5 words/phrases that describe Malaysia: Stinking hot, welcoming, multifaceted, environmentally thoughtless and multicultural.
What seems to make Malaysians happy? Food and family.
What seems to make Malaysians unhappy? Commercial development in precious rural areas (e.g. Cameron Highlands). Lack of a voice on national issues (politics / government).
Did you ever feel out of your comfort zone while in Malaysia? We’d heard that theft, especially from people / gangs on motorcycles, was rife in certain parts of Malaysia. So, this made me uneasy at first. However, we didn’t encounter any trouble, so I felt more relaxed about security towards the end of our time in Malaysia.
What can other countries learn from Malaysia? Multicultural integration. Unreserved hospitality. They do both well.
Best thing I saw: The sheer wealth of Land Rovers in the Cameron Highlands. I had no idea there would be so many of them around the place and that the Cameron Highlands was an iconic “resting place” for this British heritage vehicle.
Best thing I heard: The sound of the calling towers, as we woke up from our first night of camping by the beach off Melaka.
Best thing I smelt: The fresh flowers in George Town, Penang.
Best thing I did: Enjoy a luxurious dinner at Restaurant Thirty8 (Grand Hyatt). It was an interactive, theatrical and incredibly pleasant experience.
Best thing I tasted: The Steamboat at May Flower Restaurant in Cameron Highlands. It’s the must-try local dish.
Best local character I met: Mr Woon the automotive engineer, global overland adventurer and fellow Landy Lover who kitted out Colonel Mustard with air-conditioning. I could sit and watch him masterfully tinker away on a Landy for hours. I also loved his happy attitude and warm sense of humour.
Best lost in translation moment: Trying to explain to customs how to fill out my carnet de passage documents was challenging and resulted in the wrong pages being filled out plus an apology letter for the next customs post. Lesson learnt: never lose site of your documents at customs – watch the staff fill out everything!
Best surprise ‘n’ delight moment: The manmade rockpool at the Land Rover haven / secluded campsite off Karak. It was bliss after a hot, dusty day in Colonel Mustard.
Best thing I enjoyed about life in Malaysia: How helpful and friendly everyone was.
5 words that describe Malaysia: Friendly, disorganised, messy, relaxed, very charming (in parts)
What seems to make Malaysians happy? Food, family and friends plus the great outdoors and being hospitable.
What seems to make Malaysians unhappy? I can’t recall seeing any unhappy faces! It sounds like some of the decisions made by government reps cause frustration. When we were in the Cameron Highlands, it looked like the famers and labourers worked long brutal days, which undoubtedly puts a strain on their health.
Did you ever feel out of your comfort zone while in Malaysia? I found the dirt, grime and lack of order a little confronting at first, especially after Singapore (one of the cleanest and most organised destinations on earth). Jahor was the first Malaysian city we came across and it’s not pretty!
What can other countries learn from Malaysia? How to be hospitable towards strangers and how to retain / preserve traditional architecture. The old-world charm in towns like Melaka and George Town was truly magical.
Best thing I saw: The drive into Penang was brilliant! We arrived at the stroke of midnight, when Chinese New Year celebrations were in full swing. Everyone was out on the streets lighting fireworks and running family bon fires. Plus, the old-world charm of the place was more beautiful and enchanting than I expected.
Best thing I heard: The laughter of the Malaysians. They seem like such happy, friendly people. I also loved the sound of the calling towers as we drove into Ipoh. There was something very mystical and soothing about it, as we walked around the main oval, watching hockey players training underneath the setting sun.
Best thing I smelt: The fresh strawberries in the Cameron Highlands. They were ridiculously sweet and made your mouth water from miles away.
Best thing I did: Decide to spend the morning chilling out in George Town, Penang (we were on a tight schedule into Thailand, but chose to drive late into the night so we didn’t have to sacrifice this must-see town). Trawling through the streets in the wee hours of the morning, we stumbled across the most vivid flowers we’d ever seen; I’m talking fluoro orange, electric blue, fuchsia and beyond. We also discovered the “original Starbucks”, as one local described it. Serving the best brekky to date, our new favourite cafe was literally a nameless hole in the wall. The owner made our tea like a boss (not a wanky barista) and made us eggs on fresh, crusty toast with a makeshift grill plate – it was true theatre and it tasted brilliant!
Best thing I tasted: Cheesy vegetable naan at an Indian Restaurant in the Cameron Highlands. It was completely moreish.
Best local character I met: The entire team that runs Gerard’s Place in the Cameron Highlands – they became our adoptive family. I especially adored Joshua. He provided the best company, friendship, advice and source of giggles we could hope for.
Best lost in translation moment: The process of getting Colonel Mustard kitted out with air-con proved a bit challenging for Ben. But, thanks to hand gestures and mutual love of Landies, Ben and the mechanic (Mr Woon) got through the experience with a smile and the Colonel in one piece.
Best surprise ‘n’ delight moment: Tasting coconut shakes for the first time. They are now my favourite drink in the world. I’m convinced I need to sell them at the markets back in Oz. They’re painfully good. The street art and graffiti throughout Malaysia was also off the charts – so imaginative and inspiring!
Best thing I enjoyed about life in Malaysia: How relaxing it was. No one seemed particularly stressed, aggressive or rude. Things happened when they could. If they took longer than expected or didn’t go to plan – not to worry.
CHECK OUT our pics of Malaysia here.