Average spent per day: $29.12
Total days in Malaysia: 10
Kyle and I didn’t really know what to expect from Malaysia. When traveling throughout Southeast Asia, you here countless stories and tips on where to go in Thailand, the best waterfalls in Laos and just how crowded it can get at the back of a sleeper bus in Vietnam. Malaysia on the other hand is a mysterious entity where people say they’re passing through on the way to Singapore, working down to Indonesia, but no one really seems to leave with a wealth of information to share. Going in mostly blind to what Malaysia has to offer, we left feeling as if we barely scratched the surface of this dynamic country, with the plan of returning at some point in the future.
We stuck to the west coast of the country after hearing the east was still stuck in the wet season. Keep in mind that Malaysia consists of two parts: Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo to the east (shared with Indonesian Borneo). In a return trip, we would be sure to visit the Perhentian Islands on the west coast, and head to Borneo for trekking and seeing Orangutans in the Indonesian section. For now, however, here’s a run-down of our first and hopefully not so final impression of Malaysia.
Malaysia is an extremely diverse country. Most of the population consists of Malays, Chinese and Indians, making Georgetown and Kuala Lumpur a great place to pass through during Chinese New Year. Living in Canada I definitely took our multi-cultural society for granted, not thinking much about the fact that you can walk down the street and pass everyone from African decent to Asian. Until arriving in Malaysia, most countries we saw in Southeast Asia were populated by a singular entity (Vietnamese in Vietnam, Laotian people in Laos etc.), and I never quite realized how refreshing it is to see people from all backgrounds and walks of life. Muslim is the most prominent religion in the country, and even though I strongly disagree with their views on women’s rights, I never felt looked down upon while walking around or uncomfortable. I did receive quite a few looks donning my casual shorts and a tank top in Kuala Lumpur, and a male waiter certainly was taken slightly aback after I asked him for the bill at the end of a meal, but overall the people were perfectly pleasant in Malaysia.
Not only can diversity make for a more accepting culture, but for some reason the food also benefits from this multi-ethnic population. Vancouver, a city with a large Asian demographic, boasts some of the best sushi I’ve ever tasted (despite being far from Japan), and Malaysia served up Indian dishes that put everything I was eating before to shame. Vietnam is up there for my favourite country for food, but Malaysia pulls ahead ever-so-slightly. Restoran Kapitan in Georgetown will forever hold a special place in my stomach, and Restoran Dan Nasi Ayam Kam Kee in Kuala Lumpur demonstrates how you don’t need fancy chopsticks or decor to serve up the best Chinese food in town. Funnily enough, the Malaysian food I tasted was not worth going back for (in my opinion… not Kyle’s), so we stuck mainly to Indian and Chinese fare.
As you can see from our daily average, Malaysia was the cheapest country on our Southeast Asia adventure. The amazing part is the quality we found from paying so little. Indian food could be bought for as little as $3, the transportation was efficient and spacious, and we finally were reminded of what it’s like to stay in a hostel that didn’t have bugs crawling out of every crevice.
While buses didn’t always leave on time, they were extremely comfortable and more like the quality of long-distance travel transportation you can find in North America. The roads were smooth, and if I was just looking out at the highways, I would think I was cruising through Vancouver. For booking you can have your hostel call or go directly to the station.
The Final Verdict
After Thailand, Kyle and I were feeling burnt-out and in need of a break from Southeast Asia. Even though Malaysia is still technically a part of this geographical region, it’s much more prosperous than the other countries in the area, and as such has infrastructure that’s well maintained. Combine this smoothness of transportation, great food and lack of locals looking at you with dollar signs in their eyes, and Malaysia is exactly what we needed to re-energize and continue our trek through this part of the world. Would we go back to the country? Absolutely. We are already talking about where we would like to visit on our second trip.