Malaysia was the first country where I arrived on my own, while Fred soaked up some more sun on the beaches of Thailand. (I’m not complaining – I spent the time meeting loads of inspiring entrepreneurs.) I flew in late at night, to a city that seemed more run-down than any we had visited so far, but Kuala Lumpur grew on me over time. Here are the highlights:
- Islam is the state religion in Malaysia, and over 60 percent of Malaysians are Muslim. And it shows: you’ll see girls in hijabs everywhere, mosques ringing at all hours, and a female-only car on the commuter train. I felt a bit out of place with my revealing (but absolutely necessary) shorts.
- Still, Malaysia is the most multicultural country I’ve visited so far, with lots of Chinese and Indians as well.
- Prices are relatively inexpensive, somewhere between Vietnam and Thailand – a metro ride can be as little as 33 cents, and $3 meals are easy to come by.
- I didn’t experience much of the local food, but I understand Malaysian cuisine is famous for satays and soups. I also tried several fried, fruit-filled concoctions off the street, at the urging of one of the entrepreneurs I met (thanks Daniel!).
- English is widely spoken, making it easy to get around.
- Kuala Lumpur is one of the most green cities I’ve seen in Asia, with trees dotted among the skyscrapers.
- Malaysia, especially the Chinese enclave of Penang, celebrates Chinese New Year with vigor – featuring red lanterns, lion dances in the malls, and mandarin oranges aplenty.
- The local brew of choice is Ipoh white coffee, whose beans are roasted in margarine – making the coffee buttery and tasty (even for an occasional coffee drinker like me).