Malaysia…

Was one of the most pleasantly surprising countries we have visited so far. The lodging was slightly less expensive (perhaps about 75%) than the same type of room in North America, but the food was quite a bit cheaper, (and Nummy!). Malaysia is a remarkably progressive country. There were certainly some poorer areas, but they were seemingly much fewer than in the other countries of the Southeast Asia region. The larger portion of the population are Muslim, but there are also very significant portions of forth, fifth and sixth generation Chinese and Indians.

I mentioned in a previous post comment that the later two seem to feel significantly discriminated against for government jobs, holding office, getting post secondary student financial awards (even though their proportion of higher academic achievement is significantly greater) and other such things. Once again, this is merely the strong perception of most residents we spoke with and not a result of our own observations (which were not exposed enough to said areas to draw a relevant conclusion. The one thing that we did notice was that a highly dsiportionate amount of the shopkeepers and restaurant owners (and workers) were Indian and Chinese.

Market prices here were generally OK. Services and food were distinctly less expensive (20-50% of the full cost) of North America. Goods however varied. We bought a (cheap) short “D” handled spade at a hardware store for CAN $2.30 that would have cost at least $15 (or more like $20 if not on sale) in Edmonton. We also bought a couple of plastic buckets (about 3L and 8L) for just under and just over CAN $1. Computer software, audio CD’s and all DVD movies are astoundingly cheap, but presumably that’s because they are all pirated. Electronic hardware on the other hand is barely less than what we would pay in Edmonton. Maybe about 85-90% of the sale prices at home for brand name TV’s, computers, portable audio players and game consoles. There were some audio systems (and an awesome looking DJ system Robert!) for phenomenal prices (maybe 15-25% of Canadian & Aussie prices) but they were names I’ve never heard of and were likely of very dubious quality.

The economy seems very robust, both in the larger and smaller cities. The most significant thing that we noticed though was the strong proliferation of English everywhere. All the street and store signs were in two (or occasionally three) languages. English was generally spoken practically everywhere we went including the somewhat remote back alley eateries that all the locals (and us stark white Canadians) would go to. We “sorta” noticed this a bit while we were there, but admittedly (now) took it quite a bit for granted as well. The wake up call came as soon as we entered Thailand and English was immediately barely spoken or understood right from the street vendor, to snack bar cashier to train ticket window. Clearly the Malaysians have very strongly assertive English schooling in their model public school system right from an early age. All in all we were pretty impressed with Malaysia as a very economically advanced country. While we saw the destitute shanty towns on the edges of town, the majority of the population was well educated and quite progressive. This point is extra funny of course when I reflect on the opinions of most Singaporeans (sp?) about Malaysia. They were like the embarrassed upper class cousins, when Malaysia is really quite middle class compared to other far less developed countries in the region. One last example: Shopping malls in Malaysia were for practically everyone except for the poorest of citizens. Department stores and larger malls in Thailand (so far) would seem to be targeted mainly only for tourists and the very few richer people of the upper class.

So, while not quite as “cheap” as we perhaps expected, Malaysia was a very enjoyable touring experience for the nine or so days we spent there. I certainly learned much more about it than I knew beforehand. That’s to be expected of course, but most other countries (ie: Thailand or China) we here about considerably more in the media or from friends. One last forecast for KL: I expect them to build an even larger tower than Dubai, to reclaim the title, by 2020. That may sound like quite a ways off, but in the timeframe of planning and actually constructing such a monstrosity, that is very quick indeed. And as much as we enjoyed Malaysia, thank gawd (for our budget) that we’re now in Thailand where hotel rooms are $25 per night instead of $85 (or $115 in KL).

2 Responses to “Malaysia…”

  1. Tim says:

    Hmmmm…a bit of a bare-bones report, but glad you had a good time.

    It was great to talk to you guys last night. Take care as you head into Thailand. The head of thier army is talking about leading anotehr coup if he doesn’t get the election result he wants.

    http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/world/view_article.php?article_id=99918

  2. Rick says:

    Geeeezz….. Patients there Grasshopper, (said in kane’s voice of course!). I just threw a quick entry in to get the earlier time & date stamp on the message. That way I could come back and add more to it later, but have it seperated from the following post (Phones) that I was going to make directly after. Boy, you guys are too quick! I’d better smarten up… 🙂
    .
    There’s a huge abundance of verbose text for everyone to read now though…