We didn’t give much thought to Malaysia before we arrived as it was almost at the end of the Asia leg of our trip and had seemed so far away. But the benefit of it being near the end of Asia meant that because we had days in hand we could relax a bit and make it more of a touring holiday here, as well as put roots down for a few days in the places we wanted to visit. We have loved it, and it’s definitely another country we would like to come back to. As usual we had lots of observations over our three weeks here:
1. For some reason we had expected Malaysia to be much more expensive than Thailand. Quite the opposite – with accommodation, food and even the same products in Tesco’s (yes they have it here too!) all noticeably cheaper.
2. Crossing the border from Thailand our clocks went forward by an hour, which unfortunately messed up the nice cycling routine we had. Daylight was an hour later than in Thailand so our days here generally started at 7am and finished between 12.30 and 2pm, which often meant very hot, sweaty and uncomfortable cycling.
3. Malaysia is a real mix of old and new as well as East meets West, which we could see in the Arabic, Chinese, Indian and Malay faces, cultures and writing everywhere we went. What’s interesting foodwise is that the Chinese seem to eat mainly Chinese food, Indians eat Indian food etc. etc.
4. For cyclists, the roads surfaces are pretty good and most of the main roads have hard shoulders for cycling. However there are so many cars on the road, probably a similar volume to the U.K., that it wasn’t always particularly pleasant. And rumble strips appear every few kilometres, which slowed us down a bit as we didn’t want to wreck our new wheel rims! But on the plus side, drivers were very considerate and didn’t cut us up or try to squeeze out in front of us. Apart from getting into and out of Kuala Lumpar our experience on the roads really wasn’t too bad. However we did see two accidents involving scooters, one of which looked pretty serious with the scooter rider laid on the ground and police and medics in attendance, so the obviously considerate drivers aren’t accident-free! And we recently heard of a long-distant cyclist who was killed on her way in to Kuala Lumpar a few years ago.
5. A lot of scooter drivers wear jackets or long coats backwards like this while on the road…..
We assume it’s to keep the sun off their skin, but can’t imagine it’s a comfortable way to travel.
6. The Malaysians, like many of their Asian neighbours, are a patriotic lot and there are flags just about everywhere. We particularly liked the roof on this house…
7. The Malaysian people are super friendly – especially the hospitality and service industry workers, who are definitely among the nicest we have met on our trip. Everyone, from hotel reception staff to taxi drivers to waiting staff in restaurants, are so friendly and welcoming – and the level of English throughout the whole country is fantastic. With our bikes hotel staff often told us to take the bikes inside before we had even asked! The down side to that is that it made us a bit lazy and we didn’t use even basic greetings like we have done in most of the other countries we have visited.
8. It’s definitely one of the most affluent countries we have been to in Asia, with many more cars on the road, loads of designer and western brand-name shops and bigger, more modern houses, that look similar to houses you would see in the US!
9. Cyclists. Similar to Thailand, cyclists in Malaysia were generally lycra-clad leisure cyclists on expensive bikes like this lot who just ZOOMED passed us…..
There weren’t many bike users cycling as a regular means of transport.
10. Street wires – Since Delhi, tangled masses of electricity and telecoms wires have dangled from every building and pole in every village, town and city – except Malaysia. In the U.K. these wires tend to be below ground and it’s obviously the same here as everywhere looks more ordered and neater than we have seen for a while.
11. Thankfully we haven’t encountered very many dogs here and there seem to be more cats than dogs, which apparently is a Muslim thing. But a lot of the cats have deformed tails like this one…
We googled it, thinking it’s a breed unique to this region, but apparently it’s a genetic defect.
12. Durian fruit….this is a big really smelly fruit that’s available throughout Asia.
Here there are signs that forbid people to eat it on the bus or take into hotels. Why can’t we have the same for fried chicken on London buses???
13. Mineral water – at 40p a bottle it is probably more expensive here than anywhere we have been. But there is wide availability of filtered water in hotels as well as cheap street-side machines so we didn’t have to buy it very often.
14. Food. The food in Malaysia, particularly Malacca, has been up there with the best on our trip. India still retains the top position, but because od the big Indian community in Malaysia there is so much Indian-style food available so maybe that’s why we liked it so much. But it can be VERY spicy, and although we think we can deal with a pretty high level of spice, some of it was just inedible.
15. As was the case in Thailand, Saturday and Sunday are quieter here with many shops and businesses closed. In a country that is 60% Muslim we had expected Friday to be quiet as it’s the Muslim day of prayer, but they seem to attend prayers and then get back to work.
16. 25% of the Malaysia population is Chinese and there are obvious signs of the Chinese influence continuing to grow. Lots of Chinese investment and construction projects are underway throughout the country and their tourism is definitely geared for the Chinese who are by far their most common foreign visitors.
17. The number 4. Apparently it’s an unlucky number in the Chinese culture so with such a large Chinese population in Malaysia many places take that into consideration….including this lift building, which didn’t feature the number 4 on any of the floors!
18. The Malaysians like their fast food, evident from the lots of “Mc Donald’s drive-thru VIP” stickers on cars that we have seen!
19. And finally….this was one of my favourite notices. Did they mean shoes worn on “Strictly….” were not allowed, and if so how many Strictly dancers were they expecting?!