Malaysia — Asia’s Melting Pot
Few countries surprise visitors as much as Malaysia. Thailand has all the famous beaches, but Malaysia’s beaches are more relaxing and less crowded. Singapore is clean and modern, but Kuala Lumpur has more colour and energy. Meanwhile, as far as diversity goes, no other destination in Southeast Asia comes close. With Malay, Chinese, and Indian citizens working together, you will find an incredible variety of culture and, especially, food. Many travelers don’t think of Malaysia as a top-level destination before they arrive, but it often ends up as a cherished favorite that they return to again and again.
Malaysia’s variety means there is something for everyone. Are you a nature lover? Then head for the mountains and jungles of Sabah, where you can hike, climb, and surf in the pristine wilderness of Borneo. If luxury and relaxation are more your cup of tea, you will find dozens of beach resorts rivaling the best of Phuket or Koh Samui. Backpackers will meet like-minded folks in the Perhentian Islands, while those who are culturally curious will fill up their cameras with sights from Melaka, Georgetown, and Sarawak. The hub of it all is the capital: colourful, lively, and full of surprises, Kuala Lumpur has quickly become one of the most enjoyable cities to explore in Asia.
The advantage of all this diversity is that the country has an exotic feel to it, even if you already hail from a nearby country. Here, you can experience the best of Chinese culture without the difficulty of actually traveling to China. The Indian community offers the brightness, sounds, and smells of Mumbai in much calmer surroundings. Real adventure awaits visitors to Malaysian Borneo, who can immerse themselves deep into nature with much easier access than the impenetrable Indonesian side of the island. Wherever you go, you are sure to encounter something new and interesting.
It may seem like this much variety would make it hard for the country to develop a true identity, but Malaysia has incredible food, and this is what ties everyone and everything together. If you enjoy the variety and quality of dining in cities like Singapore or Hong Kong, Malaysia needs to be on your list. It’s more relaxed and cheaper than either, but the curry, hotpot, and nasi lemak are unbeatable. Eating is central to the culture, and you will have some of your best experiences if you just wander around, trying whatever looks good. You will find this difficult to do either – as it seems that nearly every street has amazing food to suit any taste.
“No difficulty” is the key idea here. Above all, Malaysia is an easy country. The warm locals are used to speaking basic English as a common language, and can often communicate in Chinese and Indonesian as well. Trains and buses are well-organised, the roads are largely in good condition, and you can safely explore almost everywhere, with little worry about crime. If you want a gentle introduction to Southeast Asia, all while you get a taste of three fascinating cultures at once, then Malaysia is for you.