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Malaysia and Singapore. The backpacker’s view.

Malaysia and Singapore. The backpacker’s view.

Malaysia and Singapore share a lot of common cultures, food and perhaps language. However, under the untrained eye or to foreigners who fist set foot in South East Asia, these commonalities are unrecognizable. The history that ties these two nations dates back to the mid 1960’s. Malaysia and Singapore were once a single country under Malaya. Due to differences in governance and civil differences, Singapore is then voted out of Malaya, declaring its independence. Fifty three years went by after the borders are drawn. Things changed but still some things will never change.

Like the American’s and Canadian’s, we have some sort of rivalry when it comes to culture, food and about everything else. Personally, as a Malaysian, I am a little bias when it comes to Singapore versus Malaysia. So let me shine a light on the typical habits, differences and quirky between us two.

Malaysians are bad-asses.



 Malaysians are daredevils. We cross roads without zebra crossings or pedestrian lights. If we want to get to the other side of the road, we just cross the damn road. Unlike our brothers in Singapore, the rigid structure whom they are accustomed with creates a need for them to use systems. If there is a zebra crossing, you should cross. If there isn’t one, walk ahead until you find one. If there is something which you would do or achieve, Malaysia is the place where everything is possible, arguable and always attainable if you could find your way. 

Singapore is super safe.



The crime rate in Singapore is astonishing low. You are safe to wander off the streets without thinking twice of being mugged. However, on the other side of the Johor strait, you’ll be asking for it if you flaunting your Hermes bag in the streets. You should be lucky if they only too your bag, in most instances, mugging injuries are common and sometimes severe. The downside of Malaysia is not always this ugly but you would be better off if you think a step or two ahead about your safety. 

Singaporean food is Malaysian’s food minus the richness.



 Now, when it comes to food, things get serious. Perhaps heated up between us both between who has the best chicken rice, Nasi Lemak and also most of all the best chili crabSo lets start with the facts. Singapore was once a state in Malaysia. We share the same roots and the same food thus, as a state of Malaysia. The food you guys have is indeed Malaysian food. The difference between Singaporean food and Malaysian food is the flavor. To us Malaysians, food in Singapore is bland. Spite of Singaporean’s government strict policies on the health of their citizens, the ingredients in Singaporean foods taste different. In Malaysia, as long as it tastes good, has a kick in flavor, we pretty much dont give a damn about health.


Singapore’s public transport perfection.



 Getting around in Singapore is a so easy, it does not make any sense at all to get a car. Due to its small real estate, the Singaporean government poses high tariffs on cars and car ownership permits. Hence, the whole city is perfectly interconnected with an array of bus and rail lines. Whereas in Malaysia, good luck on getting around without a car or a bike. Busses here are not as efficient as your neghbours. Trains get stuck due to floods. Busses are often not on time and places where we want to go are often unreachable via public transport. Thank your lucky stars that Uber and Grab is here to solve this issue. However, we Malaysian’s cant live without out own personal transport. I got to give it to Singapore a job well done indeed.

Malaysia’s laid back antics.



 Malaysia is a place where people come to chill. Our laid back attitude might portray as unambitious and not fueled by the drive of the urban life like the Singaporeans. However, our approachable nature and our community knitted closeness shines against our island neighbors. This does not only apply to foreigners who first step foot into this country. Singaporeans love to spend their weekends here, sampling Malaysian foods, drive their fast cars on our long stretched highways to get away from the packed city life back home. Im not saying that all Singaporeans are unfriendly and cold however, it might seem to have that portray as if everyone is on a rush to get somewhere and their individualistic pace of life.

Money. The ultimate divide.



 While the standard of living in Singapore is utterly ridiculous to a backpacker’s budget. Singapore is one of the most advance nations in the world, with a strong currency and high salary ratio. From a perspective on a plane hopping traveler, it will cause a huge dent on your budget. While we have similar cultures, food and perhaps a little more chilled setback, Malaysia is a place where it get sticky. The standard of living is relatively low. Food is super affordable, accommodation is decent for the price and you have so much more to see. Though it is not as well thought out as the urban perfection of Sinagpore, however, having some grit to its urban environment gives Kuala Lumpur its character. A plate of noodles in Singapore will set you back $3 dollars while in Malaysia, it would only cost you about half the amount.

Malaysia and its other gems.



 Singapore is a tiny island with their own little finds of amazing attractions like Marina Bay, Gardens by the Bay and their great zoos and Universal studios. On the contrary, Malaysia is the playground for the true travelers. Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur has various attractions on its own, like the Petronas towers, the beautiful Islamic Arts Museum and many more. But what it triumphs is the vast choices we have to offer when it comes to destinations. Taking a little drive out of the main city could put you in another spectrum of what this country has to offer. The hills in Cameron Highlands, to the clear waters of our East Coast islands gives it a variety of play when it comes to travelling. The bigger question is where would you want to go and what would you like to experience. Fishing villages, paddy fields and vast century old forests are not too hard to find in Malaysia. There are countless attractions all over the country for you to explore and fall in love with. To us backpackers, what we strive for is variety and Malaysia’s is an amazing playground for all of that.

The verdict. 

Singapore is a well oiled urbanized powerhouse with the best infrastructure, the most advanced and efficient systems and the best ethics all around. Despite the well though structure, it does have its downfalls with being a little bit too pricey and its restrictiveness. As a backpacker, an amid traveler and also a passionate writer, I feel that the essence of travelling is beyond well thought concrete greatness and efficiency. What I strive for are options, character and the warmth of the people and their pace. After all, the main motive of travelling is to have fun, make friends and create memories. If you are stuck to choose between choosing Malaysia or Singapore or forgoing one for another, I suggest that you dip your toes in both and reflect on this down to earth post.
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