– The Malay society is “divided” in 3 main groups: Malay, Chinese and Indians. Malaysia is a small country but has an interesting variety of religions and cultures. It is interesting how well they are able to join all these different communities in peace. Nevertheless it is still a problem that Malays are considered a better “race” and are seen as more important in this society – it translates into unfair advantages and privileges;
– Around 7% of the population is Indian – and their influence is very visible. There are many restaurants selling Indian food, like Naan bread and a wide variety of curries. Those places also very often sell meals that are already prepared and you just put what you want on your plate and they calculate “more or less” how much you need to pay;
– A lot of people speak English – almost always, it is possible to find someone who does speak the language, even in small places. It is probably due to the fact that Malaysia was an English colony which got independence only since 1957. In the island of Langkawi, the English language is spoken in a very specific way… they finish many words with -laaa, like: “Are you hungry-laaa?”;
– In many places you can find a sign, an arrow pointing into one specific direction – it is for Muslims to show into which direction they need to turn to pray.
– The majority of places serve a big variety of drinks – coffee, tea, juices, milkshakes, etc. It is popular to take drinks out – then they are more expensive. Drinks to take away are served in small plastic bags with a straw;
– In many places, even public ones there is no toilet paper – they only use water to wash themselves. Toilets are usually clean but all wet as people spill it all over the place;
– A big number of showers are just inside the bathroom without any curtain or separation from the rest of the bathroom – very normal to have everything wet and then it just dries because of the hot weather;
– It might be on of the most advanced countries in South East Asia. Kuala Lumpur is rather clean and organised and the public transport is good (you can even find driverless skytrains). There is less motorcycles and more cars. The main streets are similar to big European cities with a lot of international brands and higher prices;
– Usually, in restaurants, Joao’s food was served before Ania’s. It might have been a coincidence (or not).
▫️ Power Plugs 🔌 : Almost all the power plugs, whether the ones on the walls or the extension cords have individual switches to turn each plug on and off. This allows great energy savings.
▫️ Shampoo 🧴 : Taking into account all the price differences, shampoo and some other hygiene products are especially cheap in this country. In addition to this, there are also specific shampoos for women that use hijab.
▫️ “Staff-less Shop” 🏪 : Although it is not very common, we found a shop without any staff, that you enter using an app on your phone. There you can find small meals, snacks, fruits and drinks.
▫️ Nasi lemak – The national dish of the country. Can be served in many different ways. The simplest one is rice with sambal (a chilli sauce made from several different peppers), peanuts, anchovies and egg;
▫️ Nasi goreng / mee goreng – fried rice / noodles served practically everywhere (our favourite version is Char Kway Teow) – fried noodle with vegetables and a choice of meat or just with egg. The most popular is mee goreng ayam which is the chicken version, sometimes served with chicken leg on the side;
▫️ Rojak – mix of vegetables and fruits cut into small pieces, fried tofu pieces, some crunchy bits (like fried dough) with boiled or fried egg covered with a red sauce (sweet and spicy) with pieces of peanuts;
▫️ Roti – a very thin crepe fried on a big pan. It is fat – it seems to be like folded dough as in French base but it is served hot and with ingredients inside (cheese, egg, sugar, etc.) and served with curry sauce on the side. Usually eaten for breakfast;
▫️ Cooked corn – cut into small pieces and mixed with condensed milk;
▫️ Ice Kacang, very often called ABC (Air Batu Campur which means “mixed ice”) – and it is exactly this. Similar as other East Asian countries – shredded ice with toppings ranging from sweet corn and red sweet beans to jelly and peanuts covered with evaporated milk. The extra nice touch in Malyasian version is scoop of ice cream on the top. The best one we tried was in Penang!
▫️ Apam Balik – someting similar to pancake but thinner and crunchier. Basic version is filled with creamed corn and peanuts and then folded. Other versions are served with chocolate;
▫️ Teh tarik / kopi tarik – tea or coffee which is made with condensed milk – they are poured from one container to another which makes them thick – they can be served in plastic bags to take-away… Very interesting cheap concept;
▫️ Putu Mayam – sweet rice flour dessert with coconut milk covered with palm sugar;
▫️ Leng Chee Kang – a sugar broth with fresh and dried fruits and lotus seeds. It can be served hot or cold;
▫️ Because many people are Indian or have Indian roots do not be surprised to see people eating with their hands- not only in Indian restaurants;
▫️ Rice and pasta are very common in almost every meal. Potatoes, as in almost all the countries in this region, are hard to find.
▫️ In Malaysia we had the opportunity to travel more than in other countries before. From Kuala Lumpur we went North and stopped in several places, all by bus:
▫️Kuala Lumpur: still in KL we visited several attractions and spent our time walking around the city. The gardens outside Petronas are very nice and Batu Caves are very interesting (get ready to see some hungry monkeys here!);
▫️Cameron Highlands: as the name indicates, it is a small town on the top of a mountain, where you can feel cold. The rest of the country is so hot that it was an amazing feeling. Here we visited the Boy Tea Plantations, Big Red Strawberry Farm and the Lavender Farm. As we rented a motorbike, we had plenty of time to check places all around the area…
▫️Penang: It has a very nice park where a lot of people gather on the weekend and is also very famous for the food. Here we tried, in a small food stall that is owned by the same family for three generations, one of the best mee sotong;
▫️Langkawi: On this beautiful island close to Penang, we were real tourists – we took the Cable Car to the Sky Bridge and we visited several beaches. We definitely recommend renting a motorcycle to explore the island.
Events & Meetings
▫️ Couchsurfing Meetings: In Kuala Lumpur we stayed with 3 hosts from the Couchsurfing community and just this was amazing. We got to know them and we shared adventures like clubbing and trekking in the jungle. More importantly, we made friends and that is what really matters! We attended several meetings including a Pool party in one of KL’s rooftops!
▫️ Third Choice SOHOland: We met the thinker behind this idea, as well as stayed in one of his places. You can learn more about this project in Third Choice SOHOland.
▫️ Entrepreneurship Masterclass: We attended Vince Tan’s introduction to his masterclass. You can learn more about this event in Entrepreneurship Masterclass.
▫️ Flights can be cheap inside the country but we mainly used buses – even cheaper and good quality;
▫️ When using bus remember to get your tickets online because the queues on KL main station are huge;
▫️ When in Cameron Highlands, take a sweater or jacket, as it might get cold at night (what a nice mother-child advice 😂);
▫️ Outside Kuala Lumpur, and maybe even inside the city, it might be worthy to rent a motorbike to get around. We did not do it in KL just because the network of public transports is very good.