In every country we've visited, we've noticed some recurring, consistent themes which help give each place a unique national flavor. We thought we would share these "Country Impressions" with you all to give you a better idea of what our day-to-day life is like in each place we visit.
Impressions of Malaysia
- The Malays hold the governing power, the Chinese the economic power. Malaysia's population is composed two primary ethnic groups: the Malays (the "indiginous" Malaysians) and the ethnic Chinese. Here, as in most of Southeast Asia, the Chinese have set up shop as businesspeople, and have over the centuries amassed most of the country's wealth. The Malays, on the other hand, don't control much of economically, but they do wield a lot of political power. Basically, it's a situation where the Malays always want more control of their economic future, and the Chinese want more control of their politics. This is a point of contention in the country, but it doesn't yet seem to be a gravely serious one. It's always been this way, and probably will continue to be for a long time...
- A rapidly modernizing state. The Malaysian government has a program called "Malaysia 2020" which lays out the nation's plans to become a fully developed country by the year 2020. Ambitious, yes, but based on what we've seen in places like Kuala Lumpur, we have no reason to doubt that Malaysia will make its goal a reality.
- Go ahead, drink the water...really, it's okay. Like we said before, Malaysia is an easy country to travel in. The infrastructure is excellent, the transport options are many, the restaurants are clean. Yes, you can even drink the water out of the tap...anywhere in the country! Malaysia is a great place to rest up before or after visiting some of the more challenging countries in the region.
- An officially Islamic, but religiously tolerant country. Unlike some Islamic states which impose strict shariah law on their citizens, Malaysia's constitution allows for freedom of worship. There is an undercurrent of muslim conservatism occurring in some parts of the country, though. Some extremist groups are trying to exert pressure on the government to harden their stance on non-muslim activity in the country. But this seems to be happening in most predominantly muslim countries these days, and it's definitely a minority applying the pressure.
- Hey, what's with all the Yanks? Malaysia was the first country (apart from Spain) where we saw lots of our fellow countrymen. And they're not all tourists -- KL seems to have a fair number of American expats working and living in the city as well. We'd certainly rather live here than in Bangkok if we were posted in Southeast Asia for work!
Back to Malaysia pg.1 On to Thailand!
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