Rather than immediately bang on about how fantastic Kuala Lumpur (KL to the locals) and Malaysia is, it's probably worth taking a minute to reflect on how first impressions of a new country or city are relative to the place you have just left. Arriving in Kuala Lumpur from HCMC (Saigon) in Vietnam was just like arriving in Tokyo after China. Maybe not surprising, considering the similarities of Vietnam and China, or those of Japan & Malaysia, especially their culture of dealing with western tourists.
Travelling across China on the train to the major tourist attractions and visiting the museums of Vietnam were an education and an experience, but in these countries you have to be prepared for some hard selling, getting ripped off at least once, being shouted at as you walk down the street (by hawkers, sellers, hoteliers, restaurateurs, taxis, motos, cyclos & tuk-tuks) and keeping your guard up most of the time. Of course this applies as a gross generalisation to most tourist hot spots and city life in SE Asia based on our experience. Thankfully, with practice, you learn to zone out the annoyances so nothing short of a punch in the face will get your attention.
The point of this reflection as we head out of SE Asia via Malaysia is to highlight the civilised culture of tolerance, calm, respect, order and cleanliness we found here. "1Malaysia" is a brand, and it's working. We felt safer, and relaxed more in Kuala Lumpur. Now I know for sure that I'd happily swap the so-called 'excitement' of SE Asia for the civilisation of Malaysia and Japan. These countries are working examples of how we should all live together in an increasingly multi-cultural future.
This article was written after visiting Kuala Lumpur and the Cameron Highlands in Peninsular Malaysia, before reaching KK (Kota Kinabulu) in Malaysian Borneo...