Malaysia could be on your list of adventurous traveling destinations for so many reasons. They are known for their beaches and rainforests with a rich heritage culture, loads of activities, and sites to see. As for activities, they have big caves and old temples to visit, some of which are pretty whacky and scary. Malaysia also has lots of exotic foods to try.
Malaysians believe that if you visit their country, you will instantly fall in love with it. According to the website Malaysia.travel, “To know Malaysia is to love Malaysia.” Their slogan “Malaysia, truly Asia” proves that in the country one can discover a convergence of different races—Indians, Malays, Chinese, and many other—that altogether live peacefully and harmoniously. With the diversity of cultures that thrive in Malaysia, it should come as no surprise that it is home to hundreds of colorful festivals. Because of this, Malaysians naturally love to socialize and celebrate.
If you’ve never been to Malaysia before or even if you have already visited it, you might want to consider reading this list of 15 disturbing facts Malaysians don’t want you know about their country. The list includes some pretty weird things, including strange superstitions, icky eating habits (just a warning, worms are involved), and growing and building the largest things on Earth.
15. They Have The Grossest Infestation Of Cockroaches
Thriving in one of the caves of Malaysia, Gomantong Cave in Sabah, are cockroaches in abundance. In fact, the worst infestation in the world. They are all there fighting for food from bat droppings and thriving from the wet environment. Remind me never to visit this large cave in my life. What sounds worse than bat droppings from the ceiling and cockroaches swarming at your feet?
It gets worse. Not only do they have the worst infestation of cockroaches in the world! They have a problem with large snakes too. Drum roll, please! King Cobras. Yes, you guessed it right. The largest venomous snake in the world is found in Malaysia. The longest King Cobra was found at Port Dickson in 1937. It was so huge that they captured it and took it to a zoo in London where it grew to 5. 71 meters.
14. Practice Of Needles Under The Skin!
Here is a practice that you do not want to try! Shamans practice cosmetic sorcery by poking gold, silver, or precious metals underneath their skin. This practice developed from the pre-Islamization era of Malaysia and Indonesia. This is meant to make the Shaman who partakes in this practice of poking himself with needles never die. This practice is also meant to prevent his spouse from cheating on him. It’s also believed to heal his ailments and infections in the body and bring everlasting youth and beauty. Very strong claims for a simple weird practice of poking yourself.
13. Crazy Flying Records
You might not have heard much about Malaysia and its accomplishments, but this one was quite the real deal. Dr. Shikh Muszaphar Shukor is an astronaut from Malaysia. He was practicing Ramadan when he was meant to fly to space. He didn’t let this deter him. In fact, he actually became the first Muslim astronaut to practice Ramadan while in space.
Think that’s crazy? They also had the youngest pilot fly around the world by himself. Captain James Anthony Tan was only twenty-one years old when he chose to fly around the world all by himself in 2013. He flew a thirty-year-old Cessna 210 Eagle aircraft for twenty-two miles around twenty-one countries in fifty days! Talk about guts, I would be too scared to fly a plane full stop.
12. Weird Superstitions
Old beliefs do not die easily. For instance, Malaysians are still afraid of the number four. If you go to Malaysia, you will find that in lifts and on unit floors the number four doesn’t exist. They usually replace this with 3A. This apparently comes from the old superstition that the number four sounds similar in phonetics to the word death.
On the other hand, they see the number eight with a lot of favor, mostly because the Cantonese pronunciation sounds like ‘batt’ sounds similar to ‘faat’ which refers to wealth and prosperity. So impressed are they with this number that you’ll often see men driving around with the number eight prominently on their number plates.
They have many superstitions. Apparently, according to ancient belief, if a cat jumps over a coffin with a dead person inside before the coffin is buried, the man will come back to life! This doesn’t sound like a very hard feat to bring someone’s life back. I wonder why they don’t try to have more cats jump over coffins, like a regular ritual at burial services.
11. They Grow Some Of The Biggest Things In The World
Though not a very large country, Malaysia grows some of the most gigantic things in the world. Found naturally in Malaysia is the biggest flower in the whole world known as the Rafflesia. They also have the biggest undivided leaf, the Alocasia Macrorrhiza from Tawau, in Sabah. They have the largest cave chamber in existence, known as the Sarawak Chamber at Gunung Mulu National Park. The cave chamber covers an area of 1.66 million square feet! This was discovered in January 1981 by three British cavers during their Mulu eighty expedition. You certainly wouldn’t want to get lost in there. Apart from that, they also have the largest insect in the world—a stick bug. Named as Chan’s Megastick, the stick bug measures up to 56.6 centimeters. The bug was discovered in 1989 by a naturalist, Datuk Chan Chew Lun, in Sabah. After having read about all of these massive things, I’m sure you couldn’t decide whether to consider this cool or freaky. It makes one wonder why almost everything grows gigantic in Malaysia?
10. They Have An Old Custom Involving Babies And Worms
Malaysia is known as a place of rich heritage and culture. Some of their cultural traditions are a bit stranger than you would imagine. For instance, traditionally in Iban communities in Malaysia, babies and young children are referred to as ‘ulat’ until they are given a name of their own. The word ‘ulat’ actually means worm! Somehow, this is meant to be given in an affectionate way. The idea of having a generic nickname until an official name is decided on was actually common for many traditional cultures. The use of the nickname worm is rather odd, though. If it was a bit of a cooler nickname like ‘precious’ or ‘cool kid’, then I wouldn’t mind adopting a tradition like this. I think it’s much better than everybody referring to the baby as an ‘it’ for the first few days or weeks (some people take an awfully long time to decide on their baby’s name).
9. They Make The Biggest Things
Ever worried about getting lost on a long endless road? Well that fear might actually come true if you stay in Malaysia. They have made the longest highways in the world. In fact, the total length of their highways is 40,934 miles. That’s more than the circumference of the earth at 24,901 miles! The plan was to make it easier to get around, but making roads longer than the entire earth is just plain freaky.
As if the 40,934-mile highway wasn’t enough, they also designed the biggest roundabout in existence, the Persiaran Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah in Putrajaya. It’s not just me that gets lost reading these really long names, is it? Its diameter is 2.7 miles (3.5 km).
In 2015, they won a Guinness World Record for the largest hotel in the world known as Genting’s First World Hotel. It has three stars and has 7,351 rooms. This sounds like a place worth staying, doesn’t it?
8. First To Try This Crazy New Medical Procedure
You probably wouldn’t guess it but the first arm and hand transplant was actually performed in Malaysia on a little girl. Up until this moment, only hand transplants are done. This procedure took place with Dr. V. Pathmanathan in charge of the team. They operated on 18 May 2000 at Selayang Hospital on a baby girl only one month after she was born. Her name was Chong Lih Ying. Her new arm and hand was actually from her identical twin sister who died at birth from severe brain damage. Only five months later, she was already waving both of her hands and cuddling her teddies. The surgeon responsible believed that the surgery would be successful only because they had used the identical twin’s limb so this means they have similar cells and come from the same blood group. I guess there’s always a silver lining in the dark cloud.
7. Boats Capsizing
They have boats capsizing. According to a post from news.com.au in January 2017, “A boat ferrying 40 people from Indonesia has capsized off Malaysia’s coast, killing at least nine people and leaving nearly 30 were missing. . .The agency said a combination of overloading and bad weather and heavy seas were believed to have caused the accident.” Apparently, this incident was not the only occurrence of boats capsizing. A number of similar accidents have occurred along the waterways of Indonesia and Malaysia. More often than not, these accidents are caused by overloading of ferryboats carrying laborers who seek for work in Malaysian plantations and factories. According to a news article, in November 2016, “more than half of the 101 passengers aboard a boat died after it hit a reef and sank off the Indonesian island of Batam, south of Singapore. Four months earlier, a boat sank while en-route to Batam. Malaysian authorities recovered eight bodies and rescued 34 people.”
6. They Don’t Take Jokes Lightly
If you’re planning to go on a vacation in Malaysia and see all the terrific and great sites of the land, always bear in mind that their law system is rather very strict. And if you’re caught being very silly, you might just end up in jail. In October 2016, according to 9news, nine Australian men were put in prison for stripping down to colorful Speedo trunks in the design of the Malaysian flag. As if that wasn’t enough, they drank beer out of their shoes and sang in a public place during celebrations at the Grand Prix. While the crowd found them the pinnacle of amusement and joy, many cheering on and taking selfies with them, the authorities put them directly in prison. Authorities said that they would receive their sentence with a possibility of getting out easily by simply paying a fine. However, there’s still a greater possibility of being sentenced up to two years of prison “with intentional insult to breach the peace.”
5. Malaysian Delicacy Will Make You Want To Vomit
Okay so when I read this strange fact, I actually had to stop myself from gagging. In East Malaysia, they have a delicacy that you never want to try. Although they are said to have a creamy consistency and not taste half as bad as they sound, would you still want to go all the way to the country and eat these rather stout and “juicy” worms? Probably not! Mostly eaten as a treat in Sabah and Sarawak’s native tribes are the larvae of sago worms. Thankfully, this has mostly been phased out in modern menus around the country, though you can still find them stir-fried, roasted, or simply raw at weekly markets and at tourist attractions! Why tourist attractions? Leave it for the old tribes please. But yes, you can find them at tourist attractions like Monsopiad Cultural Village where they’re served to the tourists as part of their program. Maybe this is why they name their babies after worms. This is the absolute most appealing picture I could find. Just try Googling larvae sago worms and imagine eating them raw. Bon Appetit!
4. They Have Fruit That Stinks
The Durian fruit, a real charm in Malaysia. These were banned from traveling on the Singapore Mass Transit because of their intense odor even when still unopened. You either love the fruit or you hate it. And for most, it’s a hate relationship. Though in Malaysia, most people love this fruit and some even love the smell. When they are in season, they have durian fruit buffets that people flock to to eat as many durians as they want. A Malaysian source still suggested bringing mouthwash along. According to food writer Richard Sterling, “Its odor is best described as pig-sh*t, turpentine and onions, garnished with a gym sock. It can be smelled from yards away. Despite its great local popularity, the raw fruit is forbidden from some establishments such as hotels, subways and airports, including public transportation in Southeast Asia.” Anthony Bourdain calls it “indescribable, something you will either love or despise. … Your breath will smell as if you’d been French-kissing your dead grandmother.” Judging from what I’m hearing, I’d rather give this fruit a miss.
3. Cat Museum In A City Named After Cats
Open from 9am to 5pm every day, this is a cat lover’s dream coming true. Some visitors have complained online that it’s rather overpriced for a dingy rundown place with not so much to see. Though according to their website, they only charge for photos and filming (perhaps these charges are outrageous?). According to Sarawaktourism.com, “The World’s first Cat Museum, devoted to all things feline, is in Petra Jaya in the Kuching City North City Hall. Cat lovers will find a range of exhibits, photos, feline art and cat souvenirs; over 4,000 of them. The museum is housed on the ground on the City Hall Building, spread over four galleries covering a total area of 1,035 sq meter.” The cat is said to be a good luck charm, so I guess they decided to make a museum of 4000 things of good luck! Personally I would much rather visit a couple of cute little kittens at a pet shop or a cat café than go through 1,035 square meters of souvenirs and paintings of old cats.
2. Venomous Snake Temple
If you weren’t freaked out enough to hear that Malaysia had the largest snakes on record, then maybe the fact that they actually have a venomous snake temple for tourists to visit will make you a little…okay maybe not so little…uneasy. The Penanag Snake Temple is said to house venomous pit vipers and green tree snakes. Upon entering the temple, one can see a big incense burner filling the main prayer hall with smoke. The smoke emitted by these incense burners tranquilizes the serpents and makes them appear motionless or even asleep. Additionally, at the start of the temple, there are tanks that hold pythons and cobras. This is meant to be the best spot to get a photo. This temple is one of the most popular tourist attractions and there’s only a small fee to visit. Someone would have to pay me more than a large fee to get me to even consider visiting that temple.
1. Mosquito Virus “Zika”
According to an article from new.com.au in September 2016, Malaysia is on high alert for the Zika virus. Catching a virus from a mosquito is alarming as they are so small and unassuming. Sure they usually annoy you with their itchy bites, but how do you even avoid them when they’re flying around. If you’re traveling to Malaysia, make sure to bring a load of mosquito repellents. Actually, Malaysia put up a poster at Kuala Lumpur International Airport warning people and advising tourists to be extremely careful by being fully covered in clothing with long sleeves and pants. They’ve also advised tourists to avoid having unprotected sex when they return home for eight weeks. Zika virus is caused by mosquitoes and can leave you with an awful fever.