As a DE in Malaysia and Kuala Lumpur folks are going ask me to compare Thailand and Malaysia following the recent trip to Thailand and ask me to say which I liked best. Even if it is rather like saying which of your children or pets do you love most.
Both countries each has its own unique qualities. You can not go to one expecting to find the other.
Thailand wins hands down on beaches. Malaysia does not compare, even the wonderful beaches in Borneo. The water is clean and clear and snorkelling possible right off hotel beach even in the busiest resorts whilst Malaysia is not so lucky.
Both are equal contenders for food. There is more ‘street’ food in Thailand and there is more choice of cheap local food around; whilst in Malaysia you get a wonderful eclectic mix of Malaysia, Thai, South East Asian, Chinese and Indian. All are very, very tasty.
Shopping, well, Thailand gets it, just, and that is because of the markets and MBK. Although the modern malls are the same the world round, and most modern malls you could be anywhere, Bluewater in the UK, or the Pavilion in Malaysia or Central World in Thailand, or Westfields in Australia. The brands and shops are pretty global and in the modern malls only the signs give the indication where you are.
Clothes sizing for men is pretty standard and Mr Mitch can buy jeans and shirts anywhere. Ladies clothes is less tailored to the western figure (curves) and unless you are a fairly petite UK 8/10 you will have limited choice but there is stuff out there if you look in both Malaysia and Thailand. Although FOS in Malaysia does have some larger sizes regularly on their rails. Shoes are everywhere and in a range of sizes except some of the ladies with large feet will have limited choice. There is a great choice of hi-end, mid-range and replica accessories for men and women everywhere and similarly priced.
Generally we found that the cost of clothes is about the same as the UK in both Malaysia and Thailand, be it the original item or replicas. Given the cheap price of clothes and other products in the UK and the weak pound when travelling, we often found we were actually paying more than we could at home.
Bargaining is a necessity in SE Asia, and you will get a better deal the more you buy. Although I am not sure that even I have a need for 5 handbags that are identical! There are some great replica products and some absolute rotters in both countries, shop wisely and expect to pay more for the better stuff, again prices are about the same.
There are some lovely souvenirs in both, and the usual household stuff like cushion covers and table runners, which are popular, and DVD prices are pretty similar throughout both Malaysia and Thailand.
We always use local laundries in both countries and avoided the expensive hotel laundry fees. You will get a really good deal by the kilo for washing, and washing and ironing. Came back clean and fresh.
Hotels are pretty standard for both countries, and not much to choose, a bad 3* and a wonderful 5* are pretty much the same the world round. You do find many more really nice smaller boutique hotels in Thailand – and they are a real pleasure.
Both countries have amazing sights both natural and man made. There is a great choice of things to see and do, and as what to see and do is a very personal thing no one could get bored in either as long as they have done their homework.
Both countries are easy to get round, internal flights are cheap and easy. Buses and ferries are plentiful.
Speaking a few words of Thai is a benefit, even to say yes, no, and thank you, but in hotels, pharmacies, airports etc everyone speaks some English. Whilst in Malaysia the majority speak English so it’s no problem. A smile is a universal greeting and appreciated everywhere.
Both countries felt safe for tourist; at no time did we feel in anyway concerned about our wellbeing.
We have used public transport in both countries without too many incidents. We used taxi, and whilst they are far worse in Kuala Lumpur in wanting to rip you off, we did not have any issues in Bangkok or Thailand in general.
So as I said at the beginning, it is like asking which of your children you love best. You can’t answer it. Please don’t go to one expecting the other. But if you do plenty of reading and research you will see which one is for you. Or you might be like us and love them both for what they are.