David from Malaysia Asia

David, a Malaysian travel blogger who runs Malaysia Asia, recently dropped us a line. “Are you guys passing through Kuala Lumpur anytime soon? Would love to meet up.” What a coincidence, we thought. So we gave him a call and the three of us got together for satay and drinks at the colorful night market on Jalan Alor in Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle.

David with an Iban Shaman from Sarawak

Although we had never met, we knew each other’s travel blogs. David’s extensive website covers most of Southeast Asia with a specific focus on Malaysia – thus the name of his site.

From food explorations in Thailand, budget airlines in Southeast Asia and hotel recommendations in Singapore to upcoming concerts in Kuala Lumpur, caving in Southern Thailand and freebies in Malaysia’s capital, David talks about everything travelers might want. In addition to having a wide range of very different topics, he also features great photography and videos on his site.

Not only is David a really cool guy, he seems to know what he is doing. His travel expertise has even been recognized by the Malaysian government who asked him to work on the Malaysia Truly Asia commercial series which promotes tourism to Malaysia. That’s quite an accomplishment! (I’m still waiting for Germany to recognize my brilliance as videographer).

It was fantastic to actually meet the guy whose blog we have enjoyed over the years. We talked mostly about – well – the travel blogging industry, but also exchanged quirky travel tales and discussed our personal lives. After all, travel blogging shouldn’t just be about business, but about traveling. And David understands that quite well.

Medical Tourism

One of the key fears that most people express about our living on the road is what they perceive as a lack of quality healthcare. While that can often be an issue in more remote locations, Asia offers up several interesting options for those looking for a good doctor. In fact, several Asian nations including Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and India are making a name for themselves in the field of medical tourism offering up good quality, good value hospitals and dental facilities.

Most Westerners would be stunned by the quality of many private healthcare centers we have visited. We both have had Continue…

Back to KL

After only a couple of months in Indonesia, we have temporarily left the country. As much as we want our lives to be a continuation of jungle trekking and sea adventures, the harsh reality of living in the third world can quickly put a stop to that.

The expiration of our tourist visas coupled with a series of national holidays, which kept the nearest immigration office closed for a solid week, was our main motivation for flying back to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. In addition, Tony is in serious need of a health check-up for persistent stomach issues, and I need to find a replacement camera after my Canon G12 died in a diving accident.

If that weren’t motivation enough to go back to KL, we were starving for Chocolate Indulgence, our favorite chocolate cake at Secret Recipe. With a daily dose of chocolatey, creamy goodness waiting for us, our little travel “set-back” suddenly doesn’t seem so bad.

Malaysia Pictorial

From the futuristic Petronas twin towers to the stunning reefs of Sipidan, the colonial backstreets of Malacca and Penang to the wildlife of the great Kinabatangan River, Malaysia truly deserves the cliched title of “the land of contrasts.”

As we move on to the remote Indonesian state of Kalimantan in southern Borneo, we have put together another pictorial to capture just a bit of the visual overload in Magnificent Malaysia.

Malaysia: What a Dollar Can Buy You

In many ways, Malaysia reminds me of the Philippines. It’s a country torn between development and deterioration where one can find open sewers right next to super-mega malls, biological wastelands next to intact jungle, and sea gypsy settlements right next to high-end resorts. While much of the Malaysia experience is decidedly third-world, the prices don’t always reflect that. In fact, Malaysia can be downright expensive.

Dragon Fruit

Although some food options can be quite cheap in Malaysia, accommodation and transportation are more expensive than other parts of Southeast Asia. But the greatest shock to the wallet is the very high cost of activities here. Although most temples and mosques are usually free, other entry fees are often quite pricey. And experiencing Malaysia’s natural heritage (or what’s left of it) can border on extortionate.

Prices are especially high when leaving peninsular Malaysia and traveling through Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. There, fueled by the logging and palm oil industries, prices can get a little crazy leaving visitors scratching their heads in disbelief and seriously asking themselves whether the trip was worth it. Here a dirty dormitory bed can cost more than an air-conditioned hotel room with cable TV in Bangkok. Anyone up for a $1000 3-day camping trip? Yikes. Let’s just say with the money we put out in Sabah, we could’ve spent a month in Paris.

But not to worry. Malaysia is not a lost cause for the budget conscious. There are still a few affordable things to be had for three ringgit or about a buck:

  • 3 roti canai and a small plate of curry (great lunch)
  • 1 hour of Internet access
  • 2 cans of coke
  • 9 minutes on a Rest’n Go massage chair
  • 1 mango lassi (if you look very hard)
  • 1.5 visits to the “premier paid toilet” at Suria mall in KL
  • 4 liters (1 gal.) of drinking water
  • 3 ferry crossings from Butterworth to Georgetown
  • 6 vegetable samosas
  • 1.5 km in a taxi (after the initial flag-down rate)
  • 3 Granny Smith apples
  • 1/2 kg of clean laundry
  • 1 large dragon fruit
  • 300 g of steel chain (don’t ask)

A Different Kind of Palm Desert

“Wow, Sabah is so beautiful. There are so many palm trees everywhere,” the Dutch tourist blurted out as she walked into the restaurant opposite Sukau Greenview. Tony and I looked at each other, jaws dropping. Our eyes said it all. How can you come all the way here and not realize that massive deforestation and palm oil plantations are the reasons the planet’s oldest rainforest is disappearing before our very eyes?

Sadly, the Dutch girl was right in one respect, there are Continue…

The Kinabatangan River

The Kinabatangan River is tragic and miraculous at the same time. One of Sabah’s premier attractions, the river flows through a stretch of surviving secondary and tertiary forest sandwiched between the industrial-scale palm plantations of the Kinabatangan region. Perhaps the strongest testament to wildlife’s ability to survive and adapt under desperate conditions, I can personally say that, in all my travels, I have never seen such a boxed-in forest region with so much wildlife and such diversity – it is simply incomprehensible.

Our first outing on the river was especially well timed just moments after the end of a tropical storm which had cooled the air significantly. Within the first ten minutes, we had spotted four of the eight hornbill species found in Sabah, including the phenomenal rhinoceros hornbill. We saw more hornbills in that one outing than we’ve seen in our entire four years traveling in Asia. The river was lined with troop after troop of proboscis monkeys and crab-eating macaques.

As if that weren’t enough, 30 minutes into the trip Continue…

Après-Dive

What did you say, Tony? Your mango-sago ice blend looks like a frogfish? Clearly, too much diving. I guess the nitrogen must have gotten to you… 🙂

Organizing your Trip to Sipadan

Click play to watch video

Sipadan is consistently listed as one of the top ten dive sites in the world. And, as we discussed in our post Is Sipadan All Hype?, with its amazingly rich sea life and unique topography, the island definitely lives up to its reputation. But with so much focus, the tiny little island was in serious danger of being too beautiful for its own good. By the early 2000s, overbuilding and pollution threatened to destroy what Jacques Cousteau had labelled “an untouched piece of art.”

In an extraordinary example of environmentally sound decision making (with perhaps an added dose of financial self-interest), the Malaysian government decided to close Sipadan island for overnight visitors and impose a rigid permit system allowing only 120 people to dive the island each day. While the permit system, which will hopefully protect Sipadan far into the future, is a major environmental blessing, it does make diving Continue…