It’s only fitting I list what I love about Malaysia since I am about to return home for a holiday. Malaysians and frequent visitors to Malaysia, see if your list matches mine. Yet to experience enchanting Malaysia? Why, here are some things you should not miss out on if you go there:
Yes, yes, you knew it’d be number 1, because what Malaysian doesn’t like food? Being multiracial and multicultural, we have so many different kinds of food, I could spend all day waxing lyrically about it. In nutshell we have street food, hawker food (not the same as street food), restaurant food, hotel food, Chinese, Malay, North and South Indian food, Indian Muslim food (aka Mamak food), Peranakan food. Due to new migrants from around the world, we also have Thai food, Indo food, Korean food, Japanese food, the usual steak and fries, pasta, pizza…Every ethnic group has food only found and eaten during certain celebrations, at particular times of the year. For instance, during Ramadan, we have the most mouth-watering array of curries, sambals, pickles, cookies, cakes you can imagine lining entire streets of night markets. Every region is famous for something: Klang is famous for Bah Kut Teh, or porky herbal soup, cheap seafood dinners, Ipoh for salt-baked chicken, chicken shreds with rice noodle soup, Taiping for popiah, His Royal Highness claims Tofu pudding with syrup too, much of the East Coast of West Malaysia with Keropok, especially the thick chewy variety called Lekor, which I love so much, Kajang for Satay, Ampang for stuffed vegetables known as Yong Tau Fu. Penang is famous for Lobak, meat filled into tofu sheets, Assam Laksa, a very, very distant relative of Curry Laksa, popular in Australia… Describing just doesn’t do justice to the food of Malaysia, so here’s a video to show you some of the culinary delights found in Penang alone:
We have morning markets, night markets, weekend markets, farmer’s markets, where you will find everything from food to apparel to traditional remedies for zits, aches and pains, household goods, to school bags, sometimes uniforms and accessories… You could do your entire week’s shopping without going to the supermarket and the best part is you can haggle until your heart’s content. Which brings me to…
When I first arrived in Australia, the rule was no bargaining. Now it is ask for the best price. In Malaysia, it is expected that you bargain. Traders in Malaysia’s famed home of fake goods, Petaling Street, LOVE it if you bargain. They expect you to bargain. You must bargain if you are to secure even a half decent deal. It’s like dancing the tango with them.
Competing stall holders will shout for your attention, saying, “Boo – tee – ful (they mean “beautiful”, you come here. I give you good deal. Good deal.”
As soon as you walk away, feigning disinterest, they will shout even louder. “Hey you boo -tee – ful, leng lui (meaning beautiful girl in Cantonese), come, come don’t be like that. Come, I’ll give you best price.” He’ll dig out his calculator and pretend to slice chunks off his profits, especially for you, boo – ti – ful. To be sure, he wants your business.
4) Friendly people
Malaysians are so friendly, you can make new acquaintances just about anywhere. Many are willing to go out on a limb to show visitors around, often inviting them home for dinner or at the very least, point you in the right direction should you get lost. Just beware of people who tell you some sob story in order to get your money. My mother once lost RM100 to a man claiming to have lost his wallet outside the airport. He thanked her profusely and gave her a number no one has ever answered.
5) Cheap goods
With the exchange rate, most things are a third of what they are in Australia. I regularly stock up on Loreal sunscreen, Sensodyne toothpaste, toothbrushes, instant cooking paste sachets, clothes and shoes whenever I go back to Malaysia. Electronics are roughly 30% less than what they are in Australia too, as is jewellery and branded goods. What I’d like to buy this trip back is several kebaya tops to wear with my jeans, or to shade my arms from the harsh Australian sun, sunscreen and a couple of items from Bobbi Brown, saving me a small fortune.