Both my companion (aka the boyfriend) and myself consider Malaysia as one of the best trips we’ve done. The nature and the people are amazing, as is the food, the variety of highlights, the ease to travel and the price. Overall, I’m planning to go back here soon!
“Malaysia, Truly Asia”, is what the ads say. I’m not so sure about this statement. I mean, many Asian countries could only wish to be as developed and safe as Malaysia. But that doesn’t make this country less interesting to me at all!! After all my travels I figured that traveling through countries that are a bit behind on the Netherlands (‘The Great West’), make for the most fun experience.
In Malaysia you can use public transportation to get everywhere, are national highlights taken care of, will you meet many proud locals who wave you happily welcome to their country and one of the best pros: you will not get ripped of! anywhere!! On top of this, there’s the incredible natural beauty, the interesting diverse cities with colonial history, street art and Asian culture, the funny shopping malls including the typical Asian bling and then, there are the islands. Oh my…… the islands <3
Where to go – Itinerary
Like said, this country is FULL of highlights. Below you find my 3 week itinerary through Malaysia Peninsula. There’s was a long time of doubting to add Borneo to this route. The unsafe situation around the islands in Sabah at that time, plus the difficulties in getting around the island, made me decide to skip Borneo this time.
The Highlights of Malaysia Peninsula
Langkawi – Kuah
I spend only one night in the main hub Kuah, to break up my transfer from Koh Lipe. Kuah was my first meeting with Malaysia and I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness and ease of it all. We stayed in the Pekan Rabu area so the walk from the ferry was short. There are (duty free) shops, restaurants, a park and even a little beach nearby. I didn’t get to see the rest of Langkawi as the islands on the east were on the list. However, you can have great fun on this island! There’s many (family) entertainment like walking the sky bridge. Of course the beaches are wonderful and there’s no lack of restaurants and shops.
– colonial villages Georgetown and Melaka
– the mesmerizing beauty of the Cameron Highlands
– paradise itself on the Perhentian Islands and Tioman Island
– souvenir hunting in Kuala Lumpur
– cute (floating) village and canopy walk in Taman Negara
Because being a welfare country, the locals arranged everything well for them self. They like to go on holiday in their own country and so you feel like a minority traveling around as a western tourist in Malaysia. Not that’s a bad thing, not at all! Malaysian people are very welcoming, friendly and super proud to show their land. Everywhere you get, they will greet you, welcome you and sometimes want to take selfies with you. They speak well English and treat you equal to themself. I really liked this.
Very easy and cheap. Long distance buses connect all main city’s. They go frequently and leave from big bus terminals. Local buses travel onward to your destination. Not all local buses have stops, but you can ask the driver to drop you of or hold the bus on the road. For the long distance buses it’s wise to make reservations in advance. You can do this through www.easybook.com, at travel agencies, at the bus terminal or your hotel can help you. Some tourist places are connected by minibuses. They are mainly used by tourists and reasonable priced. Although have heard drivers of this mini buses can scare the hell out of you with their habits on the road. Didn’t experience this myself though.
I felt safe everywhere I went, unless reading about girls being harassed. I think if you avoid the nightlife and some dodgy town areas, you will be totally fine. Yes, they are not always used to pretty tourists, but I only noticed in the bigger cities some stares or whistles. On the countryside and (more remote?) islands nothing at all. Could run around in my bikini being happy 🙂 even in the Sunway Lagoon aqua theme park, where we were practical the only people swimming not fully clothed (like the Malay do), nobody was paying attention! Furthermore haven’t heard of any incidents of robberies or violence against tourists. That said, we didn’t went to Sabah, Borneo because of warnings about kidnapping incidents. Make sure you are up to date by the latest news.
The Malaysia currency is the Ringit (1 R = € 0,25 ). Unless their developed economy, everything is drop dead cheap in Malaysia in compare to our standards. We spend an average of € 4,25 for traveling around, ca €10 on food and € 6,20 on accommodation pp each day. We are the flashpacker type so this is for a pretty comfortable trip: eating out 3 times a day (paying attention to prices), staying in private rooms and having a drink now and then. For imaging; in Thailand we spend an average of €36 pp each day on the same stuff!
when to go
Although Malaysia is not that big of a country, they deal with different climate regions. The westcoast and Borneo can be visited all year round. It’s possible you will have showers, but this are always short periods. Eastcoast is different. Between October and march it can be really stormy. Ferry connections to most islands shut down even as accommodations on the islands. In Malaysia most tourists are locals, so take their holidays in account while planning when to go. I’ve heard that during Ramadan and right after that, the atmosphere can be more conservative and tense. Like, they are less tolerated to girls dressed scantily for example. I went from 15 march to 8 April and this suited us perfect. All places on the eastern islands just opened again. It wasn’t quite or extremely busy either. The sea was quite rough, but not too bad. Some days it rained but we were spoiled wits sun as well.
Lonely planet mentions the bad state of accommodations in Malaysia in compare to Thailand for example. I don’t agree completely. Yes, there are less fancy places to stay, but with that, prices are better. As a backpacker you will find enough options to enjoy. We booked most one or two days in advance through booking.com or agoda.com . Sometimes, especially in the more remote places, you will have to rely on ‘walking in’, as you will find a few accommodations online (check tripadvisor for reviews!). In such circumstances, it’s wise to arrive early and avoid weekends to have better chance on good places. You will notice that trough weekends and school holidays some accommodations fill up more fast, but we didn’t had problems with finding accommodations.
As anywhere on the planet, Wifi takes over. I brought a smartphone and tablet with me. With a Malaysian sim card, you can also connect at places where there’s no WiFi (for example Perhentian Kecil). I used a sim from ‘Hotlink’ , internet for simple applications like chat and email is free!