Malaysia is strange melting pot of a country. You’ve got ethnic Malays and Chinese and Indian immigrants, plus the colonial influence of England, Portugal, and the Netherlands. You can be sitting in a Chinese temple and hear the Muslim call to prayer. Or shopping with Muslims to the tune of Christmas carols. Christmas temples. Chinese carols. You get the picture.
As a result of all this intermingling, there is a very interesting “hawker” food scene, which gets rave reviews from foodies, but honestly doesn’t hold up against Thai or Vietnamese cuisine.
We’ve all heard about people getting caned in Singapore. But it seems like child’s play once you learn that smuggling narcotics into Malaysia carries a mandatory death sentence.
The local language, Bahasa Malaysia, anglicizes many words: kopi, teh, ais, sos, cili, abulans (coffee, tea, ice, chili, ambulance). But strangely, their word for water is air.
Most Malaysians speak passable English. For instance, our taxi driver in Langkawi learned it by listening to American music on the radio. In particular he said, “Country Roads” by John Denver, which he then regaled us with – a cappella.
Some Muslim women are accustomed to squat or “Arab” toilets, and when they encounter a Western toilet, mistakes happen:
When you arrive at the airport in Penang, they scan your body to see if you have a fever.
In Malaysia, people from different backgrounds and religions have learned to almost-peaceably co-exist. Hooray for multiculturalism.