It might just be the easiest country on the Southeast Asia circuit you’ll travel to. Boasting diversity in both ethnicity and religious tolerance that might hint that of major cities in the United States, Malaysia creates a nice fruit salad of Malays, Chinese, Indians, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. And best of all, despite the fact that the people might self-segregate, their food does not: Malaysian food is a category on its own, and it’s delicious.
But don’t let my pessimistic tone on self-segregation give you the wrong impression, because you still get more than your fair share of ethnic mixing: Chinese, Indians, and Malays eating at each other’s restaurants, joking and laughing at work, and even simply just living together. Peninsular Malaysia brings everyone together, even the traveler (yours truly) searching for a nice place to call home.
Red Market Food Stalls in Chinatown – Lebuh Cintra; Penang, Malaysia
Like the food stalls in Thailand, you’ll find them to be “quick, diverse, cheap, and delicious.” But where Thailand’s food stalls are an individual’s feast, in Penang they’re a community gathering. Scores of food stalls beg for your business around a mass of tables and chairs for hundreds to enjoy their pickings. Just go up to a food stall you like, tell them what you want and where you’re sitting, and they’ll cook it and deliver it to your table for payment. Don’t leave without trying Char Kway Teow (thick rice noodles stir-fried with egg, vegetables, shrimp, and Chinese sausage in dark soy sauce) or the Fried Oysters. The Laksa asam (fish-broth noodle soup pungent with a sour tang from tamarind paste and a mint garnish) was overrated.
Imbi Market – Jalan Kampung; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Just like the food stalls we found in Penang, Kuala Lumpur makes it outdoors and truly festive: at least 7 city blocks with rows and rows of options upon rows and rows of open seating. Food was almost just as delicious, although Penang tasted more authentic.
No problems in Malaysia, which is a relief after the debacle I’ve suffered from in the last few countries.
Health Rating of Malaysia after 5 days…
- # of bug bites: 0
- # of Immodium used: 0
- # of Pepto used: 0
- # of Advil used: 0
- # of antibiotics used: 0
- # of total medication used: 0
- Creams used: Sunscreen
Quality of healthcare: Malaysia is known to have a very reputable healthcare system, especially in the Kuala Lumpur area. Their major hospital – Kuala Lumpur General Hospital – is considered to be the biggest medical facility in all of Asia at 150 acres with 81 wards and 2502 beds. Commanding a staff of over 7,000 medical personnel, KLGH is the go-to facility for most of Southeast Asia if Singapore is not an option.
Sanitary Conditions: Look above; the general healthiness I’ve experienced in Malaysia should reflect the general cleaniness of a country as wealthy as Malaysia. Their cities (at least the ones we’ve seen) are incredibly clean and everything runs efficiently. Their population also seem very well-off; not once did we encounter a “poor” area of Penang or Kuala Lumpur. The only downside is that their public bathrooms have been consistently grotty with squat toilets being the norm half the time and the toilet paper being optional; if you want TP, you need to purchase it separately. Finally, despite the general clean feeling of Kuala Lumpur, I ran into a few waterfalls of sewage every now and then.
Despite its reputation for being an expensive country, I spent approximately $75 USD in 3 days, which approximates to $25 USD/day. The goal was to spend no more than $35 USD/day.
Breakdown for 3 days: $5 transportation + $40 food + $30 lodging
Goal: $35 USD/day
Spent: $25 USD/day for 3 days
Banana Guesthouse – 355 Lebuh Chulia; Penang, Malaysia
Of all the guesthouses we perused (Day & Night, Blue Diamond, etc.), Banana Guesthouse had the cleanest digs. Simple bedroom with shared bathroom (decent at best). However, they had a great downstairs lobby that was spacious and clean, complete with a pretty helpful staff and an internet cafe that charged $1 USD an hour.
Price: $5 USD/night per person
Internet: Internet cafe, slow connection at $1 USD/hour
Other Amenities: Spacious lobby cafe, friendly staff, clean rooms.
88 Inn – 2 Jalan 1/77B, Changkat Thambi Dollah; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
At first impression, this is Kuala Lumpur’s hidden gem of a budget hotel. It’s clean, with a great staff and rooms for a fantastic value. Walk up those stairs to find a pretty cramped reception, but your rooms won’t reflect that at all: decent beds with a private bathroom and working A/C. Although it’s simple, you get much more for what you pay for. One major downside was that they lost Annah’s dress and a few pieces of her clothes after laundry. Although they gave some of her money back (not enough) and seemed very apologetic, it still wasn’t cool.
Price: $12 USD/night per person
Internet: Free wi-fi
Other Amenities: Friendly staff
– At time of posting in Kuala Lumpur, it was 80.6 °F – Humidity: 94% | Wind Speed: n/a | Cloud Cover: few clouds