I’m not going to lie – I’m absolutely in love with SE Asia. I’ve spent over seven consecutive years abroad and I’ve covered a decent amount of territory as a backpacker and expat living overseas; however, there are a few things I’m embarrassed to admit. I’ve yet to travel to Europe. I’ve never set foot in Africa. Dido for Central America. The Middle East? I haven’t gone there yet either. So what’s my excuse? Southeast Asia.
Without a doubt, if I only had to travel in one region of the world for the rest of my life, I would almost certainly pick Asia. If forced to narrow it down even further I would likely select SE Asia. There is just so much that I absolutely love about this part of the world. I’ve had many friends ask me which country is my favorite in the region. I simply cannot say at this point in time. Three years ago it was clearly Thailand; however, my tastes have changed and on my latest trip I found myself spending more time in Cambodia and Laos than ever before.
One thing I absolutely can agree on though is which country in the region I think is the most under-rated. Here’s a hint: It’s truly Asia. For those who didn’t guess, the answer is Malaysia. The official tourism slogan is Malaysia – Truly Asia. I couldn’t agree more. It’s easily one of the most under-rated travel destinations in the world. Although Malaysia has so much to offer it’s not nearly as popular for backpackers or travelers as countries such as Thailand, Malaysia or the region of Indochina. However, it’s most certainly a place backpackers, tourists or those seeking luxury holidays can all equally enjoy. From the top attractions in Kuala Lumpur to the culture hubs of Malacca and Penang it has something for everyone. Here are 5 reasons why I think it rocks!
1) Cultural Hubs
Malaysia has two of my favorite cultural HUBs in all of SE Asia – George Town (Penang) & Melaka. Many backpackers and travellers are familiar with George Town in Penang. It’s a popular destination for those looking to renew their Thai tourist Visa or to continue onward southbound to Singapore or Indonesia. For those who take their time to explore this UNESCO heritage city a wonderful selection of colonial homes and diverse cuisine await them. Even more under-rated, in my opinion, is Melaka. Many tourists only take the time to check out Kuala Lumpur or head straight for Singapore. That’s a big mistake in my opinion. Melaka offers gorgeous riverside views, a rich colonial history and very distinct neighborhoods that a treat to explore on foot or by rickshaw.
2) Melting Pot of Cultures and Cuisines
Nowhere in South East Asia have I found such a diverse melting pot of cultures and cuisine. For those who don’t know, Malaysia is ethnically diverse with a large Malay, Chinese, Indian and expat community. Its rich colonial history combined with Indian, Chinese and SE Asian influences have resulted in some of the most diverse and satisfying cuisine I’ve ever tried in my entire life.
3) Diversity in Landscape
I never realized how diverse Malaysia was until I first visited. From gorgeous beaches such as Pulau Perhentian (Perhentian Islands) to hillside retreats such as the Cameron Highlands to exotic jungles such as Tamah Negara there is something for everyone.
4) Best Breakfast Options in the World
I was recently conversing with a friend discussing our favorite options for breakfast. It was then that I realized Malaysia has that corned. I’m a huge fan of dim sum which is readily available in Kuala Lumpur, Melaka and Penang. Moreover, when I’m feeling like something else I can’t think of anything more delicious than roti canai - a type of Indian-influenced flatbread – that can be stuffed with fried bananas and dipped in curry sauce.
5) The ability to use English when communicating with locals
Lastly, another reason I love Malaysia has to do with the fact that English can used with most locals. Out of all the countries I’ve visited in SE Asia nowhere (aside from Singapore) can I easily communicate in English for day to day things. Sometimes I like the challenges of not knowing or being forced to learn the local language, but in Malaysia I can get by in English and this makes travel so much convenient and easy.
How about you? I’m curious to hear where you think the most under-rated country to travel is?