Malaysia is often overlooked in favor of its cheaper neighbors, such as Thailand. While I can’t say Malaysia was my favorite country, it’s definitely worth spending some time there. It has a completely different culture and vibe from the rest of southeast Asia, and that alone makes it interesting.
I visited Kuala Lumpur about four years ago, very briefly. It was a trip when I realized I had booked myself into too many destinations in such a short period of time. Because of all the hops I had planned, I had one night and not even a full day in Kuala Lumpur. Quick as that visit to Kuala Lumpur was, it was an interesting day filled with tourists from Bangladesh who wanted their pictures taken with me in front of the Petronas Towers and lunch at a hole in the wall Indian restaurant where I got lots of stares. (Note: Being a solo traveling white girl wearing a tank top draws a lot of attention in some parts of the world.)
I’m not sure Malaysia really stood a chance in the food category after we found such tasty food in Ao Nang, Thailand. But still we were curious to try some of the local dishes. We also heard that Penang was well known for food, and night markets were scattered all around George Town. I like the atmosphere of markets because there’s so much more energy than in a regular restaurant, so I was really looking forward to experiencing Penang from that perspective.
Our time in Penang was a bit strange. We never planned on stopping there, but we weren’t able to book train tickets from Thailand to Kuala Lumpur. Rather than take an extremely long bus trip all the way, it made sense to break up the journey with a stop in Penang. At this point in our trip, we were getting kind of burnt out so we probably didn’t put as much effort into things as we should have. It didn’t help that our hotel room had no windows, and the hotel played annoying elevator music in the hallways loud enough that we could hear it in our room.
I’ve been living in Freiburg for almost three years now, so it’s rare that I encounter culture shock anymore. All the little things that stressed me out when I first got here seem normal now, or at least I’ve come to terms with them. I’m not sure I’ll ever adjust to the cold winters, though luckily we’ve come up with an escape plan. But the one thing I’ve missed most about the US (other than people) is Mexican food. If there’s a salsa god out there, I think he may have finally heard me.
Thailand is the first country that comes to mind for many people when they think of Southeast Asia. It’s definitely the most popular country in that region of the world due to the tasty food, gorgeous islands, friendly locals, and of course, the low prices. When Andy and I started our winter escape to Southeast Asia, we didn’t really think about going to Thailand. We thought we would end up in Malaysia or maybe Vietnam after Cambodia, but our plans changed and we found ourselves with three weeks in southern Thailand. Here’s how much we spent traveling in Thailand, enjoying the beaches and the food.
I started thinking about this issue in Koh Samui while we were staying at a resort. Andy and I went to dinner one night, ordered satay and asked if it came with rice. Our waitress was a little confused at first, but after a couple of tries, she said yes. Of course, when our food arrived, there was no rice. She didn’t understand us at all when we asked about it, so Andy spoke to the manager, explained the situation, and eventually we got our steamed rice.
Everyone always raves about the food in Thailand. We had some pretty good Thai food while we were living in Berlin, but I was curious so see how the real thing compared. Unfortunately we learned that in the Thai islands, it’s much harder to get away from the touristy food. Our first two weeks were spent eating boring chicken fried rice, not-quite-spicy red curry, and Pad Thai that left me wondering why so many people love the dish so much. Finally our luck changed towards the end of our time in Thailand when we were back in Ao Nang.
After our time on Koh Phangan, Andy and I hoped to get to Koh Yao Noi, but things didn’t work out that way. Since we wanted to see the Hong Islands and didn’t have time while we were in Krabi Town, we decided to go to Ao Nang. The Hong Islands Tour is similar to the 4 Islands Tour but a different set of islands. Not only did we end up with the same tour company, but we even had the same guide for another day of gorgeous island hopping.
Last year when Andy and I traveled through Europe for two months, one of our big regrets was planning out the whole trip. We had each destination plotted, nearly every hotel or apartment booked, and almost every single train ticket purchased ahead of time. We had our reasons, but by the end of the trip we were itching for flexibility and spontaneity. So this time around,we decided to do things differently. We knew our first few destinations but after that we didn’t have a set plan. The majority of the trip was left open for us to figure out along the way.