Visiting Malaysia in 2024 is a great option! The food is really tasty and diverse, it’s very safe and quite modern. The culture is super interesting and the history as well. Traveling is very affordable and comfortable with any mode of transportation and their English level is good. We have had many good feelings and a very little of not so good feelings after traveling for 3 weeks in Malaysia and we would like to share these ones with you. These feelings are as of 2024 and we think that some of the things will change in the near future.
The good feelings
Food: food in Malaysia was one of the best we’ve had during the trip, since it’s a mixture of Indian, Chinese and Malay cuisine with Thai, Arabic, and Indonesian influences as well. Almost every restaurant we tried was good and even the more local ones with the roti canai in the morning for 1,2 RM (About 0,24€) with a spicy sauce were really good. We tried some of the best Indian restaurants and the best Indian Muslim restaurants as well. Moreover, it has lots of vegetarian options because of the Indian influence, which makes it perfect for a balanced diet. This, and the fact that Malaysia is very developed made it one of the countries where we almost didn’t have any stomach ache, similar to Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
Culture: The food is so good because the culture is also so good. Three different big and famous cultures live in the same country in Southeast Asia: namely, the Indian, the Chinese and the Malay. All of them tend to have different religions and speak different languages. Despite all the cultural differences, everyone seems to be in harmony. It’s true that most of the Chinese stayed with Chinese (for example in markets or Chinatown) and most of the Indians stayed in similar communities such as little Indian. This was super visible in Penang and in Melaka. However, you can also see many mixtures. Especially when you go to any restaurant, or even within the same family. It’s also very interesting to see people speaking 2 or even 3 of these languages. You can also see mosques, churches, Indian temples and Buddhist temples in the same city, such as in Melaka. And even in the same street, separated just by a couple of meters. In fact, such a multi-culti country has of course a super interesting history: when Malaysia got its independence in 1957, the parliament was ruled by a party with a Malay, an Indian and a Chinese representative. All this, of course, means a richness in festivities as well. When we were there, there were celebrating one of the most important Indian Tamil festivities (Thaipusam) and until today, they have been getting ready for one of the most important Chinese events, the Chinese new year (we hear everywhere the “Gong Xi Fa Cai” songs for wishing good luck for the new year)
Card: You can pay with a card almost everywhere and also a couple of banks such as HSBC and the Islamic bank allow for international withdrawals for free ^^ we were missing that after the last couple of countries.
English: The English is generally very good. Not everyone can speak English as well as in the Philippines, but it’s definitely one of the countries of Asia where the English level is the highest.
Modern transport: the transport is really modern and very cheap. You can travel a couple of stops by bus for just 0,2€ and the metro costs you only 0,4€. The metro and trains are really comfortable and fast. There’s even a free bus for the city center of Penang.
Extremely cheap petrol and grab: Another thing that is so cheap is the petrol. It costs only 0,39€ per liter! In Germany, back home, it costs about 1,8€… This low price is probably because of their petrol production (if you think that the most famous buildings in KL are the Petronas towers). This cheap petrol allows for a very cheap taxi and grab service. Moreover, the grab is super accepted and you can safely use it almost everywhere.
Water: Almost everywhere is possible to fill up your bottles of water for free with filtered water. Also, we’ve heard that even the tap water in KL is safe to drink (but we didn’t want to risk it without a filter ^^)
The not so good feelings
Plastic and dirt: the not so good feeling that shocked us the most is the plastic. There’s a lot of plastic left in the middle of the little streets in KL as well as on the river. The river is flowing with plastic all the time in the middle of the city, which is pretty sad, knowing that all this huge amounts of plastic will go to the sea. If you take a look in the roads, there are also huge amounts of plastic by the side and since there are also some abandoned dogs, you see some accidents and some of the dogs eating or playing with the plastic. Dogs are not the only animals that suffer from that. Also the monitor lizards, which live between water and land, seemed to have difficulties when going out of the water because of the amounts of plastic in the rivers.
Not made for pedestrians: this was probably the most uncomfortable thing when traveling in Malaysia. It’s very modern but somehow the cities and islands have cars as priority. This means, there are very few traffic lights to cross the streets and sometimes you need to walk for 10-15 minutes before you find a place where you can cross the street. Even when you find that place, you usually need to do a detour to be able to cross the road with some stairs that go above the street. This is bad in most of the cities and extremely bad in KL. We had to cross in places where the cars were going very fast, and we had the feeling it was not safe to cross there. Since the price of the grab is very affordable, we would recommend taking it whenever you need to walk more than 20-30 minutes…
Sometimes it's noisy early in the morning: with the mixture of religions and festivities it's typical to be woken up quite early in the morning, even with earplugs. It's of course normal and we respect it but it may be useful to know that in advance when you travel here since we were woken up a couple of times around 6 AM. Our advice is to go to sleep very early or get super good earplugs because it gets loud.
As you saw in this post, most of the things about Malaysia gave us good feelings. We would definitely recommend visiting Malaysia for the culture and the food. Also for being very modern, affordable and safe. We felt safe all the time during the trip. The nature was also very interesting but the beaches and landscapes were not as breathtaking as other countries we’ve seen during the sabbatical. However, we’ve heard that the east of Malaysia, including Borneo, has lots of beautiful islands and even more fascinating nature, so we expect to visit that in another trip (now it's the rainy season and that’s why we skipped that part of the country).
We hope you liked this post of the summary of our feelings in Malaysia!