When I say Malaysia, I mean the mainland portion below Thailand. There’s a whole other section to explore that includes Borneo (amazing!), but I did not see that part. To be honest, Malaysia was not my favorite country. I felt overwhelmed by the big cities, the heat, and the modernization, and the food wasn’t that great. I felt like I could feel and see the presence of the patriarchy here more than the other countries I’ve visited. Besides the site-seeing detailed below, I also spent two weeks working at a horse farm which was very nice, but really hard work! I’ll do another blog post on that sometime.
These 15 days in Malaysia cost me about $700 in total.
Malacca (2-3 days)
Malacca (also spelled Melaka) was my first stop in Malaysia, and also my favorite place I saw there. I took a 6 hour bus from Singapore to get there for $18. Definitely stay near the river in Malacca. I stayed here which was just a short walk to the river, and I really enjoyed it (but note: there is no AC).
The best part about Malacca is all the beautiful murals everywhere. Walking around was a real joy. Then you have the river, which at night is all it up and very lovely. There’s a great ice cream place on the river called Fruit Cones that I went to every night. The tuk tuk’s in Malacca are really fun and over the top. They each have a theme and are decorated crazily, and drive around playing loud, obnoxious music. Baby Shark was a very popular theme haha. There’s a great night market as well called Jonker Street Night Market. It has a hilarious giant karaoke stage. Pretty much only old men got up and sang and they were all surprisingly really good.
Make sure to give durian and cendol a try while you are there! Cendol is a traditional, and very strange dessert containing ice, green rice flour jelly, coconut milk, palm sugar syrup, and whatever other toppings you want like beans and corn. It’s like lunch and dessert in one bowl….
Kuala Lumpur (2-3 days)
I had a friend from America join me at this point which was really great! Since Malaysia was turning out to not by my favorite country, it was nice to have a friend to explore it with and liven things up. In Kuala Lumpur, we just did a lot of walking around, and a LOT of eating at McDonald’s haha. They had the best McDonald’s I’ve found so far. Banana pies that were to die for. Tons of different ice cream flavors and dippings. My favorite was sarsaparilla ice cream dipped in chocolate. Caitlin said the chicken curry pie was “phenomenal,” but I don’t eat meat so I did not try it.
We saw the Batu Caves, the Petronas twin towers, walked around the city parks, and went to a fun night market. We also went to the shopping mall a lot! This is a very popular activity because it’s so hot there. Might I recommend eating at Llao Llao yogurt bar when you are at the mall. Best frozen yogurt I’ve ever had!
The next day, we did a really great hike through this airbnb experience. Definitely recommended, we had a great time and the views were stunning. We also got to try “scrambling” which we had never done before. The guide was wonderful, and an adorable local dog joins you on the hike every time because the guide gives her cat food at the top. It was so cute.
Cameron Highlands (2-3 days)
Next, we took a 4 our bus to Cameron Highlands for $8. This area is known for their tea production and the rolling hills of tea plantations really are beautiful. But that’s one of the only things that is nice about this area. The town isn’t very cute, the taxis are overpriced, and all “strawberry fields” are a big disappointment. The nicest thing about Cameron Highlands was the weather! It was actually cool! Probably low 70s the entire time which was a nice break from the heat and humidity of the rest of SE Asia.
The other really cool thing to do here is visit the Mossy Forest. This is a must-do if you are in the area! A group tour is easier because the roads to this are really rough and it’s hard to get a taxi driver to take you there. We were lucky enough to find one, and he charged us $10 each, and waited for us while we explored. The Mossy Forest was really a spectacular experience. At first, it seemed a little boring. We walked along wooden pathways for a while, and got a taste for the eeriness of the forest. We thought that was it, but then the path disappears and opens up to the true forest which you can walk into for hours. It’s so mystical in there, you feel like you are in a different world, maybe a scary movie. The air is misty and there’s moss everywhere and unusual and powerful trees. We had a blast climbing up and over all the hills and roots and discovering what was around each corner. I felt a little uneasy being in the forest with just the two of us, so you may prefer to go with a tour group. But everything was fine, and every now and then we would run into another group of hikers. Highly recommend! And, of course, the pictures just don’t do it justice!
Penang (2-3 Days)
Next, Caitlin and I traveled to Penang (or Georgetown). We took a 5 hour bus to Butterworth That cost $9. And then a 30 minute ferry from Butterworth to Penang, which I think was <$1. The ferry was cool. We stayed at this airbnb, which I really liked. And there was a lot of delicious food and a great grocery store called Cold Storage in the area.
In Penang, we hiked through the Penang National Park, along the Turtle Beach Trail which I really enjoyed. It started pouring rain at the end, I mean pouring. We got completely drenched and waited for a boat to take us back, but it was fun. We also visited the Penang Hill, which was pretty cool. The funicular taking you up to the top was quite the adventure!
We did this farm-to-table cooking class through this airbnb experience and enjoyed that as well. Airbnb experiences have been a great resource during my travels.
Langkawi (3-4 Days)
Caitlin had to return to America, so I went to Langkawi alone. I took the ferry back to the mainland, took a 3 hour bus from Buttorworth to Kuala Perlis for $4, and then took a speedboat to Langkawi for $4. It was a bit scary, honestly. I felt crowded and stuck in the boat, and was very happy to be off when it was over. In Langkawi, I stayed in this adorable, but not very convenient airbnb. It was not a convenient location, and living on the third floor with detached bathroom was also inconvenient. I started getting really depressed in my solo endeavor, and after 2 days there, decided to splurge on a nice airbnb with Netflix that was closer to the attractions. I stayed there for a few days and honestly saw nothing, because I was in such a low point of my travels. So I really have no recommendations on Langkawi, sorry! However, I can highly recommend this airbnb. It was extremely nice, as was the family who host it. They even had a dinner one night for all their guests.
The coolest thing, and only thing, I did on Langkawi was finally learn to drive a motorbike! I had been riding on the back of them, mostly completely terrified, and I decided I wanted to learn. The airbnb let me rent one, and it was the perfect spot because there were long stretches of country road with no one on them except some cows. So here, I proudly learned to drive! And since then, have been able to drive in the other countries I visited.
It’s worth noting here, that I don’t really know the rules behind riding motorbikes in Asia. It may not be legal, I know sometimes cops will stop you just to get a bribe, and I’m pretty positive your health insurance will not cover an accident on one of these. And accidents seem to be very common with foreigners. You’ll see a lot of white people walking around with huge areas of road rash or large bandages covering massive areas of their legs and arms. So do your research, and proceed with caution!
But, man, I just felt like…how can I come to SE Asia and not learn to drive one! So I did. =)