touring | malaysia - asia's unknown multicultural gem
'malaysia, cultures bound in beauty & commonality'
Malaysia; i always remembered the advertising campaign done by the tourism board of malaysia years ago, malaysia truly asia. at the time it was an interesting catch line but i never thought so much about visiting this country but as i came to realise after a few weeks of being in this country malaysia is truly asia. its a melting pot of different cultures from indian, chinese to portuguese descendants. life here has major connections to most asia countries on a massive scale. i was really taken back by how harmoniously all the major cultures get along here its truly a friendly place to visit, as you'll come to find out....
starting my journey in the capital i wasn't expecting so much... it's a city as in most countries the cities all seem to blend into one. but for me kuala lumpur was different i felt immediately at home here. staying at the fabulous kl journal hotel i was introduced to the skyline of this city from the rooftop swimming pool. the hotel its self is an oasis in this bustling city located in bukit bintang the area to be as a tourist it was the perfect stay from the large rooms to the amazing breakfast & of course one of the best rooftop pool bars in the world.
if your looking for a more budget style accommodation then my recommendation would be the paper plane hostel. this hostel set in an historic building close to the main tourist area is a great budget stay for all. the privates & dorms are fantastic & offer true privacy. make sure to check out vcr cafe next door, try their soft shell crab burger it divine.
so your thinking whats there to do in the city??... well i spent a lot of time with friends here so had a great opportunity to explore the local night scene & cafe culture of the vastly different areas.
thinking back to to where i spent most of my time i can say that the most interesting has to be chinatown. unlike in other cities the chinatown here was more than just for cheap food it had actually started to be one of the coolest areas in the city due to the introduction of hipster bars like my favourite the deceased where you have to message them before hand for the door code & super cool cafes like merchant's lane. the common theme of most of the places here is urban decay. they don't look fancy but designed in a way to look like its been left for years adding to the spacial ambiance of the places...
you know i had to do some of the more touristy things around the city including the petronas towers; make sure to visit at sunset to get the best views. klcc park just located underneath the towers is a nice place to chill with a few friends in the evenings with a beer. if your looking for ariel views of the petronas towers then i would recommend the tv tower in the evening some of the most spectacular night views of the city.
this city is all about food like malaysia. in general the food that can been found at alor street night market is delicious & diverse but i have to say that my favourite food in the city was from a new vegetarian cafe called the good co.. its a little out of the main areas but the innovative cafe style food here is great i mainly ordered it on the grab food app to be delivered to my hotel as it was easier then making the trip there. the highlight in terms of atmosphere & views had to be the heli lounge bar in bukit bintang, the sunsets here are spectacular & less than $5 a beer what more can you ask for. one of my last sunsets in the city was spent here with some travel buddies (david & yvonne) drinking a heineken.
a short few hours bus ride away you will find yourself in a totally different world from the bright lights of kuala lumpur. this colonial hill station come tea plantation is much cooler than its capital city. as you make your way through the winding roads over the hills on the bus you find that you have been transported to a land full of flora & fauna, shades of green that you have only seen in your dreams the views are truly breathtaking & thats just from the bus.
while here i stayed in the traveller haven of the map travel lodge (traveller bunker). its located in one of the main towns in cameron; tanah rata. the main attractions here are hiking the local hills & yes the tea plantations... i organised to go on one of the tea plantation tours through the hostel including a hike in the mossy forest for around ($10) its a must. we visited the boh tea plantation vantage point where you will see some of the most amazing views in the whole of malaysia. if your a little more adventurous & in a bigger group i would recommend to rent a scooter to explore all the attractions in the local area..
more specifically george town. this was right at the top of my list of places to visit due to the recent exposure its been having in international media about the food & art scene in the historic unesco district. wandering around the old streets of the historic district you would be forgiven for thinking that you where in an old europen city except for the touches asian influence coming in the form of the clan houses & temples.
one of my favourite things to do was to walk around in the morning searching for the now famous street art that adorns most of the old streets. it makes a huge difference to this place & attracts so much tourism to the city, they are very well done & often incorporating everyday items like bicycles.
there are plenty of places to stay while in the historic centre but i would recommend frame guesthouse its a super minimal hostel / hotel that had everything you need if your looking for a little peace while in the city, there are plenty of party hostels too. one of my favourite things was to sit out on the roadside of this one liquor store that sold cheap beers & chat the night away with some travel buddies.
so now on to the best part of penang, the food!! this is the foodie hub of malaysia so of course i had to take a food tour like in most cities i visit but here i was particularly looking forward to it due the the reputation of this place & the company i booked with. simply enak food tours offer one of the most comprehensive & interesting food tours that i have had the pleasure of taking. starting early in the morning with an indian breakfast that only the local knew about. we wandered the streets having a little history lesson from the guide entering clan houses & temples it was a nice break while we awaited the next meal.. the food on the tour was truly diverse as this place has been influenced so much by the chinese & indian communities. this was a true delve into the real food the locals eat (no fancy restaurants) the true food the malaysians eat. if your a foodie then this is the only tour to do while in penang. they guides are super professional & i was absolutely stuffed by the time we were finished, i think that's the sign of a good food tour..
while we are on the subject of food i have to mentioned the best meal that i had on my entire trip in malaysia. gen restaurant located just outside the main historical area of george town is truely producing some of the most innovative food in malaysia. the 12 course tasting menu with wine paring was truly spectacular in taste & entertainment. from the use of all local ingredients to liquid nitrogen it was a culinary tour de force of what malaysia has to offer in a super high end innovative
way. one of the highlights had to the the indian spiced liquid nitrogen cooled deep fried breaded ice cream. you can't come to george town without visiting this place
i am pretty sure that everyone must know langkawi by now?? well maybe not.... but this island known as the jewel is truly magnificent. from the white sandy beaches to the lush rainforests & tiny uninhabited islands off the coast its a place thats hard to forget.
all the images that conjure in your mind when you think of paradise langkawi has them all & more. i arrived by flight just 20mins from penang it was a little unnecessary but it was cheap so i decided to take it.
i arrived early to my hostel dormitorio. located right in the heart of the main town less than 50 metres from the beach. its a great place to set yourself up for your time here. its truly one of the most social hostels that i have ever been too they organise trips everyday so if your a solo traveller like me its the only place i would think of staying as its always super busy.
the best way to get around the island is to rent a scooter & explore all that this place has to offer but if you can't drive you can always use the grab app to catch a local taxi for a reasonable price. my second day here i decided it was time to explore the uninhabited islands close by but not in the usual tourist boats that ferry thousand of tourists per day but in my usual way of finding something extreme to do & that was a jetski island hopping tour. seeman watersports offers a great half day trip taking you around the island at upto 80km/h across some of the most beautiful emerald green sea you will ever set your eyes on. i spent the day racing some others through the islands then finishing on a secluded beach with no-one in sight as the jet skis can get to beaches that the boats cannot.
to sum up...
i came to malaysia after a tuff few weeks travelling but wow did this place totally flip my mind set. as soon as i arrived in KL (kuala lumpur) i felt immediately at home. actually i don't say this very often but i could truly see myself living in this beautiful country, they can teach the world a lot about how totally different cultures & faiths can live in peace & harmony. it's still a relatively unknown destination to travel to but as people start to look for more interesting travel experiences away from the tourist meccas of thailand & bali this country will rapidly start to fill up with travellers from all over the world & rightly so it has so much to offer.
⦿ they use ringit, maybank off free withdrawals. it's a relatively cheap country budget ($25) a day.
⦿ if your a european citizen and you travel often see my blog post on the curve card its the best travel card around i have saved hundreds of euro's using it. download the app and enter my promo code to get a free card & €/£5. click here to see the post.
⦿ need an international bank account or transfer money at the lowest rates? i use transferwise. i make all my transfers with then and have even opened a remote eur, usa, gbp accounts for free. click here to get your first transfer for free.
country travel tips
atm: maybank has free withdrawals. make sure not to select the on screen conversion.
sim card: digi is the best date provider. 10GB is ($6) for 30 days
transport: free bus KL, grab app in cities & coaches for long distance.
taxi: grab taxi app is cheap | uber? use promo: carlm5078ue for free ride.