7 Things You’ll Love About Malaysia

View of Georgetown, Penang
View of Georgetown, Penang. |©iStock/bloodua

Sometimes people question my move to Penang, Malaysia. They ask what exactly has kept me here for the past 14 years.

Well, what’s not to love? The interior is lush and green, rife with thick palm trees and a jungle brimming with over 4,000 species of birds, lots of pygmy elephants, more monitor lizards than you can ever imagine, and more of what you can’t.

The Malaysian people are just delightful—friendly, helpful, fun-loving, laid back, and just a pleasure to be around. They make living here easy and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As you get to know Malaysia, you’ll discover a long list of things to love about the place, and here are my top seven reasons why you’ll love Malaysia just as much as I do.

1. Great Lifestyle Options

Whatever your preferred lifestyle, you have an abundance of options in Malaysia, including city life, beach, island life, and country life.

If you feel more at home in the heart of a bustling cityscape, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, would be number one on your list. It’s vibrant, colorful, and renowned for its street food (some well-known stalls don’t open until midnight), and an array of fine dining restaurants offering everything from authentic Moroccan tagines to Italian polenta and risotto, to all things Asian based (Malay, Indian, and Chinese). There are also more high-end shopping malls here than anywhere else in Malaysia.

If you fancy sprawling out on a soft sandy beach, you want the west coast of Malaysia. The east coast is exceptionally beautiful, with a plethora of white sand beaches, but come monsoon season, everything closes for four months of the year. The rain in Asia has a heavy feel to it, it’s weighty, and the west coast doesn’t get the same downpours, and the beaches are just as beautiful. Penang, Kota Kinabalu, and Malacca would be my cities of choice. In these three cities, you’ll also find good cafés and restaurants, interesting museums, a lively expat scene, and beaches where you can lose yourself when you choose to.

If rural living is more your style, I’d recommend the town of Ipoh. This old mining town has been prettified and now features lovely green parks, quaint cafés, some excellent restaurants, and a killer weekend bric-a-brac market. Ipoh is also surrounded by hills with lots of hiking trails for every level of hiker. Mountain biking and golf are also popular, with several nearby courses to choose from.

2. All Year-Round Good Weather

Beach at Batu Ferringhi.
Beach at Batu Ferringhi.|©iStock/HowenSia

Malaysia doesn’t have a change of season. Here in the tropics, it’s either warm and dry or warm and wet, and with the world’s weather patterns changing, we get a bit of both all year round.

When the weather is warm all year round, there are no limits on what activities you can get up to daily.

Golf and tennis are popular and affordable within Malaysia, and there are at least seven world class golf courses between the city of Penang in the north of Malaysia and Johor Bahru in the south, and a few minor courses in between. Tennis is also popular, and in Penang, for instance, The Penang Sports Club has more grass courts than any other club in Malaysia. These pastimes are also great ways to meet the locals.

There are some great national parks throughout Malaysia and a few UNESCO-listed heritage parks, too. Many include day-use areas with BBQs and children’s play equipment, some on beaches, with most of them being easily accessible with adequate parking and toilet facilities. All the parks have great hiking and walking trails and offer a great opportunity to spot some of Malaysia’s exotic flora and fauna.

Camping is also popular in Malaysia, but note that there are no parks where you can power camper vans and the like.

3. Affordable Healthcare

Malaysia is a medical hotspot with several JCI-accredited hospitals in both Penang and Kuala Lumpur and several other world class medical facilities.

In 2019, over 1 million medical tourists visited these two cities for elective and non-elective surgeries. With so much to see and do in Malaysia, many of the 1 million visitors used it as an excuse to see a bit of Malaysia and take holidays before or after their treatments. And if you combine the cost of the procedures and a holiday, it was still cheaper than having it done at home!

4. Amazing Infrastructure

Malaysia is a first-world country in many aspects and is like living at home. Things like power, water, gas, and garbage collection are exactly what you would expect it to be. The streets are super clean—the town and city councils in Malaysia are extremely active, and as labor is low cost, they have teams of people cleaning the streets every day before anyone even gets out of bed. They have modern sewage treatment plants, and our garbage from our apartment is collected daily, at no extra cost to us.

Online connectivity is as fast or faster than it is at home and super reliable. And in Malaysia, you see a growing number of electric cars, taxis, and buses. They’re also installing a fast train, Japan style, from Kuala Lumpur in the south to Penang in the north, cutting the transit time by some two hours.

5. Respect

In Malaysia, it’s common to see young and older people interacting on a multitude of levels. The Malays, Chinese, and Indians all deeply respect their elders; these communities also look after their elders by having them live with them. It’s not uncommon to see two or three generations of family members living together in complete harmony, which is different for Westerners. This causes more interaction, and it’s proved beneficial for both younger and older generations. There’s a general atmosphere of both respect and tolerance.

6. Fresh, Whole Food

Malaysia’s soil and climate conditions are among the best in Asia. Its lowlands are suitable for rice crops and various fruits, and its many mountains and hills (a dividing range that runs the country’s length) allow for organic vegetable production on a scale of no other country in Southeast Asia. For example, one organic farm in the Cameron Highlands supplies organic vegetables to every fine-dining restaurant in Singapore.

7. An Expat-Friendly Real Estate Market

You don’t have to be a resident of Malaysia to buy real estate here. As a tourist, on a tourist visa, if you see a place that you like, you can buy it. Yes, there are restrictions regarding value, and they differ state by state, but effectively, you can buy land, houses, and apartments here freehold if you choose to do so.

The protocol is the same as what it would be back home; remember that the Malaysian legal system was put in place initially by the British, and the process is relatively simple. The only real difference is that you need state and federal approval to complete the transaction, but it’s all pro-forma.