Brandon TuckerThis Week at Dec. 11, 2008

During Thailand unrest, Malaysia's golf courses peacefully shine

When researching a new golf vacation destination, does it's political stability ever show up on your checklist?

Perhaps it falls somewhere between a resort's stay-and-play specials and the type of grass used on the greens.

Tourists to southeast Asia received a rude wake-up call two weeks ago when protests led to a sacked government and brought most services to a standstill. That included Bangkok's airport, which stranded an estimated 300,000 tourists as it stood closed for more than a week.

I wasn't in Thailand during the upheaval, but I was next door in Malaysia. Here, it was business as usual in the streets, hotels and airports - even as thousands of stranded tourists made the 20-hour bus ride to Kuala Lumpur from Bangkok.

Malaysia's not as popular of a tourist destination as its grittier northern neighbor. In fact, I didn't meet one other American (or Canadian) in more than a week there - which is a first for me on any trip of this length. One of our tour guides noted that hasn't always been the case, saying Americans used to come more than they do now. That's strange, because it's as welcoming of a destination to westerners as ever.

Both Thailand and Malaysia are awash in distinctive culture, are relatively cheap and are huge golf destinations with international-worthy courses and resorts, though Thailand often scores bonus points for it's renowned food, exotic beaches and more liberal lifestyle.

Meet Australasian golfers who frequent both on holidays, and some prefer the Thai golf vacation, others the Malay.

But Malaysia is undoubtedly ahead of Thailand for a few reasons, and during this trip, the most notable was that the government is stable and the people aren't restless. Less than 5 percent of Malays are unemployed and you'd be hard pressed to encounter a single homeless person in the city streets. Kuala Lumpur's airport is as good as you'll find in the world and the country's highway system is remarkable.

It's a little slice of civility in a region of the world that isn't always known as such.

So when looking into Malaysia, be wary of monsoon season - but rest assured its government isn't going anywhere.

As always, welcomes your comments.

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