In my twenty-one months abroad I really only visited a single country that I have zero inclination to visit again. That country was Malaysia. If I was struck dead tomorrow I would eternally regret not learning to surf at Bali, taking the Trans-Siberian express, or becoming fluent in German in Berlin. However, I would be fully content with not ever stepping foot in Malaysia again. Here’s why.
Thailand is hot. Indonesia is really hot. Malaysia is a pizza oven with no off switch. The heat is a physical force which has all the characteristics of a guilty death-row inmate. It’s out of control, strong, and it wants to kill you. Fair enough. I signed up for warm days when I began travelling in Asia. However, there’s something unique about the heat in Malaysia.
Not only does it get you drenched in sweat, but the sun has an unequaled intensity. It hurts the eyeballs to walk outside without sunglasses. My theory is that there’s a large hole in the ozone layer hovering directly above Malaysia, which allows three times more sunlight through. By the time I reached Malaysia 95 degree whether wasn’t a huge deal, and yet I still felt dizzy while walking on the street.
A Lack of Attraction
Indonesia and Thailand are known for their incredible beaches. Cambodia is a Wild-West country where you can do anything and ignore the rule of law. Vietnam is a wonderful country with amazing people and incredible scenery. What does Malaysia have? Lots and lots of palm trees. On my trip from Kuala Lumpur to Malacca I saw 43,589 of them out the window.
Once in Malacca I was able to see most of the main sites in half a day. The rest of my week there I spent reading books, listening to the Tim Ferriss show, and losing several liters of sweat a day. As humans tend to do, I also spent some of that time eating food, which leads me to my next point.
When Will I Learn my Lesson?
I loved the food in Malaysia the way an alcoholic loves his rum and coke before work. It’s delicious and enjoyable, but it also leaves you with a sinking feeling that you’re killing yourself. The problem is that the food in Malaysia was delicious. Like best thing you’ve ever tasted in your life good. I had a brief chance to become an obese man in a foreign land. Here’s the kick in the stomach though. In the twelve days that I was in Malaysia, I got food poisoning three times. Just by eating I was risking permanent damage to my digestive system.
I wasn’t an off-the-plane tourist either. I had already hardened my stomach with more than four months of street food in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. My body would have taken gold at the imaginary Eat Questionable Food and See What Happens Olympics. But Malaysia was too big a challenge. I spent my last few days there eating nothing but food that would be familiar to some guy from Alabama who was born and raised in a 46 person town.
Three times in twelve days. I would just start to feel better, I would eat something and get sick again. It’s not a lifestyle choice that I would wish for anyone.
I was thrilled when the day came to go to Singapore. I was at the bus station an hour before I needed to be, and I felt good. I was leaving Malaysia and I had a strong feeling I would never be back. I still feel that way. If I’m ever in a similar situation, instead of taking a bus through that country, I’ll catch a flight straight from Thailand to Singapore or Indonesia. I value my eyeballs, my time, and my digestive system. I’m sure there are other people who have had a blast in Malaysia, but I’m simply not one of them. All hail the indelible Vietnam, the stunning Thailand, and the wild Indonesia!