The Night Sky of Kuala Lumpur with Petronas Towers
Malaysia might be the place at the top of your list for your next ASEAN lookaround. Filipinos might think more highly of Thailand or Hong Kong as better shopping holiday destinations and food trip adventures, but Malaysia just may top both of those countries having more diverse cuisines and a population composed of the most diverse ethnic mix in ASEAN.
Backpacker dudebros will love living off Mamak Stalls and hawker food--Indian-Malay and Nyonyak (Chinese-Malay) fusion cuisine is highly acclaimed as some of the best of Halal foods anywhere. Professional shoppers may find buys they won't find anywhere else in the popular Night Markets of Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Kota Kinabalu.
If you can find work opportunities here, count yourself blessed. In spite of the strict Muslim protocols imposed, our ASEAN neighbor might actually be the place you never expected it to be: a safe place with cultural tolerance among a deeply diverse people--Malay, Chinese, and Indian citizens, a place of good opportunity because Malaysia is geographically located in between several ASEAN trading partners and is considered a gateway for travel, business and tourism, and even your new home base if you choose to relocate your business or family in this amazing country.
Pasar Malams: Bargain Shopping Everywhere
For professional shoppers aka
those who buy good stuff and haul more good stuff for selling back in their
home markets, Malaysian shopping may provide you with better trade: night markets or Pasar Malams might be just as good as Hong Kong shopping. The night markets themselves are
popular among the locals as a place for good bargains and some brand
name finds for patient bargain hunters. Night markets (Pasar is Market,
Malam is Night) in modern Malaysia are set up in open areas near main
roads in clean, brightly lit stalls that offer the one-of-a-kind
shopping experience among visitors looking for the next big, Asian shopping experience. The pasar malams are often open from late
afternoon until midnight or the wee hours of the morning.
Petaling Street Kuala Lumpur, a Chinatown-area Night Market
Taman Connaught Pasar Malam is noted as the longest Night Market in
Malaysia, spanning over two kilometers long and situated just out of
Kuala Lumpur city in the Connaught Garden area. It is also located by
the main road and keeps 700 plus shopkeepers in makeshift stalls found
here! Locals love the availability of knock offs and cheap clothes,
hanging out in mamak food stalls, or accessories for their mobile
gadgets. Backpackers and expats get their favorite local souvenirs
there plus enjoy the sumptuous Indian-Malay cuisine that the country
prides itself in.
Most of the merchandise you can find in Asian
flea markets or organized night market depots include local handicrafts
for tourists, artisan jewelry, knock-offs and accessories for your
mobile gadget fix, toys, bags and women\'s fashion, some markets
specialize in Muslim-styled bespoke fashion.
Petaling Street aka
Chinatown Night Market is the most famous night market in Malaysia.
There are foreigner-owned shops that sell popular items and regionally
sourced products from their homeland and the storekeepers can speak
multiple regional languages to help you find what you are looking for
among their network of vendors. Although open 24-7, the most
recommended time for checking the place out is at night when the night
market stalls spills over into the street. While hunting for bargains,
you can sample popular Malaysian comfort food like their versions of
stuffed meat pancakes and milk tea.
Other night markets include
the Batu Ferringhi Night Market (souvenirs), the Jalan TAR Night Market,
the Tunku Abdul Rahman Night Market (Muslim garments from Hijab or
Headscarves, Hijab Accessories, Pins, Brooches and Prayer Items), the
Wakaf Che Yeh Night Market in Kelantan ( a place near the Thai border—so
Thai-Malay border traders haul their wares down here to sell them--
good stuff like wholesale items, especially jewellery and clothings.
in tourist area locations might be relatively pricier and it might be
worth the trouble to look around first unless you see something really
Live in Malaysia? Work and Play Too!
The heart and soul of Malaysia is its incredible diversity of cultures that live in harmony and give the place character and an individuality that transcends all boundaries--you would not expect Chinese, Malay, and Indian communities as one identity being what holds this nation together and makes it one of the ASEAN's best kept open secret among expats, visitors who seek their fortune here and backpackers curious what the hype is all about.
Image Credit: CEphoto Uwe Aranas for WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0 Kota Kinabalu, contingent of different tribes welcoming visitors.
Most people in Malaysia work less and enjoy more time to enjoy life one day at a time and still they make way more money than glued-to-the job types in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and other Asian hubs. Like Filipinos, Malaysians are always smiling and laughing or joking about the idiots who rule the country. Filipino time or taking it easy is not an exclusive habit for us, people in Malaysia don't rush things, walking casually and even striking up fast friendships with complete strangers.
George Town ancestral homes in Penang, a reminder of Malaysia's colonial British period.
To live permanently in Malaysia, foreign visitors can apply for the "Malaysia My Second Home” (MM2H) program which grants 10-year visas: there are financial qualifications so that you don't burden their system. The island nation has good housing options for retirees, the quality of healthcare is at par with the west and cheaper, and the long coastline offers westerners their fantasy of living out their days on a beach while running their start-up. Penang is the preferred choice for expat retirees under MM2H program. It is also one of the hottest places for IT start-ups and is a top choice for the title of “Silicon Valley of Asia.” The island nation has an economic growth rate of 6.5% for 50 years.
Kota Kinabalu beach side resort.
In 2015, the expatriate magazine International Living heralded Malaysia as the fourth-best retirement option for westerners in the world. Aside from Penang, Kota Kinabalu and Kuala Lumpur, smaller cities with expat communities include Johor Bahru, Malacca, Kota Kinabalu. Malaysia's relative low cost of living, its vibrant and diverse culture, its amazing street food, and its openness to expats have been an open secret attracting even Chinese and Japanese to relocate and live there, aside from western expats. Malaysia is also one of the ASEAN countries that attract a strong clientele seeking low-cost medical treatment.
On top of all that, Malaysia is right in the middle of the ASEAN so you can travel around to other member countries easily if you have business to do or want to enjoy the ASEAN Integration opportunities that opened up at the start of 2016. Mamak Stalls and Football
In Malaysia, the sports bar is the Mamak Stall, a local 24-7 food canteen (not so different from a Filipino cafeteria or posh carinderia) that has a wide screen TV featuring professional and amateur football matches from the ASEAN regional football league up to the English Premier League and the Bundesliga and lots of seats and tables for customers. Football is a religion in Malaysia the way Filipinos are rabid about basketball. Well, its not really a sports bar per se, just the most convenient place to go and grab delicious Malaysian comfort food in the middle of the night and check out the latest pro football matches.
Image Credit: Azreey for WikiCommons CC BY-SA 3.0 Modern Mamak stall is open 24-7
Mamak stalls are local Indian-Muslim fusion canteens that serve Halal Muslim and Indian food. You will never have to worry if you are hungry at 3.00 am. You can enjoy all-day breakfast, a heavy lunch, or a light snack—or grab a midnight repast—Malaysian food IS one of better Asian fusion cuisines especially on its home turf. Some of the more modern Mamak stalls even provide free WiFi, and is the preferred meet-up spot for after-hours meetings with co-workers or people doing business.
Whether you are Malay, Chinese, Indian or even a foreigner working or studying in this country, Mamak stalls are where everyone flock to after work, after clubbing, after a game of futbol with friends. It is exceptionally popular among youths and teenagers to come to these local Indian-Malay restaurants.
Chinatown Jalan Petaling Kuala Lumpur by Achilli Family-Journeys Flickr CC BY 2.0
Food specialties of these places include the ‘roti canai’ (meat pancake) and the inevitable ‘teh tarik’ (milk tea). Unlike the typical Pinoy carinderia-slash-cafeteria, all Mamak restaurants are relatively clean because of the Halal designation.
Mamak stalls run their kitchens for 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. The Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association is the NGO that represents most of the Mamak restaurants in Malaysia and professionalized the industry with food service standards and by registering Indian Muslims restaurant owners. A national success story, Mamak stalls started from 40 initial members to more than 3500 members today. The Mamak industry makes over RM 8 billion every year. Some popular brands even opening Mamak branches in countries such as Hong Kong and Australia.
With the new ASEAN Integration Community officially starting this 2016, take the time to look around at our ASEAN neighbors, you might find something special that can be more rewarding than you expect.