Modern Malaysia is “always under construction”, aptly said by a local, and with new building gone mad and numerous cranes dotting the skyline everywhere, it’s hard to disagree. There are more massive shopping malls than I’ve ever seen in any country, so far…
I reckon that if you placed all the shopping malls end-to-end that this would probably make a pathway from east to west of the country!
The last time I travelled in Malaysia was in 1989 for a couple of weeks but in 2014, I travelled south to north of the country for 7+ weeks.
In 1989, shopping malls were rare or non-existent and smaller family-run shops were abundant, almost one on every corner…not so, these days. Back then, more bicycles and scooters were on the not so well-sealed roads and not so many cars at all. Sadly, now, apart from the countless power-draining shopping malls, there are bigger more expensive fuel-guzzling cars and 4×4 pick-up trucks. The thirst for Leaded petrol here is second-to-none, everyone loves leaded as “it gives a vehicle more power”…never mind the environment! Malaysians are definitely more affluent these days; perhaps I’m generalising.
An abundance of lush jungle once graced this beautiful country, but these days, you can travel for many hours and only see hours of palm oil plantations. The jungle cleared long ago to make room for this “most widely used vegetable oil on the planet, accounting for 65 per cent of all vegetable oil traded internationally” – WWF.
The countless US mega fast food chains that have invaded Malaysia is extraordinary, as is the number of Starbucks – there has to be a Starbucks on every corner in every city, and almost every town seems to have at least several, which are frequented more by locals than foreigners (prices are expensive).
But for all the changes, this is still a country with much to offer a traveller and adventurer. Most importantly, Malaysians are still very friendly, helpful, and hospitable, making fantastic hosts, which always helps when travelling through a country independently.
Malaysia still offers areas of natural beauty such as one of the oldest tropical rain forests in the world, Taman Negara; numerous turquoise-kissed islands; Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu, which I didn’t visit (next time), and much more. Choose from activities such as easy or arduous trekking, hiking, zip-lining, sailing, and loads more.
Malaysian cuisine is not only delicious but can be very cheap, especially when eating at hawker markets, night markets, or local haunts.
Fine-dining is also available throughout Malaysia if your purse is deep. Dishes have a mix of Malay, Indian, and Chinese flavours creating a myriad of wonderful sensual flavours even for the most discerning taste buds – rest assured, you won’t starve here!