Thailand and Malaysia are both fine, diverse and warm tourist destinations. But they are also surprisingly different. If you could only choose the other one, which one would you like to travel to?
Thai food: 85 points, Malaysian food: 37 points. Despite the fact that Malaysia offers great Indian food from many places, it is not enough. Thai food is but so much more delicious and varied than Malaysian.
Plain pad thai noodles could be eaten even every other day, with Malaysian national food nasi lemak (rice cooked in coconut milk accompanied by dried anchovies, bony chicken pieces and no-smelling chili sambali) maybe once every six months, chicken rendang a little more often.
The best in Malaysia are satay skewers, or their sauce.
The more tourists, the harder it is to reach a sense of exoticism. This is one of the reasons why Malaysia scores. There is no tourist blood tax in Malaysia like Phuket and Pattaya, and it is much calmer and more relaxed anyway.
There are Finns everywhere in Thailand, where you can buy Finnish tentacles and eat in restaurants run by Finns. In Malaysia, on the other hand, it feels like it’s really far from Finland.
A visit to the tribal villages of northern Thailand feels a bit like a visit to a human zoo. In Borneo, Malaysia, there are still hunter-gatherer tribes living in their own conditions.
Points for Malaysia. It’s not only helpful, but also nice if you can chat with the locals – and in Malaysia you can. In Malaysia, English is generally very well understood, and in Thailand it is often very poor.
4. City break
Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur? Bangkok, of course. Kuala Lumpur is a pleasant, human-sized and easily accessible modern metropolis, but in terms of tourism it is a bit boring. Bangkok, which is five times larger in population, is a thousand times more chaotic and noisy, but also more exciting and fascinating. There are truly stunning gold glittering temples and an awesome street food culture.
5. Price level
Malaysia is not expensive, but Thailand is cheaper.
6. Old Towns
Malaysia wins. The historic old town of Malacca is pretty and atmospheric, but even more interesting is George Town on Penang Island. Its old quarters were decades away, but now beautiful department stores have been and are being refurbished. There are trendy café-restaurants as well as street kitchens, temples, old general stores and great street art. Thailand? I don’t do anything like that.
( You can read more about George Town here .)
Here Thailand is better. There are a couple of fascinating ancient ruined cities with temples and Buddha statues: near Bangkok is the fine Ayutthaya, and further afield is the older, more remote and peaceful Sukhothai.
In Malaysia, nature is much more voluptuous and untouched. Even the country’s most popular and busiest beach resort, Langawi, has remained scenic and lush. However, the most exciting rainforest nature in the country can be found in Borneo. There you can spot oranges and whimsical sympathetic monkeys in nature.
Thailand beats one hundred to zero in the number, variety and quality of sandy beaches. There are all kinds of beaches in Thailand: tourist rice, deserted sand dunes and everything in between. Even the islands are darkest in the clouds. There are fewer good beach resorts in Malaysia – but you can find them too; for example, Redang Island beats are tops!
( You can read more about Redang here . )
Thailand is more relaxed and fun. It activates, of course, also irritates, the senses in a completely different way than Malaysia. There is a lot more noise, hustle and bustle in Thailand. But there are also more smiles and laughter. Malaysia is much much more reserved in everything.
The most important celebration in Thailand is the New Year celebration, Songkran. It is the biggest water war in the world. The most important celebration in Malaysia is Hari Raya Aidilfitri. Then we go to the mosque to pray.
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