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All good things come to an end
Tenom (Malaysia) to Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Jul-05-09 / Aug-05-09

We just settled ourselves on the terrace of the American coffee joint Starsucks in the centre of Kuala Lumpur, called by us that way because of the dubious quality of the coffee they serve (let’s describe it as water with a black colour). But ok, the location is perfect, so we keep telling ourselves that we pay mainly for the location and not for the quality of the brew they serve. We are counting down for the moment that we leave Malaysia for a visit to Vietnam. And that is a pity, because Malaysia is a great and beautiful country to travel in. The people are extremely friendly and already for that, it is a memorable country. But on the other side, leaving Malaysia also opens the gate to a new and unfamiliar country for us: Vietnam.

We do not know yet what we should expect from Vietnam. We heard mixed stories from different travellers who travelled to Vietnam before. A big group of travellers mention that the country is beautiful and has a very specific face. On the other hand, we spoke to people who said that the country is nice, but that the people are not so nice. Vietnamese people who earn their income in the tourist industry are pushy and sometimes not fair, and the quality of the services they deliver is often poor. Besides that, we got the advice to be careful in the big cities because crime against foreigners (mainly pick pocketing) is on the rise. We will see how we are going to experience it, but we already know that it will be difficult for them to beat the friendliness of the Malay, Brunei and Singapore people. The people of these countries are extremely friendly, as a matter of fact without an exception.

Waiting for the bus to Singapore on Larkin bus station in Johor Bahru
As described before, we had a very good time in Malaysia, but were a little bit disappointed by the natural environment. It probably has to do with the fact that our expectations were set too high before we visited Malaysia for the first time. We really expected vast areas of rain forest and national parks in where it would be relatively easy to see wildlife. The reality is different. Most of the forests are gone and replaced by vast palm oil plantations and growing cities and villages. Of course, there are still some beautiful national parks left, but their size is limited. Malaysia is going to look more and more like Europe. Some areas (national parks) are spared, but the remaining part of the country is used for agricultural, residential or industrial activities. There are a lot of building activities going on in Malaysia. When you travel by bus through the country you will see a lot of new residential and shopping areas popping out of the ground and surprisingly, many of them are empty. And Malaysian Borneo is unfortunately no exception. Especially in Sabah, you will notice that the advancing palm oil plantations are really shocking.

Regarding the food, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore were heaven on earth for us. We came from Indonesia where the food is not that good. At least not the food that you can get in the cheaper restaurants and street stalls. The Indonesians love to fry their food and the availability of vegetables is limited. It is like in Europe, people who eat out in a restaurant do not want to pay for vegetables. They mainly go for the meat and rice or French fries. So, it wasn’t easy to get the necessary vitamins and minerals in Indonesia. This in contrast with the calories that were widely available in the fried food. Here in Malaysia and also in Brunei and Singapore, it was much better. The people love vegetables, which mean that there is always a wide choice available. The cheaper restaurants are often of the type ‘buffet’, which means that you get a plate of steamed rice and that you can serve yourself by choosing from different meat and vegetable dishes. At the end of the buffet you will find the counter where you pay a price, based on the number of dishes you have chosen.

Doing the laundry ourselves in Little India (Singapore)

Besides that, Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore are blessed with significant Indian societies which mean that there are many Indian restaurants available. And if there is something that Indians can do well, besides computer programming of course, it is vegetarian cooking. It is really inspiring to experience how tasteful Indian people can cook without the use of meat. We always say to each other that we do not understand why the Indian kitchen is not so popular in the west. In our opinion, Indian restaurants have at least the same prospects as the Chinese restaurants. So, the food in Malaysia is really something we are going to miss the coming period.

Bit by bit we are ready for our trip to Vietnam. We just checked ourselves online in for the flight to Hanoi, we refilled the bank account we use to withdraw money, we looked up what the exchange rate is for the Vietnamese Dong, have arranged the necessary approval letter to enter Vietnam and checked if there is an ATM available of the international airport of Hanoi. And yes, we also checked the internet to see which bus we can use to travel from the Hanoi airport to the city centre, so that we can get around the taxi ‘thieves’. Access to the internet is very powerful and convenient for modern travellers like us. So, we are almost ready for departure. But till that moment we relax on the terrace of Starsucks, watch the diversity of people passing by and of course enjoy the great weather and watery coffee.


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