Modern Malaysia is “always under construction” – an apt sentiment from a local and here’s why…
For those of you that have read this post previously, I decided to add more information and photos whilst changing the format of this post. Hope you like the updated layout?
On to modern Malaysia…
With new buildings gone mad and a plethora of cranes jutting proudly from the city skylines throughout Malaysia, you can’t but help agree with the opinion from locals that Malaysia is always under construction.
There are more massive shopping malls than I’ve ever seen in any country so far. I’m sure that if you place end-to-end all Malaysia’s shopping malls, this would probably make a pathway from east to west of the country!
The last time I travelled through Malaysia was in 1989 for a couple of weeks. Although in 2014, I travelled south to north of the country for more than weeks. Enough time to notice many changes and reflect on past travels to this country.
In 1989, shopping malls were rare or non-existent. Smaller family-run shops were abundant with almost one on every corner. Not so these days.
Back then, more bicycles and scooters were on the not so well-sealed roads. Not many cars graced the roads. Sadly now, apart from the countless power-draining shopping malls, bigger and more expensive fuel-guzzling cars and 4×4 pick-up trucks are seen everywhere.
The thirst for leaded petrol in Malaysia is second-to-none. Everyone loves leaded petrol as “it gives a car more power”. Never mind the environment – this never enters peoples heads. Malaysians are definitely more affluent these days, but maybe this is generalising?
An abundance of natural and lush thick jungle once threaded its way through this beautiful country. The stark truth is that these days, you travel and only seeing hours of palm oil plantations and nothing else.
With 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, saving the jungle is a hopeless cause. Scary figures as in no time, this oil has swept the world because it is cheap and a fast-growing crop. Tragically, this is to the detriment of the Malaysian natural jungle and rainforests.
The countless US mega fast-food chains that have invaded Malaysia is extraordinary. As is the number of Starbucks – there must be one on every corner in every city. And, almost every town seems to have at least several. Starbucks in Malaysia seems to be 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. Locals make fantastic hosts, which always helps when travelling through a country, especially independently.
Malaysia still offers areas of natural beauty such as one of the oldest tropical rain forests in the world – Taman Negara. See this stunning jungle before palm oil sweeps this amazing region away.
Turquoise-kissed deserted islands, Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu, which I didn’t visit on this trip (next time), and so much more is on offer in beautiful Malaysia.
Plenty of adventure activities including easy or arduous trekking, hiking, zip-lining, sailing, and much more keep the savvy traveller sufficiently entertained.
Also worth mentioning is the Malaysian cuisine, which is not only absolutely delicious and very diverse but can be very cheap. Especially, when savouring offerings at hawker markets, street stalls, night markets, or local haunts.
For travellers with deep purses, fine dining is also available throughout Malaysia. Exotic dishes are 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 in Malaysia. Instead, you’re hard-pressed to sample everything on offer.
Malaysia has certainly changed much since visiting in 1989. Above all, it seems that locals are more affluent, and with affluence comes the hunger for expensive toys and consumerism. This desire and commercialism drive environmental issues, which can quickly become disasters if not kept in check.
Have you seen Malaysia transition over decades? Are your experiences positive? Thoughts on Malaysia?
Regardless of the stark changes, travelling overland through Malaysia has been fantastic and memorable but for now, it’s time to move on and bound for alluring Thailand.
I hope that changes in Thailand are for the best as I hold very fond memories of this gorgeous country. Having travelled there first in 1985, again in 1989, and then in 2004, undeniably changes will be noticeable in 2014.
Can a country really change so much during the last ten years?