Final thoughts on Malaysia (2018)

It is weird doing final thoughts on a country we visited in 2015 (and will no doubt visit again), but here goes….

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The orangutan we saw outside of Kuching

  • We visited Malaysia in 2015 and, as some of you may recall, really did not like it.  See here.    In fact, we were so miserable in Malaysia that we left much earlier than planned and fled back to Thailand.  So, we kind of thought we were crazy when we decided to visit Malaysia again this year.  But, we really, really wanted to visit Borneo.  And, we had just spent three months in Indonesia, so couldn’t go to Indonesian Borneo without visiting some other country first.  And you know what?  It was a fantastic decision!  We loved our visit to Malaysia this time (well, except for our stay in Kuala Lumpur — more on that below) and are already talking about a return visit to see more of Borneo and maybe some other bits of Malaysia we haven’t yet seen.
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A stork at the KL bird park

  • We absolutely loved Kuching.  Seeing proboscis monkeys and an orangutan were both amazing experiences.  And, the city is really easy to navigate by foot or using Grab (the Asian equivalent of Uber).  And, the food was to die for.  We definitely want to go back, rent an apartment, and just hang out for a month or so.
  • Georgetown was a highlight for us in 2015 and we still like it.  Interesting architecture, cool street art, and amazing food.  What is not to like (other than the insane heat and humidity).  However, it was sad to see the changes in Georgetown since 2015.  There are so many more homeless people now.  And, unlike in 2015, we saw numerous prostitutes walking the streets.  Perhaps we just didn’t notice them in 2015, but we definitely noticed them this time.  And, while they were all dressed as women, at least some of them had a little something extra in their skirts….
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A butterfly at the butterfly park in Penang

  • Melaka is a great little city.  Lots to do and see and eat.  But all hell breaks loose on the weekends.  Apparently, it is an easy weekend trip for Singaporeans and the city gets absolutely slammed with people.  Cute little places that you can walk right into during the week turn into madhouses with lines out the door on the weekends.  Our advice is to do all your sightseeing during the week and then have a relaxing weekend reading a book until the night market opens.
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Orchid park in Kuching

  • We really, really tried to like Kuala Lumpur this time.  We explored the city on foot, via cab, on buses, on trains, and even on a monorail.  But, we still don’t love it.  It is a big city and there is construction going on everywhere.  We didn’t have the best food.  We hated our hotel.  We weren’t interested in most of the sights.  Plus, we had a bit of a problem with a few men staring at me in a really creepy manner (even though I was with Robert and dressed fairly conservatively).  However, we did experience the perfect mall organizational structure at a mall in Kuala Lumpur.  All the stores were organized by category.  So, all the electronics stores were clustered together, all the shoe stores were clustered together, etc.  What a fantastic idea!  And, we found another branch of Paradise Dynasty and their famous Xiao Long Bao at another mall so it wasn’t all bad…
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KL bird park

  • Almost every restaurant we went to in Malaysia had garlic bread.  I ordered it almost every time we were in a restaurant (as opposed to a hawker center or eating street food).  It was almost all bad.  Except for the garlic nan.  That was almost all yummy.  I don’t understand why restaurants in Malaysia can’t make garlic bread and I don’t understand why I kept ordering it even though I knew it would be bad….
  • Malaysia just might turn me into a girl who likes condiments.  People who know me well know I have always been a no condiments kind of girl — ketchup, mustard, mayo, and salad dressing are all disgusting as far as I’m concerned.  But garlic chili sauce on steamed or roasted chicken and rice?  I think I might be in love….
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Georgetown street art

  • Soda water is incredibly hard to find in Malaysia.  You want A&W Root Beer?  No problem.  You want cream soda?  No problem.  Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite or 7-Up?  No problem.  Weird blueberry and strawberry flavored pop?  No problem.  But plain old soda water?  No dice most of the time.  And, the few stores that do carry it often jack up the price.

 

  • McDonald’s in Malaysia sells a durian milkshake.  Sadly, try as I might, I could not convince Robert to try one….
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A mom and baby in Bako

  • Speaking of fast food, we have discovered it is bad everywhere.  Ever heard of the chain Marrybrown?  It is a Malaysian fast-food chain that serves halal food and, after getting stuck in an airport for hours with nothing else open, we can confirm, it is just as bad as American fast food.
  • We will never understand Malaysia’s apparent love of porridge….Even the Kentucky Fried Chicken serves porridge.  No, we didn’t try it.  (We did eat at a KFC one day because I was craving chicken breast.  It turns out the chicken tenders were made from dark meat.  Gross.)
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One of the cat statues in Kuching

  • We were in Malaysia for the World Cup.  Definitely bad planning on our part, as many of the matches started at 1 or 2 in the morning.  But….the semi-final was on at a more reasonable hour and we were very excited to watch.  Except the bar we picked chose to play bad 50’s music instead of the sound.  Something we will never understand…. (We ended up watching in our hotel room.)
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Relaxing at Kek Lok Si

  • After all the bad cover music we heard in Indonesia, it was nice to hear originals again.  Of course, most of the music was from decades ago, but at least it was largely originals!  (Or so bad they are good covers like Mike Patton singing Easy).
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Robert and a friend in Georgetown

  • I’m pretty sure there were no French people in France this July.  They were all in Malaysia.  Seriously, nearly everyone we ran into was French.
  • Public transportation is a bit different in Malaysia.  Ever been on a city bus that pulls into a gas station and fills up?  We have now….. (Tour buses do the same thing.)
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Kek Lok Si

  • We saw quite a few movies in Malaysia.  They are dirt cheap (we are talking like $3 or $4 per person) and a perfect way to spend an afternoon when it is 100 degrees outside.  Every theater we visited had assigned seats.  And, they all sold popcorn.  But generally only caramel corn — no hot buttered popcorn.  How strange is that?
  • We are pretty sure that drivers intentionally try to mess with pedestrians (or at least pedestrian tourists).  Don’t look at an oncoming car and think “oh, he is far away, I can cross the street.”  Nope, don’t think like that because we pretty much guarantee that the car will see you start to cross and then hit the gas as hard as possible to try to hit you.  And don’t think “oh, that car is in the far lane, I can cross halfway and then cross after the car passes.”  Nope, don’t think like that because we pretty much guarantee that the car will intentionally change lanes and force you to hurry back to the curb.  And it wasn’t just happening to us — we saw it happen over and over to everyone.
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Another butterfly in Penang

  • We found it hilarious that Robert’s coffee habit cost more than our food habit.  Day after day, we would grab a meal for pennies and then spend twice as much (or more) at the coffee shop.
  • Make sure you have napkins in your bag when you travel in Malaysia.  The vast majority of restaurants — even sit-down restaurants — don’t supply napkins.  And, some that do provide wet wipes will charge extra for them.
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Georgetown street art

  • Restaurant workers apparently have a much better work/life balance in Malaysia than in the U.S.  Many restaurants were open for lunch or for dinner, but not both.   A cute little ice cream shop that we liked closed before sundown each day.  Good for them, but bad for us.
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A proboscis in Bako

 

  • We saw very few pet dogs in Malaysia.  We miss dogs….
  • Malaysia is where we pretty much completely stopped worrying about food safety.  If it looked good and fresh and locals were eating it, we ate it.  Raw cucumbers at a hawker stand?  Bring them on!  Barely cooked bean sprouts at a hawker stand?  Bring them on!  Pre-cooked food sitting in a buffet in the heat?  Bring it on!  And, it worked out for us.  We didn’t get sick once.  We should have measured our gut flora before we left so we could see how it changed over time….
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A monitor lizard in Melaka

  • It was impossible to find a cheap hotel in Malaysia with a pool.  Come on Malaysian hotels, you really need pools!
  • All-in-all, we really enjoyed our visit to Malaysia this time.  We honestly don’t know why we had such a different reaction this time, but we are glad we did.  We will be back.

 

About theschneiduks

Lisa has a degree in biology and another in law and has spent the last 20 years working as a patent litigator. She is a voracious reader of young adult dystopian fiction and watches far too much bad tv. She loves pretty much anything to do with zombies, and doesn’t think there is anything weird about setting an alarm at 6 am on a weekend to stumble to a pub to watch her beloved Chelsea boys. Robert has had many professions, including a chef, a salesman, an IT guy and most recently, a stay at home dog dad. He speaks Italian and hopes to learn Spanish on this trip. He loves nothing more than a day spent sailing, hopes to do more scuba diving, and rues the day he introduced Lisa to football (i.e., soccer).
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