One of the best things about living here in SE Asia is that relatively short distances and a small budget would allow me to quickly change countries, languages, and customs. Malaysia marks the first of many such country/culture jumps in the region and bearing in mind that I only had 4 days there, I left feeling completely satisfied having been able to catch a glimpse of various regions in the country. From the more modern, cosmopolitan city of Kuala Lumpur; historic heritage sites of Melaka, the more conservative, Islamic city of Kota Bharu and the unspoiled & undeveloped natural beauty of the Perhentian Islands.
I somehow managed to travel nearly 1500 KM of Malaysia in just 4 days! 2 out of 5 nights were spent in 10+ hour bus rides and the remaining in very….interesting hostels. I found this trip a real backpacking adventure – no real plan, no accommodation/transportation booked and didn’t really know what to expect… it was amazing!
Some of my initial impressions of Malaysia.
Since living in Thailand for the past few months, I can’t help but compare nearly every aspect to that of Thailand. From the very moment we stepped off our shuttle bus in KL from the airport I had a helluva time adjusting to the pushy, in your face personality of the men there because everyone is so calm and relaxed in Thailand. For example, here in Bangkok the taxi drivers can hardly be bothered to give you a lift whereas, these guys came at us like a herd of stampeding rhinos the moment we stepped of the bus. “where you go?!” “where you go?!?!” “taxi?” “taxi?” “hey miss, where you go?!” “taxi?!” “taxi?!”
I definitely began to feel more on edge in Kuala Lumpur than anywhere I’ve traveled in Thailand.
When I finally got the chance to BREATH and take a look around me….AH HA! a roman-script country. It was amazing how enjoyable it was to be in a country where I wasn’t just staring at anonymous characters and squiggly lines, trying to decipher it’s meaning. I can actually read the signs!
This city is a melting pot of many cultures such as Malays, Chinese, Thais, Singaporeans, Indonesians, Filipinos and a few Europeans. The communication common ground is English so that was also another relief. Though being able to speak English and be understood did make our trip quite efficient I found that the people were not nearly as approachable and friendly as my beloved Thai’s. Not very nice na!
This is my first visit to a Muslim country and my first time being exposed to a religion that I’ve never seen practiced on such a widespread scale. I think as a Westerner it was a natural reaction for me to perceive this culture as an oppression of women in the society because at a glance it appeared to be a restrictive and subservient way of life as a woman in an Islamic state. Indeed a crazy world we live in!
I’m not that hard to please when it comes to food and typically am very open-minded about trying new things hence the 3 kilo’s I’ve gained since being abroad. yOwza!
I am definitely a fan of Malaysian food which has been greatly influenced by it’s neighboring countries such as China, India, Indonesia and Thai. I would describe their food as mildly spicy in comparison to Thai and extremely flavorful as the Malays use several tantalizing herbs and spices such as lemon grass, basil, kaffir lime leaves, nutmeg, tumeric, star anise, ginger buds and chili…..mmmm and coconut milk is used often as well. Some popular dishes include Nasi Dagang which is essentially rice cooked with coconut milk and served with side choice of meat and pickled veggies (I had this about 3 times during my trip….so yummy!) Ayam Goreng is also very popular which is just fried chicken with various spices, satays, rendang, sata, akak and much more….tons of great food!
And the adventure begins…here are just a few photos from the trip. More to be seen at my flickr.
Arrived in KL around 1am, checked in here in China Town’s JL Petaling Street.
Just outside our hostel, early AM.After some good ol’ greasy Chinese food for breakfast, we hopped on a bus and headed just approx. 2 hours north to Melaka for the day. Though we only spent merely half a day there, it was definitely a highlight of the trip. Melaka is truly a fascinating city so rich in culture with a very unique combination of the East and West. Influences from the Portuguese, Dutch, British and Chinese is prevalent throughout the city especially among the architectural landmarks. This town was filled with so much character! I loved it.
See that thuggish guy in the bottom left corner? yep! that was our guide who drove us around Melaka in his pimped out cycle rickshaw (below) with Jason Mraz on repeat!
BEAUTIFUL Melacca river.
After dinner we hopped onto another bus ride and headed far north where we explored Kota Bharu for a bit before heading to Kuala Besut.
Cruising around Kota Bharu. So many beautiful mosques like this.
Grabbed lunch at Hayaki Kopitiam.
In Kuala Besut awaiting our ferry to the Perhentian Islands!45 minutes later, we were greeted by this……….absolutely amazing.Clear, warm, shallow waters and fine white sand.Our time on the Perhentian Islands was a brief 20 hours because we had to catch the ONLY ferry the following day to head back to Kota Bharu and to make it on a bus in time for arrival in KL the following morning.
Floating market in Kota Bahru. Visual Delight…smell was a different story.We had a few hours to kill in Kota Bharu so we rented a couple bicycles and explored a few night markets, had some dinner at the town’s night food market filled with hawker stands and huge rats roaming everywhere!! >.<
In KL the following morning at 5am. Checked in here to leave our stuff for the day…spent half the day roaming KL before heading back to Bangkok. Market just below our hostel at 7am!!
At the National Mosque, KL with RobinOld railway station. KL
Masjid Jamek.In the center of the city there is Merdeka Square which is also the core of KL’s history. Malaysian flag was hoisted here in 1957 signifying their independence from British rule. All the buildings here are beautiful! Below is the Abdul Samad building.Famous Petronas Twin Towers
Overall I really enjoyed Malaysia. So many beautiful sights, gained some new knowledge, met a few cool people, had delicious food and discovered the backpacker in me. Definitely good times but it’s oh so good to be back home…..in Bangkok!!
For now I will stick to traveling within Thailand and discovering more of Bangkok. I would really like to have more time when visiting other countries so….more countries to be visited come December!