A year ago this month, I was traveling in Malaysia, so I thought I would share my favorite bits of Malaysia. In no particular order here are 10 things that make me happy about Malaysia…
- Culture contrast: Malaysia is a truly unique country, with a mix of three very different cultures – Malay, Indian and Chinese – along with their respective religions – Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist. It’s fascinating to see the cultures combined out on the street… an Indian girl in a brightly colored sari, next to a head covered Muslim woman, and then a Chinese girl in stilettos, miniskirt and a Prada bag walks by.
- The letter K: As previously mentioned, ‘K’ is probably the most popular letter in Malaysia. After a few days in Malaysia, the letter ‘C’ seizes to exist in your mind and suddenly you’re emailing and Fakebooking, I mean Facebooking, about taking teksis, buying a tiket, and going to the kafe!
- Shopping in Kuala Lumpar: While I’m not usually too keen on shopping, I had a great time bargaining at the night market in KL. After buying 2 sundresses and some gifts, I was waiting for my travel buddy to finish their shopping. I kept getting the “You buy, you buy, only $1″ lines even though I wasn’t shopping anymore, I teasingly turned their pushy sales tactic back on them for a laugh, but got the biggest laugh when I was leaving the market, he ran out and gave me a coin purse for free.
- Cameron Highlands: One of my favorite places in Malaysia was the Cameron Highlands. In contrast with the rest of mainland Malaysia, it’s higher in the mountains with low humidity. The highlands are an agriculture zone, known for their tea plantations, strawberry fields, veggies, markets, honey bees and butterflies and excellent hiking opportunities. The perfect place to go when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of SE Asia.
- Amazing Indian food for $2: I had read about a restaurant in Meleka that served a $2 10 item vegeterian lunch, so when my tri-shaw peddler recommended a place, I was happily surprised to find out that it was the same place! After setting you up with your own banana leaf placemat, they spoon dish after dish of curries and rice, filling the leaf (utensils optional). Amazing!
- Pedaling Tri-shaws in Melaka: While I have no plans to move to Malaysia to be a tri-shaw peddler, I had fun taking turns pedaling with my tri-shaw driver on my tour of the town. And the bicycle bell was quite useful to ring as I passed other tri-shaws. I’m not sure who was more surprised, the other drivers or their passengers. ;)
- Massages: Let’s face it, sometimes the $3 massages in SE Asia aren’t that relaxing! You’re practically on the sidewalk, there’s lots of traffic and then they spend the whole time giggling. I found that the average massage in Malaysia was a great value, a step up from Thailand, but way cheaper than Singapore. Most of the workers are Thai anyway, but there seems to be more of a spa atmosphere in Malaysia.
- Monkeys: They’re everywhere! Tip: keep shiny objects in your bag. They love cameras and candy wrappers and just about everything else. There are definitely some cheeky monkeys in Malaysia, and they’re so unpredictable!
- Tea fields in Cameron Highlands: I had no idea how beautiful the tea fields in the Cameron Highlands were going to be. Hill after hill of patterned green. Truly amazing.
- Malay food: I don’t know if Malaysia invented the sweet and sour approach to food, but they’re rocking it regardless. I found Malay food to be a really unique mix of flavors, with a lot of coconut, mango, peanut, tamarind and fish sauce. And I could have eaten for days on all of the treats I bought at the night markets.
See more 10 Things That Make Me Happy lists.
After several relaxing days in Melaka, it was off to Singapore. Goodbye Malaysia and cheap prices! Hello Singapore, land of exorbitant prices! After we arrived, we took the MRT (Singapore metro) out to the Singapore Zoo. Since I’ll be here for a week, I bought a metro EZ-card, like I did in Tokyo, so I don’t have to buy single trip tickets every time. Anyway, the zoo was really cool, and the night safari was amazing! I had never been to a night zoo before. It’s a really great concept. We took a train and then walked around the night zoo, looking at all the animals. They all seemed so close, especially the lion!
After the zoo, we headed back into town. A few of us went to Raffles for Singapore Slings and then walked around the Clark Quay area. Singapore is fun, but you can spend too much, way too easily here. This isn’t going to be an easy week, budget-wise.
We took the three hour bus ride down to Melaka, yesterday. We went to a local Malay restaurant at lunch and ordered family style, so I finally got to taste all the Malay food I’ve been wanting to try. After lunch, we walked to the Chinatown area, and then I took off, for some exploring. I did some browsing in Chinatown, walked to the St. Paul’s church on the hill, overlooking the sea, and then down to the Porta de Santiago. I really like this size of town. It’s very walkable.
This morning, I did a river tour and then a tri-shaw ride, which I ended up peddling part of the way (and no, he wouldn’t give a discount). We had them drop us off at an Indian restaurant that has a ten item vegetarian lunch for only 6 ringetts (that’s $2)! Amazing! We walked back to the hotel, using the sun as our compass, and then headed over to the Chinese reflexology and Thai massage. I got a Chinese reflexology feet and back massage. Refreshing! And they gave us ginger tea to drink. After dinner at The Geographer, I browsed the night market, trying different street food sweets. Melaka has been a really fun city and really affordable.
This morning we went to the Petronas Twin Towers in KL. What a view of the city! Below the towers, is a gigantic mall, so we did a little bit of shopping, before heading out to the Kraft town. I ended up buying a dress at Zara. After walking all afternoon, we stopped in another mall to eat at the basement food court. Have I mentioned how cool the basements are in the malls in Asia? After dinner, we took a taxi back over to Chinatown to do some shopping at the night market. I bought a few gifts and two sundresses. I’m officially shopped out! No more!
Today we left for Kuala Lumpur (KL). Wow, what a change, going from serene, scenic mountain village to claustrophobic, humid, traffic clogged city. KL is huge! It’s a such a different mix of wealth and poverty, so much different than Bangkok. After checking in to our hotel, I went to lunch and then we caught the bus to the Batu Caves. The Batu Caves is a Hindu shrine. You walk up 272 steps to get inside the cave and there are several temples and hundreds of monkeys inside.
This evening, we went to look at the Radio Tower. The restaurant requires two week advance reservations, so we just had drinks and pizza below the tower.