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Kampot Zipline Adventure

Kampot Zipline River Park in Cambodia offering cheap ziplining adventures

A New Adventure in Town

zipline instructor with rope, harness, and carabiners

Alexis

We met up with French native Alexis to try his all new zipline adventure on the Kampot River in Cambodia. Kampot Zipline River Park officially opened on the 16th of March 2016, and contrary to what you may think, this action-packed experience receives most of its customers among Cambodian thrill-seekers. So far, 80 percent of the customers have been Cambodians, while the remains 20 percent have been expats living in Cambodia and foreign travelers visiting Kampot.

KAMPOT ZIPLINE
Area:
  Kampot River, Cambodia
Opened: March 2016
Price: USD 5$ (super cheap, right!)
Price includes: Safety equipment, instructions, tree walk, ziplining, and return boat
Duration: Approx. 30 minutes
Conditions: Minimum height 120 cm, maximum weight 110 kg 

As Alexis says, the River Park gives Cambodians a unique opportunity to try out ziplining in a fun and safe environment while not having to empty their pockets. The experience currently costs only 5 USD and includes safety equipment and instructions, an exciting walk up the spiralling bamboo stairway to the zipline platform at the top of a tall tree, ziplining over the Kampot river, and a pleasant rowing trip back across the river.

Zipline Gallery from Kampot Zipline River Park

Alexis worked on the project for 6 months before the grand opening. He has constructed the setup himself to ensure that every single step in the experience is smooth and secure, and every morning he conducts safety checks. Kampot Zipline has received local publicity through newspapers, TV, and a good dose of social media sharing by Cambodians who are eager to share their exhilarating adventure over the Kampot River.

The plan is to expand the experience with a return zipline journey along with new fun trials on the riverside.

If you are in the Kampot area in southern Cambodia, don’t miss your chance to try out this new and exciting experience at the River Park.

Kampot Ziplining – Practical Information

Since the Kampot Zipline adventure requires a bit of climbing and balancing it is advised only for persons in a good physical condition. The experience will not boost your adrenaline level to a maximum like a bungyjump, but you will challenge yourself if you have a mild fear of heights. The minimum height of participants is 120 cm, while the zipline is suitable for people weighing up to 110 kg. Do note that the more you weigh, the more speed you will gain on the journey over the river, and the closer your feet will be to reaching the river water.

More About Kampot Zipline River Park

If you like more information, images, and videos from this zipline adventure, check out their facebook page.

Beach Poetry – Sentiments from the Shore

Examples of beach poetry and quotes

That Special Place where Sea meets Land

The beach always seems to bring out the poet in people. The beach is a symbol of transitions. It is a place of goodbye’s and welcome’s, dangers and safety, and vast opportunities stretching as far as the horizon. It is a place of contemplation, meditation, rhythm, and serenity. It is a place of activity, entertainment, and play.

99 Problems, But a Beach Ain’t One…

Throughout the centuries, whatever people have associated with the beach, it has brought them inspiration and sentiments. It is no surprise that the sea, the waves, the sand, and the breeze have been the subject of countless songs, poems, and quotes.

An Easy Catch

We have gathered the most beautiful, fun, and tacky examples of beach poetry. In fact, it did not take us long to find them all represented by doing a few searches. If you are in need of a little beach poetry to express your feelings or let your mind wander to the shore, take a look at our new Beach Quotes and Poetry section.

We guarantee that there is a quote for you! Or even better, share your greatest beach poem with the rest of us in the comment section. Happy daydreaming.

Travel Journalists – The Black Sheep of the Travel Industry

Hotel review of travel journalists with notebook and pen. Image by http://Beachmeter.com.

The Travel Journalists are Coming

The lodge manager gave me a smile and a small nod, as I said good morning to him. His face immediately went back to the worried expression he had had before I entered. His mind was somewhere else, and the slight discomfort was surrounding all the lodge.

He saw my questioning look and said: “We have a group of travel journalists coming today.” He smiled sheepishly. He didn’t have to say more. We both knew.

The Fear of Contamination

Hotels and tour agencies fear travel journalists. Everyone in the tourism industry knows it – at least everyone but the journalists themselves. But why?

Their standards are higher than most ordinary tourists’ and they are much harder to impress!

Travel journalists are used to receiving a little extra attention when they are invited to try out travel products and services. They get room upgrades, extra wide smiles, requests are met, names and titles are remembered. They are used to receiving special treatment, and perhaps begin to expect that as their journalism careers progress. Put simply, their standards are higher than most ordinary tourists’ and they are much harder to impress.

If hotels have a slight fear of travel journalists, they are terrified by the thought of hosting a group of them. One comment about a dusty spot on the floor, squeaky noises from the aircondition, or an under-cooked carrot can contaminate the conversations, and soon everyone is adding up on the pile of things that could be improved at the hotel. A group of guests with negative impressions of the hotel is bad enough. Now imagine what a group of journalists who spread these sentiments can do to your travel business.

The Pen of Truth

When the travel journalists put pen to paper and publish their reviews in public media, that’s when their tourism hosts learn their fate. It’s a bit like that moment when you receive your exam score and learn whether or not you dodged a bullet; that is, until the next time you’ll be put on trial.

As the travel journalist writes his or her review, it will guide readers’ impression of the hotel or tourism service, and be a big influencer in their travel decision-making. This is why the tourism industry needs travel journalists. They present an opportunity for them to showcase what they are about and to communicate this to a much bigger crowd of potential guests. Engaging with travel journalists presents risks and rewards.

A Moment of Phew!

The travel journalists hurried on to their next item on their busy travel itinerary. This group had been forgiving, nature had shown them extraordinary wildlife to write about, the guide’s jokes had caught on, and the mood had been pleasant throughout. The lodge returned to equilibrium and once again smiles were warm and the atmosphere was jovial. The reviews would surely be good.

This time!

A New Era of Travel Experts

We are in a new era of travel reviewers and experts. The judgements of fellow travelers have become monumental in our travel choices. We perceive fellow travelers as honest and unbiased in their reviews of hotels and travel destinations. As reviewers and travel bloggers have taken over much of the functions of traditional travel journalists, the power once held by the latter is diminishing.

However, instead of pampering a group of travel journalists once a while, hotels are now being weighed, reviewed, and evaluated by everyone all the time.

Maybe the travel journalists were not so bad after all?

How to Deal With Travel Writers?

There is not much information on the actual perception of travel journalists within the travel industry. There is however a very interesting talk about travel writers by Mark Chesnut where he examines the evolution of travel journalism, the increasingly blurred lines between travel journalists and travel bloggers, and how to find good travel writers.

Have you encountered travel journalists or bloggers? Feel free to share your experiences below.

Selingan Turtle Island – The Complete Experience Guide

Baby turtle hatchling in the sand at Selingan Turtle Island in the Sulu Sea of Borneo. Photo by Beachmeter.com.

A Small Island in the Sulu Sea of Malaysian Borneo

One of three small islands in the Turtle Islands Park, Selingan “Turtle” Island invites travelers to witness a magical wildlife experience. Green turtles and hawksbill turtles come ashore to lay eggs after the sun has set and darkness covers the little island.

Selingan Turtle Island (Pulau Selingan) aerial view

Aerial view of Selingan Island. Photo by Grete Howard.

SELINGAN TURTLE ISLAND
Area:
  8 hectares (approx. 200 x 400 m)
Location: Sulu Sea, 40 km north of Sandakan
Population: Only rangers and lodge staff
Accommodation: 1 lodge with 24 basic, but comfy guest rooms
Main attraction: Green and Hawksbill turtles (laying eggs and hatching)
Likelihood of witnessing turtles: >99% 

Waiting for the Gong

We are all done with our dinner meal, a buffet with options for all tastes and lots of fruits to end it on. We have heard the instructions: Do not interfere with any turtles approaching from sea, be quiet as you experience the scene, stay with the group, follow the directions from the ranger etc. No one is talking, not even the talkative old British couple with whom we had shared stories. 40 people waiting in quiet anticipation. Our small island was swallowed by darkness a few hours ago, and it could happen anytime. Most people were hoping for an early sighting in order to catch as much sleep as possible, before the early morning rise.

GONG!

Initial panic as everyone got up from their chairs and looked around as if they had forgotten the instructions. The rangers took charge, and we all followed their flashlights down towards the beach. A ranger had spotted the first green turtle appearing from the sea to dig a large hole in the sand, position herself, and then lay her eggs. We stood in a half circle around the big turtle as the rangers directed their torches at the newly dug turtle nest. One by one the eggs fell into the pit. Now and then a ranger would carefully remove the eggs and put them in a bucket.

Turtles laying eggs are in a trance, their actions totally controlled by their natural instincts. We were informed that once the egg laying started, they would not mind the people around them or anything else for that matter. We followed a ranger back to the hatchery, as other rangers continued to collect eggs from turtles.

A hole had been prepared at the hatchery. The eggs were lowered into the sand and carefully covered up. In two months, hopefully, small baby turtles would start to stir the sand trying to dig themselves out in search of the sea. We didn’t have to wait two months. The baby turtles from a previous nesting had hatched and they were now ready to start their turtle life. Once again we went down to the beach where cute baby turtles were released and directed to sea by the helping rangers. The Sulu Sea had once again been enriched with a batch of baby turtles in an effort to defy the odds of survival and to ensure that the dwindling sea turtle population will once again be strong and stable.

Early Morning Surprise

As soon as light broke, we got up. It is not uncommon to spot the last turtles laying their eggs in the early morning hours. We walked around the little island. There were plenty of turtle tracks, and it seemed like all the turtles had already returned to sea. That’s when we saw Molly, a large water monitor lizard. We kept a safe distance to the lizard, but Molly was clearly more interested in what lay beneath the sand.

We were somehow saddened to see Molly end the chances of survival with each egg she swallowed. Just the night before we witnessed the protection of turtle life, and right before us now a big lizard was feasting on unborn baby turtles. We passively watched as nature brutally worked through its routine as it has done for millions of years. After all, we agreed, we had come to assist wildlife not interfere with it.

Selingan Island: General Information

Selingan Island Resort

Selingan Turtle Island MapThe only people actually staying on Selingan Island are turtle rescue volunteers, researchers, rangers, and lodge staff. There are 24 guest rooms on the island. They are split into four buildings each with 6 rooms.  We were expecting very basic accommodation, but found the rooms to be spacious and comfortable. If you need a tv and a fridge, you are in the wrong place anyway. The rooms recently got aircondition, but to save the scarce energy on the small island, we suggest you only use the ceiling fan. If you need to cool down, a swim in the sea or a quick shower will do wonders.

The rooms are with twin-beds and as such they are designed for two people traveling together. If your travel party consists of more than two people, you need an extra room. The resort does have extra mattresses for children, so check beforehand if you are allowed to sleep in one room if that’s your preference.

Walking from the guest rooms towards the common visitor area, you pass the fenced hatchery, where collected eggs are kept safe from predators. The main building on Turtle Island is the lodge with common seating areas, information, and the restaurant. On an information screen in front of the entrance, you can see the latest details from the turtle hatchery: How many turtles laid eggs the previous nights and at what time, how many eggs were transferred to the protected hatchery, how many baby turtles hatched, and the accumulated number of turtle nests during the year.

More Than Turtles

Selingan Island is not only about turtles. The island itself is beautiful. It’s small enough to walk around in half an hour, but still big enough to find small secluded spots along the way. There is a designated area for snorkeling, and snorkel equipment for cheap rent. I don’t like boundaries when swimming in the sea, but I guess it helps keep the other parts of the island wild and the lifeguards can easily survey the swimmers. The sand is white and very smooth, the water is clear, and you can view other small islands in the horizon. The sunset was stunning.

Near the guest chalets there is a dirt football (soccer) field. You can join the rangers for a game, if you can bear the heat. There is also a volleyball net at the main building, which no one seemed to be using. If you want to learn more about turtle life there is an information centre above the cafeteria area.

Here are a few more images of our turtle island experience. Are you tempted to go?

Practical information

The trip is suitable for all ages. We were joined by families with young children as well as elderly couples. If you appreciate wildlife, soft white sand, and cute baby turtles, this experience is for you. A walk down to the beach is all the fitness you need to endure. The facilities are fairly simple, the guest rooms and the cafeteria could be more charming, but it’s more than sufficient to keep yourself comfortable. Go for the wildlife island experience, not the luxury. The guides are friendly and knowledgeable, sprinkled with a relaxed island mentality.
You can only book the turtle experience at Selingan Island through a travel agency. We can recommend Borneo Eco Tours which also has a number of other eco-friendly travel experiences on offer and competent guides. So if you were considering hiring a local fisherman to take you to the island, don’t. There is only one accommodation option on the small island, and the turtle experience is popular. This means that you should book well in advance and be prepared to re-arrange your Borneo itinerary around it. The price is pretty much fixed, but do check a few selling agents to make sure you pay the right price.

Each and every night Selingan Island is visited by egg-laying turtles. You can witness the turtles on any day of the year. 

The Selingan Island experience is part of a fixed 2 days / 1 night package with fullboard. Here is a rough itinerary:

Day 1:

  • Morning transfer from Sandakan Airport or hotel to the pier. A pleasant speedboat trip will take you directly to Selingan Island in less than an hour.
  • Check-in and information by your guide. The rest of the day is free at your own leisure. You can snorkel, take a walk around the island, and visit the turtle hatchery.
  • There is dinner in the evening, and then everyone awaits the signal from the rangers when they spot the first egg-laying turtle on the beach. Green turtles are most common, but the island does get hawksbill turtles as well. You witness the turtle laying eggs, the collection and transplanting of eggs to the hatchery. Small baby turtles are waiting to be released under the cover of the dark night. Once again you walk down to the beach and help direct the cute turtles into the sea to a safe start of their dangerous life journey. Note that guests are encouraged not to pick up the small turtles.
  • Overnight in one of the twin-bedded guest rooms.

Day 2:

  • Get up early for a chance to see late-comer turtles lay their eggs in the morning light. After breakfast, return by boat to Sandakan.
  • The turtle experience on Selingan Island ends here, but most packages include a visit onwards to Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre.
You need very few things for this trip. Food, water, towels, bedsheets, and shampoo are provided. If you can deposit your big luggage at your hotel in Sandakan or with your travel agent, we recommend you to do that. A small backpack should be sufficient. Essentials to bring are:

  • Swimming wear
  • Light and comfy clothes
  • Flip-flops (no need for shoes)
  • Money (for beverages, snorkel rental, and camera fee)
  • Camera
  • Sun lotion, toiletries, personal medicine

The Selingan Island Turtle Experience

A visit to Selingan Island should definitely be on your Sabah itinerary. Day guests are not accepted, so there is a maximum to how many tourists will be on the island at any given time. This allows you to have a bit of the island by yourself. We were positively surprised by the standard of the rooms, although this was not and should not be a priority. In the end the trip more than lived up to our expectations – we were not expecting the charm and beauty of the little island.

A few improvements to the experience could be…

1

Guests are repeatedly told that smoking on the island is strictly prohibited due to environmental reasons. At the same, some rangers and guides casually smoke on the island in front of everyone. That’s Borneo!

2

The stretches of beach around the island were not properly cleaned of marine debris, empty plastic bottles etc. It would not take long for one volunteer to walk around the island with a bag to pick up the garbage.

More on the Selingan Turtle Island Experience

We were not the first ones to enjoy this wonderful turtle experience. Take a look at these resources where you can find further descriptions and images from Borneo’s Turtle Island.

Turtle Island Borneo: The official website of the island, providing valuable information about the package, itinerary, and images.

Borneo Eco Tours: The local travel agent we booked with. Borneo Eco Tours cover all of Borneo, they have a strong social and environmental profile, and their guides and drivers are excellent.

As Her World Turns: Erica tells us about her Selingan Island trip in two posts. In Arriving at Turtle Island, Borneo she gives a magnificent account of the first day experience through ample photo documentation. She eats, she snorkels, she explores, and shows what you can expect from Selingan Island. Her adventure continues in The Turtle Island Experience, where – you guessed it – we are walked through an evening of turtle hatching, egg transplantation, and baby turtle release with great photos from the activities.

The Adventures of M&M: A photo story about the turtle island experience in Borneo by Michael and Martina. Great photos and a very impressive early morning video of an egg-laying green turtle. See it right here:

If you want to learn more about Borneo and the rest of Malaysia, take a look at our Malaysia Destination Guide.

Towards a New Synergy of Luxury Travel and Sustainable Tourism

Front view of a longtail boat in Thailand with limestone rocks in the background. Photo by Beachmeter.com.

Are Luxury Travel and Sustainable Tourism Compatible?

Imagine a luxury hotel in the middle of a resource depleted and naturally fragile area. Imagine tourists paying the same amount for a single room night of pampering and wellness as a local villager outisde the hotel gate dreams of making in a year. And imagine tourists sipping imported drinks in swimming pools while the next door family daughter misses school because she has to walk to the nearest well for water.

It doesn’t sound right. In fact, it sounds UGLY.

Luxury as an Opportunity

Should we dismiss luxury as a careless playground for the privileged to show off their success and claim their reward for “working hard”? Of course not. This is not a fair portrayal of luxury tourism. Without a doubt this type of tourism has rightly received criticism for its wastefulness and at times detrimental effects on natural resources and socioeconomic stability. However, luxury tourism is evolving and both luxury travelers and suppliers in the tourism industry are embracing new and more responsible ways of traveling. Here, we want to explore how the evolving luxury market can be utilized to bring about desired changes.

You have a group of consumers willing to pay a premium for high quality and unique experiences. That doesn’t sound bad at all. In fact, that sounds like a huge opportunity.

The New Luxury

First, however, let’s look at our understanding of “luxury”. The concept is highly contextual and personal – not a thing we can simply buy as the advertisements would have us believe. After a long winter in the north, I dream of the luxury of a warm and sunny day. After months in the tropics, I dream of the cold fresh air in the north. Luxury can be as simple as a cold shower after a hiking trip. Luxury can be having a computer. Luxury can be not having one. Then again, luxury can be wearing a diamond ring and driving a Ferrari.

Despite the high elasticity of the meaning of luxury, the current understanding of the concept is evolving from being associated with things you can own, to being authentic experiences. This presents opportunities for the travel and hospitality industry.

The Evolution of Luxury and How this presents Opportunities for Sustainable Tourism

Infographic about evolution of luxury and its impact on sustainable tourism development by beachmeter.com.

In the old paradigm of luxury, a luxury hotel experience is nearly identical whether you are in Boston, Cape Town or Ho Chi Minh City. The amenities, the services, the language, the food, the procedures, and even the morning newspaper will be the same. You will not be confronted with local cultural differences – at least not more than exotic references of the place you are visiting. The experience will be a tourism bubble of comfort, convenience, and familiarity which shields off the surrounding environment.

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah the 7-star luxury hotel in Dubai with helicopter landing pad with artificial lake in the foreground. Image by beachmeter.com

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah (background), an example of classic hotel luxury.

This form of tourism is in no way dying out. However, luxury tourism providers are increasingly held accountable and questioned about their impacts on natural and social environments. Furthermore, the new luxury segment – a new paradigm of luxury – is quickly emerging. This segment seeks fulfilling experiences in harmony with nature and sociocultural surroundings. And in this paradigm, a wildlife experience in a remote destination while sleeping in a rustic eco-lodge harvests much more social capital and envy from peers than a luxury stay at a Hyatt hotel in the Maldives or even the self-proclaimed 7-star Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai.

Elephant Hills' Jungle Lake Houses on the Chao Larn Lake in Khaosok National Park Thailand. Image by Beachmeter.com.

A new kind of luxury travel: Unique nature, wildlife, and adventure.

A New Synergy between Luxury Travel and Sustainable Tourism?

With the growth of this new luxury travel segment, sustainability and luxury travel have the potential to prosper together. Here are some of the ways local communities, wildlife, and natural surroundings can benefit from the new luxury travel segment.

Local Economic Boosts and Jobs

New luxury travelers value authenticity and uniqueness of people and place. This means that they want to experience local culture, food, arts, handicrafts, and traditions. This presents opportunities for local community members to become managers, receptionists, guides, drivers, cleaners, sellers, artists and so on inside the tourism industry. Not only will this support the local beneficiaries directly, it will also create a multiplier effect from bringing more economic means and demands for services and supplies into the community.

 Community Development

Sustainable luxury suppliers within tourism commit to educating and training their staff and partners. The training can be in anything from management and service to marketing and language. This means that even people with little formal education can receive skills and experiences that empower them to follow their passions. Additionally, it is common that ecolodges and sustainable tourism providers support various local projects such as local schools and organic farming.

By stressing local produce, food, customs, handicrafts, and artistry, positive heritage awareness and cultural pride can be boosted through the appreciation of visitors. Local youth can thus be encouraged to keep valuable cultural traits alive and connect with their roots.

Improved Infrastructure

A new village well, solar powered electricity, improved roads and transport options, internet connectivity, garbage collecting system, and sanitation. These initiatives can all be positive impacts derived from sustainable tourism. New luxury travelers, although adhering to more natural barefoot luxury experiences, will often demand clean water, efficient waste and garbage management, and other familiar conveniences. If developed and managed sustainably, this can bring the mentioned improvements to the local community as well.

 Wildlife and Environmental Protection

In low-resource countries, wild natural landscapes and wildlife are sometimes worth less than the economic potential of farming, plantations, and even poaching. As a result, these wildlife oases are diminishing while species and plants go extinct. Tourism has the potential to reverse this trend. The new luxury travel market that seeks authentic adventures and wildlife will gladly pay national park fees and extra premiums to experience natural beauty, making environmental protection more economically sound and sustainable than alternative and degrading forms of land use.

As new luxury travelers emphasise healthy living, organic and locally grown food will be in demand, resulting in less pesticides and healthier crop management.

Can Luxury Travel Lead the Way?

If we accept the new paradigm of luxury, luxury travel can lead the way in boosting sustainable tourism. The potential opportunities of tourism to generate positive impacts on people and environment are in no way new. These advantages have been discussed through three decades. What luxury adds to the mix, however, is a stronger economic incentive plus a bigger opportunity to act as a trendsetter for tourism development and tourist experiences in general.

Sustainable travel does not have to be limited to village homestays and primitive bungalows anymore. With the advancement of sustainable technology and refinement of tourist motivations, it is now easier than ever for all stakeholders in tourism to include sustainability as an integrated part of their operations. Indeed, it even makes economic sense to care.

Further Information about Luxury Travel and Sustainable Tourism

This article was inspired by an excellent webinar by BookGreener.com called “Could Sustainability be the Future of Luxury”. The webinar explores the synergies between luxury travel and sustainable tourism, and three absolute front runners of sustainable tourism share their wealth of knowledge and experience on this issue.

Guest speakers from the above webinar are Anna Pollock (Conscious Travel), Mikaku Doliveck (Floating Leaf Eco-Luxury Retreat), and Aebe Christian De Boer  Shinta Mani Resort).

BookGreener is an excellent resource for anyone interested in sustainable tourism. You will find a lot of practical solutions drawn from tourism industry leaders, and we encourage you to hear and see their other inspiring podcasts and webinars on tourism sustainability.

Other valuable resources on the topic:
  • The Evolution of the Luxury Guestroom by Michael R. Paneri from Viceroy Hotel Group. On the emergence of “new luxury” and how “new luxury guests” want environmental concern and responsibility to be incorporated in the hotel design.
  • The Evolution of the Luxury Travel Consumer by JohnHenry.net. On how today’s luxury travelers want to engage with their travel destination, combine simplicity and luxury, and at the same time contribute to sustainable development through their travels.

Malaysia or Thailand?

Malaysia or Thailand? Malaysian beach with a boat with the Malaysia's flag and a Thai beach with longtail boats and Thailand's flag

Where to Spend Your Beach Holiday – Malaysia or Thailand?

For those of us who are lucky enough to have the opportunity to go on beach holidays, the first question we ask ourselves is often which country should we go to. As promised when we presented our new Malaysia travel guide, we want to help you compare two of the big tropical beach holiday destinations, Malaysia and Thailand, to make your holiday choice easier.

Why Malaysia or Thailand?

If you wonder, why we have chosen to compare these two great beach destinations, here is why. First of all, travel agencies and travel professionals often receive this as the initial question from their customers: “Should we choose Malaysia or Thailand for our holiday?”. Secondly, these countries are very often competing for the same visitors, since they both bring some of the same great beach holiday opportunities, and being neighbouring countries, travel seasons and travel distance is similar.

The Malaysia and Thailand Showdown

Malaysia or Thailand - a comparison between Malaysia's and Thailand's beaches, hotels, prices, food, diving, and wildlife.

Before we go through each of the scores and compare Malaysia and Thailand on the chosen parameters, we want to remind readers that the evaluations represent a general evaluation of the two countries. Here we have considered Malaysia to be both Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo, although the characteristics of these two areas are rather different.

You may seek a family-friendly beach or a surfing beach-bum paradise. Ultimately, which beach destination is best for your holiday, depends just as much on your personal travel preferences as the destination itself.

Beaches: Malaysia vs. Thailand

Both Malaysia and Thailand have fantastic beaches, ranging from popular tourist magnets to secluded beaches on “untamed” islands. With a great variety and number of beaches within easy geographical reach, Thailand has a small edge here.

Malaysia Beach Score     

The number of islands and beaches of Peninsular Malaysia is relatively low in comparison to Thailand, and given strong seasonal limitations on the east coast, the options can be rather limited. However, if we add Malaysian Borneo to the mix, we suddenly have a hundreds of stunning islands in different development stages and in more or less accessible areas.

Thailand Beach Score     

Southern Thailand has an abundance of islands and beaches fitted with fine sand, dramatic rock formations, swaying palm trees, clear water, and everything you could ever wish for in terms of services and conveniences. Additionally, the beaches of Thailand cover all activities and adventures you can think of and it doesn’t take much to go from one type of beach or island to another one.

Aerial view of palm-fringed beach in Thailand with boats at the shoreline, clear blue water, and small tropical islands in the background.

It’s hard to beat the islands and beaches of Thailand.

Photo credit: Tourism Authority of Thailand

Hotels: Malaysia vs. Thailand

It is not uncommon that tourists stumble upon a hotel that enchant them to such a degree that the host country is of little importance. Whether this is the case or not, one thing is certain: The hotel has a significant role in tourists’ beach choice. To receive a high hotel evaluation, the diversity, price, and value for money is taken into account. Without question, Thailand is a world leader in this category.

We used to write small warnings in our Malaysia travel catalogues that customers should not expect a 3-star Malaysian hotel to measure up to a 3-star Thai hotel. This is more due to Thailand’s superiority on this parameter than Malaysia being under international standard.

Malaysia Hotel Score     

You can find exclusive eco-retreats on small tropical islands and you can find uncharming concrete hotels with uninspiring designs. The portfolio of beach accommodation is improving, but the value for money is not on par with Thailand. Furthermore, it is harder to find budget and mid-range charm among Malaysian hotels. For a real good hotel experience, you have to move into the four and five star range.

Thailand Hotel Score     

The competition among hotels in Thailand is fierce. This coupled with a good sense of quirky design and high service standards make Thailand score maximum on hotel quality and value. A 3-star hotel in Thailand can often be compared to a 4-star hotel in Europe or America. You can easily find accommodation for all budgets, and even in the cheapest beach bungalows you can find charming architecture and design wit.

Stilted hillside bungalows overlooking the Gulf of Thailand at the rugged Koh Tao Island.

Not the worst place to spend your holiday in Thailand.

Prices: Malaysia vs. Thailand

No doubt relative prices continue to rise, as both Malaysia and Thailand continue a path of economic growth and investments both in and outside the tourism sector. Prices fluctuate a lot between city and rural areas and between touristy and non-touristy destinations. Overall, however, Thailand still offers superb value for money.

While cheaper than European countries and North America, Malaysia is generally more expensive than the other Southeast Asian countries.

An excellent resource in finding user generated price information in destinations worldwide is NUMBEO.

Malaysia Prices Score     

Traveling through Malaysia, you will find that food is quite cheap, while accommodation is more expensive and less value than other Southeast Asian countries outside of Singapore. Malaysian Borneo’s unique position in terms of experiences and natural wonders have pushed prices upwards. The good news is that it is still possible to experience Malaysia on a backpacker budget, but you will have to sacrifice some convenience and luxury along the way.

Thailand Prices Score     

With the rise of the Thai middle-class, expatriates, and tourists from near and far, both financial and tourist hubs of Thailand are now much more expensive than just five years ago. This means that Bangkok, Hua Hin, Koh Samui, and Phuket can come off as expensive.

But don’t despair. Instead of going to Starbucks and Domino’s, go to a local pad thai restaurant. Instead of sleeping at Hyatt, sleep at one of the many charming boutique guesthouses. Go a little off-beat to avoid the price traps. Thailand has great prices for those who look for them, and the most beautiful thing is that being a beach bum here is one of the cheapest lifestyles you can dream of. Food is cheap, transportation is cheap, accommodation is cheap, and adventures are often free. For documentation, see our previous notes on daily beach holiday costs in Thailand.

Local Thai restaurant with signs in Thai and fresh food on display.

Eat local, stay local! Thailand offers tremendous value.

Food: Malaysia vs. Thailand

How good is Malaysian food? How does it compare to Thai food? This is obviously a very subjective topic, but at least we are not alone in thinking that both countries serve some of the world’s best food. Thailand and Malaysia are both in the top 10 food destinations in the world in this CNN poll.

Malaysia Food Score     

What makes Malaysian food great? The variety of choice and fresh ingredients! Since Malaysia consists of major cultural and ethnic groups, you can find excellent Chinese, Indian, Western, and of course Malay/Indonesian dishes in abundance. For vegetarians eating is easy because of the Indian vegetarian cuisine and the fresh fruits and vegetables grown locally.

Thailand Food Score     

The popularity of Thai food is now covering the world with Thai takeaways and restaurants from Buenos Aires to Sydney. But the best Thai food is found in Thailand. Food is an integral part of Thai social life, and when a common greeting in Thailand is “Have you eaten yet?”, food has to be a top priority. What is fantastic about the Thai cuisine is the harmonious blend of spices, sweet, sour, and salty. But if you don’t like chili, lemongrass, and galanga, you will mostly be limited to the “foreignized” and international dishes.

For vegetarians, Thailand has a lot of vegan and vegetarian restaurants that particularly sprung up in response to the tastes of visiting backpackers. In standard restaurants, however, ordering a vegetarian dish often means that fish sauce, oyster sauce, and shrimp paste will be used in otherwise meatless dishes.

Wooden signs on a tropical island in Thailand saying fruit shake, vegetable food, seafood, and Thai food.

You won’t leave thirsty or hungry!

Diving: Malaysia vs. Thailand

Both Malaysia and Thailand are wonderful places to learn and practice diving. Almost every popular beach has at least one dive operator, and the quality, equipment, and safety is good.

Malaysia Diving Score     

In Peninsular Malaysia the east coast is your best bet for diving. Perhentian Islands, Redang Island, and Tioman Island all have good and very accessible diving. Diving here is seasonally limited from roughly March to September.

The Sabah region of Borneo is the real reason why Malaysia must be considered a top dive destination in the world. The bio-diversity, visibility, and beauty is of supreme quality with dive destinations such as Sipadan, Mabul, Kapalai, Lankayan, Layang Layang, and Sibuan leading the way.

Thailand Diving Score     

Hands up if you took your PADI Open Water Diver certificate in Thailand. Keep them up, if you took it on Koh Tao! Koh Tao is a world hub for budding scuba divers. The small island in The Gulf of Thailand offers year-round courses with dive sites right off the beaches or a small boat ride away. The water is generally clear and currents are beginner friendly. Corals and marine life around Koh Tao has deteriorated a bit although a number of organizations and awareness programmes are fighting to rejuvenate the seas.

For the best dive sites in Thailand, you have to travel to The Andaman Sea. Here you will find stunning diving between small tropical islands. It is not uncommon to find leopard sharks and manta rays. Among the best diving sites are Similan Islands, Richelieu Rock, Hin Daeng and Hin Muang, and the Surin Islands. November to April has the best visibility and sea conditions.

A nemo fish among green sea plants seen while diving in Malaysia.

Malaysia’s Sabah region offers formidable diving.

Photo credit: Tourism Malaysia

Wildlife: Malaysia vs. Thailand

Despite an increasing number of areas being designated as national parks in Malaysia and Thailand, the primary and secondary forests are diminishing. Farming, plantations, logging, and “development” is threatening natural treasures and wildlife in both countries. That said, Malaysia has some of the world’s oldest rainforests and extraordinary wildlife to match it. Thailand does not have the grand old rainforests, but there is still plenty of wildlife to experience under and above water.

Malaysia Wildlife Score     

Orangutans (literally men of the jungle), proboscis monkeys, tarsiers, pygmy elephants, hornbills, turtles and much more roam the natural habitats of Malaysia, particularly Borneo. Malaysia has around 500 endemic species and it’s hard to find destinations that can match the natural richness of the country. Unfortunately, there is great pressure on the natural habitats of Malaysian wildlife. Although a magical experience, it is frightening to see how the palm oil plantations are slicing through ever thinner rainforest areas.

Thailand Wildlife Score     

Thailand has impressive marine life and no less than 127 national parks with a diverse range of flora and fauna. You do not find the grand old rainforests and hallmark wild species as in Malaysian Borneo, but there is plenty of wildlife to enjoy in Thailand.

Male Proboscis Monkey (Nasalis larvatus) from Borneo.

Only in Borneo – Malaysia’s wildlife is marvelous!

Photo credit: Tourism Malaysia

More comparisons between Malaysia and Thailand?

Malaysia or Thailand? We hope you found this head to head comparison between Thailand and Malaysia useful. There is no one winner in such a battle. It all depends on what you are after. One thing is certain though: Both Malaysia and Thailand are magnificent travel countries, so we can only suggest you visit both!

If you are interested in seeing more comparisons between these two countries, we suggest you take a look at the following links.

New Malaysia Infographic and Destination Page

Malaysian couple sitting on a wooden pier looking at the clear turquoise sea and fantastic horizon.

All You Need to Know About Traveling to Malaysia

We are slowly but surely adding details and information to our Malaysia and Borneo travel and destination page. To start with, have a look at our infographic which will give you a quick overview of the travel universe in Malaysia and Borneo.

Malaysia Infographic

Infographic of Malaysia's Islands and beaches including tourism information, price index, best beaches, travel seasons, and Unique Selling Points for Malaysia and Borneo.

Go to the destination page to see explanations for this Borneo and Malaysia infographic. We will continue to add information to the page about travel seasons, the different beach destinations of Malaysia and Borneo, and some unique selling points. Malaysia offers a truly diverse mix of cultures, beaches, grand old rainforests, indigenous peoples, rich histories, and bustling cities.

Comparison between Malaysia and Thailand

Comparison of Malaysia vs. Thailand with images of a Malaysian boat and a Thai boat both with flags.Also coming up will be a comparison between Thailand and Malaysia as travel countries and beach holiday destinations. Since these neighbouring countries are often measured against each other, we figured we would compare the countries on different travel parameters to help you decide, whether your next holiday should be about island hopping in southern Thailand, drinking tea in Peninsular Malaysia’s Cameron Highlands, or chasing proboscis monkeys in Sabah, Borneo.

Cover photo credits: Tourism Malaysia