The Exotic, Modern Paradise
Conjuring up all the mysteries of Asia, Malaysia is a former British colony that remains as colorful as ever. Beyond the lofty skyscrapers of the capital, Kuala Lumpur, its dramatic canvas is embroidered with tropical beaches, mountains, dense rainforest, and vividly green tea plantations.
Along with foreign expats from around the globe, the country is home to Malay Malays, Chinese Malays, Hindu Malays, and Sikh Malays. And there are still traces of the British influence. Throughout the Muslim world, there’s probably no more liberal country.
Malaysia has great infrastructure and foreigners are allowed to own properties freehold, has no inheritance tax, and places no tax on income repatriated from overseas.
There is no capital gains tax on equities either, and property sold in the fifth year will incur only 5% capital gains tax.
Malaysia also has a fascinating history. The UNESCO heritage city of Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, and the first Englishman to set foot on a beach on the Island of Penang (also UNESCO listed) did so in 1593.
Malaysia’s first UNESCO heritage site, Kota Kinabalu Park, has more than 4,500 species of flora and fauna, including 326 birds and over 100 different mammals. It will literally take your breath away.
When you sprinkle the stunning beaches of Langkawi, Pankor, and Tioman Island into the mix, and then throw in unbeatable healthcare at super low prices, you have a country like no other in Asia. The fact that most Malaysians also speak English is just the icing on the cake.
When is the Best Time to Visit Malaysia?
If Malaysia appeals to you, keep in mind it’s a tropical country on the equator, so the temperature is just about always hot and humid, except when it’s ultra-hot and incredibly humid. In most places, daytime temperatures average between about 81 F and 95 F. When you factor in the everpresent humidity, it can feel much hotter.
The only change in seasons we have here are “wet” and “dry.” These seasons vary dramatically between the east and west sides of peninsular Malaysia, and also in Malaysian Borneo. For example, when it’s flooding in Kuantan, on the other side of the peninsula, it’s bone-dry and sunny in Penang.
There are two monsoon seasons and one dry season. Don’t let the rain scare you. On the west coast it doesn’t rain all day during the monsoons. You usually get a quick downpour which then clears up and cools the air a little.
The dry season, which is also the hottest time of the year, starts around the end of December and extends to the end of March. April to September is the first monsoon season, in which it’s common to get one juicy thunderstorm per day. They typically last 15 to 30 minutes and then clear up quickly.
The bigger monsoon season hits around October through November, which is when we usually get one storm every evening with a spectacular lightning display and about 30 to 60 minutes of dramatic tropical rain. Sometimes, just sometimes, it rains so hard that you get “upward rain.” I call it that because it’s so heavy that it hits the ground with such tremendous force that it bounces back up and hits you in the face. So, even with an umbrella, you’re going to get soaked. But it’s warm rain, and it really isn’t that big a deal.
My favorite time of the year in Penang is November, which is when it’s not quite so hot. It’s not cool either, but it’s just not as hot. Think in terms of Miami, Florida, and you’ll get the idea.