When we began our full-time travel journey almost a year ago, we never dreamed we would visit Malaysia. Since then, we’ve been twice and would return again.
Visit Malaysia? It wasn’t a destination we initially considered. But sometimes, you just have to trust there is a reason behind an opportunity when it appears. We’ve been fortunate to visit Malaysia twice in the past year, and we’d love to explore more of this beautiful country.
When you think of Malaysia, you might think Kuala Lumpur – Malaysia’s capital city, or possibly Penang first. I know I did. But we’ve yet to visit either! Many visitors to Malaysia arrive in KL and form their first impressions by traveling up to Penang. Both, by many accounts, are absolutely not to miss. But when you visit Malaysia, you’ll realize there is much, much more to know and see.
If you’ve been following our journey as full-time travelers, you know that we’ve visited Kuantan (on the east side of the Malaysian peninsula) and stayed in Johor Bahru (across the International Bridge from Singapore). These experiences gave us a lovely taste of the spectrum that Malaysia gives from big city, bright lights to tranquil seaside respites.
Malaysia is a federation of 13 states based upon historical Malay kingdoms. Nine of the 11 states on the Malay peninsula retain their individual royal families.While there is a King who is elected on a rotational basis from the nine royal families, his role is largely ceremonial. The federal system is based upon the British Parliamentarian one, which is a legacy from colonial times. The government promotes the idea that Malaysia is a progressive Islamic society.
When you visit Malaysia, you will see evidence of one of the richest economies in Asia (second only to that of Singapore in gross domestic product) and the world today. We observed this energy in Johor Bahru, where there is an ambitious plan for growth and improvements which are subsidized by the state government. The energy is brisk, and the contrast between old and new is very evident. Malaysia is a center for Islamic banking, and its roads and transportation infrastructure is impressive.
But there is a softer side to Malaysia, as we experienced in Kuantan. Here, the atmosphere was tranquil and scenic. It was a beautiful place to relax and explore, with an authentic local experience in the family-owned restaurants and night markets paired with comfortable resort amenities.
There is evidence of human habitation in Malaysia going back more than 40,000 years. Today, its multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, and multi-lingual influences are vibrant and welcoming. While we weren’t quite the novelty as Americans in Johor Bahru as we were in Kuantan, in both places we were welcomed with enthusiasm and great kindness.
When you first visit Malaysia, you may feel more comfortable in an organized experience. Various companies offer tailor-made packages so you really can make your Malaysia holiday your own. Check out eShores, which offers some great Malaysia itineraries on their site for inspiration.
While we were in Johor Bahru, we attended a Malaysia tourism exhibition and became quite excited by the prospect of visiting other parts of Malaysia: Borneo – with its Orangutan sanctuaries, Sandakan – to see Proboscis monkeys, Langkawi – an archipelago of over 90 islands, and of course, Kuala Lumpur. It was only then that we recognized the range and diversity of experiences on offer in Malaysia. We’d be happy to have an opportunity to visit Malaysia again, and consider it one of our favorite world destinations!
Thanks to our friends at eShores for their help in putting this post together. As always, opinions are our own.