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Malaysia - Cameron Highlands - tea plantation - Andras Schmied's photo

“Malaysia is a bit more expensive than Thailand. The advantage of Malaysia, however, is that the locals are not so practiced in the arts of fleecing tourists.

The Batu Caves, near Kuala Lumpur, were no disappointment – truly spectacular. It probably isn’t worth spending more than two days in Kuala Lumpur itself, though.

The view from the Langkawi Sky Bridge, reached by cable car, is absolutely spectacular, and it was wonderfully relaxing to walk the quaint streets of Georgetown, Penang. In Sabah, the North Borneo Steam Railway is a great way to see some beautiful scenery.

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“What I liked about Malaysia was that it isn’t crammed with tourists, and nobody hassles you to buy things. The Malaysians themselves are friendly, and were always happy to help us with directions when we got lost.
We were surprised at how rich it is: I had pictured it as a less developed country.

Another positive was the diversity of cultures and landscapes, and the exhilarating contrast between the old and the new.

We weren’t particularly blown away by the Batu Caves, because the surrounding area was full of litter.

You have to watch out in Malaysia, because you’re constantly going from the warm, humid outdoors to cool, air-conditioned interiors. I twice caught a cold.

They have a fantastically rich culinary tradition, and make creative combinations of Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and Western elements.

One of the highlights of our trip through Malaysia was a visit to the tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands. I’ve never seen such spectacular greens in all my life.

My other favorite was the town of Malacca, which is much more authentically Malaysian than Kuala Lumpur, and full of history and culture.” (T. D., 2016)

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“The fact is… Malaysians are totally different to the people of Burma, Laos and Thailand. They strike me as more intelligent and refined, preferring peace and quiet to continually blasting some weird music. They don’t even like that screeching Thai karaoke. In general, the people we met throughout the country were friendly, good-natured and interested.

Malaysia itself is unbelievably rich in natural beauty, and its mountains, valleys, gorgeous coastlines, magical islands, diving paradises, lush rainforests, and evergreen landscape are all a balm to the soul. They take care of it, too – there are many national parks, all with good litter collection systems, and the parks and gardens of the city are all well-tended. Nor is the landscape simply a beautiful, deserted wilderness – it supports a huge diversity of tropical plant and animal life, which is at least one of the things this country is most famous for.


All movies filmed in Malaysia – and all Western films shown in public places – are censored, and in many instances so many scenes are cut that it becomes difficult to follow the story. Any scenes of passionate kissing, for instance, have to go, but if it simply shows a man hitting a woman then it can stay.


There is free Wi-Fi virtually everywhere in Malaysia. Not in the rainforests, of course, but you’ll find it even at run-down bus stops and cheap hotels.

The country is generally both well developed and reasonably priced, but the accommodation situation in Kuala Lumpur is a nightmare: There’s no cheap accommodation, and the cheapest on offer isn’t a room at all, but just a windowless, plywood cell. At least there’s air-con everywhere. With only 1.5 million inhabitants,

Kuala Lumpur is a dwarf compared to the other metropolises of Southeast Asia, but the traffic situation is still appalling. We arrived several times by bus, and always ended up in a horrendous traffic jam on the boulevard heading towards Central Station. On the other hand, at least the buses in Malaysia are almost all of the highest standing in terms of comfort – easily better than in Thailand. There are also VIP and Super-VIP categories, with seats as roomy and comfortable as in the business class of any upscale airline.” (2017)


Practicals

Transport

“There are a couple of interesting (meaning incomprehensible) elements in Malaysia’s transport network. We can start with Kuala Lumpur’s demandingly opaque metro network, then move on to the sidewalks, which seem to have somehow been forgotten from lack of interest, and finally, we can finish with the fantastic bus service. There are as many bus companies as there are stars in the sky, but very few passengers, which is why many departures are combined at the last minute. Delays are guaranteed. We took long-distance buses three times, each time with a one-hour delay, and never with the company, we originally bought our ticket from.” (2017)

Food

“Malaysia is full to bursting with restaurants, serving the widest possible range of cuisines. It is said that eating in restaurants is a sort of national pastime. Restaurant staff is usually Indonesian, Indian or immigrant Chinese, and the diversity of the staff further blends the already rich tapestry of Malay, Chinese and Indian cooking which combines here, intermingling over time, and incorporating elements of Indonesian and other styles. It smells amazing! One of the most important ingredients in Malaysia is satay. Little chunks of meat – usually either beef or chicken – cooked over embers and served on short wooden skewers, and marinated in a satay sauce.

The characteristic feature of Malaysian cuisine is that it uses a lot of Chinese ingredients, but combines them with strong local spices. Your mouth is likely to be on fire at times! Malaysian desserts include corn, brown beans, red beans, black rice, and coconut milk, as well as brown sugar and honey-brown sugar. The thing I like best about Malaysian cooking is how inventive they are with the coconut. It goes in everything, from savory main courses to desserts, to soups and candy. Sweet potato counts as a dessert here, and so you can sprinkle some coconut flakes and brown sugar on top, which makes it a really top dessert!


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You can get all sorts of street food in Malaysia, mostly cooked and served on a wooden skewer. This is also the way you’ll get the worse food – fried chicken asses. Some say it’s the best, and a real delicacy. They’re wrong!
The sweets are very tasty and tempting – at least until you taste them. Most are made as a kind of rice pudding and look spectacular. When tasted, however, it generally turns out that they are neither sweet nor salty – or, even worse, half sweet and half salty. None bear the remotest resemblance to the sweets of Turkey or Arabia, which are always dripping in honey, and as such have notoriously high sugar content.”

Malaysia - food - m.v. photo

Malaysia - dinner - o.h. photo

Malaysia - fresh fruit juices - m.d. photo

Public safety

In general, public security is not bad; however, tourists are sometimes victims of criminal acts, like theft, pickpocketing, robberies, and car break-ins.


Malaysia - police car - s.p. photo

Others

1. Possession, consumption, trafficking of drugs are all three serious crimes in Malaysia. Possessing more than a few grams is already punishable by death, as it is considered a commercial quantity under Malaysian law.

Malaysia - sweet sleep - Andras Schmied's photo

Background

Malaysia - national flag costumes

Destination in brief

Malaysia in brief

Malaysia is in South East Asia. The main part of the country is located on the Asian mainland, the other part on the northern side of the island of Borneo.  Neighbors are: Thailand (north), Singapore (south), Indonesia and Brunei on Borneo.
Size: 329,847 km² (127 355 mi²)
Population: 32,2 million (2020) – Most of them live in the western part of the country, between Thailand and Singapore
Ethnic makeup: about 50% Malay, 22,5% Chinese, 12% indigenous (so-called) Bumiputra groups other than the Malays, 6,5% Indian
An unwritten rule: the position of prime minister and all prominent government positions must go to Malays. Malaysian Indians are usually better off than the Malays. The Chinese play a very active role in the economy.
Malaysia is a sultanate. Under its political system, one Sultan from each of the nine royal states becomes King, or "Agong," every 5 years. None of the other 42 monarchies in the world have a similar system of government – it is the only one of its kind.
Capital city: Kuala Lumpur (means: muddy confluence), with a population of about 8 million (2020)
Malaysia is a left-hand driving country
Official currency: ringgit (MYR) - Ringgit means “jagged” in Malay, and originally referred to the separated edges of Spanish silver dollars extensively circulated in the region.
Average net monthly salary: about 1,100 USD (2020)
Caning is a common punishment under Malaysian law. The maximum number of strokes that can be ordered is 24. Women can never be caned, nor can boys under the age of 10 or men over 50, except for rape.
Most frequent surname: Tan
Malaysia is more expensive than Thailand, but less expensive than Singapore.
Malaysia is a safe country for visitors. You are unlikely to encounter any violence, but you should be careful when it comes to petty crime because it happens pretty often.
Optimal timing for a tourist visit:
Many visitors say that August-September is the best time to come here, while March, April and October can be risky because of the weather. The wonderful coast of East Malaysia is too rainy between November and February.
Malaysia arguably offers more natural attractions than Thailand.
Main tourist attractions:
Kuala Lumpur & Batu Cave
Penang (especially culture and gastronomy in George Town)
Island of Langkawi for a beach holiday
The tea plantations on the Cameron Highlands
The authentic city of Melaka
Adventure travel in the jungles of Borneo

Climate

Between November and February, there are fierce monsoons on the east coast of the country (Peninsular Malaysia), which can make the main roads impassable, so the affected areas are closed for the tourists too. The west coast has a monsoon period between April and October, and the heaviest rains are in September-October when intermittent and partial floods and closures can happen. The Federal state of Sabah (the north-eastern part of Borneo) is an earthquake-prone area.

Nowadays

“As in all Southeast Asian countries, the Chinese played the same role here that Judaism played in Europe: They are the educated, financial, hard-working people persecuted by others. Seeing as the average Malay is not only ugly but also lazy and work-shy, it is no surprise that essentially the entire national economy soon fell into the hands of the Chinese, who are at least diligent. For this reason, racial laws have been in place since the 1960s to improve the economic ownership of the two-thirds Malay majority by 11-12%, excluding other races from certain industries, offering favorable loans to Malay businesses, and granting foreign scholarships to young Malaysians. The predictable result is that a small but corrupt stratum has stolen as much as possible, successfully boosting the proportion of Malay-owned businesses to 22%, but without much improvement in the life of the average Malaysian.”

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“How much interconnection is there between Malaysia’s different ethnicities, or to what extent is each community separate? When it comes to people, it’s completely normal that people from different ethnicities make friends with each other – it’s politics that causes problems. The fact is, although Malaysia is a progressive Islamic state with religious tolerance, this does not by any means imply that there is religious equality. A socio-economic feature of Malaysia is that Muslims are automatically in a higher position than others in certain areas, and the country’s political leadership is restricted to Muslims. This creates some tension, especially with the concentration of very significant levels of economic power in the hands of the well-established and traditionally non-Muslim ethnic Chinese population. (2019)

People

,, As the old proverb says about the people of Malaysia, ‘the Malay’s think they own everything, the Chinese do own everything and the Tamils do all the work.’ As with most proverbs, there is an element of truth in this and as with most proverbs, there is some fantasy.

First impressions, getting off the plane and wandering out of the airport, are of being wrapped in a hot wet felt blanket but don't worry you will survive, probably.  Malaysia is made up of three main groups the ethnic Malays, the Tamils, and the Chinese. They have of course a long-shared history being brought together, “entirely voluntarily” under the British Empire. Truth is, for the tourist, the differences are probably hard to see.

Malaysians are usually relatively calm, quiet, humble, smiling people. Especially away from the main tourist haunts. Local Muslim women completely cover their bodies but not their faces. They all tend to wear the hijab, shawl. In general Muslim Malaysian women are reticent to interact with men, not of their acquaintance. If you’re a chap it’s probably not such a good idea to try and “chat one up.”
 
The Malays are kind, courteous and helpful with those foreign tourists who behave correctly and wear tidy attire. It’s a good idea not to walk around with your shirt off or in a bikini, this will not be well received. Almost all locals are happy to help tourists with directions although there is always the possibility of asking five different people and being sent in five different directions.

 People are likely to travel even insignificant distances by car, instead of walking, if they can afford a car that is. Like the west a car is a status symbol, consequently, there are a lot of traffic jams, and the air in the cities is full of exhaust fumes. In fact, walking is often faster than driving but if there is a stretch of open road or even not very open road don’t be surprised at the speeds that can be achieved. Another thing to remember is the Zebra crossings are more of a target than a right of way and amber lights mean to put your foot down.
 
The typical, Malay person is seldom nervous, despite the traffic, and has a reasonably balanced mindset, of course, it might just be stoicism. They are satisfied if they have a decent standard of living, but then aren’t most of us? Politically Malaysia is relatively stable although there has been some political drama in recent times. Malaysians are not politically highly motivated but of course, the world can change. The people are more focused on day to day living than on the larger political and philosophical questions. Malaysians are amazingly proud of their country and their nation even though it is as with many ex-colonial countries, a mosaic of different areas.
 
Young people tend to spend most of their free time sleeping and using the internet, no shock if you have ever bumped into a young person anywhere else. I’m sure they do other things, being young. but delicacy leads me to gloss this over. Local Chinese youth seem to particularly like to party, most enjoying a good karaoke Do not forget that Muslims are not supposed to drink, which of course has nothing to do with this. (Alan Durant, 2020)

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“The Malaysians speak Malay, while the Chinese use one of the Chinese dialects such as Cantonese, for instance, but it depends where in China their ancestors originally came from (those who attend a Chinese kindergarten or educational institution learn Mandarin, which is the official Chinese language). Indians also speak their own language (mostly Tamil). Many people know at least a few words of English, although I admit I was the English here to be of a higher standard. Due to a lack of English, I met relatively few locals with whom I was able to have deeper conversations, but fortunately, I did succeed on a few occasions. In terms of English language skills, you should expect nothing above a survival level in Malaysia, and if you’re luckier than me, you can look forward to a positive surprise. "

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There were times in Malaysia when people were helpful, and other times when they were less helpful. In Penang, for example, I asked the bus driver on a local route to tell me when we got to my stop. For some reason he never did, so I, at last, accepted that this was not going to be the case, and instead followed our route on Google Maps until we got to my stop. In Kuala Lumpur, however, when I stopped in confusion for no more than five seconds because I suddenly didn’t know how to get to my destination, someone immediately approached me and asked – in this case in English – where I wanted to go and was happy to guide me.

I loved Malaysia very much, being a multicultural country, inhabited by Malays, Chinese, Indians, and – in the rainforest, for example – other ethnic groups. Everyone speaks their own language and cultivates their own traditions. "



Malaysia - couple - Elter photo

Malaysia - people - n.r. photo

Malaysia - Muslim swimsuites - h.s. photo

Malaysia - Bumiputras (Malays) - Andras Schmied's photo

Malaysia - beldame selling some garden-greens - Andras Schmied's photo

Malaysia - Muslim ladies in niqab - Andras Shmied's photo

Tourist etiquette


,,  The most important rule: don't say or do anything that the local Muslims can interpret (even misinterpret) as an offense of Islam, the Quran, and their religious practices. In conversations with Malaysians, avoid political, religious, and racial issues and be aware that the locals (especially the Muslims and the Indians) are prudish and conservative. Even when joking, you have to be very careful, as reactions can be pretty unpredictable.
 
Even if you think you have good reason to be angry, don’t. Stay cool and remember its always easier to misunderstand than to understand. In Malaysia, the native Malays are very self-conscious and sensitive about avoiding humiliation. If the tourist starts to Shout and try and throw their weight about while speaking contemptuously, it will cause astonishment and confusion among the Malay. The result will be worse than if the complaint has been expressed calmly.

Malaysians tend to eat using their fingers and although this might seem a bit yukky to a westerner the best idea is probably to muck in and try and go for things with not too much sauce. On the good side, there are lots of different kebabs on sticks.

If you eat together with Malaysians, you should know that for them, that use of the left hand when eating is improper, even disgusting. The main reason is that they don't use toilet paper but clean their backside by washing with the left hand, arguably a more hygienic practice than using toilet paper. Keep your left hand to yourself and especially away from food. The comforting news for Western tourists is that some modern restaurants have facilities such as flush toilets and toilet paper.  But don't expect to find that at most of the tourist attractions. Therefore, it is advisable to organize the programs and excursions, having in mind when and where there is a chance to find a convenient WC facility. Otherwise, learn to use your left hand! In hot weather
cool water on the bum is a delight, self-administered or with a friend. In these COVID times, washing is always a plus and you could pack a a little bottle of hand sanitizer.

 Don't reach out to a Malaysian with your left hand. Try to neutralize your left hand in any dealings with Malaysians. This might be tricky, especially if you're left-handed.A strange contradiction is that the Malaysian men tend to reach out both of their hands when shaking hands; indeed, the grasp with the left hand is always looser. There should be a name for this but you’ll have to make up your own.
It is ill-mannered to take a business card with your left hand. This is as offensive as spitting, not in the face just in general. Take the business card with both hands, bow, read the name, smile, nod, and then put it in your pocket. I’m not sure what a woman is supposed to do. I suppose it does not apply as women, of course, don’t do business. I suppose a curtsy might be in order. You can always throw the card away later if the mood takes you. Remember, this is Asia, “where polite behavior is everything, rude people lose face, or maybe something worse.

Avoid pointing fingers and casual movements of the foot (e.g., placing on a table) because it is considered indecent in Malaysia. Presenting the sole of your foot to the surrounding throng is especially offensive and is not the way to ensure a tranquil visit. In fact, Fred Astair was never known to visit.  In Malaysia, shaking hands is common, but only between the same sex. Malay women greet the man with a nod and a smile. A Muslim woman may shake hands with a man, but only if the woman takes the initiative. The motto is probably, "shake hands with a Malaysian," but carefully. (Alan Durant, 2020)

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Believe me, you won’t find many swimsuit-clad people in the seas around here. It can seem strange at first, but this being a Muslim country, it isn’t seen as very appropriate to wear a bikini on the beach, and I wouldn’t dare to try. It’s worth being aware than more than half the country’s population are practicing Muslims, and so strive for moderation when it comes to the pleasures of life – bathing included. Everyone, and women in particular, should only enter the water with their extremities covered, and if possible in an ankle-length chador. Well, it goes without saying that swimming feels a whole lot better without all this encumbrance. Swimming in a bikini is only possible at closed beaches reserved exclusively for Western tourists, though even here, don’t even think of undressing any further than that – you would be committing sacrilege.” (2015)

Malaysia - Putraya - Putra Mosque - Visitors get free wearing this red hijab (for women wearing skirts or shorts) to visit inside the mosque. - Andras Scmied's photo

Malaysia - Do I mean that entry in hijab only? - Andras Schmied's photo

Attractions

Mosques

Malaysia - Perak - Kuala Kangsar - Ubudiah Royal Mosque - Andras Schmied's photo

Cameron Highlands

Malaysia - Cameron Highlands - tea planation - Andras Schmied's photo

Ipoh

Malaysia - Ipoh - The Sam Poh Tong (Chinese) Temple - Andras Schmied's photo

Putraya

Malaysia - Putraya - Putra Mosque (Masjid Putra) - Andras Schmied's photo

Malaysia - Putraya - Putra Mosque - Andras Schmied's photo

Malaysia - Putraya - The Perdana Putra, a building which houses the office complex of the Prime Minister of Malaysia - Andras Schmied's photo

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