Malaysia – a timely reminder that timing is everything in travel

Stunning panoramic view of KL from the top of the KL tower.

There are so many good things about Malaysia, the Food is amazing, and you can try different types of food. The Malay food is spicy, much like Indian Food, the Chinese food is so tasty. There is endless variety. The Transport system is amazing. Trains go to the place they say they will, at the time they say they will, and they are comfortable. Kuala Lumpa and Georgetown are both really easy to get around as they have a free bus service. We really really wanted to love our time there.

Bad timing

But, we ended up in Malaysia at what turned out to be a bad time of year. In KL, Penang and Langkawi, it was dry/hot season which means 40 odd degrees most of the time. In the southern part of Malaysia all the National Parks were shut because it was still rainy season, and in Borneo, which was supposed to be just out of rainy season, the rains were still going on. It was a pretty spectacular fail on the whole planning front.

Added to this is the fact that the tourist attractions tend to be a little out of the backpacker price range. In Kuala Lumpur, they have this amazing Tower you can go to the top of, but its about £60 each – that was twice our food budget for just one of us to go to the top. We even found ourselves going round a museum of Mosque models (yes really, Models…. of Mosques….from around the world). It was kind of interesting, but given that neither of us are remotely religious, it was nothing more than that. In Langkawi, there some really beautiful waterfalls….in rainy season……..But it is was Hot season, so they were dry!

Everywhere’s dry

It was also fairly quiet at night. We’ve been to some places before where it was a bit dead but this is usually fixed by finding the nearest loud bar. As Malaysia is a country with a majority Muslim population the attitudes to drinking are fairly conservative – in that it is illegal for the Muslim population to buy or consume alcohol. You can buy a drink, but it is likely to cost you as much as it does in your local in England. Basically, don’t go expecting to drink on the cheap. This posed rather a problem for us. Not much we could afford to do during the day, and not enough money to have a decent drink at night. In the end we went back to Thailand for a night out.

Kuching

 

We did spend some time in Kuching, which is the capital of Sarawak in Borneo before we went on our 6 Day Rainforest trek (more on that in the next blog post) and this has a very different vibe to Peninsular Malaysia for many reasons, but mainly because it has a very different ethnic make up and was a country in its own right until the 1960’s. Kuching is a beautiful city and the people are really friendly. It still doesn’t really have a nightlife scene in the same way as other countries in the area though.

Know before you go

I don’t want to discourage people from going to Malaysia. We didn’t get to see as much of it as we wanted because of the weather so we’d both like to go back at some point in the right time of year, but if you have a budget you need to stick to, Malaysia is one of the places that might get you a little unstuck, so budget more than you think. No matter how many bloggers tell you that it’s possible to live on $10 a day, you can’t and still have fun. I reckon they must all just spend their time writing blogs and never go anywhere.

Time for a rethink

As a result of the time we spent in Malaysia we went back and looked at our planned itinerary. It turns out we were basically hitting hot dry season in almost every country we were going to, except the Philippines where we were going to be in the middle of typhoon season. This knowledge and the experience allowed us to revamp our plans entirely – I’ve never been more glad that we didn’t book a Round the World ticket up front – so we are going to Africa for 7 weeks at the end of May. By the time we get back to South East Asia there should be some lovely waterfalls to see, and our investment in raincoats won’t have been for nothing 🙂

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