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13 posts • Page 1 of 1
This October I traveled to Penang, the famous medium-sized island in northern Malaysia near the border with Thailand. In a nutshell, I enjoyed Penang, and its dynamics were far different than I had imagined before going there. Ten days is quite a bit for a place like Penang, but that's just the way I like it - I want to stay long enough that I can start to feel what the vibes would be like if I lived there. I don't really like cruising through places and staying for only a day or two.
I've been living in Bangkok, Thailand since April 2012, and in order to save money I opted to take the slow train from Bangkok all the way down to Butterworth, Malaysia. One-way train tickets from Bangkok to Butterworth are about 1,050 THB (2,100 THB round-trip). The ride from Bangkok to Butterworth is a total of 22 hours, so it's quite a long train ride. Along the ride, the train passes through several notable Thai cities, including Hua Hin and Hat Yai. About 18 hours or so into the journey, everyone must deboard the train (and then later reboard) at the Thai-Malaysian border in order to pass through both countries' customs and immigration. Being an American, I didn't need a pre-acquired visa to enter Malaysia. My passport entry stamp granted me 90 days to stay in Malaysia, and I didn't need to pay a cent for it. On the other hand, I did have to acquire a Thailand re-entry permit for 1,000 THB before leaving Thailand. Expats living in Thailand on the proper visa must acquire a re-entry permit before ever leaving Thailand, or else their current Thai visa will be rendered invalid upon exiting Thailand. A waste of money and a pain in the ass to say the least.
Upon arrival in Butterworth, I immediately walked right over to the ferry that takes passengers over to Georgetown. Butterworth is on mainland Malaysia, while Georgetown is on Penang island (check out a map to understand what I mean). Even as a first-timer in Penang, I felt it was quite easy naviagting without resorting to using taxis. Google Maps on my mobile phone helped me tremendously. The 20-minute ferry ride from Butterworth to Georgetown is only 1.2 MYR, and the ferry ride going back from Georgetown to Butterworth is free. I found myself going back and forth on the ferry quite frequently, but not necessarily because I was interested in checking out Butterworth. Actually, the ferry ride is one of the best places to snap amazing photos. The sea surrounding Penang is quite blue and clean, and the landscape looks great from the ferry.
One thing that really surprised me about Penang was how busy it felt (in comparison to what I had imagined). Penang is not some quaint little island. Traffic jams are a dime a dozen, and the island has far more people than I had anticipated (around 1.5 million). Just like Bangkok, Penang's traffic flow has an equal amount of cars and motorcycles, which makes crossing the street a complete nightmare. On the plus side, the further you move away from Georgetown, Penang's most densely populated area, the less busy things become. Once out of Georgetown, tourists are few and far between and noise reduces significantly. Of all of my ten days in Penang, my fondest experience was when I went to the far western end of the island and just walked around snapping photos. The atmosphere was perfect, I didn't see any other tourists, I didn't have to constantly avoid traffic, and the quietness was blissful.
One of the first things you'll learn about Penang after a bit of research is that it's a proclaimed "food heaven." While I think that description is a bit over the top, Penang does indeed have quite a variety of delicious food. Penangese cuisine can be divided into three categories: Chinese, Malay, and Indian. I'm not fussy about food, so I was easily impressed by most of the dishes I tried. However, I would have to say the Chinese food was the least impressive. After asking several locals which dishes are a "must-try," they all gave near identical responses. Curry noodles and Hokkien noodles were the most recommended. I found both of these dishes to be a bit bland and mediocre. On the other hand, amazingly good Indian food can be found for dirt cheap everywhere in Penang. This is unlike Bangkok, where most Indian food is served in expensive "upscale" restaurants, and one must go deep into the depths of dingy Little India to find reasonably priced Indian cuisine.
Most of the Malay food in Penang was unsurprisingly Asian-Islamic style - no pork, lots of barbecue, and lots of curries. Unlike some of the Chinese dishes, I don't think there was a single Malay or Indian dish I tried that I didn't like. From a non-fussy food lover's point of view, I'd say Penang is about equivalent to Bangkok in how tasty most of the local cuisine is. Penang is also about on par with Bangkok when it comes to food prices. I rarely paid more than 10 MYR for any of my meals, and I almost always left the table full and satisfied.
Another plus Penang's got going for it is its food hawker centers. Anyone who's visited Singapore should be familiar with these. They're basically open-air food courts that serve a large variety of food for reasonable prices. They're all over Georgetown, and one doesn't need to walk far to spot one. Bangkok is WAY behind in this regard. Food vendors clutter Bangkok's already severely congested sidewalks, often bringing pedestrian foot traffic in major areas to a snail's pace. If there's one thing in Bangkok that makes me want to pull my damn hair out, it's the atrocious sidewalks. Bangkok, if you're listening, dear Lord please consider creating more open-air food hawker centers, because your sidewalks are some of the worst I've ever been witness too!
Now that I'm on the topic of sidewalks, how does Penang's sidewalks fare? I love walking and I despise taxis, so the "walk-ability" of a city is very important to me. Vendors aren't really a problem at all in Penang, however, many of the sidewalks are non-existent or in total disrepair. For the majority of my ten day trip, I had no choice but to walk on the side of the street, which made me very vulnerable to being clipped by motorcycles and car side mirrors. I had a lot of close encounters. Another strange thing about the sidewalks is the massive, uncovered trench that seems to pass through the majority of Georgetown. One could easy fall into this trench and twist their ankle, break their leg, and/or possibly die if they weren't paying close enough attention. I wouldn't recommend stumbling back to your hotel after a night of heavy drinking!
The weather in Penang was damn near identical to that of Bangkok - hot and rainy. Lots of hot, sweat-inducing sunshine followed by random bouts of intense rain. It rained at least five of the ten days I was there. A few of those days the rain seemed never-ending. When walking around the streets of Georgetown, there's very few places to hide in the shade, so I had to wear lots of sunscreen to protect myself from the intense sun. Rain was often accompanied by wind, meaning weak umbrellas will just fall apart on rainy days.
Penang feels like a safe place to be. I don't remember any moments where I felt like I was in physical danger, unlike Manila, Philippines and Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There weren't too many hustlers/touts chilling out around the tourists spots either, unlike in many other Asian cities, particularly Bangkok. The only time I really got bothered by touts was on northern Penang Road (an area with a few bars and nightclubs) and by taxi drivers at the Butterworth-Penang ferry dock. In regard to touts, Penang is very comparable to Vientiane, Laos. They're there, but they're not constantly harassing you like in Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
When it comes to tourist attractions, Penang doesn't really have anything too particularly interesting. Penang is mostly the kind of place you go to relax and soak up the vibes. It's not really a place you go to to sight-see. Nonetheless, there are still a few notable things one could do. My favorites are:
1. The Penang Butterfly Farm in Penang's far west town of Teluk Bahang (only go if you enjoy photography, otherwise don't bother). 27 MYR for an adult ticket.
2. Penang Hill in Air Itam, Penang's north central area. This is the best place to see a scenic view of the Penang cityscape. 30 MYR for an adult ticket (assuming you want to use the train that takes you up to and down from the top).
3. Spend half a day walking (or riding a bicycle) around Georgetown. Check out the historical buildings and all of the murals painted on the sides of buildings. After that, check out the old Chinese fishing neighborhood in eastern Georgetown called the Weld Quay Clan Jetties. All of this could easily be done in only a few hours.
4. Spend half a day at Batu Ferringghi, Penang's mediocre beach area. Don't expect to be too impressed here. The beach is comparable to Hua Hin in Thailand.
5. Spend an evening or two walking around to all of the hawker centers, trying as many different dishes as possible. Make sure you eat a healthy dose of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cuisine.
Penang rates very high in terms of how photogenic it is. This is very important to me, because I consider myself a photography enthusiast. Penang is very colorful, there are many different ethnicities of people (about half of which are ethnic Chinese), the coastline is quite lovely, and the local food looks pleasing to the eyes. Like the Thais and unlike the northern Chinese, the Penangese seem fairly easy-going about having their photo taken. After a polite request for permission to take a photo, most people were more than happy to allow me to photograph whatever I wanted, whether it be of them or of their shop.
Cost wise, Penang is very comparable to Bangkok. The one thing that is definitely more expensive in Penang than in Bangkok is the price of snacks in 7-Eleven. Practically everything I buy from 7-Eleven - diet cola, fat-free yogurt, and nuts - were all about 20% more expensive in Penang. However, restaurants, shopping, and accommodation were all about the same price as Bangkok's. Penang has many small inns and guesthouses that are relatively clean and cheap. The average price I paid per night for a single room was around 50 MYR. I don't do shared rooms in hostels. As for public transportation, I took the bus when I needed to go long distances, and I never paid more than 4 MYR for a ride. I never once took a taxi, so I don't have a clue what their rate is.
One major plus for conversational Mandarin speakers like me, is many people in Penang, the ethnic Chinese in particular, can speak Mandarin. Most people can also speak passable English, but I'd say it's much better to communicate with most people in Mandarin than it is in English. Malay would be the most useful, Hokkien the second most useful, Mandarin the third most useful, and English the least useful. Don't let that scare you though - you'll get by mostly hassle free with only English and a bit of miming.
On a side note, most of the locals seemed blown away that I could speak Mandarin (I'm a young Caucasian guy). Many of them looked at me in complete disbelief. I can't count how many times I was told "you're the first foreigner I've ever met that can speak Mandarin." I found speaking Mandarin with them also made them ease up a bit. Practically every sign in Penang is written in traditional Chinese characters and in Malay, so if you can read Chinese or Malay, that's a plus. Many signs are also written in English.
And finally...the women. This is what all of you guys have been waiting for. Well, I have good and bad news. The good news is Penang would rank very high on my list of best places in Asia to find a potential wife. However, it would rank very low on my list as a "pump-n-dump" destination. I saw countless beautiful ethnic Chinese women, and the most physically attractive ones seem to flock to posh cafes. If you're a fan of the women in China or Taiwan, then you'd likely also be a fan of the ethnic Chinese women in Penang. Many of them look amazing and are more mild-mannered and classy than their mainland counterparts. The bad news is there are a notable amount of pudgy and overweight girls, just like in Thailand and Singapore. I also rarely found myself physically attracted to the Indian and ethnic Malay women. Sure, there were a few lookers here and there, but to my tastes they were few and far between. I also have little to no interest in Muslim women.
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm already in a serious relationship with a mainland Chinese woman, so I'm not on the prowl for any other girlfriends. If I were a single guy serious about marriage, then I'd definitely be looking around Penang. Those interested in ethnic Chinese women, but turned of by the idea of living in mainland China or Taiwan should consider Penang. I found being a Mandarin speaker gave me an "in" with some local women. I imagine if I weren't a Mandarin speaker, many women would have just looked right past me assuming I'm just another typical tourist. My interactions with the local women were mostly positive - obviously light-years beyond that of most of my interactions with American women.
After it's all said and done, I enjoyed my trip in Penang, but I likely won't return there for quite some time. Besides just being a nice place to chill out and soak up the vibes, it doesn't have much to offer tourists. Penang seems much better as a place to live than it does as a place to travel. Unlike Bangkok, Pattaya, and Phnom Penh, Penang isn't flooded with so many slimy, criminal-looking tourists, but it's just not a very entertaining place to travel to (for a guy like me). Would I travel all the way across the world just to see Penang? Certainly not. But since I live in Bangkok, it was worth seeing at least once. If you live in Asia, give Penang a try. If you live in Europe or North America, I wouldn't bother (unless you're also going to other destinations during the same trip). I'll probably return to Malaysia next year to see Kuala Lumpur. Penang summarized in three words: Taiwan meets Singapore.
If you enjoyed reading this thread, please also check out my previous trip report on Laos: Everdred's "10 Days in Laos" Trip Report. If anyone has questions, feel free to ask. Thanks for reading!
(Note: all of the above photos were taken by me using a Pentax K-01 digital camera.)
(As of October 31st, 2013:
1 USD = 31.1 THB
1 USD = 3.16 MYR
1 MYR = 9.86 THB)
Last edited by Everdred on Wed Jan 14, 2015 3:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Great trip report and wonderful photos Everdred! And yes, I do agree that the culture and cuisine are generally more fascinating than just the women.
I'm planning to go to Pattaya with Xiongmao sometime this month. Please do feel free to tag along if you're free.
My brother went to Penang as part of a wedding party, he liked it a lot. Mostly because of the banana leaf curries I think.
Malaysia was a good country (my KL trip report is somewhere). The Chinese women are interesting, but I didn't really have time to meet any.
I also found Malaysia very photogenic. It also felt safe to take photos there.
I didn't have too many language problems in KL because there are just so many English loan words in Malay.
Malaysian 7-11's are terrible, and there were several in KL that were really dirty inside. Thailand, HK, China and Japan lead the world as far as convenience stores are concerned.
Anyway, thanks for taking the rain with you, it's only rained once since you were away, and that was in the night .
Curry laksa, one of Malaysia's national dishes, from a food court at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur. Pretty darn good as a small meal in between meals.
肉骨茶, also known as "bak kuh teh" in Malay, is an ethnic-Chinese dish consisting of pork ribs, tofu, a spice-filled broth, and cilantro as a garnish. This dish was served at a small open air restaurant in Kuala Lumpur's Chinatown.
"Mee goreng" - spicy stir-fried noodles - served at the Butterworth train station in Penang.
Rice porridge served at a restaurant on the beach in Georgetown. I'm not a big fan of any kind of porridge.
This kind of food is called "economy rice" in Malaysia. Similar to its Thai counterpart, you just select whichever random dishes you want, and they're thrown onto a bed of rice. It's usually dirt cheap (almost never more than $2 USD). The food pictured is at an ethnic-Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Georgetown.
Squid, egg, and spinach with rice. served at an ethnic-Malay restaurant in Georgetown.
Fish head curry with red tofu, okra, and rice served at an ethnic-Malay restaurant in central Kuala Lumpur.
Chicken, tofu, and eggplant with rice served at an ethnic-Indian restaurant in central Kuala Lumpur. It doesn't look very notable, but this dish was amazing!
Fish curry at an open air food court in Georgetown.
Giant prawn along with various other curries at an ethnic-Indian restaurant in Georgetown.
Tandoori chicken with sliced vegetables and rice served at an ethnic-Indian restaurant in Georgetown. Tandoori chicken is one of my all time favorite dishes!
Various curries at an ethnic-Indian restaurant in Georgetown.
Some raw tandoori chicken being prepared for the grill at an ethnic-Indian restaurant on Georgetown's famous Chulia Street.
The mainland Chinese call it "麻辣串儿" (kebabs boiled in spicy broth), but the Penangese call it "樂樂" (happy happy). This food cart can be found at night on Georgetown's famous Chulia Street.
Squid, fish balls, and other snacks for sale from a food cart on Georgetown's famous Chulia Street.
Dried fish for sale at a wet market in Georgetown.
Various preserved fruits, a favorite snack of many Southeast Asians, but mostly hated by myself, for sale at a wet market in Georgetown.
Ice cream with fruit served at a restaurant at the top of Penang Hill. Extremely delicious!
Italian-style popsicles for sale at a small dessert shop in Georgetown.
These are called "pulut panggang" in Malay. They're banana leaves filled with sticky rice and dried shrimp. I tend to like these kind of foods (like 粽子 (sticky rice cakes) from China), but I thought these tasted pretty awful. These were sold by a street vendor in Teluk Bahang, Penang island's northwestern region.
And finally, some ice cold Coca-Colas in a fridge at an open air food court in Georgetown. No matter what country you're in, you're always guaranteed to be able to find Coca-Cola.
Note: I never host my photos on the Happier Abroad server. Instead I host them on TinyPic, a free image hosting website. Sometimes the photos may not load properly on this website, largely depending on your location. Sometimes a simple refresh of your browser will load the broken photos, and other times you may have to wait several hours or even days for the photos to load correctly. Sorry about that.
Man you're by far the most informative and useful poster here. Thanks for sharing about the prices and all those awesome pictures you take. And you don't whine about small inconveniences as horror stories, which makes all this seem pretty doable.
That food has me mouth watering!!
That cracks me up lol
1)Too much of one thing defeats the purpose.
2)Everybody is full of it. What's your hypocrisy?
Everdred, you are inspiring me to do a food trip report on China. LOL!
How do you post pictures on this website, because I've tried in the past...and couldn't? That's why I haven't posted any pics on any of my trip reports, because I didn't know how to post them on this website.
Make sure you are using HA-forum's [img] metadata tags surrounding the links of the pictures. Upload the pictures to a free site like Instagram and right-click and get the URL properties of the ACTUAL foto so you can copy and paste that into your post here.
It's time to expatriate to evade your fate; it's time to expatriate before the barn door permanently closes on "US" sheep.
Debut mixtape "The Skilled Neophyte of RNB (x64)" dropping Spring 2016 - Follow me on Twitter @eirizarryRNB
You can host unlimited number of photos on Google Picasaweb in high resolution. If you like to take photos with your cell phone, there are apps that would upload the photos to picasaweb or other pic hosting sites, so you never have to download them to a computer.
Sounds like you had a quality time mate and because that is the most important thing for us knowing the things which gives us that everything that is needed for traveling that is what put the maximum outcome for us. Tremendous photos and gave me a lot ideas.
For me the most reasonable source of traveling is kissimmee to boca raton transportation and i find it useful every time.
I originally wrote this Penang trip report in October 2013, the first time I ever went to Malaysia. Fast forward 15 months into the future, and I just finished my third trip to the country. I visited Penang in October 2013, then Kuala Lumpur and Penang in April 2014, and then Langkawi, Penang, and Kuala Lumpur in December 2014. Whether I'd like to admit it or not, something draws me to Malaysia. But after this third trip to the country, I think I'll probably take a long break before coming back. Three long trips to one single country in a 15-month period is more than enough.
Obviously there's no need to recap my first trip to Malaysia, as it's already covered extensively in this here thread. However, let me review what I learned about Malaysia from my second and third trips. Let's start with the biggie you all wanna hear about - women. I can firmly say that the only women I find dateable in Malaysia are the ethnic Chinese. They're very similar to their Southeastern Chinese and Taiwanese sisters in appearance, but probably more Taiwanese in demeanor. I think it would take a bit of time to break into their social circles in order to date them, but it would probably be worth the effort if you're serious about finding a Malaysian Chinese girlfriend.
I usually travel with my Chinese girlfriend, so meeting up with local women when I travel is more or less impossible. But of course if I'm traveling alone it's doable. When I travel, I will often use social apps to gauge what kind of response/attention I receive from local women online. This time around, I used 陌陌 (a Chinese dating app), WeChat (the "Look Around" feature), and Skout to fish for prospects. In all three places I visited in Malaysia, I didn't really like what I was seeing on these apps. For starters, TONS of horny local gay dudes/ladyboys would pester me nonstop, even though I pointed out in my profiles that I'm not even remotely interested in men. It didn't matter because they were relentless. I'd say 66% of my messages on these social apps were from men, and not once did I respond to any of them. When it came to women, I'd say 80% of the women that contacted me I simply wasn't interested in. Overweight ethnic Chinese girls, Muslim Malay girls, the occasional unattractive Indian girl, etc. Messages from women I was actually interested in were few and far between. Bottom line: using social apps to find women in Malaysia is not very productive if you have decent standards, but if you wait it out long enough, you might get a promising message or two. I'm guessing networking is probably the best way to go if you live in the country.
Let's move on to food. Three trips later, and I still like Malaysian food as much as I did on the first trip. Indian is still the king of the three major cuisines - Malay, Chinese, and Indian - and I doubt that opinion will ever change. However, what I don't like now - wait, let me correct that - what I HATE now is the system of paying for your food in Indian Malaysian restaurants. You put your food on a plate buffet style (self-serve), and then you take your plate to your table. In theory, once you sit down a person is supposed to come and write the bill for the food you have on said plate. Half the time the person never shows up (which causes a clusterf*ck later on), and when they actually do show up, it seems like they just make up a number in their head for how much you should pay. I usually got the same meal day by day, yet the prices I would pay for said meal, even at the exact same restaurant, were all over the place. There are no prices anywhere when you're putting the food on your plate, so you're clueless as to how much everything costs. This really sucks when you're trying to budget how much you pay for each meal. All I can say is prepared to be ripped off quite a bit when frequenting Indian restaurants in Malaysia.
I strongly enjoyed Kuala Lumpur on my first visit in April 2014, but I didn't like it quite so much on my second visit in December 2014. It's a pretty cool place to go as a tourist, but once you've done all the sight-seeing and tried all the good food, it's way less exiting. I really enjoyed going to Batu Caves, to the top of the KL Tower, and checking out the KL City Gallery. Since I did all these cool things on my first trip, there wasn't much left to do on my second trip. I mostly walked around soaking in the vibes, ate at any good-looking restaurants, and went to the shopping malls. One thing I noticed this second time around is that I was CONSTANTLY getting stared at by dudes everywhere I went in the city. And it wasn't a look of curiosity or anything like that, it was the look of "I wanna f*ck you." I don't know if I got way better looking over the last year, or if I simply didn't notice in the past, but the gay staring really got annoying this time around. I get this crap in Bangkok all the time, and I'd say it's even worse in KL. I absolutely despise this about Southeast Asia. Gay guys here are relentless and have very little shame when showing their interest in other guys who they don't even know is gay or straight. I used to be very accepting towards homosexuality, but after living in Southeast Asia for the last three years, my viewpoint has pretty much done a 180.
Sorry, I got a bit sidetracked there. All in all, Kuala Lumpur is a pretty cool place for a first visit. The public transportation is pretty nice and convenient, the food is great, the shopping is second only to Singapore in Southeast Asia, it's neither expensive nor cheap, the sidewalks are walkable and wide open, the locals are moderately diverse and tolerant, and the ethnic Chinese women are attractive. On the downside, KL's replay value is kinda low, alcohol is expensive (luckily I don't drink), there are tons of horny gay men everywhere, as well as tons of creepy Indian dudes everywhere, the city is not all that clean (but not as filthy as Bangkok), taxi drivers are pretty scummy, and the locals are dishonest in business practices and anything related to money (a common theme in developing countries). Nonetheless, Kuala Lumpur is definitely worth a trip if you're in Asia. I imagine it would be a lot better if you knew some locals or expats who live there and who you could hang out with.
On this most recent trip to Malaysia, I also visited Langkawi for the first time. It's an archipelago of islands near the Malaysia/Thailand border, but most people stay on the main big island. I stayed for three days, and I don't think I'd ever go back. Don't get me wrong, it didn't suck, but it wasn't special either. I most certainly don't regret going, as it was well worth one trip. It's very family-oriented, which can be a good thing, because I don't like the party hardy scumbag tourists who frequent Thailand's islands.
One day I went to Pantai Cenang, the main beach area. The beach was pretty decent, and probably about the same as what you'd see in nearby Phuket. It was nothing compared to what I've seen in Aruba, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines, but it was decent nonetheless. On the down side, it poured down rain off and on every day I was on the island. In Bangkok, rain comes to a screeching halt in December, so I was surprised with the amount of rain I saw in Langkawi in December. A local taxi driver told me he also found the weather to be quite unusual. I guess I'll take his word for it.
The best thing I did over my three day trip in Langkawi was rent a motorcycle. I used the motorcycle to drive up to the top of Gunung Raya, the highest point in Langkawi. It was really fun riding along the curvy isolated road to the top of the mountain. I saw lots of monkeys and cattle on the ride, and the view from the top of the mountain is pretty awesome. I highly recommend anyone visiting Langkawi to rent a motorcycle for a day and just go explore the island. Langkawi is best appreciated for its nature, not its women, bars, malls, or anything like that. If you're not interested in nature or the beach, there's probably not too much point in going to the island. Bottom line: Langkawi was cool for soaking in the natural atmosphere, but three days was enough for me, and I have very little desire to return any time in the near future.
Finally, let me revisit Penang. Three visits later, I haven't grown tired of Penang. It remains my favorite place in Malaysia, and it's even one of my favorite places in Asia. Penang has a little bit of everything, and that's exactly why I like it so much. It's like half nature, and half city, which is great. It has beaches, tropical forests, mountains, tropical animals, and then it has traffic jams, big shopping malls, laid back cafes, temples, mosques, churches, great little hole in the wall restaurants, many good looking ethnic Chinese women, etc. Penang is a great place to travel to, and it would probably also be a great place to retire when the cold settles in wherever you come from. I also highly recommend renting a motorcycle to explore all of Penang Island, but you need to be more careful as the roads are more busy and hectic than Langkawi's.
I like most of the people I come across in Penang. It's interesting to hear so many languages being spoken around you - Hokkien, Cantonese, Mandarin, Tamil, Bahasa Malaysia, English, and so forth. And the local food is delicious and diverse, but there's still the annoyance of Indian restaurant culture that I mentioned above. I've praised Penang a lot, so let me tell you what I don't like about Penang - extremely aggressive and careless driving (typical in Asia), too many weirdo homeless people (just like Bangkok), awful sidewalks (also just like Bangkok), the local young ethnic Chinese seem cliquish and not so open to outsiders (just like Winston goes on and on about with Taiwan), and general uncleanliness (random shit on the sidewalks, litter, rats, cockroaches, etc).
I do like Malaysia quite a bit, and I think I can now safely say I like it more than Thailand. I just feel zero connection with Thai people and their culture. I have to agree with Repatriate that Thailand is way overrated and gets way more credit than it deserves when it comes to tourism. Malaysia is great for those who want a nice alternative to mainstream Thailand. Malaysia has almost everything that is good about Thailand and then some, and the food is also way better. I also think Malaysia is better for tourism than many other neighboring countries - Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam to name a few. Malaysia certainly ain't perfect, and I clearly learned what I don't like about the country on my last visit. I'll never again be able to conveniently and naively look past those things I hate on any subsequent visits. Singapore is also just a stone's throw away, so going to Malaysia and Singapore in one big trip is very doable and highly recommended by me. Just be prepared to pay roughly double for everything (except consumer goods) once you arrive in Singapore. After it's all said and done, Malaysia is a good place to travel to, and probably an okay place to live. But three trips there in only 15 months is a bit much, and I've got nobody but myself to blame for that. I think I'm Malaysia'd out for the next few years, but I'm confident I'll be back someday. Just watch and see.
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