I am a German national doing my undergraduate studies in Britain. I arrived in Malaysia in February 2017, as part of an exchange semester for my university studies. Being a lover of travel and big fan of South-East Asia, I was excited to be here.
Although my four months here were not enough to discover every single place, I got a fair overview of what this country has to offer. I travelled as much as I could in order to understand Malaysia, its people, its history, environment, and food.
Each place I visited in Malaysia was very different and sometimes I did not feel like I was in the same country. I like to compare Malaysia with a puzzle. Each place I travelled to represents a piece of the puzzle, each with a different layout, colour, shape, and so on. When you put all the pieces together you get this unique result, which is Malaysia.
While there were hundreds of extraordinary experiences here are five memorable ones which stood out for me:
1. The tasty street food
It would be hard for a foreigner not to mention food after having spent some time in Malaysia. Food plays an important role for me when I travel. It tells me the story and the history of the place I am visiting, through the influences it has, the ingredients used, etc.
Personally, I really enjoyed the variety of Malaysian food, having Malay, Chinese, and Indian, and other ethnicity groups all under one roof. After a few weeks I got used to the spiciness, and I can even manage some sambal sauce now. I found it extremely sweet that every Malaysian I talked to asked me if I was liking the local food.
What I was fond of the most in terms of food were all the street food, as they serve the real authentic Malaysian food, homemade with the same recipe passed on through generations. The two places I had the most mouth-watering food experiences were at a street market in Malacca and at a hawker centre in Penang.
2. Fantastic beaches with pristine water
I grew up by the ocean, so I cannot spend too much time inland without getting unhappy. Malaysia spoiled me in terms of beautiful beaches and islands. My personal favourite were the Perhentian Islands. I cannot recall any other times when I have seen such clear blue water than there, it was impressive.
Swimming in the sea or just watching it gives you this instantaneous feeling of relaxation and happiness. Who needs to travel thousands of kilometres and spend a lot of money to travel to the Seychelles or the Maldives, if you can get the same beautiful pristine beaches here in Malaysia?
My highlight in Perhentian was my snorkelling day trip. I discovered the underwater world, with all its colourful fishes and corals. I was also able to tick off one of my bucket list – swimming with marine turtles.
3. The richness and diversity of nature
For as long as I can remember I always wanted to go to Borneo, mainly because I had seen so many documentaries about its unique flora and fauna on TV. When I finally travelled to Sabah for a week, I was absolutely amazed, I had never seen such beautiful landscapes. I went on a cruise on the Kinabatangan River and on a trek in an adjacent rainforest.
Watching wild monkeys play on trees, elephants cooling down in the river, and birds flying freely in the sky was an eye-opening experience for me. It was a reminder of the beauty and power of Mother Nature. All this wildlife and vegetation, seemingly untouched by human existence.
Unfortunately, another image that I will not forget is the level of deforestation present in Sabah’s forests. It was quite emotional for me to experience the massive contrast between a pristine jungle and the image of a tractor felling trees.
4. Kuala Lumpur’s skyline by night
Kuala Lumpur’s skyline might not be as stunning as Hong Kong’s one, but I still consider it to be impressive, especially by night. My love-affair with the city started on a nightout spent on a rooftop in Menara KH called Heli Lounge Bar. The place offers a breathtaking 360 degree panoramic view of the entire city. Fun fact: during the day the rooftop is used as a helipad!
KL is a very busy and hectic place, but what I liked about being on the top of a building watching over the city is that it seems so quiet and peaceful. It is as if you pressed the pause button and took a step back to enjoy the beauty of this city, which I am sure most of us forget during our daily routines.
The elegant Petronas Towers and the illuminated KL Tower just add onto the grandeur of the scenery.
5. Stunning sunsets
I love sunsets. For me, a sunset means the end of a beautiful day, time to take a moment and think about all the things that happened during that day.
One of the most impressive sunsets I have experienced in my life was after a nice day lazing at the beach in Langkawi. What makes specifically this one truly memorable was the fact that it started off as a relatively dull sunset, nothing that seemed extraordinary. However, all of a sudden, when I was about to leave the beach to walk back to my hotel, the sky just exploded into a mix of colours. The sky turned purple, orange, and pink, leaving me speechless. It seemed almost surreal, and I had to pinch myself to make sure I was really there, experiencing this spectacular setting.