Sabah Malaysia, A Disastrous Trip

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We’ve been to Malaysia, I don’t know how many times. After multiple visits to Kuala Lumpur it’s one of our favourite cities in the world and our trip to Kuching and Sarawak to stay with the Iban tribe in their longhouse was magical. I thought Malaysia was becoming our thing. I thought we should do more.

Jungle Adventure Sabah
Our “3 day jungle adventure” turned out to be a series of very long, very boring, boat rides in the middle of this huge open river, in full sun.The heat was incredible. Our guide also didn’t plan to take us where we needed to be.

We hatched a plan this spring to go over Malaysia with a fine-tooth comb and share the parts visited by few. We explored the northern and eastern parts of peninsular Malaysia by car before hopping over to Sarawak to visit Sabah via Brunei.

Sabah wasn’t for us. Maybe it was bad luck, bad timing, or just us. Maybe others will love Sabah. This post is just about our personal feelings on this trip.

Most of the road trip was an ordeal and there wasn’t much to see or do but at that stage we were all still in pretty good spirits. It was good to be back in Kuching and we loved our few days there, but after that everything fell apart.

Why Sabah Malaysia, Went Bad

Orangutang spotting in Sabah
Did we see orangutangs? Yes. There were loads. Hemmed in amidst oil palm plantations and electric fences. That’s the part most people don’t share. My son is looking at an orangutang here, a tiny dot of fleeting movement high in a tree. Can you see it? No, neither could we.

By the time we got to Mount Kinabalu (in the north of Sabah), I was in bits.

Inedible (to us) food, terrible accommodation, being lied to and cheated, and the environmental horror of plastic and oil palms left me beaten and losing my sanity in a full-on meltdown.

I should have known better, this has happened to us before in Malaysia.

Our “Malaysia Curse”

Beach pollution Borneo
Pollution on a beach, north coast of Malaysian Borneo, taken in the same month. Environmental destruction isn’t easy to take.

Over the last 7 or 8 years of full-time travel, most things have been wonderful and a few things have been bad.

Bizarrely, almost all of the bad has been in Malaysia. A few of the incidents that constitute our “curse” are below.

  • Being in an environmental disaster, having to cancel plans for Malacca, and ending up sleeping on the floor in the cleaner’s room at a wonderful hostel in KL. The guys at this hostel are our friends, we love them, they saved us, but the stress that day had me in tears.
  • Falling victim to a pickpocket in Penang. It was on a crowded bus, he talked to me, I thought he was being kind helping a woman with two small kids. His hands were in my daypack. My then 8-year-old saw him rob us.
  • Having my favourite T-shirt stolen from a hotel in Malacca. When you only have the contents of one small backpack your favourite T-shirt is a bit more important. We’ve never been robbed in a hotel anywhere else in over 50 countries. It’s the betrayal of trust that hurts. This particular hotel also gave us plenty of issues with noise (drilling up a concrete floor), bad food, bad room, all the usual minor irritations that come together to get you down.
  • Being on a ferry from Penang to Langkawi when it broke down halfway. We had to limp back to our point of origin and start over.
  • The worst hotel in the world in Georgetown. The raw expensive pizza (raw dough, no refund), the sleepless night as the nightwatchman partied and smoked downstairs. The fear of being alone in a deserted hotel with drunken men and two small kids. Finding ourselves locked in the next morning as the drunkard slept. That metal door was our fire exit.
  • The other worst hotel in the world on Langkawi. This one was expensive and we needed good food for my husband’s Ironman event. The food was inedible to us. Lack of nutrition destroyed his race and put him in danger. Even shopping for groceries to cook ourselves we couldn’t get close to the quality nutrition he needed. The guys prepare for 12 months for these events and drop a lot of cash. It’s a big deal and this sport is dangerous even with good fuel. He survived, he hobbled in eventually. Waiting for your husband to finish over 4 hours beyond his usual time, with a broken tracking system and isn’t fun. These races are never fun, but that day was hell.
  • Failing to get into Brunei and being stranded at border security unable to go forward or back. This was our own fault and we did see the funny side. But still, nothing like this has ever happened to us before.
  • Endless problems finding food. I prefer not to eat meat. It’s been hard for us outside of major cities to find quality food, vegetables or anything healthy. Indian food is a joy in Malaysia but in the parts we visited on this trip it wasn’t available. At the time we bailed out of Mt Kinabalu I’d eaten nothing at all for 48 hours and not eaten a decent serve of vegetables in maybe a month. I just couldn’t face another plate of greasy noodles fried in dirty oil or yet another take-out pizza.
  • Animal abuse. We’ve seen too much animal abuse and animals as entertainment on this trip. It comes in unexpected places and it’s upsetting.
  • Plastics, pollution, filth, and environmental devastation. Some of it was absolutely sickening.

So we’ve had a few issues, there are more, these are just the ones I don’t mind talking about right now. Some issues are tiny, trifling matters but each one adds to the next and the straw does eventually break the camel.

We really wanted to put all that behind us. Turns out we couldn’t. Malaysia is still our Nemesis.

Highlights of Sabah Malaysia

jungle night safari Sabah Borneo
Jungle night safaris are well sold in Sabah, Malaysia. Ours was basically a walk in scrub land at the back of somebody’s house. It was totally not worth going, even if it were free. We saw some lantern flies and lots of ants.

There were three major things we wanted to do in Sabah. The first was to visit the orangutan rescue place at Sepilok, the second was a three-day, two-night river safari to see pygmy elephants (with a side of wild orangutans and proboscis monkeys), the third was to climb Mount Kinabalu.

All three of these were massive letdowns. Expensive letdowns at that.

The whole trip bought us zero joy and cost us thousands, most of the money we simply gave away with nothing in return. In the end, we decided to lose our cash rather than stay in Sabah one day longer.

We should have left earlier (and I’d asked Chef if we could leave earlier – he knew I’d had enough) because every day just got progressively worse.

We’re out of Sabah now, safely back in Kuala Lumpur on a last-minute flight to an airport hotel with no onward plans. We’ll think of something, we always do. But the major feeling as we got on the plane out of there was massive relief.

There was pain, upset, disappointment, guilt, and tears. But relief overshadowed all of those hurts. My son had been really looking forward to the Kinabalu climb, but even he was relieved to be leaving. He was also sick.

We’ve all been sick. It was coronavirus time in Asia.

Costs in Sabah Malaysia

Malaysia has a two-tier pricing system. Malaysians seem to pay less for everything than foreigners, sometimes pushing tourist prices into the super-expensive zone. If you’re rich, you probably won’t mind. We’re not wealthy tourists.

I’ll give you the costs for the river safari and Mount Kinabalu climb some other time, but just know it was thousands. That plus the daily per room tourist tax on hotels does get to you after a while.

The Orangutan Rescue Place – Sepilok

Sepilok Orangutang Rescue Sabah Malaysia
The Sepilok orangatang reserve in Sabah Malaysia. It felt like a zoo. The orangutang place in Sarawak was much better for us.

We had already visited the orangutan rescue place at Semmengoh, near Kuching in Sarawak. That was a good experience. By contrast, the Sepilok center just felt like a zoo to us.

There was no talk or introduction, just a bunch of baby orangutans behind glass. At feeding time one orangutan showed up to the platform, along with some monkeys.

There were crowds as several coach tours arrived and this was at the height of coronavirus scare. Presumably, we visited on a quiet day.

We felt there was just nothing good about it. Orangutans are there because the oil palm industry is destroying their homes. It felt as if Sabah was generating a tourist attraction out of the misery it caused to these animals. It felt wrong and it made me sad.

If you didn’t know, about 50% of Sabah is now oil palm plantations. It’s a depressing sight along with the incredible levels of plastic pollution that we’d already seen on this trip on various coastlines.

I’ve never seen so much trash on beaches anywhere in the world, nor water as filthy. All of these little things chip away, slowly slowly stealing positivity.

The River Safari to See Pygmy Elephants

River boat safari sabah malaysia
Our “guide” did occasionally pull off the main river into these narrower waterways. The only problem was, there was nothing to see here, and he knew it.

Everything about this was utterly bad. We found a guide on recommendation, he was ” the man” for finding pygmy elephants. We paid him a lot of money.

Our first 2-3 hour boat tour with him was the last time we saw him. After that, he handed us over to his very young son who couldn’t spot an animal to save his life.

Our “private guide” took off with another group leaving us visiting and revisiting the same stretch of animal-devoid waterway.

On this first boat ride “the man” did spot wild orangutans and proboscis monkeys. That was OK, I was cool with that.

They were so far away that we could just make them out with binoculars for fleeting seconds. I enjoyed it but others with us were complaining and that made me feel bad because they felt bad.

This trip had been my idea. We hoped that on subsequent boat rides he’d take us to smaller waterway so that we could actually try to see them or be able to take photographs. It never happened.

Our time was deliberately and purposefully taken up with looking at “ordinary monkeys” and a tiny monitor lizard. No sign of the pygmy elephants we’d come to see.

One of us spotted a very small crocodile, our young guide completely missed it. But we’d come for elephants and our guide knew that.

Eventually, junior let slip that there was in fact only one Asian elephant in the patch of jungle he’d taken us to and that the large herd of pygmy elephants was some 2 hours away.

At this point our 3 days were up, we couldn’t schedule another trip. He knew this the whole time and yet strung us along and happily took our money to look at trees.

We took 3 river trips. Our “private tour” also included a night walk and “optional activities”. The night walk was behind somebody’s house, not in the jungle, we saw pretty much nothing. I’d be able to find more wildlife in my own back garden.

When we asked what the “optional activities” were, the man with our cash directed us to the village to take a walk.

There was absolutely nothing of interest to see. We wasted about 6 hours just waiting for the next uneventful boat ride in blistering heat.

To steal even more joy, our food was mostly disgusting, accommodation was poor and atmosphere non-existent.

The pygmy elephants are there, you needed to book a special full-day trip to go looking for them. Another lodge nearby gave us the honest details. The full-day boat trip wasn’t even expensive and we would have gladly paid. If you plan to do this trip be sure to have all this sorted out properly.

Mr Man simply wanted to take our money and pretend we were unlucky to not see them. I was designated to talk to our guide on the phone to try and clarify this. He wouldn’t listen and just shouted over me. It wasn’t pleasant. We strongly recommend that you don’t book this guide.

A Better Place To See Proboscis Monkeys in Malaysia

If you want to see proboscis monkeys at closer range, maybe go to Bako National Park in Sarawak. We thought this was a much better experience and we had an honest guide.

By noon he told us to go home, it’s too hot and you’ll see nothing more. In contrast, Mr Man had us and his son sitting around in full afternoon inferno heat as he pretended to deliver our tour.

Have Things Changed Too Much in Sabah

So many people say these tours in Sabah are good, great experiences. I don’t know if things have changed because this is our first time here. I can tell you that Malaysia has changed enormously in the last 8 years, we’ve seen the changes in KL so maybe Sabah has changed too.

There was a lot of traffic on the river. Speedboats zipped up and down and tug boats pulled huge oil palm barges. New highways cut through the landscape and unoccupied housing developments stand where once there was rainforest.

The national park seemed totally hemmed in by electric fence ringed plantations. Even on the smaller waterways, we saw speedboats noisy enough to scare any wildlife and fast enough to erode riverbanks. Climate change must also be playing its part. Several people told us that we should see rain not blistering heat. Maybe it’s just all over for Sabah, or maybe we just had bad luck. I don’t know.

Escape From The River Tour to Sandakan

We didn’t want to stick around after being yelled at by Mr Man so we rustled up a minibus to take us back to Sandakan that night.

Several hours in a bus, down another $100, and on arrival a smoke-stinking cesspit of a hostel with blaring karaoke and a smelly foam mattress didn’t do much to salvage the mood.

Bus to Kinabalu National Park

Bus to Mount Kinabalu Sabah
Bus to Mount Kinabalu Sabah. Not a bad bus at all. No complaints about the bus, by by this time I desperately wanted to just not be there.

This was a nice bus and it only cost us 35 MYR (more than it costs if you’re Malaysian) no complaints about the bus at all. A woman at the front of the bus coughed deeply, the guy behind me burped fish, and a kid puked on the floor, but it was fine. I like buses and this is normal-ish.

It took about 4 hours.

The lunch and toilet stop were pretty poor. Again, no food any of us would consider eating. The bus dropped us almost outside the Kinabalu lodge. We paid our admission to the park and checked in.

We were pretty excited to be starting this adventure so there was plenty of positivity.

Thinking back to our trekking in the Himalayas and the long bus journeys there, this is different. Bus rides are harder in Nepal, sometimes terrifying, but there is joy, excitement, laughter and good Nepali food.

Travel in Malaysia can be a drudge and test of mental endurance with no good dinner and cold beer to look forward to. I don’t know why the two are so different.

Mount Kinabalu

accommodation mount kinabalu
Our accommodation at Mount Kinabalu was nothing like the photos online. Our ceiling was covered in black mold and the sheets were damp. It wasn’t a place I’d ever stay, let alone without wifi. We got out of there and took a taxi direct to the airport.

We couldn’t see the mountain as the cloud and drizzle hung low. Our lodge had looked beautiful online, a while colonial building with great reviews. I was excited to be in a decent hotel (maybe with decent food!) after days of roughing it.

My hopes and dreams were smashed as we saw the reality. Little more than a shed, the sort of shared bathroom you’d find on a bad campsite and damp. The sheets felt damp, the ceiling was covered in black mould, and then the final straw, no wifi. 2 days with no wifi in a damp shed.

I couldn’t take anymore, it broke me.

We left. Another $50 for a taxi out of there, a hastily booked flight, and we were gone. Finally food after 48 hours without. A couple of pieces of broccoli on the plane. We eventually tumbled into bed in KL around 10 pm and slept in cool clean sheets for the first time in days.

We’d already paid for the trek itself. It’s a 2-day walk to the summit of Mount Kinabalu and hikers are obliged to take a guide. I think we’d paid for 3 or 4 guides total as we had kids with us and rules dictate one guide per 2 kids. They weren’t cheap. We lost every cent.

The lodge and trekking agents didn’t even bother replying to my emails requesting a refund. I wasn’t surprised. Notably, if it rains, your trek will be cancelled, no refunds. It’s a great little money maker. Of course, Malaysians pay much less.

It was drizzling when we left and the unappealing area was infested with mangy dogs. I don’t think we missed much.

After The Sabah Trip

Maybe all this doesn’t sound so bad to you. You didn’t live it. You hadn’t planned this awesome adventure nor dropped all your cash on it. It crushed me, destroyed me in a way almost nothing has before. But at least now we know that Sabah Malaysia isn’t our jam.

I’ll give you full details on all this in time. We are travel bloggers, this is our work, our job. This time it sucked, costs us way too much, and brought zero enjoyment. I’m starting to question my choices. At this point, I no longer want to do this. I was cheated and lied to, I hate that.

As you can see, I wrote all of the above while it was fresh in my mind and the hurt was very raw. I sat on this post, unpublished, for eight months. 2020 has been the worst year of my life, so much bad stuff has happened but finally, a good thing for the world came in November. There is a whiff of hope in the air. So maybe we turned a corner. It’s hard to publish negative things on a travel blog, you become the target of hate mail and trolls. But this is how it was for us. This is our honest account of our time in Sabah, and it’s all completely true. We didn’t like some of the other parts of Malaysia that we visited on the trip either, with the exception of Ipoh. East coast Malaysia, the Cameron Highlands, and Miri Sarawak all left us pretty cold. So Sabah was the end of a very bad trip. Our worst trip ever I think. It was great to be back in Bali, which was where we ended up. Reliable, beautiful Ubud. We still love KL and Kuching, I don’t know what’s so different about those two places and some other parts of Malaysia, but we have seen so much, been many places, I will create the content. That’s all I have to say on our Sabah trip. UPDATE: As expected, sadly, we got nasty comments on this one. Commenting has been disabled. We were also sent emails of thanks from local tourism people for alerting them to this situation, along with messages of support from Malaysian friends. As I’ve said before, Malaysians are often some of the nicest people on the planet. We got unlucky here I think.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

12 thoughts on “Sabah Malaysia, A Disastrous Trip”

  1. Wow, you really didn’t have a good time. I am so disappointed for you as we visited the same area 4 years ago and had such a different experience.
    We also went on a 3 day, 2 night tour and were so fortunate to see a wide variety of animals, birds and insects, including a herd of wonderful Pygmy elephants. We had exceptionally informative, interesting guides who seemed to know the best spots on the river for wildlife spotting. Our tour was one of the cheapest on offer, although it still felt expensive to us at £200. Accommodation was very basic but adequate with good food, even for a vegetarian like me.
    Our night tour on the river was one of the most magical moments of my life. The sky was amazing with the Milky Way so apparent. Crocs were in abundance and we we got very close to sleeping kingfishers who were totally unaware of our presence. The sounds and sights of the jungle were phenomenal.
    We also visited Sepilok and got close to orangutans who were walking around the area. Although the baby area was more zoo like, especially as they were behind glass, we were happy with the informality of the rest of the park. We were able to go back at dusk for a private night tour with 2 of the rangers for just a couple of dollars each. It was fabulous as the orangutans were still roaming the area and we were able to get very close to them. The rangers then pointed out so many interesting birds, mammals and insects on our walk as it got increasingly darker.

    We loved our time in Sabah and felt so privileged to have seen so much awesome wildlife. It was definitely one of the highlights of our time travelling and the memories will still with us for ever. It’s so sad that you didn’t get to experience the same things we did but sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw of who you book with and the people and guides you meet on your way.

  2. Hello Alyson, I recognize so much of this, especially the filth and the run-down accommodation, and the destruction of the environment(palm-trees…).

    We spent six weeks in Sabah with three teenage kids (a few years ago) and were lucky enough to have rented a house in Kinarut (owned by UK-people) which was lovely. The house was near the shore, but the beach was just another waist-dump – like most beaches in Sabah (but not all!). We avoided Sepilok, Sandakan (fenced-in orang utans are not our thing) and didn’t go to see the pygmy-elephants. We walked AROUND Mt Kinabalu, because it’s free and we had lovely weather which was nice! We fled our accommodation at Mt Kinabalu, which was run-down and stinking – instead we drove four hours at night time (which was dangerous) back to our house…
    We went to Tip-of-Borneo where the beach was clean and the chalet rather cosy. We stayed three days with the Rungus-people and learned that “it’s rainy season when it rains” … which was when we were there: three days of pouring rain although our Lonely-Planet guide said it was supposed to be dry season. The stay was interesting, though nothing to write home about.

    Our kids made friends with local kids and our son even ended up coaching the futsall-team. Our eldest daughter spent most of her time looking after horses on a horse-riding center near our house. They remember it as a great trip!

    It was Ramadan when we were there, and we went to several nighttime food-fairs which had really good food.

    I wouldn’t recommend Sabah to first-time-travelers, because it is so unsure and apparently it’s not improving garbage-wise. But from what I read in your post even seasoned travelers can be taken aback by Sabah because the local people are unfriendly. That comes as a surprise to me.
    Thanks for sharing your experience – take good care!

    • As you know Talitha, we’ve been everywhere, and most places we stay months. Sabah was just a horrible experience all round. It was a surprise after enjoying Sarawak so much. The people of Kuching were some of the nicest we ever met and there was so much of cultural interest. I’d go back to Kuching, I’d live in Kuching even.

  3. I’ m glad for your honest review. I suspect some travel blogs dont always tell the whole truth. And since you’ve been traveling a lot I know you’re not the kind of tourist who expects things to be exactly like home.
    Im quite surprised that you had such a bad experience in Sabah. We had the most wonderful trip with good food and nice friendly people. But; we were there in 2006, so I suspect that things might have changed a lot (or we were just very lucky.) We travelled with an agency (Intrepid) so that probably means less chance of getting ripped off etc. And, this was before we got kids (we still travel around the world with the kids but a little bit less rough…) But, as you wrote, if Malaysia has changed a lot the last years it could be that the wonderful Sabah I remember has changed,and that makes me sad.
    We might give it a try again once in the future, when the pandemic is over (and the kids a little older (our daughter is scared of the insects in our Norwegian garden so I guess Borneo is not the right place for her yet 🙂 )

  4. Hey Alyson. I’m a regular reader of yours and fellow travel blogger. I read your post with horror. I get it. Sometimes a trip just doesn’t pan out. We’ve had that. Sometimes it’s just the worst and I can totally relate to when you just want to leave a country. It’s the worst feeling ever. It’s a shame as we spent 3 weeks in Sabah in 2018, I travelled solo with my then 10 yr old girl and loved it. I think as always it depends on who you sign up with for tours. There will always be people that rip you off. We volunteered with Ape Malaysia in the Kinabatangan and so during our week on the river we had a wonderful guide with lots of river trips. We replanted secondary rainforest sites and learn a lot with many passionate locals. We didn’t see any wild orang-utans but we did see 67 pygmy elephants close up crossing the river. I also believe that Sepilok is an amazing place that does incredible work with orang-utans. There is a film that you can watch in the auditorium that explains the work they do. I agree it’s not really geared up for tourists apart from viewing the babies or the feeding sessions but they do a huge amount behind the scenes for orang-utans and rely on tourist admission costs to help them do that. Mount Kinabalu was also a good experience for us. I agree, the non refund due to bad weather is ridiculous – it costs a lot. We paid £400 each to climb which I was very hesitant on doing as it was so much. In the end I only booked with a few days to go carefully looking at the weather reports – I couldn’t afford to lose £800. Our guide was very good and knowledgable & we only needed one guide for 1 adult/1 child. We didn’t make it to the top – only to 3650m as my daughter was struggling with the altitude so we stopped at the last check point and then did the via ferrata which again which was a great experience. We went diving with Bigfin Divers in Sabah which was exceptional. We can highly recommend them. My daughter’s instructor was amazing & she dived for 3 days giving her a passion for diving. There was a LOT of plastic around Sandakan (not the most inspirational place) which is always awful to see. We visited Palau Selingan (Turtle Island) & had a good experience. There had been some negative comments on trip advisor about rubbish on the far side of the island which we also experienced so I talked a lot to the new manager Fatima about this and we are pushing for a daily voluntary visitor shore clean to help the 5 full time rangers battle the currents with the constant arrival of litter & plastic. It’s sad to see so much plastic in the ocean, particularly in Asia and it’s sad that most locals and asian tourists just don’t care. Anyhow I just wanted to reach out and say Sabah isn’t terrible full stop. Everyone’s experiences are down to the luck of the draw (especially with guides!) and sometimes bad luck does happens back to back. That’s when travel sucks! Of course travel writing is about reporting the good, the bad, your personal experience. Thanks for the constant inspiration of you & your family. We will be leaping into full time travel soon – a long time coming ….. I cannot wait! Mags x

  5. Malaysia is the only country so far that I have no incentive to return to. While our trip (KL and west coast) was pleasant enough, it incredibly far from our expectations – and I don’t mean the surprise how much Chinese influence there was. The food was good, though, but Sabah cuisine is said to be different. Cameron Highlands was a bit of a shock, even though I’ve lived in China for years and visited my fair share of overdeveloped-to-death (but still nice) attractions, none were as casually devoid of life as CH. The cultural experiences were mostly good, often as in “interesting”, but we struggled to get along with the people. We were lucky to have chosen good hotels whose staff was friendly and helpful, but other interactions were rather scammy and/or indifferent. I found much more human connection in Russia, which, considering the not exactly outgoing/warm nature of many Russians (at least on the surface), is the pinnacle of weird. The experience left me rather apprehensive about visiting SEA, as especially Vietnam and Thailand are probably more geared toward visitors than Malaysia, making the people even more jaded… what do you think? We also rented a car for the trip because I am not going to take a long-distance bus with a one-year-old and although I’ve driven in some really challenging countries traffic-wise, Malaysia nearly broke me. Took us 3h to leave KL because of the weird signage in conjunction with the navi. Also, missing a highway exit is the stuff of nightmares. Still very tame in comparison to your experiences, but I really get the vibe, the overall tone resonates with the impression we got of Malaysia in general. On a tangent, not to be offensive, but do you think you get treated worse in the kind of environment you described because you appear (to the locals) presumably stereotypically Western? I am asking because we’re from Europe as well but look more Arabic and Central Asian, respectively, and certainly don’t come across as wizened (although in reality, we are experienced travellers), but we tend to get targeted less for scams etc. than many fellow travellers. My hubby’s English used to be quite bad and he seemed rather naive during our first trips, but still practically nobody tried to take serious advantage of that.

    • Hi Zanah, we have had some of the best, most wonderful times of our lives in SEAsia. With amazing warm friendly people and good food. This extends to Malaysia too, just not on this trip. We lived in Vietnam, we have visited Thailand 20-30 times, I’ve lost count. We love that part of the world and feel totally at home there. Likewise Nepal, it’s another home to us.

  6. This is the saddest travel post I’ve ever read. What a terrible experience you had. I’ve lived in Malaysia for nearly four years. My family and I love it so much that we are hoping to stay long-term. Yes, it’s quirky, palm oil is king, foreigners pay the “mat salleh” price, and the horrific effects of global pollution are swept onto Malaysia’s shores. All of those things are true, but I’m stunned that you don’t enjoy the food. Mamaks throughout the country have so many choices—including a bounty of vegetables. I hope your recent experience hasn’t soured for forever on Malaysia. It’s certainly not Bali or Phuket, but my family is enamored with the quaint beach communities, affordable cost of living, and welcoming attitude of the Malaysian people.

    • Well, there you go. It doesn’t float our boat at all. But as I said, we do love certain parts and have had good experiences. Just not on this trip. It was all very depressing, you’re right.

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