We have lived in both Malaysia and Thailand: neighboring countries here in southeast Asia, yet worlds apart. Our first two years in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were wonderful – certainly enough for us to know that we wanted to stay in this region of the world as long as we could. Thankfully, our next move took us only as far north as Bangkok, Thailand.
After spending five years in Munich, Germany, we decided to take the plunge and jump into an entirely new lifestyle here in southeast Asia. Amazingly (or perhaps not so) we realized once we moved to this region of the world that very few of our friends and family know much about Malaysia or Thailand. I have been asked, on more than one occasion, if we have toilets here (I guess people think I must go in the jungle or something).
Maybe this will help:
Two separate countries, with diverse cultures, Malaysia and Thailand are neighbors in southeast Asia, both are on the same peninsula, along with Singapore. Singapore actually used to be part of Malaysia until about 50 years ago (learn more about the history of Malaysia and Thailand). You can see Malaysia in the blue-green and Thailand in yellow, below:
Malaysia is made up of three different cultural groups: Malay, Indian and Chinese. This is especially wonderful for us because we are able to enjoy 3 times the cultural festivities every year! We start with the Muslim festival of Hari Raya (at the end of Ramadan), Deepavali (the Hindu festival of lights), in the middle we have Christmas, and we finish with Chinese New Year. For all three groups of Malaysians to communicate together, they most often use English, which was quite a happy conincidence for me! There is a huge expat population in Kuala Lumpur as well, people from all over the world have to come to Malaysia to live, both for work, and for retirement in the tropics.
Thailand has a rich cultural history, being the only nation in southeast Asia never to succumb to colonization. The Thai people are friendly, welcoming and take great pride in staying calm in all situations, which is one of the reasons that Thailand is known as the “land of smiles.” Although the vast majority of the population is ethnically Thai, there are many different hill tribes in the north of Thailand, as well as a large Chinese-Thai population. Interestingly, there is also a huge Japanese population here in Bangkok. The local language is Thai, which not only has it’s own unique alphabet but also uses 5 different tones (not so easy for superkimbo). Bangkok also has a huge expat population, much larger than Kuala Lumpur, and most people can communicate in basic English, though not nearly as well as in Malaysia.
Where do you live?
We used to live in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. You may be familiar with Malaysia’s claim to fame, the once-tallest-in-the-world Petronas Towers. Now we live in the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, home to many beautiful temples, including Wat Phra Kaew.
Both Malaysia and Thailand are amazingly easy countries to live in. After adapting almost entirely to the German way of doing things, I was honestly shocked to see how much more similar both Malaysia and Thailand are to North America than Germany. We have huge malls, movies are run in English soon after they show in the US, we can find pretty much every item of food we could ever want, we have TV – endless, American TV (probably not such a good thing for me). Both Malaysia and Thailand have absolutely stunning landscapes, including beautiful beaches and lush mountains. The tropical climate means that we essentially have an endless summer, and although it can get extremely hot in Thailand in April, you can see how the sunny weather helps create such sunny dispositions in the local people of both countries.
Both Malaysia and Thailand are absolutely beautiful, and well set up for tourists. Although you may not find Kuala Lumpur to be that exciting (as most good cities to live in are not always the best for vacationing); but the beaches of Malaysia are stunning, and it is increadibly easy to get around. Bangkok is a thriving metropolis with beautiful temples and fantastic restaurants – well worth a stop on any tour to Thailand.
If you are spending extended time in Malaysia, you may want to visit Melacca, Penang, Kuching, Redang Island, and of course stay a day or two in KL.
If you are traveling around Thailand, you may want to visit Chiang Mai, Ayutthaya, and Chiang Rai in the north, as well as the islands of Krabi, Phi Phi, and Phuket, in the south, along the coast are Hua Hin, Koh Samui and Koh Chang.
Let me know you’re coming and I’ll give you all the “insider tips.”
South East Asia map: http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/maps/southeast_asia_pol_2003_x.jpg
All other images by superkimbo