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I remember it was September 2011 when I first crossed the causeway to Johor Bahru, Malaysia. This 2012, not only did I visit the capital Kuala Lumpur, but I was able to explore the peninsular side extensively and discover its culture in depth. Read more…

Photo credit: Stuck in Customs

Incredibly, I had five trips to Malaysia in 2012—that’s even more than the number of times I've been to any country my entire life. It feels great to be blessed with so many opportunities, so I made sure that with each trip, I explored a lot about our neighbor.

I think the foremost that I've learned traveling there is that we are quite alike, and it's unfortunate that not a lot are aware or do acknowledge this. We have a lot of common words (lelaki, kanan, and buka, to name a few); the weather is tropically similar; our histories and cultures have commonalities; and a lot of us will pass as Malaysians. These collectively are the reasons why I loved wandering around their country, and it was easy to do so, too.

In total and in 2012 alone, I have been eight out of thirteen states and two out of three territories. I tried to summarize my impressions and discoveries of each below:

KUALA LUMPUR

Kuala Lumpur, the federal capital, houses one of Asia’s tiger economies. It also home to the iconic Petronas Towers and a vibrant shopping and commercial district called the Golden Triangle. But beyond the concrete, the city is rich in history and culture, as evidenced by the presence of different worship places, historical monuments, and museums.

PAHANG

The only time I’ve been to the state of Pahang is when we went up to the Titiwangsa Mountains for Resorts World Genting. Nonetheless, the cool climate and perhaps also the rainfall is a welcome change from the usual hot weather in most of Malaysia. I wish to explore this place called Berjaya Hills the next time.

PENANG

If there’s one place in Malaysia that I must visit again, it’s definitely Penang. This historical, cultural, and culinary haven made me fall in love with it deeply. Thanks to cultural and religious harmony, Penang is a true melting pot that I wish I could discover more. By the way, it was in a hawker stall in Gurney Drive did I taste one of the best char kway teow.

MALACCA

Conveniently located two hours south of the capital, Malacca gave us a glimpse of colonial Malaysia through the spots within its walking trail. Like Georgetown, Penang, the city of Malacca, which used to be a prominent Dutch territory, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was also where we tried the tasty chicken rice balls.

SELANGOR

Because of my cousin Christian, I got immersed to the slower-paced suburban lifestyle in Seri Kembangan (formerly Serdang), Selangor. In that university town, our hangouts meant eating lots of Mamak food then sipping coffee in a kopitiam after. Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur International Airport (IATA: KUL) is situated in Sepang, and near it is the AirAsia Academy where our friends from AirAsia Malaysia and Philippines took me for a tour and a mission.

JOHOR

I went to Nusajaya, Johor to attend a media preview of the country's newest theme park, LEGOLAND Malaysia. The rides, attractions, and the scaled models of Asian icons in MINILAND made the kid in me happy. Our family had the chance to stay at Danga Bay, too.

NEGERI SEMBILAN

Negeri Sembilan, like Selangor, is near and easily accessible by KTM Komuter from Kuala Lumpur. While I pass by it in transit to the airport, I’ve actually stayed at Nilai Springs. The state, with spots like Port Dickson, seems to offer a respite from the stresses of city living.

PERAK

I’ve had the pleasure of exploring the capital of Perak, Ipoh. Surprisingly, it turned out to be one of Malaysia’s culinary hotspots with its strong Chinese cuisine. But apart from the beansprout chicken rice and dim sum, Ipoh boasts of a heritage trail and a number of cave temples, which were all built because of the Chinese settlers from not so long ago.

KEDAH

I could vouch that Kedah’s capital, Alor Setar, is worth spending a day or two in, and it’s unfair to dismiss the city as merely a jump-off point to Langkawi. Its royal history, as showcased in its museums and monuments, made us very fascinated. In the town of Bukit Kayu Hitam were we able to cross the border to Sadao, Thailand.

PUTRAJAYA

Each time I go to and from the airport, I always marvel at the sight of Putrajaya, the administrative capital of Malaysia. Its buildings from afar exude grandiose and mystery at the same time. On my last trip, we did a quick tour, and I finally saw the buildings up close.

I collaborated with Dan Patacsil of A Happy Wanderer, and we came up with this video:

Each time I dug into my nasi lemak, I realized how in love was with everything Malaysia. Sure, I love my country above all, but with all the number of times I went and the discoveries I made each time, Malaysia holds a special place in my heart. Terimah kasih, Malaysia!

P.S. Terimah kasih is the Malay expression that translates to thank you.

The Pinoy Travel Bloggers group holds a monthly Blog Carnival, wherein participating bloggers write about a singular theme. Mechanics and archives are found in Estan Cabigas’ Langyaw page here. For the month of December, we write about 2012: this year in travel as hosted jointly by Gay Emami of Pinay Travel Junkie and Regine Garcia of Between Coordinates.

I'd like to say terimah kasih to the following who have made my trips possible: Airphil Express, Cebu Pacific Air, AirAsia Malaysia, AirAsia Philippines, and Zest Air. Lots of thanks also to Ms. Bianca, Ms. Zu, and especially Ms. Masrina of Tourism Malaysia here in Manila.

Some photos used were taken from Wikipedia Commons and Nilai Springs.

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