Is Living in Malaysia an Alternative to Thailand?

I had to go to Malaysia for a visa run – Kuala Lumpur, to be exact. I was interested in going since I’d not been yet, and I heard they had better prices than Thailand for electronics. Here is what I liked and didn’t like about KL, Malaysia.

What I Liked about Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:

  • more people spoke English than in Thailand
  • Indian / Paki food everywhere you turn
  • walking around the streets, the sidewalks, crossing roads – seems much safer in Kuala Lumpur than Bangkok or anywhere in Thailand
  • prices were cheaper for Nikons – and they even had the as yet to be released underwater Nikon AW100 I’ve been frothing at the mouth over
  • I met some amazing people that were great conversationalists…. in English
  • wasn’t as hard to find my way around as I thought it might be


What I didn’t Like about Kuala Lumpur:

  • though more people spoke English – there’s still a LOT that didn’t at all
  • Indian / Paki people everywhere you turn. Out of all the people of the world that I’ve met – these guys rub me the wrong way – often.
  • most restaurants – the ones I found anyway, didn’t serve alcohol – nor did most stores except 7-11
  • the sidewalks had many uneven spots and strange pieces of metal sticking up to catch your foot – just like Thailand
  • though Nikon prices were cheaper, my “Visa” and “MC” debit cards from Siam Commercial bank were virtually worthless
  • it’s an entirely new language to get over
  • hotels are more expensive – for less value
  • some sections ONLY had Indian / Paki food, that’s it – nothing else for an alternative (I ate a lot of Indian food in 3 days due to the location of my hotel.)
  • local Malay food doesn’t compare to Thai food
  • picking up Western Union money takes an act of god – Mohammed – whoever is on duty – it’s a nightmare compared to doing it in Thailand
  • locals told me the corruption in Malaysia makes Thailand look like it’s well-run
  • the same caveman-like business mentality exists in Malaysia as it does in Thailand (see below for more on this…)
  • the coffee sucked just like in Thailand – I tried Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks and some other place in the KLCC – the shopping place at the giant twin towers


Will we be moving to Malaysia anytime soon?

No, I just crossed if off the list during and after this trip. Though there were some positives, there were too many negatives and I just couldn’t see it as a place that I could spend any length of time. Maybe in the smaller areas – possible. However, all I’ve been to is Penang, and Kota Baru… neither of which were appealing either. Another thing… having great food – is necessary. I don’t want to go searching for great food – I just want to walk out the door – and it’s there in my face. Malay food is OK, and I could live on it if I had to, but I’m not really a fan.

One thing that irked me, because I was hoping it would be different from Thailand was how things are run in a business… One thing that got me… I walked into a hotel, there was a gay kid with a bright pink blazer on flirting with me as I tried to book into the hotel. He worked there, and was booking me in. They had 2 rooms – one 7 feet by 7 feet + a restroom – for 75 RM (about 750 THB). It was ridiculous… and so I took the other room – about 5 times that size for 1,250 THB – which was still 500 too much, but whatever, I was only staying a couple days.

They showed me room 214. I said I’ll take it. He puts me in 414. There was maintenance going on on 4th floor and the smell of glue permeated everything, but I didn’t notice until well after I’d destroyed the room with a shower and returned from dinner. Before I get in the door to 414 I tried the lock. It’s like a camera battery – round – on the end of a plastic keyholder type deal. It doesn’t work. I try 8 times. Doesn’t work. I go down the lift to the front desk. I tell him. He puts the battery thing on a charger and takes it off – says – it’s charged. WTF?

I go back up – it doesn’t work. I try many times. I go back down and tell him – fix it. He sends a maintenance guy up with me who uses his card to get me in my room, and takes my other card. I get in the room – the sheets are dirty – I’ve got Mohammed’s pubic hair on my sheets and there are dark stains on the white sheets. I call the front desk – can you send someone up to change the sheets – they’re dirty.

“Yes, sure,” they say.

I don’t see the guy with my key again, nor do they come to change my sheets.

I leave to go eat – they ask for my room key. I told him the maintenance guy has it. He didn’t give it to them. I don’t care I told them – go find it – and fix my key so I can get in.

I return from dinner. They give me a new key. I go upstairs – try it – broken.

I go downstairs… “Listen, fix this key, I’m tired of not getting into my room.” They fudge with it and try 5 different things. They give me the key and send a maid up with me. The key doesn’t work. Maid uses hers to let me in the room. I take the key for the room and keep it. My sheets are still not changed. I call them on the phone – “Listen, I told the girl 4 hours ago – my sheets need changed, can you send someone to change them?”

“Yes, sure!” The guy comes to change them in 2.5 hours.

I leave the next morning and return just before noon – they give me the same damn key and told me it works. I go upstairs to my room – try it – it doesn’t work. I go back down – they send a maid up with me – who uses her key to let me in.  And finally I checked out and found a different hotel to stay.

Oh, I forgot to mention – the squirter for the toilet had the handle part removed – in both the rooms in that place. The TV had 4 channels. There was NO refrigerator in any of the 3 rooms I stayed in.

So, that was a bit about my adventure in Kuala Lumpur. I think I had a bad experience, it’s probably better than what I saw of it. I did get the visa from the Thai Embassy – so that was cool enough. I did see a camera before it was even released. I did meet some amazing people. I did eat great Indian food.

What about you – ever venture to Malaysia and like it? What did you like or dislike?

Author: Vern

I'm an American expat living in Thailand. I like to write informative pieces about life in, living in Thailand, including topics like: Thai People, Thai Culture, Nightlife, Technology, and I have published a lot of photographs, videos, and even books on Thailand that you can find at There are many photographs of Thailand here - feel free to share with attribution (a link back to the home page). All written content on this site by Vern Lovic. Contact me at Google+.

5 thoughts on “Is Living in Malaysia an Alternative to Thailand?”

  1. Have spent a bit of time travelling in Malaysia. Strange place. Nice people, but once you get out of the cities, away from those nice freeways and into the countryside, it feels like development has just suddenly stopped. Everything feels to be in limbo.
    My theory is too much is sucked out of the economy in certain powerful directions. Add to that the faint feeling of underlying racial tensions (much law favours the Malays, ‘the’ religion seems to be used as powerful tool).

    Indonesia is by far the nicest place to live (compared with Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines) Great people, genuinely friendly, don’t (mostly) take their religion as seriously as the self important Malaysians (though that can depend where you are in the country) and truely people who are down to earth and know how enjoy life.

    I agree with you on Borneo (east Malaysia) – it has more of a frontier town feel. Nicer. If you liked that, you just might like Batam, Indonesia, a 45 minute ferry ride from Singapore, close enough, and far enough away. Many will disagree, but I think it is great – a bit seedy, a bit rundown, great food , great people, (relatively)cheaper living …. and if you need a dose of Singapore, or to catch a plane, there is a ferry every hour.

    1. Indo and Borneo – two places I never really seriously considered. I think I need more infrastructure built… meaning – more stuff to keep me happy. Shopping, things to do… easy travel, great internet… not that these places don’t have all that- I don’t know either of them at all. Will research, thanks to your post. Cheers…

      1. Indonesianis a diverse place (naturally enough)

        Bit of info here re Batam:

        by the way – that hotel stay sounds horrible – plenty of good hotels around here, and cheap! Close to Singapore, easy to travel there but far enough away. Also modern regional airport on this island. Some westerners don’t like it here, but anyone who has been in Asia a few years can cope!

  2. Good post. I think you hit every point that made me rule out the idea of living in Malaysia. The only thing I would disagree with is I found walking in some places really bad and had to walk long distances to get across the highways.

    If I had to live in Malaysia I think I would try Borneo. I enjoyed travelling in Borneo a lot more than peninsular Malaysia.

    1. I didn’t say anything about it – but, I walked about 7-10 kilometers per day with a heavy pack. It wasn’t fun. I like to see the city that way, and I was due for a couple good days of walking. The sidewalks suck in many places. I was lucky – it’s rainy season and not too toasty. Was almost pleasant. Sure I sweat… but, not too bad. Yeah, the highways are blocked off with fence sometimes and you have to walk way around… not too cool. Thanks for your comment.

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