Travel can be scary, especially when you haven’t done it before. Here at OurOyster.com, we hate it when people let fear hold them back. Especially when it is holding you back from realizing your travel dreams, crossing something off your bucket list, or going on that long overdue holiday.
Or maybe you aren’t quite new to travel, but you are a little nervous about travel to Asia. The culture there is about as different as you can get from traditional Western culture, so I can understand your hesitation.
But you don’t need to be afraid.
Yes, travelling in Asia can something be difficult. It’s hot, there are bugs, and not everyone understands your language. Sometimes you can’t find your favourite foods. It can be daunting. So yes, I understand your fears. But we aren’t going to let fear stop us now are we? But maybe instead of jumping into Asian travel head first, maybe we can “dip our toes in”, so to speak.
I give you, Malaysia.
I sometimes call Malaysia, “Asia Lite”. And that isn’t because there isn’t an incredibly deep and complex culture in Malaysia, and that isn’t because there isn’t anything to do in Malaysia – it’s because Malaysia is a great place to introduce new travellers to travel in South East Asia. With Malaysia you get all the great parts of travel in Asia like, incredible shopping, delicious and exotic foods, ancient cultures, stunning landscapes, friendly people – but without the culture shock, and without some of the other aspects that may scare people off travel in Asia.
Let me explain.
The food in Malaysia is diverse and world class
Malaysia is well known for it’s food. In fact Penang is often labelled the city with the best food in Asia. A blend of cultures; Chinese, Malay, Indian, and European have created some absolutely stunning dishes. My stomach is growling just thinking about it. Malaysian food typically isn’t as spicy as cuisines from other south east Asian countries, and there is a wider variety. Also, as a very developed nation, Malaysia offers up any type of food you could ever want – so if you are craving pizza, you can find it.
For a traveller worried about finding food they will enjoy in Asia, Malaysia offers a great introduction to Asian cuisine, while also providing all the favourites from back home.
Public transport is excellent, reliable and safe
Public transport in other parts of Asia seriously stresses me out. I have many horror stories I can tell about transportation issues in other south east Asian countries. Like the time raw meat juice leaked all over the floor of the bus in Laos and the driver was smoking what appeared to be opium. To the countless times I had to trust tuk tuk drivers to not rip me off. And pretty much any time we were on the road in Vietnam.
In Malaysia, it is different. In fact, public transport in Malaysia is better than in some Western countries I have been in. Your first introduction to transport in Malaysia will be the train from the airport to the city. Quiet, quick, air conditioned and with free wifi, Australia could learn a thing or two from that! Buses are also great value in Malaysia. I took an overnight bus to the Perhentians which was quiet, spacious, safe, and very very new.
Health care is readily available and to world class standards
The first time I travelled in south east Asia, I didn’t have travel insurance and I was petrified of getting ill. My travel partner ended up getting salmonella poisoning in Hanoi and before giving in and going to the private hospital, we first visited the public hospital. After being told to lie back on a dirty bed (there were still blood stains on the sheets), he was poked and prodded by what seemed like every doctor in the building before being told to just drink water.
In Malaysia the hospitals are world class – even the public hospitals.
There are less scams and con artists in operation
In other parts of south east Asia you have to be ever vigilant that you are not getting ripped off. It gets exhausting. Once when I was in Thailand I ordered pad thai from a street vendor. He had a large sign saying “Pad Thai – 40 baht”. After he was finished making it he asked for 80 baht. When I protested, he threw the food at me. I ended up feeling like even if the price is posted, you are still fair game for scams.
There is none of that in Malaysia. I haven’t heard of any scams in Malaysia, and I never once had anyone try to charge me more than the posted price, or short change me.
The taxi drivers won’t even rip you off
Now this is the real test isn’t it? In Malaysia the taxi drivers are bound by law to use the meter. There is no haggling before you get in, there is no arguing, none of it. You simply get in, they turn on the meter, and off you go.
Malaysia is Asia Lite
Whenever someone says to me that they want to go to Asia for the first time, I always recommend Malaysia. It is the type of place where you can get used to Asian food, Asian culture, and the Asian way of life, but without having to be watching out for scammers, or worried about getting sick. Malaysia is the perfect place to start your south east Asian adventure, before heading on to countries that are just as rewarding, but maybe a little bit more challenging.