6 Reasons to Visit Malaysia
To be honest, I’m not sure I had any expectations at all for Malaysia, neither good or bad. Not only had I not given much thought to the country but it’s also a place often passed over during talks of the otherwise highly visited region of Southeast Asia. Initially our anticipated stops through the country were little more than transit stop offs from Singapore to Thailand, but to my pleasant surprise I enjoyed Malaysia quite a bit more than expected. Below are several reasons to consider visiting Malaysia on your next trip to the vibrant Southeast.
Simply put, the food in Malaysia is amazing. There is such a beautiful mixture of cultures in this region and it really shows in their diverse culinary scene – from Chinese to Indian to Middle Eastern. I recall hearing a joke – author unknown – that you could throw a chopstick in the air in Malaysia and it would likely land in something delicious. I found this sentiment to be true, and I am drooling now still thinking of the street vendor’s steaming hot bowls of Latska – a fish based soup over fresh herbs and vegetables. I was overwhelmed with joy at the prospect of eating such a wide range of fantastic cuisines on a daily basis. One of my favorite food related memories thus far is eating traditional Indian food with my hands off a banana leaf in a slightly seedy hole-in-the-wall restaurant. For the food alone I can’t wait to return.
Cheap Cost of Travel
Similarly to its northern neighbors, the cost of travel in Malaysia is very affordable. I would argue it may be easier to budget travel through this region than countries like Thailand because it is far less touristic there, thus you can find more authentic accommodation that charges closer to the prices locals pay. Transportation costs are very low, and the infrastructure is clean and well kept. As already discussed, the incredible food is easily found from street vendors, so eating cheaply is truly the way to go. You can find the same amazing food as Malaysia’s far more expensive Southern neighbor’s Singapore for a fraction of the price.
As I mentioned, Malaysia’s residents are highly diverse and as a result the country’s culture is thriving. Tourism hasn’t muddled Malaysia’s authenticity the way it has in some other destination in this region. Travelers and locals mingle together pleasantly for a truly genuine experience. I always felt welcome and not purely treated as an outsider. In Malacca, a UNESCO world heritage town, they have a vibrant weekend night market where locals and tourists alike enjoy browsing the crafts and listening to the various karaoke performances. Also, due to the various European imperialistic endeavors, many of the structures are heavily influenced by Spanish and Dutch design.
Less Tourism Infrastructure
This point goes hand in hand with the previous one – one aspect I really appreciated was the lack of obvious, over the top tourist traps. I really enjoyed browsing the stalls and stores without being constantly hassled or pressured into buying something. The prices were up front and haggling wasn’t necessary which made exploring the country generally more peaceful. Also, because there are far less tourists in Malaysia, there was very little of the spring-break-esque party mentality you see all too much in this area. In these ways it is easier to seek out genuine more authentic experiences in the country as well.
Untouched Natural Beauty
Malaysia shares the same peninsula as Thailand’s well known and highly frequented southern beaches. Thus it has all the same natural beauty, sandy beaches, and hot weather, but decidedly lacking in overcrowded, nearly destroyed tourist destinations and their often-misbehaving visitors. I can’t imagine the hoards of belligerently drunk and disrespectful party travelers are good for the country as a whole, or providing it’s citizen’s a desirable view of people from (usually) western countries – which I think has become a real issue in places like Thailand, for example. Although I suppose encouraging visiting Malaysia may bring upon the same undesirable fate – ah, the constant conundrum of a travel writer. Malaysia also has gorgeous jungles and rolling mountains to explore.
In short – Malaysia is a well worth it destinations for those who appreciate a peaceful and culture getaway from the crowds, and would enjoy sampling truly world-class cuisine.