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“Malaysia – Truly Asia” proclaim the ads, and from the oldest rainforest in the world to one of the most modern capital cities, Malaysia boasts all the different aspects a westerner expects of an Asian country, and more besides.

We hadn’t intended to stay long in Malaysia, but to get from Thailand to Indonesia we had to pass through. We had decided that we would break our journey and spend just 4 or 5 days lazing on the tropical islands of the Perhentians. However, the friendliness of the people and the quality of the rock climbing had us delaying our departure, and in the end we stayed over two weeks.

From the moment we crossed the border, we could see that Malaysia was very different to the South East Asian countries we had spent the previous two months in. The “Death to All Drug Traffickers” signs suggested that perhaps this was not as tolerant a country as Thailand, and the heavily veiled schoolgirls were in sharp contrast to Bangkok’s miniskirts and t-shirts. The super highways and the educated population clearly show that this is no developing country.

Malaysia is a country of cultural contrasts, strongly Islamic with large Chinese and Indian populations. Most Muslim women wear the veil, but contrary to common western preconceptions, are independent and strong-minded women. While there are the usual well-publicised clashes between the communities, on the surface they seem to live in harmony, appreciating their differences.

Leaving Malaysia we were once again reminded of harsh Malaysian legislation. All of Malaysia’s seaports serving Indonesia were packed with hundreds of thousands of illegal Indonesian immigrants, desperate to make it home before the Malaysian amnesty expired. The draconian new penalties for illegals, or those harbouring them, are as high as five years imprisonment and six strokes of the cane. Weeks later we read of the first few, who stayed beyond their luck, now facing 2 year prison sentences and public canings.

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Picture of the Perhentian islands Malaysia travelgoues
Photographo of some rock climbing around KL Malaysia travelgoues
Relaxing and snorkelling in the Perhentian Islands

Good climbing and company in Kuala Lumpur

Picture of a Hindu temple Malaysia travelgoues
Photograph of Barbara overlooking Melaka Bay - Malaysia travelgoues
Cultural contrasts in Malaysia
A mass exodus from Melaka, Malaysia