I have been to parts of Malaysia on four trips. I am no means an expert but happy to share my observations and impressions. It is very much trying to duplicate the travel experience of Singapore (the role model for many Asian nations). The have succeeded in some ways but not in all. They is a vast cultural difference in my opinion. I enjoyed the time spent but I never felt truly comfortable in a country that has undercover practice of shira law. I was fortunate enough to meet some big business players in KL and know that they can not be totally "western" in attitude. I seemingly felt that they were looking over their shoulder and guarding their tongue in public. Not overt but present none the less. Need this restrain your stay, likely not for most tourist activities. Weather is typical ... tropical, downpours during monsoon season but quickly turning to sun and humidity. Prices are generally much less than most 1st tier Asian nations (i.e., Singapore). Hotels are far less expensive, for example a 5 star hotel for $120 per night. Your tourist dollar goes a long way in this relatively modern country. Research, set your expectations accordingly and enjoy your trip.
I think it depends on where you are. Generally, KL, the bigger towns, are not a problem. But things tend to get a little bit stricter along the more "ulu" regions, the remote areas, especially in the extreme north.
That said, I'm a regular traveler along Malaysia's entire East Coast, and I've been to KL, Penang and Port Dickson too, plus I have many Malaysians as friends, but I've never felt uncomfortable in Malaysia in any way. Quite the contrary in fact.
However, drobert360's other observations are pretty much spot on.
Malaysia is a nice place to visit. But it depends on what you expect to do in that country. For me it is okay for a short visit but I prefer Thailand. Food is okay, most of the people are friendly, KL is much cheaper than Singapore and Penang is cheaper than KL. But, my opinion, I feel that the country is a little bit repressed. I do know that Malaysians who want a little more fun in their lives, especially those on the border with Thailand, head for Hat Yai or other cities they can get to in Thailand. I do like Penang better than Singapore, Singapore is a little too sterile and expensive for me!
... I enjoyed the time spent but I never felt truly comfortable in a country that has undercover practice of shira law....
This is true, and it's one of the sillier sides of Malaysia. That grown-ups need to be watched over that they behave. That said, the syariah law is technically for Malays only, not other races. If you're a Muslim but not Malay, the syariah police wouldn't know who you are.
Tim is right syariah law only applies to Muslims. Of course Malaysia isn't as open as western countries. It is asia and just the culture. But it depends a lot on who you mingle with as well and the places you go to.
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