Travel Malaysia and be surprised by what it has to offer! Malaysia is the starting point of many Southeast Asian adventures and jokingly called ‘Asia for beginners’. That name isn’t entirely crazy as Malaysia is a country where ‘East meets West’ and an easy start for those that haven’t traveled more rural Asia before. There are of course still very Asian areas, but the western influences are easily see and feel-able. Especially the capital, Kuala Lumpur, is very westernized. With Chinese and Indian suburbs in between sky scrapers and colonial mansions from a time when the Brits ruled this part of the world an obvious mix of western and Asian can be experienced.
During my trip I only visited a small part of this magical country. I was there for only 10 or so days as I was on my way home after living in Cambodia for 2 years. My adopted puppy needed to go into quarantaine in Malaysia so that I was able to take her home! Wanting to adopt a pup from Southeast Asia as well? Make sure to read my story about the adoption process with lots of handy tips. If you have more time than me to travel Malaysia I’d also recommend visiting some of the islands and coastal areas. Diving in Malaysia is sublime and a must according to some of the travelers I met along the way.
If you want to do Kuala Lumpur properly, you’ll need at least two days to discover the highlights. First things first, Kuala Lumpur is a big city, you can easily spend hours wandering about without getting bored. Of course there are the famous Petronas Towers, make sure to check them out in the evening, around 8 pm every day they have a light show at the front, a definite must! The Petronas Towers are surrounded by busy shopping streets and worth a look around. Looking for a more authentic experience? Make sure you visit Pasar Seni (better known as Central Market). Here you can find gorgeous handmade Malaysian, Chinese and Indian products, visit a massage parlor or get your future read at one of the hand readers! Into luxury shopping? Make sure you visit Bukit Bintang! Near this massive shopping mall you can find the Sultan Abdul Samat building, a pretty building that was once the headquarter for the Brits when they ruled in Malaysia. Last but not least, looking for a cheap place for dinner? Make sure you visit Petaling Street in Chinatown, not many authentic products but lots of great food!
Kuching: better known as Kitty City
Crazy about cats, or just curious what it’s all about like me? Travel through Malaysia and visit Kuching, it is a two hour flight away from Kuala Lumpur and located in Sarawak, the Malaysian part of Borneo. This city’s name Kuching is translated from Malay to Cat and has truly accepted its faith by becoming the cat capital of Southeast Asia. With numerous large cat statues around town and an actual cat museum there’s lots to see for those interested in cats. Obviously, as I’m not a big cat person this isn’t the only reason I traveled this way, make sure to read on about the other experiences not to miss in this area! Back to the cat museum.. Make sure that when you visit you grab a taxi that way, the museum is quite a bit out of town.
Daytrip: Monkeys and Longhouses
From Kuching it is easiest to rent a car for cheap to see the surrounding sights. If you don’t have a license, you can always rent a private driver, be aware that this is pricier and I’d recommend to find some people to share the car with to lower the price per person.
Once you’ve got your car you can drive towards Semonggoh. This is a game reserve for orangutans where you can see them up close in their natural habitat. They get fed twice a day, during feeding time a guide will tell you all about the different apes and you’ll be able to see them up close!
From Semonggoh its only a short drive to Kampung Annah Rais where you find de Bidayuh. The Bidayuh are one of the many tribes that still live in Borneo. They’ve got quirky looking elongated houses often built from bamboo on high stilts. Locals love inviting travelers in (against a small fee) to explore their village, houses and taste their homemade ricewine. For those really wanting to experience village life, you can opt for a home stay with the Bidayuh. The village of Annah Rais is located at the foot of a mountain, the area is well known for it’s hot springs! If you’re up for a dip in one of these bubble baths just ask a local and they’ll point you in the right direction.
Daytrip: Fairy Caves in Bau
From Annah Rais it is about an hours drive to our next stop, Bau, a small gold mining community. Bau is home to some of the prettiest caves in Malaysia. One of them being the Fairy Cave, a enormous cave filled with lots of green and some fairy statues. In the cave you can climb up various steps to get to better view points and enjoy the marvelous sights of green and wonder. I still regret wearing flipflops here as I wasn’t able to climb up all the steps comfortably. It gets a bit slippery at times so make sure you wear proper shoes.
Daytrip: National Park Taman Negara
The last stop from Kuching was a visit to a true jungle in National Park Taman Negara. There are about five different routes you can take. All routes are off the same grade but all differ in length. Make sure to also wear proper shoes here as it is a rain forest and the paths obviously can get wet and slippery. The sights here are definitely worth the struggle in the heat, you might even find some beautiful waterfalls and see some of the fauna. The rain forest is known to be a spot for various animals such as snakes, frogs, spiders and other critters and creatures I thankfully didn’t find!
It’s beach time! Instead of heading to the beautiful but very tourist filled island of Langkawi I opted for the island beloved among locals, Pulau Pangkor. This island is mostly visited by Malaysians, and therefore super quiet during weekdays. The long white sandy beaches and blue ocean are all yours! Make sure to get a local sate for lunch, you can get the at any of the restaurants around. As for where to stay, there are a few villages but I decided to stay in Teluk Nipah. Here you’re surrounded by cute colorful houses with the sweetest locals. You might even spot some monkeys an Malaysians hornbills (big birds with rhino beaks).
After a few days at the beach I make my way back to Kuala Lumpur. Here I picked up my dog and we begin our last leg of the journey towards home. Travel Malaysia and be surprised, very underrated and totally worth a visit! Malaysia, you’re a beaut and I can’t wait to be back.