It’s official! We’ll be leaving Costa Rica at the end of October, and heading half-way around the world to Malaysia, which will be our homebase for the next year or two. We still love Costa Rica, and will probably return here again, but we’re excited to experience something new, and Asia has been calling to us. Malaysia should be a great hub from which to explore that part of the world, and it was also the inspiration for the spelling of our third daughter’s name, Aysia.
If you’re like I was, you haven’t heard much about Malaysia, and maybe have an image of indigenous tribes living in jungle huts, or even a malaria-bearing mosquito filled 3rd world country. While there are still indigenous tribes and even malaria in some remote parts of the country, here are some interesting facts about Malaysia that may surprise you. (Along with some nice pictures I stole from Google images.)
Malaysia is home to more than 27 million people (and interestingly, 30 million cell phone subscribers).
Malaysia was home to the world’s tallest building, the Petronus towers (1,483 m or 4,865 ft), until Tapei 101 topped it in 2004. However, these towers are still the largest twin towers in the world.
Malaysia is divided into two main parts, split by the South China Sea. The western part is bordered by Singapore and Thailand. The eastern part is on the island of Borneo, and borders Indonesia and Brunei.
The official language of Malaysia is Bahasa Malaysia (Malay), which is supposed to be one of the easiest languages in the world to learn. However, English is a close second language, and just about everybody speaks it, because it used to be a British colony. Many subjects in school are even taught in English (although this will change in 2012).
Malaysia has an interesting mix of Malaysian, Chinese, and Indian influence and culture. (Penang is 43% Malay, 41% Chinese, and 10% Indian). This results in various architecture, religious festivals, and most exciting for me, food (which is also very cheap)! Penang, the island where we’re looking to live, is the food capital of Malaysia, and is said to have the best street food in all of Asia.
Malaysia has a great mixture of religions, including Sunni Islam (50-60%), Buddhism (20-30%), Christianity (9%), Hinduism (6%), and some others. And there are a lot of interesting temples and buildings to visit.
The temperature in Malaysia is stable all year round, with highs usually between 31-32 C (87-90 F), and lows getting down to 23-24 C (73-75 F) at night. Humidity is high, usually between 66-80%. We’re hoping it won’t be too hot for us, but we’ve gotten used to warmer weather in Costa Rica, and definitely prefer it to cold. Also, Malaysia does have air conditioning.
Malaysia is full of natural beauty, from beaches with crystal clear water, to jungles and mountains, and more.
Malaysia has interesting wildlife, including elephants, orang utan, tigers, rhinos, monitor lizards, king cobras, and many strange-looking animals I’ve never heard of before. And don’t forget the fantastic sea life when snorkeling or diving.
Healthcare is good quality and affordable, making Malaysia a popular destination for medical tourism.
Flights from Malaysia to Thailand, Singapore, Bali, and many other nearby places, can be found for under $100 per person, and sometimes even under $50. So we’ll have lots of great choices for our visa runs. We will be able to stay for 90 days at a time on tourist visas, although there are options for permanent residency through buying real estate.
Malaysia has a great infrastructure of roads, and decent public transportation in most cities. However, while food and accommodations are cheap, cars are not — they’re almost double the price of cars in the U.S. They also drive on the left-hand side of the road. But drivers are supposedly courteous, and do not honk. I’ve heard there are even billboards that say “Be Malaysian. Don’t honk.”
I’m sure you can see why we’re very excited to begin this next phase of our lives in Malaysia. We’re also looking forward to a quick stop to visit family back in the states, and then a couple weeks in Hawaii on the way to Malaysia.
Of course, we’ve never been to Malaysia before, so we could arrive and find that our perceptions are wrong about it. But we’re ready for the adventure regardless. Not knowing is part of the fun.