Right. I’ve been to Kuala Lumpur, and Penang. Kuala Lumpur has some mad motorists, dengue fever, heat and humidity, the Twin Towers, and Chinatown.
Malaysia has a Western veneer overlaying an uneasy truce between the dominant Malays and the rest. It is not a good place to get arrested in. As I write there is a controversy over some overly-keen police chief shaving the heads of a group of middle-aged Chinese men who were celebrating their New Year with a game of Mah-Jonng. Their crime: they seemed to be gambling. They said they were not playing for money. Regardless, they were punished before being tried.
Bribing police to get out of minor traffic offences is common, I understand. It is not a place to have legal problems. Things can get personal. Political influence and money counts for a lot. They have the remains of the British legal system, but not the spirit that informs it. This is an Islamic country that realises that if it harasses non-Muslims (the Chinese, especially) the economy will suffer.
If you get sick, I understand the island of Penang has some good private hospitals. White men (Orang Putay, or Mat Salay [my spellings]) are conspicuous by their rarity here. I was dressed in white, with long trousers, and wore a Panama hat. My strategy is, if you’re gong to be visible, be _very_ visible. Let them think you’re a bit of a character, and life becomes easier. Not hard for me, as I am(!)
Food is exotic, tasty, cheap and diverse. My paranoia is about hygiene. If it’s served hot I suppose it’s OK. A good place for foreigners is Batu Feringghi on Penang island. It has the highest concentration of foreigners, nice hotels, and a good night market for bootleg DVDs, clothesÂ? and knick-knacks. The island is small, and can be toured in a day or two with a good guide.