Malaysia, like Laos, was a complete surprise. We had gone there with no impression of the country and it completely blew us away. We had heard that the people were friendly and welcoming, which is very, very true. They are extremely friendly and very sweet. I have lost count of how many girls came up to us wanting to have a photo taken with us, we obliged every one of course. Only downside is the heart breaking presence of uninterrupted palm plantations everywhere which is resulting in extreme pressure on the very fragile ecosystems.
The highlights for us were:
Penang, Mulu, Kinabatangan and Sipadan. The Perhentian Islands are still a favourite of mine as it was the first time I was in the water after completing my certification and the divemaster Omar was excellent and really helped me to be happier in the water.
So if we were to do it again…
Ah Penang! Stop number one in Malaysia. The food especially in Georgetown, Penang was incredible! After 2 months of Thai food it was like our palettes had been born again. Delicious! Great art too and the Spice Garden was divine (especially the free tea).
If we were to do it again we would fly from Penang to Kuala Besut to get to the Perhentian Islands, and not do the hellish bus ride and then fly to KL.
We would skip Kuala Terrenganu (unless a visit to Madame Bee’s Kitchen for blue rice and Terrenganu Laksa is on the cards for that was the highlight) and Malacca, it has nothing on Penang and has tourist trap written all over it in massive letters.
We could have spent longer in KL, it wasn’t as we expected it to be and once you got used to it it was easy to get around and actually quite cheap. Plus where we stayed had lightening fast broadband- great for backing up our photos.
In Borneo, we should have spent longer in Sarawak, the place is great, the people are even friendlier than the mainland and everyone we have met has asked us did we go to Bako National Park, so will have to go back there again and to Mulu of course.
Sabah is all tourist stuff but it has a different vibe to Sarawak and Western Malaysia, probably due to the mix of people there. It is not as easy to get around but not that hard either and apart from the lack of sleep we really enjoyed our time here. Kinabatangan and Sipadan were the clear highlights here. We would have also liked to have gone to Danum Valley to do some trekking but we didn’t have the time. So next time for that! Oh and diving in Labuan also since that is in the top 10 world dive sites too.
I’ll include Brunei and Singapore in here even though they are different countries but you can easily pop in while you are in Malaysia. Both are expensive but as we have found you can also eat well and cheaply in both. Brunei has virgin rainforest that they are sensitively developing for tourism but it is much more expensive than nearby Sarawak or Sabah. They also have some excellent dive sites we are told. Would we go back there again? Probably not, its a bit strange. that said we didn’t see much of it either. Singapore is a different kettle of fish. Its got lots of tourist sites but people live in the network of aircon tunnels! They have a great zoo, amazing orchid garden and the very cool Gardens by the Bay. They also have some nice old streets like Penang. We would go back, mostly because we felt like we barely saw it and to get our overpriced Singapore Sling. Good for nature lovers who like nice paths and well manicured areas.
Would we recommend Malaysia? Of course, it is a fantastic place, warm and lovely people, great food, scenery that will take your breath away and wildlife that will astound you.