1. Variety of Things to Do
For me, Malaysia is an awesome source of variety, and I experienced it first hand in the things I did while traveling there. We started off doing the island and beach thing on Langkawi and Penang. Fun in the sun, swimming, drinks on the patio, and motorbiking around. We then hit up the Cameron Highlands for some jungle trekking, hiking mountains, exploring a tea plantation, checking out cool bugs and wildlife, and all sorts of stuff that nature buffs go for. Then it was off to Kuala Lumpur for the amazing urban skylines, awesome modern architecture, and the joy of escaping the city heat inside air-conditioned shopping malls. Our time finished off in Melaka, where we ate some of the best food on our trip, checked out some awesome museums and colonial architecture, and enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the Jonker street night market. In one month we did beaches, jungles, mountains, cities, swimming, trekking, hiking, cooking, eating, museums, history… you name it… Malaysia had it! And we really only covered the western side of the country.
2. The People
Whether talking about work, school, and especially travel, its the people who make the difference, and for me, the people of Malaysia were a big part of why I loved the country so much. Firstly, I found the Malaysians to be honest, courteous, and extremely well spoken/polite. I never saw the disdain for tourists that I’ve seen in other countries, and in fact felt very welcome in the country as a whole. Also, let’s face it: as a traveler, money plays a huge roll in your day-to-day interactions with people (bills come daily… not monthly). I personally loved the honesty of sales people (especially when buying bus tickets), and the fact that I never felt like a target or that somebody was trying to take advantage of me. As a tourist, this is huge! Finally, I am a big fan of multiculturalism, and the people of Malaysia were a shining example of why diversity is such a wonderful thing.
3. The Food
Malaysia is home to easily the best food I have had on our trip. Sure in Thailand you get great Thai food (… sometimes), but in Malaysia you can eat great Malay food, Indian food, Chinese food (which I could now order instead of puzzling over Chinese characters), and my personal favourite, Nyonya food (Chinese Straights people’s food best found in Penang and Melaka). The best part of it all is that you don’t have to spend a lot to get the very best of Malaysian cooking. In fact, some of the best food is served street side at prices that can only do damage to your waistline. My favourite dish was Melaka laksa, though I feel guilty writing that when I know satay (BBQ’d chicken skewers in peanut sauce) was so good to me. Oh my God now I want some Malay food. Let’s move on to the next “reason I love Malaysia” before my stomach buys a plane ticket I currently can’t afford.
4. The Prices
There’s not much to say here, other than that it was incredibly affordable to eat, sleep, travel, and explore in Malaysia. Our average daily expenditures were the cheapest of any country not named Laos that we’ve been to on this trip.
5. Limited Amount of Touting
Touting (the act of trying to sell things to people who may or may not be interested) is a daily occurrence in the life as a tourist in Southeast Asia. While I’ve learned to deal with it as politely and consistently as possible, it is still something that I don’t particularly like when I’m walking down the street, or trying to make my way through a market. Of all the countries in Southeast Asia (except Singapore), Malaysia had the least amount of touting. While there was a little bit of touting, mainly in Kuala Lumpur, it wasn’t nearly on the same level as the other countries in Southeast Asia. It was so nice going out and about (“oot and aboot”, for our fellow Canadians) and not having people yelling, “tuk-tuk?”, “taxi?”, “sunglasses?”, “you want lady boom-boom?”, “(whispered) marijuana?”, “come into my shop?”, “you buy!” etc.
Malaysia became that favourite student in class when you’re not supposed to have “favourites”. But I’m not going to hide how much I truly enjoyed it anymore. It has been my favourite country on this trip and for that I can only say: Dear Malaysia, I love you. Sincerely, Tristan.