My thoughts on Malaysia

Trip Start Jan 09, 2013
Trip End Jan 22, 2013

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Flag of Malaysia  , Sabah,
Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My 2-week visit to Malaysia has come to an end.
I am sitting at Tawau airport, after successfully making it on time despite the flat tire our taxi experienced on our way here. As I'm sitting at the gate waiting for the late plane to arrive, I decided to write about my reflection of the last couple of weeks.
I don't know if my impression of Sabah (Borneo side of Malaysia) has been clouded by the fact that I'm feeling tired from traveling; I stayed in crappy hostels the past week, and the bed bug bites made me feel so uncomfortable the last few days; and I've been anxious to return to Bali since the day I landed in Malaysia. So my thoughts on Malaysia may not be a fair or a neutral one...but here it goes.

Malays are more reserved then people of any other country I've visited. Yet they stared at me the most. I couldn't tell what they were thinking. Of course, I encountered some friendly faces who greeted me and said hello along the way. But for the most part, the Malays kept to themselves and watched me from distance. Since a vast majority of Malays are Muslims, women here were generally covered from head to toe. Perhaps this also made me feel a bit out of place. I refrained from wearing shorts or tank tops, and covered myself as much as possible but I still felt a bit awkward in busy streets or inside crowded transport where I clearly stood out as a foreigner.

Also for the first time in my travels, I was approached buy a child begging me for money. Actually, he was signaling a smoke by putting his two fingers to his he was actually begging me for a cigarette. He couldn't have been more than 8 years old. That was disturbing. This is one of main reasons why I know I cannot travel to India. My heart wouldn't be able to take it.

While staying on Mabul Island, there was a village of sea gypsies who either live on a boat that is a size of a canoe or a wooden huts built on a stilt on a beach. I had never seen poverty like that, not even in the Philippines. One canoe had a whole family of 5, which served as their living room, bedroom, kitchen, and dining room. I watched a little girl squat over the edge of the canoe to go #2 and then splash her butt with ocean water. Talk about a shock. I still can't get that picture out of my head.

Palm oil plantations took over the majority of the land in Sabah, from Kota Kinabalu all the way down to Semporna and Tawau. Much of the scenery during the many hours I spent on buses was dominated by the palm oil plantations. That was also disturbing. So much of natural beauty has been stripped away and a home for thousands of animal species has been destroyed for human profit. Orangutans are endangered in Sabah for this reason - the land that was once their home has been burnt down and the orangutans are now "rehabilitated" in a restricted park and turned into an attraction for tourists.

None of the cities I traveled through impressed me one bit. There was nothing charming about Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan or Semporna. The last city, Semporna, was just filthy, run-down and smelled like trash and sewer. I couldn't wait to get out of there. It was very unfortunate, since so many tourists use Semporna as a base for the world-class diving in Sipadan. The city can really clean up and capitalize on western tourism but that was not to be seen.

I slept in a dormitory the entire 2-week stay in Malaysia, and paid on average $9-10 per night including toast and coffee in the morning. Not too bad. The local food was also decently priced at around $2-3 which was about the same in Indo. The food was pretty good for the most part. Although, I don't think I spent enough time in Malaysia to really explore and appreciate authentic local food. About 5 out of the 13 days I spent in Malaysia were spent on a resort so it was buffet food. Definitely not the best food I ever had. The fresh grilled seafood in KK was the best. I still drool thinking about it!
There was also a dessert called ABC. It was my absolute fave! It's crushed ice served with red beans, jelly, macaronis, peanuts with sweet syrup. It was so good :)

I think transport in Malaysia was about the most expensive. A 5-minute ride to/from the airport in KK cost a flat rate of $5. A 1-hr taxi ride to Tawau airport cost us $33 which is very expensive. Just to give you a comparison, I spent an hour in a taxi in Thailand and it cost me $10. I wanted to take a public bus to the airport but Krystoff didn't want to take a chance getting to the airport late. Well he had a point, since the local transport rarely leaves "on time." They usually leave when the bus/van is full with passengers, whenever that is.

I am just realizing that this is my 3rd time flying into Kuala Lumpur for a flight connection. I have yet to leave the airport to actually explore the city. Perhaps next time!
I am so excited to be going back to Bali. And at the moment, to stop traveling and find a home in Lembongan for 5-6 weeks. I am spending a few days in Sanur to do a little shopping before I head to the remote island.
Bali here I come!
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Jake on

Good thing you didn't see the girl do a #4, trust me you'll have nightmares for the rest of your life. :D

oshioshi on

Haha! Yes I'll take #2 then ;)

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