When I did my round the world trip I went to the "usual" countries on the backpacker trail in South East Asia. They are Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand. I had an incredible time but a couple of years later myself and Jason were planning our first long holiday together and decided on Malaysia.
We had an incredible time there and I've swiftly moved it on to my top countries list.
Why did we love it and why should you go?
Here are some reasons:
It's South East Asia without the usual crowd:
So many people have done the typical SEA route that I myself did on my RTW trip. In fact it almost seems like a rite of passage. But very rarely is Malaysia put on that list so Malaysia ends up attracting only a fraction of the usual backpackers and therefore has a different vibe.
|One of the islands off of Kota Kinabalu in Borneo.|
It has awesome snorkelling:
We were surprised at how good the snorkeling was, I had dived/snorkeled in other Asian countries and on the Great Barrier Reef but this was the first place that I managed to snorkel with turtles. We also got to see lots of different reef sharks and tons of tropical fish (in the Perhentian Islands) and if you take a cheap flight over to Borneo you can dive in one of the top dive spots in the world, Sipidan.
|Jason during our snorkeling trip in the Perhentian islands.|
And while we are at it, incredible wildlife too:
While in Malaysia myself and Jason got to see huge monitor lizards, orangutans, crocodiles, a Gibbon and lots of other types of monkeys. If you want to see wildlife in SEA then Malaysia and more importantly, Malaysian Borneo is the place to go.
|A mother and baby orangutan|
|A leaf insect.|
It has a beautiful world class city:
Kuala Lumpur is a great city to spend some time in. It has the iconic Petronas towers, a bustling China town, the biggest mosque in SEA and so many things to do. The shopping is also world class.
|The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur.|
It's predominantly a Muslim country but there is a large population of Chinese, Indians, Thais and many other nationalities so you can eat some legit food from different places around the world in one day. We had some awesome Indian food, Chinese food, fresh fish and afternoon tea while in Malaysia. You can also go visit Buddhist shrines, Indian temples and Mosques all in one day. It makes for a very interesting country.
|The mosque in Kota Kinabalu|
|The Batu Caves outside of KL|
|Preparing to enter a mosque in KL|
|A beautiful Hindi temple that we stumbled upon in KL|
|Eating some good Chinese food!|
|The seafood was second to none!|
You can take a break from the humidity:
While in Malaysia you can visit some of the many tea fields in the Cameron Highlands. They are in the high country so you can get away from the humidity, sleep with a blanket and feast on tea and scones while looking at tea fields as far as the eye can see. Also in this area you can go trekking and see the biggest flower in the world (The Rafflesia)!
|Enjoying the endless tea fields.|
|The Rafflesia flower.|
It's the home of Air Asia:
I'm one of Air Asias biggest fans. The prices that they offer are second to none and with their hub being in Kuala Lumpar you can get a flight from any big city in Asia to KL for a low price.
Malaysian people are amazing! As with most other South East Asian countries, the people are warm and friendly and will welcome you with open arms.
|Wonderful smiling faces!|
It has everything you could ask for from an Asian country:
and much more...
Sounds perfect right?
There are a couple of things to remember about Malaysia. Because it's a Muslim country, alcohol tends to be more expensive than other Asian countries. I was a bit disappointed when I realised that I wouldn't be able to sip on cocktails all day while relaxing on the beach. But if you aren't on a backpackers budget and can drink local beer then this shouldn't affect you too much.
Also they can be quite strict when it comes to Ramadan so make sure to check your dates and plan accordingly. We travelled during Ramadan and didn't have many issues except for when we took a 12 hour bus and realised that there would be no restaurants opened in the smaller towns that we were stopping at so we had to spend the day eating snacks that we bought from the shop. But other than that we had no problems.
I would definitely recommend visiting Malaysia to anyone and if you have enough time visit Borneo as well and make it a truly magical trip!