Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Malaysia’s lead is evaporating

I spent most of the last two weeks in Hanoi and north Vietnam, with a short stop in Singapore. Singapore is as efficient as usual, Hanoi was an eye-opener. Malaysia is not as advanced as we think it is. Or put another way, the rest of Asia is far catching up.

The experience starts with the taxis. Getting one is a breeze, even at the airport. No need to brave touts, nor buy coupons and endure long waits for “official airport taxis”. Just walk straight out and into a regular cab. The cab, by the way, is a nice, spacious newish 1.6-litre Japanese car. Not a cramped, rattling Proton which should have been long-retired.

To help keep cabbies honest, the taxi meters don’t just click off the increasing Dong fare, they also show the distance traveled and time taken, so you know if you’re being taken for a ride. Such a simple solution to meter-rigging. I wonder why we don’t implement this in Malaysia.

The hotel was a pleasant surprise. We’d booked the 3-star Classic Hotel for US$35 (RM130) per night. It looked pretty good on the website, but we were prepared to be disappointed. We weren’t. We got a nice, clean spacious room complete with minibar and flat-screen tv. But what took the cake was a computer, together with free internet access!

I couldn’t help but think of my last local 3-star experience, at an exotically-named hotel in Langkawi. It was so exotic, there was no washbasin in the bathroom! We had to spit straight onto the bathroom floor. One wonders how a ‘hotel’ like that got final operating approvals. Malaysia boleh.

Moving on to the food, any hesitancies we had about street food vanished when we saw the hawkers. The stalls and surroundings were generally cleaner than in Malaysia. Little litter, no obvious rats or cockroaches. And that goes for their markets too.

There are issues of course, including rogue taxi drivers. We were advised to use only a few specific taxi companies. We did, and encountered no problems. Service in the shops and cafes was, in our experience, generally surly or at best, not friendly. But there were gems, including one nice hole-in-the-wall café-owner who took a dish back and waived the charge when we said it wasn’t to our liking.

I can’t help but think it won’t be long before the tables are turned, and travel guide-books to Malaysia become fraught with the warnings we’d become accustomed to when visiting our our less-developed neighbours. Beware of the taxi drivers; street crime is a problem – don’t carry handbags; be very careful with the local food and water – eat only well-cooked food and drink bottled water ….

And one final observation - while some Malaysians are still uncomfortable with the English language, many Vietnamese are eager to pick it up. One cannot accuse them of being unnationalistic. This is a nation that defeated invaders ranging from the Chinese to the French and the Americans. Yet it is enthusiastically embracing the language of its most recent enemy. There is no emotional baggage associated with English. It is the language of commerce and science, and if you want to pursue the path of material success mastery of English is the way to go.


Lee Wee Tak said...

Vietnam is coming along fine because they are hungry enough and not shackled by anti-logic racist consideration.

fred said...

Good to see you back in action. Hmm... Vietnam is now on my list of place to visit. My hesitation is now gone after reading your posting. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog, keep it up.

Anonymous said...

hi Teh,

Nice holiday description.
to change local mindset pertaining to racial divides, language proficiency and so call priviledges handed down by all powerful political ruler:

1. utusan reverse its role to brainwash its people. tell bumi success stories over and over again
2. govt use symbols of success such as Petronas shd be given all its priviledges such as investment
3. power and controls - govt done well in selecting best bumi brains but very poor governance with no independent benchmark.

You would say, fat chance!THEN why not start with your blog or Rockets media instruments. Tell the Bumis that Rocket support ALL Malaysian.

Your barrier: all your top NON-Bumi leaders! your party's strength is parodoxically your weakness.


Anonymous said...


Hi Tony,

You have righteous zeal for justice. A quality - rarity! However, "its the economy stup#d'" so say Ronald Reagan.

PR has total control in Selangor. Has PR delivered economically? We as peasants, certainly don't feel it.

x Lower SMIs registration
x Lower employment
x Lower investments - drastically -80% year on year
x Higher inflation
x worsening traffic congestions [despite higher unemployment]
x we can't entrust you with Federal Govt powers when at state level, you have delivered a little bit more of 20L free water.
x DAP economic advisor, Mr Teh Chi Chang, use arm-chair criticisms. WHy not advise S'gor PR to achieve economic progress? Constructive!
x ceramahs : nice and even entertaining, for what I should be angry at government when i am struggling to fill my tummy in PR's government here?"

"Its the economy, stup#d" (Ronald Reagan, 1988)

Look at Singapore's stock exchange that surpassed us in performance and value!! for a small nation less than 20% our population. Lee KY is ruthless autocrat, but he lifted S'pore economy terming it as a speed boat- won landslide victory.

Imagine, S'pore Stock Exchg outperforming us with S$179 billion of active foreign funds! We support our Bursa with own money - EPF,Govt Bonds, LTAT. A joke. why foreign investors not support YTL? IOI? KLK? I&P? S DArby? Genting (HQ in KL)? Maybank? PBB? Gamuda? all resides in S'gor.

if your reply is "vote us as Federal Govt, then we show you" then its scary for at state level with all the state executive powers, its a paltry track record.

if you blame global meltdown, benchmark with S'pore, harder hit by recession - but recovered faster. Bear in mind, M'sia Bursa has NOT surpassed its 1994 peak - til present. in your admin of 3 years, its nothing to shout.

We are watching with deep dissapointment with PR economic agenda, while it has high marks for political agenda. Quick glance at your articles, 70% are criticisms. You are government NOW. Show us what you are made of.

Malaysian - less hopeful now.





"Recession is when your neighbour loses his job. Depression is when you lose yours." - Ronald Reagan, 1984

Anonymous said...

Unless corruption nails them, Vietnam has the potential to overtake both Malaysia and Thailand as regional economic power. The literacy rate might even be higher than Malaysia. The people are more hardworking.

Still, it is only a potential. Since joining WTO, the prices have all gone up. Some rogue taxi drivers will try to make a quick one off tourist. The amount of investment dollars pouring in encouraged corruption. People in Vietnam were poorer 6 years ago but they also had more dignity. Let's hope that they get it right.

Glad you enjoyed the trip. You should visit Laos.