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Malaysia: Flashback
Banda Aceh (Indonesia), June 7th 2008

Malaysia is in many ways a perfect ravel destination. The people are extremely friendly, de country is perfectly safe and there is a lot to see. Malaysia is probably the best travel destination in this part of the world to experience something of the real Asia on a very relaxed way.

Let’s start with the people. The people of Malaysia are extremely friendly. Of all the countries we have visited so far, the people of Malaysia deserve a top-3 quotation regarding their friendliness and hospitality. The other two places in the top-3 are occupied by the Iranian and Bangladeshi people. The fun about travelling in Malaysia is that the people are sincerely friendly. This is in contrast to many other countries where the friendliness is often mannered. We absolutely did not have that feeling in Malaysia. Wherever you go and to whom you speak (different ethnicities), they are all very friendly. This is even true in the more touristy areas, areas that in other countries are often understandably characterised by professionalism and commercialism. Another nice aspect about travelling in Malaysia is that many people speak some words of English. That makes travelling easier and it gives you also the possibility to have a chat with local people resulting in a better understanding of the country.

Lots of atmosphere on the night market of Malacca

Safety is another important aspect about Malaysia. The political situation is stable and the security situation is under control. There was not one moment that we felt insecure in Malaysia. Criminality is not existent, at least not visible and not regarding tourists. Also the situation on the roads is mannered and pleasant. Using the horn is unheard of and people always gave you the space to manoeuvre through the (sometimes busy) traffic. Because we travelled with the parents for more than a month through Malaysia, we decided to hire a car, for both the period on the peninsular as on Borneo. Travelling by rental car is a blessing. It gives you the possibility to go wherever you want and when you want, and you never have to carry your luggage to and from the bus/train stations. We loved it, travelling by car for a month. However, it takes some days to get used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road.

We also enjoyed the food in Malaysia very much. The enormous variety of the ethnical backgrounds is represented in the food that you can get in Malaysia. Of course, most street stalls are characterised by Nasi Lemak (literally: Fat Fried Rice) and Mee Goreng (Fried Noodles). However, if you look a little bit further, you can see that Malaysia has a lot of other tasty dishes to offer. We loved the food courts. A food court is a collection of small restaurants that share a common terrace. You can order your often simple (but tasty) meal at the restaurant of your choice. The dishes are most of the time not big, so you probably need two meals to fill your stomach. The advantage is that you can try two different dishes on one evening. No, the food courts are not made for tourists. They are a local phenomenon. And yes, it is safe to eat at these food courts. Malaysian people do know what hygienic cooking is. During our stay of almost six weeks in Malaysia, we never had healthy problems, in spite of the fact that we eat everywhere. However, we always follow one golden rule regarding the selection of a place to eat. Always go where the crowds go (you will be sure of fresh ingredients) and always order going dishes. Don’t order fish in a restaurant where everybody else eats chicken.

An Asian Black Hornbill in Similajau NP on Malaysian Borneo
The sights in Malaysia are beautiful and diverse. Most people think about vast jungle and a huge variety of flora and fauna when they hear the name of Malaysia. The greatest part of this image is true. However, we have to make an important marginal note. As result of the huge deforestation that happened in Malaysia last decennia’s, it is not easy anymore to spot wildlife (especially the huge mammals). These animals disappeared together with the forests. The mammals that are apparently remaining (at least that is what they say), have withdrawn themselves to the parts of the jungle that are most difficult to reach. So, do not come to Malaysia with the expectations to see a lot of wildlife, unless you are content with semi-wild animals in rehabilitation centres or want to do extensive trekkings to remote parts of the jungle. Also the sightings of spectacular bird species (like the Hornbills) are rare. We spend two weeks in the province of Sarawak on Borneo, the province that calls themselves the land of the Hornbills, and we only saw one species in the wild. So, wildlife is available, but don’t expect to get them on a tray. You have to work for it. Besides nature, Malaysia has a lot of other very interesting sights. From the modern city life of Kuala Lumpur, to the traditional village life of the rural areas, and from sparkling little India in Georgetown, to the Chinese night market of Malacca. Malaysia is a great destination to get a feeling about the real Asia.

Finally, something about the price. Despite of the fact that Malaysia is a modern country, it is still cheap. Renting a car is affordable, the price quality ratio for hotels is good and the price for food is negligibly low. So, the cost is not a reason not to come to Malaysia.

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