostly Muslim, the ethnic Indians, and the ethnic Chinese. Observing the three distinct groups coexist and interact with each other is pretty cool, and so unlike the places I’m used to, such as homogenous Korea, or mosaic Canada.
5. A seemingly lesser quantity of douches. If you’ve ever travelled, you have likely encountered, your typical young, (omitting nationalities to avoid offending anyone) backpackers who are ONLY there to get ridiculously pissed and be obnoxious. I’m certainly not above this, having lived abroad, travelled for most of my twenties, and enjoying alcoholic beverages, but we all know the type I’m referring to. Being that Malaysia is one of the more expensive places to drink in Southeast Asia (not actually expensive, but maybe $2-3 for a beer rather than 50¢ – $1 in neighbouring countries), I’ve observed that the majority of this particular demographic seems to have skipped this country on their way through the Banana Pancake Trail. This means quieter dorms, cooler people and more meaningful interactions.