Everything is easy in Malaysia. At least – it’s easy for tourists. I visited the country for one week and it amazed me! The general impression was that of watching a “well-oiled machine” functioning. Clean, safe, easy and really-mixed-culture are the words I would use to describe Malaysia.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived in Kuala Lumpur is that you can’t really get lost in the city. Even though it’s a metropolis of 1.7 million inhabitants. All the directions are extremely clear and easy to use. Oh, not to mention that they’re in English. So it’s very easy to navigate the city by yourself. There are bus lines which are free and with those you can travel in the city. Actually, the public transport system is fast, cheap, and comfortable. Well, that is, if you don’t mind too much air conditioning. Plus, if you want to see technology at its best: KL has one of the longest automated driver-less metro lines in the world! And trains that travel on a platform above the city – it really gives you the whole view.
One of the things which impressed me so much about Malaysia is that almost everybody knows English. I met people who know English much better than me. It’s an extremely diverse country, with three main ethnic groups: Malay, Chinese and Indian. Each ethnic group (and there are many more, these three are just the largest) has their own native language, but English is the common ground. Even if the national language is Malay, English is one of the official languages. All the more easy to explore the diversity!
The people are extremely polite. I felt comfortable and safe around them: in the bus, on the streets, in their homes. In the much too short time I spent there, I had many evenings when I just sat down with the locals and shared thoughts and ideas about religion, politics, culture, history – you know, all the topics they say you cannot really discuss. But with these people, I sat talking for hours, and hours, and it was amazing! They even showed me how to cook some traditional recipes, and I learned some tricks which I will definitely use in the kitchen when I get back home. Oh, and the food…the food is delicious everywhere, and it’s very easy to find a good and cheap food place.
I’ve seen security guards everywhere around Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, the only places I had time to visit. It felt like they are watching all the time. And not only the police and the security guards at the entrance of the big shopping centres. There are also the people with yellow vests and whistles who are taking care of the city, so that there’s no law breaking or trashing. I suppose it’s good thing, but at some point it felt too much for me. I went with my new friends to a child park which was completely empty at that hour of the day. We simply wanted to look around. But we couldn’t enter. There was a lady who started whistling and she got really angry with us. Turns out we were too old to enter the park. I felt like I was back in school and the teacher is screaming at me to grow up. The other funny thing is how all the security guards with guns make you feel welcome in a public place. Quite weird if I think of it.
One thing I noticed and surprised me, is that there are a lot of things banned in public places and on the public transport. You’re not allowed to have pets with you, to eat or drink, to make-out or cuddle, and of course, smoking is also banned. I haven’t seen so many No Smoking signs in any of the places in the world I’ve travelled to! Well, I guess not being allowed to smoke in public places is a good thing, but the fine for breaking this rule is quite high: it starts at 10000 MYR (around 2500$) and goes all the way up to two years in jail. So, careful if you’re a smoker!
However, the greatest thing about Malaysia is the really diverse culture. Apart from all the ethnic groups, there are also people from the US or Europe living there. It is actually the first country where it felt like everybody is equal and there are no problems like racism or scepticism towards new-comers. On the contrary, I felt so welcomed there, I will definitely return one day. I feel like there’s so much more to discover about this country!
Taavi – May Team 2015