Why must you be so cautious in these three countries?
(From The Street by Eric Reed) Number 2: Many Americans don’t realize that Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country. Although this nation is a clash of peoples, including large populations of ethnically Indian and Chinese, Muslim Malay makes up the dominant culture. The result is that this popular tourist destination in Southeast Asia doesn’t quite have the anything goes attitude of its neighbors to the north. In most places (aside from special exception zones like Penang and Kuala Lumpur), alcohol is highly taxed and somewhat difficult to get. Publicly advocating for religions other than Islam is banned (so be careful about wearing that crucifix) as is open homosexuality. Most interesting, though, is the country’s attitude toward souvenirs. Taking home any flora or fauna without permission is a serious criminal offense. So… maybe leave that flower be.
We have been here numerous times, and enjoyed the country and the city of Kuala Lumpur, with its multi ethnic vibe. We have also enjoyed two islands that are part of Malaysia: remote and wild Langkawi, and Penang, home to the best food in the world.
How can Singapore be the most dangerous country to visit?
Some readers might remember the story of Michael Fay, an American teenager in 1994 who was sentenced to caning in Singapore for vandalism. The corporal punishment took America by surprise, even if the crime itself did not, but this extremely orderly Asian city has a lot of laws that might surprise the average traveler. For example, singing out loud can land you a fine if the lyrics are considered obscene. Smoking in many public spaces carries a $1,000 fine, and contributing to the distribution of any material the government considers inappropriate can land some light jail time. Oh, and don’t try to bring in any chewing gum. Importing this highly banned substance can lead to fines of up to $200,000.
For a place so strict and so clean, it fails to live up to the hype, in my opinion. It did not seem to have the same richness of culture and friendly people as the rest of SE Asia. And shopping is expensive!
Third most dangerous?
The second most visited country in Asia, Thailand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. However, it does come with a few rules that the average traveler might not expect. The most important one is lese majesty, or violating the dignity of the sovereign. The truth about Thailand is that it’s a fairly conservative country that turns a blind eye to most tourist behavior. The legendarily debauched Bangkok actually has a midnight curfew, except for places that cater to visitors. Men should keep their tops on, but that hasn’t stopped crews of Aussies on spring break. They do not, however, tolerate criticism or offenses towards the royal family. This prohibition extends so far that in 2012 a mentally ill woman from New Zealand, while visiting with her family, was jailed for appearing to make an obscene gesture at a picture of the king. So, go forth and have fun, but don’t make the royals angry.
Perhaps the best place to start an SE Asian trip. We always use it as a hub for our trips, then after some attitude and time zone change, we head off to Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Nepal, or Burma. They love Americans and the food and tailored clothing are affordable!