Malaysia surprises: why you should visit this Asian country?
This third travel post of our Asia trip is about Malaysia. We visited this country for a week in December 2019 and learned quite a lot about it. I would have to say that I was positively surprised about this Asian country and in this post I’ll explain why. Check out my previous posts about Thailand and Cambodia.
This Asian country is really interesting, because of the history and because it has many cultures living in it. The country was under British colony until 1957, when they gained independence. The British influence is everywhere – people speak English really well, they have left-sided traffic and some places have names, which are influenced by United Kingdom (Butterworth, Georgetown etc).
Malaysia has 30 million people, of which 68% are local Malay people, 23% are Chinese and 7% are Indian. It’s also a very religious country, where Islam and Buddhism are most common. People speak mostly Malay and English. In many schools English is mandatory along with the local language. We also thought that it might be because of the many cultures living together, so they could communicate properly.
Because of the mix of cultures, there are also so many unique traditions and different food available. From many cities you can find districts, which are mainly for Chinese or Indian. Therefore, you can also find so many different kinds of Asian food everywhere.
Malaysia compared to other Asian countries
I had the comparison with Thailand and Cambodia. I would definitely say that Malaysia was the most developed and richer compared to the other two countries. Even just by walking around the streets you can see that the country has put more effort into cleaner environment for example. Also, the people seem more educated and even the traffic is more decent and not chaotic.
Coming straight from Cambodia to Malaysia was truly nice, because I felt that I had left the cultural shock and came to a really decent country. It was so good to see that the streets are clean and basically everybody understands you and speaks English with you. Even though the country is quite religious, I didn’t feel that it affected our stay in any way.
We arrived in Malaysia late and decided to take an overnight bus to Penang Island, which was a 5-6 hour bus ride from Kuala Lumpur. I looked up Penang, because it wasn’t very far from the capital and it offered some interesting sights as well as awesome food. The buses go very often and they are truly comfortable. Also, they’re not very expensive.
We stayed in a private room in Airbnb apartment in Georgetown, which is the capital of Penang Island. We stayed with a local Chinese family, who were seriously kind. From their place we frequently used Grab taxi (like Asian Uber) for transportation, as well as local bus. Getting around on the island is quite easy and affordable.
What is there to do in Penang Island?
I would highly recommend to visit Penang National Park, which definitely was the highlight of Penang for me. We hiked through the jungle to reach some great views and the Monkey beach. The jungle hike was quite challenging, because of the heat and the many thousands steps with highs and lows you need to take. But, it was totally worth it. We got to see some awesome nature and many monkeys.
We did only one side of the park because we finished when it was getting darker, but it’s also a possibility to hike through the park from two different paths. Overall, an awesome experience and would highly recommend for the nature lovers.
On Penang Island, we also explored Georgetown – went to see Chew Jetty (floating market), Wonderfood Museum, visited Penang Hill and ate some awesome local food. To reach Penang Hill, we got to ride with funicular, which was also a fun experience. The views up there were cool, but not really amazing, because the sunset can’t be seen. Bad thing was that we had to wait for an hour to get back down, because of the line to the funicular.
Our Airbnb host family took us out to experience local food. On our own, we wouldn’t have known what to order, so they introduced us to some best dishes and we were surprised – it was extremely good and seriously cheap.
After Penang Island, we drove back to Kuala Lumpur to spend 3 days exploring the city. I hadn’t done much research about the city to keep it more interesting. Fortunately, we also met a local guy, who was happy to show us around for 2 days and we learned quite a lot about the life in this country. He shared information about the history, the people, culture, cost of living, education and overall life.
We checked some attractions like Central Market, National Museum, The River of Life, Parliament Building and some other. Petronas Twin Towers during nighttime were really nice. We mainly explored around, when it was dark and got some great views, as well as less crowds. In Kuala Lumpur we tried Malaysian, Chinese and Indian food and everything was so delicious and extremely cheap.
In Kuala Lumpur we also got 2 rainy days, which wasn’t great for exploring around town, but I guess we saw all the interesting places we wanted. On the last day we also visited the famous Batu Caves, which is the main attraction in Kuala Lumpur. The colorful stairs are popular to take pictures from. Inside the caves religious people can pray and leave donations. Since, it’s a religious place, you also have to cover your legs. Otherwise you can’t go inside the caves. You can also take some cave tours, but since we had to catch a plane, we didn’t have time for that. The Caves are also filled with monkeys.
Malaysia is an interesting country with lots of culture and different people. We really enjoyed Penang Island, but Kuala Lumpur was quite enough for 3 days. I would come back to Malaysia to explore more nature and other islands. We got some good memories from there and would highly recommend to visit it. Hope you enjoyed this post and got some useful information about Malaysia.