Malaysian flag on Pulau Langkawi

8 Things I Learned Travelling in Malaysia

In January of this year, I set foot in Malaysia for the first time with a sense of adventure and a desire to go exploring.  What I found was a country which felt familiar, yet challenged my western sensibilities. I fell in love with Malaysia’s people, its natural beauty, and its unique place in history.

Not everything about Malaysia is perfect.  There are infrastructure deficits – most notably open sewers in some communities which leave you gasping for air.  There is petty crime which – like anywhere – stems from some people just not having enough to get by.  And while a variety of religions can find acceptance in Malaysia, the country’s government is decidedly regressive on social policy like LGBT rights.

Looking back on Kuala Lumpur's skyline from the grounds of the Royal Selangor Club.
Looking back on Kuala Lumpur’s skyline from the grounds of the Royal Selangor Club.

Malaysia made a big impact on me during my month criss-crossing the nation.  Here are eight of my biggest takeaways from visiting the country.

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SIM Card Review : Viettel (Vietnam)

I’ve long talked about the benefits of having a local SIM card when visiting another country. Staying connected lets you easily keep in touch with family and friends at home, helps you make hotel, flight and other purchases without needing to use insecure WiFi networks, and gives you the confidence to better navigate the place you’re visiting – which can often lead to more local and “off the beaten path” experiences.

Today, I look back on my mobile experience while visiting Vietnam in February of this year.

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Understanding Low Cost Airlines

Walk through the check-in counters at pretty much any North American airport or visit the social media timelines of any major carrier, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about the relationship between some consumers and the airlines.  Flyers seem disgruntled about value they receive given what they pay for air travel.  It’s a popular topic of conversation, and often mainline airlines are the punching bags of favour for travellers who feel robbed.

It’s against this backdrop that low cost carriers (also known as LCCs) have marketed themselves as a budget-friendly alternative for people wanting cheaper air travel.  With fares as little as $0, many LCCs have garnered attention and buzz.  But what exactly is a low cost carrier?  And what does that ticket actually buy you?

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Backpacking Budget Savings and Splurges

Now that I’m back in Canada and am looking over the things I bought for my trip through Asia, I’m starting to think about the areas where I could have saved some money. Whether it’s discovering you’re a different kind of traveller than you really are or not being as reliant on a piece of gear as you thought you might be, there are always budget cuts you can make in hindsight.

Further, there are some things I wish I would have spent more money on before leaving.

Here is a breakdown of the areas I wish I would have saved (and splurged) on.

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Episode 28 – Nomadic Matt on Budget Travel

On this episode of the show, we take a trip in the Gone John time machine back to April of last year.  I was just starting to produce my then-new travel podcast, Boarding Call (which is a damn fine show which you should check out if you haven’t done so already), and I had just scored an interview with someone who I didn’t realize at the moment would be a huge inspiration for the trip I’ve embarked on.

Matt Kepnes – aka Nomadic Matt – has been travelling since 2008, and penned what the BBC has called the “bible of budget travel” – How to Travel the World on $50 a Day.  He was on a cross-country tour of the United States to promote the latest version of his book when I Skyped him last year, and the result is the interview that’s in this week’s episode of the show.

I always knew I wanted to travel.  While close friends who’d been backpacking helped push me over the hump, it was Matt’s advice, and book, and blog which were the catalyst for me to believe I can afford to do this (because the alternative costs just as much, if not more).

As this leg of my adventure draws to a close, I wanted to revisit this interview.  Matt’s advice has been sage, and has gone a long way to helping me stretch my dollars abroad (while also teaching me to not be pennywise and pound foolish).

If you know a young person who is keen to travel, get them Matt’s book.  Inspire the spark of curiosity in them to go explore the world.  You won’t regret it.