As Malaysia celebrates its independence on 31 August, we take a look at how this friendly neighbourhood nation takes the medal on these 10 things
1. Beaches Tanjong Beach who? Sure, that small strip of sand might be where boozy brunches and hip film screenings take place, but lest we forget that the coarse sand you're frolicking in isn't even real — sort of. For the past two centuries, Singapore's land area has grown up to 25 percent, with most beaches made of reclaimed land. Less than three hours away, Tioman Island boasts terrestrial and marine biodiversity, existing under blue-green waters and along white or golden sands. Perhentian, Langkawi and Rawa are islands that have already been on your radar — wait till you Google the likes of Tiga, Layang-Layang and Tinggi.
2. Food While we have food enclaves or lesser-known hawker joints that we like to boast about, Malaysia's made up of 13 states — their brunch options are definitely better than ours. This means at least four different versions of Laksa (Kedah, Johor, Melacca and Penang) and different types of nasi (rice): Nasi Dagang from Terengganu and Nasi Padang from Negeri Sembilan. While tourists come to Singapore for our good food, Singaporeans go to Malaysia for even better food.
3. Dirty politics While Singapore's version of airing dirty laundry involves a certain Lee family and an Oxley Road address, Malaysia's scandals scale Hollywood heights with personalities such as Miranda Kerr and Leonardo DiCaprio involved in the 1MDB fund case.
4. Tourism slogan Malaysia's been "Truly Asia" for more than 10 years now. They've a solid tourism slogan going on — with its diverse landscape of highlands and lowlands, forests and islands, as well as multi-racial makeup, it's a little slice of Asia everywhere you go. Bottom line: Their tourism slogan's straightforward, simple, and it actually makes sense. They've been "Truly Asia" longer than we've been "Uniquely Singapore", "Your Singapore" and now, I suppose, "Passion Made Possible".
5. Size Yes, size does matter. At a total area of 330,803 km2 to Singapore's 719.1 km2, Malaysia trumps Singapore over its natural resources and population, among other things. Mt. Kinabalu can swallow Bukit Timah whole — and then some.
6. Press freedom The 2017 World Press Freedom Index ranks Malaysia above Singapore, at 144. We're at 151. No comment.
7. Food trends Step aside, McDonalds Singapore. Before the Nasi Lemak burger had our panties in a twist and divided the nation, Malaysians had already taken it to the next level earlier this year with a Nasi Lemak ice-cream, which consists of lemongrass and coconut milk ice-cream sprinkled with peanuts, anchovies, sambal, eggs and cucumber. Then came the Nasi Lemak cake, made of coconut milk and pandan rice topped with a layer of sambal, ikan bilis and peanuts, and served with eggs and a ring of cucumber slices. Way back in 2008, KFC Malaysia debuted the Nasi Lemak wrap as part of their breakfast menu.
8. Public holidays By the time we counted pass 40 public holidays on Malaysia's list, we stopped. Malaysia's public holidays celebrate the birthdays of their state governors and sultans, which is great if you're from that particular state. Singapore only has 11 gazetted public holidays in 2017 — in fact, the highlight of our lives is when next year's dates come in. That's when we strategically plan long weekends, and really start to live.
9. Firecrackers Malaysians know how to have a blast. Sure, the country has also banned the use of firecrackers, but who's really checking when you're outside a little shack somewhere in the depths of a remote village?
10. Entertainment icons Jimmy Choo, P. Ramlee, Siti Nurhaliza and Yuna are all Malaysians recognised on an international scale in fashion, film and music. Then of course there's the Bond girl, Michelle Yeoh. Meanwhile in Singapore... let's just say we're not there, yet. Fingers crossed!