I recently travelled to Malaysia as part of my University’s overseas exchange, however I also travelled to begin to build a partnership for sports and societies – yes, that’s right, I went to play badminton!

Here are the 10 things that stood out for me from my 10 days there.

1 – The people are incredible

I was shocked by how friendly, approachable and generally nice the people were. Everyone wanted to know who we were, how we were doing, and what Malaysian food we’d tried!

This made the experience 1000 time better, it was only a short time but they made a real impact and I miss them already.

2 – Malaysian haze isn’t fog!

As soon as we arrived we heard people complaining about ‘the haze’. A few hours after arrival we saw a post on the Facebook account for the university saying all outdoor activities were suspended due to the haze – shame since we wanted to swim!

I remember thinking, what is it with everyone complaining about a bit of fog? It won’t harm anyone… well, it’s not quite fog. Without going into the details, it’s actually the result of mass wood burning in various areas around Malaysia and Indonesia! Click here if you want to know the details.

3 – Badminton halls are everywhere

Within an hour we’d found our first hall – courts marked out in the university’s function room. That evening we played in a hall that was a 5 minute walk from where we stayed, to me it was perfect, to the locals it was the bad hall in the area – “you know there’s a 20 court hall just down the road?!”.

4 – Walking doesn’t exist

It’s fair to say people were shocked when we told them we walked to badminton one evening and that we’d be happy to walk back.

In Malaysia everyone drives! Cars are expensive, and the traffic is bad, but’s it’s what they do!

5 – The place feels very local, until you get inside

I was shocked by how local and un-commercial I first found Kuala Lumpur, yes of course there were many tall buildings, but also many local shops and restaurants. I soon realised all the brand chains were in the many, many shopping centres.

Huge buildings on every street corner, housing brands from all over the world. I saw 3 Nando’s in one day!

6 – Never judge a place by its appearance

The best places we ate were the most obscure; a restaurant attached to a car garage, another place that didn’t even have a sign, but that didn’t matter when you were with locals who knew where to go and what to get!

7 – It’s extremely diverse

Malaysians, Chinese-Malaysians and Indian-Malaysians; these are the three main ethnic groups in Malaysia. However we came across people from all areas; it really has attracted crowds from all over the globe.

8 – Durian is NOT the king of fruits

No matter how many times you’re told to try Durian – the king of fruits – don’t! Not a single person on our trip liked it.

9 – It’s cheap, until you want to drink

If you want a cheap holiday, head to Malaysia, just don’t drink. Food is cheap and amazing but your alcohol is heavily taxed. Although my friend from Norway insisted she still found it to be cheap!

10 – The food is incredible

It is food heaven, half the time I didn’t know what I was eating or what to call it, but it was amazing. As a side note, they have a lot of varieties of ‘chicken and rice’, but the speciality is ‘chicken rice’, it sounds and looks the same but it is its own dish!