Going to Asia has always been a dream of mine.
Last year, we finally decided that we can do the trip to Malaysia. I’ll spare you the details of why we did not go before. But we finally decided. We had also considered Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand (Green Climbers Home). We settled on Malaysia due to a recommendation my boyfriend received from another traveller. After a brief online research about travel destinations and sights, we decided that Malaysia is just as perfect as any other country in the region. Finally! I had always wanted to go and experience the culture, the way of life, the food and the sights and perhaps a bit of the backpacking lifestyle. Before I am rambling on, we decided on this list of things we liked best and can recommend any other traveller too!
- Tanjung Puteri Motel, Langkawi
We found the motel through a recommendation from two fellow travellers and it was just what we wanted: a bit remote, a bit quiet and outside the usual touristic zone. You really need a vehicle when lodging here because there is no public transport and calling a taxi will take a bit longer. We also liked the small restaurants at the roadside which you can reach within 5 minutes walking distance. Just make sure you bring enough cash, the next ATM machine is 9 kilometres down the road, next to the factory. We were a bit lucky when we made the booking – we decided for the chalet (see picture) and it is just as beautiful and cosy as you can see here. In the mornings we had breakfast outside and so we enjoyed original malayan black tea in the sun.
- The Frame Guesthouse, Georgetown, Pulau Penang
The hostel is in 10 minutes walking distance of the ferry harbour and very close to the indian and the muslim district. We really enjoyed the minimalistic layout of the hostel. Plus the room we had was very comfortable.
- Kang Travellers Lodge, Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands)
Like they say on the website, the lodge is 3 minutes walking distance from the bus station. We had a small room with our own bathroom/shower combination room. I liked the lodge because it is not directly at the main road and it has these cosy seating arrangements. Plus the day-tour we booked to see the Cameron Highlands was arranged by the lodge and it was a perfect day! The only downside was that the day we were there, the lady in charge of the breakfast was travelling. But I guess that is just luck.
- Project Ann.Siang Hostel
The Ann.Siang is a hostel chain in Singapore and we stayed in the one in Chinatown, just across the street from the Buddha’s Tooth Temple. We had expected the worst for our stay in Singapore because of the high prices but were pleasantly surprised by the Ann.Siang hostel. When you are there you need to take into account the 4 flights of stairs with no elevator. Once you have climbed them up you will find the welcome desk right after the entrance. In the mornings you can take your breakfast on the roof of the hostel while enjoying a view of Chinatown. The showerrooms are very clean as there is someone looking after them all day long. The room itself had a safe for valuables and we liked the clean and fresh design of the interior.
Things to do
We were really lucky to see the Taipusam Festival in Georgetown (Pulau Pinang). You can see the festivities for several days but we only went to the pilgrimage road for one afternoon before the main ceremonies started. It was bit difficult to figure out which way the ceremonial road went. But eventually we figured out that it would at the waterfall temple on the top of the hill in Georgetown.
- Chinese New Year
Chinese New Year took place just at the end of our holiday when we were in Singapore. The festivities stretch out over a couple of weeks, so for you to understand Singapore’s website around the festivities you probably need to understand the festival a bit better than we did. We were able to see some good quality fireworks in the Marina Bay, which was lovely. We did not see any parades and what happenend in Chinatown around the Lunar evening, we did not quite understand. The road on which the main festivities took place were blocked, we assumed this was where the parade would take place. Maybe we missed it, but we don’t know. Chinatown itself was packed on the Lunar evening and everybody slowly moved through the full isles of the streetmarket. Elsewhere in Singapore we did not see many signs of the festivities. Even a few streets away from Chinatown the pubs closed at 12.30 am. This we found a bit disappointing. But I assume that if you know some locals, they are much better equipped to direct you to the best places.
- Participate in a Cooking Class with LaZat in Kuala Lumpur
This recommendation was even in our german guidebook for Malaysia. We happily tested the recommendation and were not disappointed! We met the driver at 8am close to the main train station and he drove us out to the market where we met our chefs. We had a guided tour through one of the traditional markets in Kuala Lumpur where we received explanations for local fruits and vegetables. Since the two of us were still fighting with the different time zones, we were not able to remember much. At the cooking class we were the only guests for the day and received the special attention from our two lovely chefs. With the detailed explanations and the cooking book we tested our way through the malayan cuisine. The food was excellent! I can only recommend this stop and you will have a whole day full of adventure :)
- See the Nerd-Temple at Plaza Low Yat
If you loooooooove your techy gadgets and you always need new stuff or the latest merch, this is your place to be! Across 5 floors you can get probably all the laptops, cameras, assecories, smartphones etc your heart desires. Also, major brands such as Huawai, Microsoft, Dell and GoPro have their flagship store here.
- Go climbing at Damai Wall, Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
We really wanted to try climbing in Malaysia. We brought all the gear, the quickdraws, the rope, the belt and we used it only this once. The wall itself is great to find! You hail a cab driver in Kuala Lumpur and negotiate the price to drive you out to the Batu Caves and a little further. If you put in the spot on Google Maps you will have it very easy to find it. The drive itself will take about 30 minutes. Fortunately for us we met a climber at the hostel the night before and he was definitely a few grades better at climbing compared to us. So he helped us establishing a top rope 😉 The rock itself is a lot different than what we were used from climbing spots in Europe. It feels like the rock is sweating and every grip you take, it feels like your fingers are slipping away. And once you climb a few meters you start sweating – a LOT! So, I think this was a perfect day out, totally a great adventure. But I would not want to go climbing in Malaysia again.
- Visit the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur
The Batu Caves are one of the biggest religious place of the Hindu in the region. If you are around for Taipusam, expect a spectacle! We saw Taipusam in Georgetown and found it already mindblowing! The caves themselves are absolutely beautiful and totally worth the trip!
- Participate in a guided tour in the Cameron Highlands and buy some Boh tea!
Once you get to Tanah Rata you can see all the advertisements for guided tours around the Highlands. We booked ours directly through the hostel the night we arrived and we went for the full package, which was a good choice. We saw some of the jungle, the Boh tea plantages, the butterfly farm, the time tunnel, the strawberry farm and the waterfall. My personal favourite stops were the jungle and the tea plantages. You can buy Boh tea around Malaysia but our parents really loved the small gift boxes I bought there.
- Renting a motorbike on Langkawi
On Langkawi there is no public transport. Either you have a car, a motorbike, a bicycle or are happy to stay in one place only. You can rent a car at the ferry port. But we had decided to take a taxi to the motel and then rent a local motorbike through the motel connections. This worked out just fine. And after trying out the motorbike slowly and getting used to driving it, we actually enjoyed it a lot!
- Kayaking in the Mangrove forest in Langkawi
For this tour you need to make a booking. We followed a recommendation from my travel guide book, which was Dev’s adventure tours. The price is very reasonable and the guide we had was really lovely! It is one of the best attractions on the island and you should plan for a whole day. The tour depends on the tide, the water needs to be high enough for the kayaks to travel through the mangrove forest. Since we had some time to kill before the higher tide came in, we went to the bat cave first and had lunch then. Lunch took place on a floating restaurant called “The Hole in the Wall” in the middle of the river across the mangrove forest. The restaurant is also a good spot to go to if you are travelling around there with your own boat. It is somewhat magical when you float through the trees. And if you are really lucky, you get to see monkeys, crabs, some fish or even more exotic wildlife!
- Swim in the pools of the Seven Wells in Langkawi
When you go to see the Sky Bridge then you are very close to the pools of the Seven Wells. From the bottom of the cable car you drive a small road just two minutes up to small market. There you can park the car and then walk up the stairs to the seven wells. You can either just jump into the pools as you are or put on your swimming clothes. There are showers and toilets just next to the pools where you can change. I really enjoyed the cold water after the climb up the stairs in the heat and humidity.
- Walk the Path of the thousand memories in Langkawi
Tangga Helang Seribu Kenangana means path of the thousand memories. And when you climb the 3,1 kilometers of more than 4,000 stairs built straight up the mountain you will have literally thousand memories going through your mind. There is not much else to do, besides climbing stairs. The descriptions tell you to plan for 2,5 hours but we walked the hill up in 75 minutes. We then also walked down the stairs. To me, it felt like hell. It is quite questionable whether this is a recommendable tour. But if you feel that you need to exercise and really MOVE!, then go ahead and climb those thousands of stairs. One thought going through your mind will either be “So, this is what 1,000 stairs up feel like” or “I can’t bear another 1,000 steps down”. Someone was nice enough to number each stair, so you’ll know how many are left until you reach the parking lot at the top. You should definitely know how fit you are. It is quite exhausting, especially the way down.
- Go to the Night Safari Zoo in Singapore
This was a very fun activity! If there is one thing I took away from the Night Safari Zoo, it were the bats and flying foxes! We were standing only one meter away from them while they were feeding on fruits. They were flying over our heads and climbing up the trees. They came in different sizes and they span their wings and cleaned themselves. I could have stood there for more hours, just watching the bats!
- Walk around the Marina Bay in Singapore
There is not much to say Bring good shoes to walk in and enjoy the sight! Since we were in Singapore for Chinese New Year we enjoyed some quality fireworks for two evenings in a row.
- Walk through Georgetown, Penang
Lovely Georgetown! Georgetown is famous for its street art and when you walk around the historic old part of Georgetown you will see it around each corner, on many buildings and walls. It can be quite the discovery tour. You can also enjoy the many cafes, handcraft shops and small restaurants that are scattered around the city. Also, go and discover the different quarters: there is an indian quarter, a muslim and chinese quarter. They each have their different shops and restaurants and music coming out of them.
- Go to a different night market on Langkawi every day
On Langkawi the night market takes place in a different village every day of the week. You will find that many of the stands are the same, but the markets also vary in their size. And it is a perfect way to explore the island and the life on Langkawi. Our recommendation is: skip dinner and try the different foods from the market.
- Go to the Friday Nightmarket in Melakka
The nightmarket in Melakka is only on Fridays and Saturdays so it can pay off to plan your visit to the city for those days. You can walk all the sights in Melakka in just one day. The night market will add a little flavour to your visit
- Go shopping on Jonker Street in Melakka
If you are looking for gifts to bring home you might find some nice items on Jonker Street. If not, then try to enjoy one or two restaurants on the street.
- Visit the Istana Kesultanan in Melakka
The Istana Kesultanan is a sultanate palace rebuilt in Melakka. It shows the splendour and grandeur the city had as a trading port in the centuries before. Plus, it is quite a sight to see such a beautifully crafted palace completely made out of wood!
- Pia’s the Padi, Langkawi
The best curry we ate – ever! Plus you have to try the home made ice cream!
- KouGen Deli& Store, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands (Japanese)
Never mind the tripadvisor reviews. I enjoyed the food there a lot! You can find the restaurant on the main street.
- Restoran Tiga Ros, Melakka
The Tiga Ros was recommended to us at the hostel. It is an indian restaurant and not touristic at all.
- Red Garden Food Paradise & Night Market, Georgetown, Pulau Penang
There is a food court in Georgetown. If you are a group of people not able to decide on the food you want to eat, go there. Everybody can get what they want from all regions in Asia.
- Crazy Elephant, Singapore
When we were in Singapore, the Crazy Elephant was the only place we could find with live music. You can sit next to the river while enjoying your beer and listening to the music. But be aware, the beer tends to be quite expensive.
General Points about travelling in Malaysia
- You can easily travel by bus and buy your tickets in advance online
- If you are a vegetarian, look for indian restaurants. They are by nature offering lots of dishes which are vegetarian
- Respect the culture: Malaysia is by majority muslim, but you will find that there is much variety in the malaysian culture. Still, be aware of the fact that many Malayan are muslim and try to respect this where possible: Shirts instead of Bikini Tops, bring a shawl when planning to visit religious places, etc. Also research your hotel destinations, in some hotels with pools and beaches it can be customary to wear a Burkini or that men and women have seperate beaches/pools. If you are not looking for such hotels, you will be much happier to look for a different hotel.
- Bring Moskito repellent (look for one that has DEET in it)
- Beware of monkeys – don’t bring food to the beaches. We have heard a few stories and we have also seen monkeys go through the garbage left at beaches. If you do bring food, they can become quite aggressive.