Ten days in any country is never ‘enough’, let alone a country as large as Malaysia, but it’s a good amount of time to get a taste for another place. Due to staying in Vietnam for a prolonged period of time, I have to renew my visa every three months. For the first renewal, my boyfriend and I did a (very long) day-trip to the Lao Bao border, but this time we fancied doing something a bit more exciting. We went searching for the cheapest flights for our dates and Kuala Lumpur came out on top. As we’re both working in Vietnam, our budget was a bit more generous than a backpacker’s, but less than a holiday makers. Here’s how we made the most of our 10 days in Malaysia.
Day 1 & 2: Kuala Lumpur
Accommodation: Hotel Pudu 88 ($5 each per night, including breakfast) | Transport: Airport Express Coach ($4 each return)
Having visited a couple of South-East Asian cities before, I assumed Kuala Lumpur would be somewhat similar. Although similar in some ways, it felt far more developed than others and I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. One of the things that shocked me most about the city were the number of cars on the road. Having been in Vietnam for a few months, I’d gotten used to dodging scooters and motorbikes, so seeing high volumes of cars again was a bit surreal!
We arrived in Kuala Lumpur around 6pm, so our first experience of the city was by night. We arrived at Hotel Pudu 88 (don’t let the name fool you; hotel it was not… our room didn’t even have a window), dumped our bags and headed out for a snack. We ended up sitting beside a bustling road outside a Nando’s listening to a local Malaysian band. We ate steamed veg and meat from a food stand, with the Petronas Towers glistening away in the background.
After a somewhat restless sleep, we woke early and headed out into daytime KL. Our hotel was based in China Town, so we wandered down Petaling Street and into the Central Market. Next, we continued our very own walking tour towards Merdeka Square before heading to Chowkit, where we found a street food restaurant. Here we ate delicious, but extremely spicy, chili beef and rice for $1.50 each.
That evening we’d booked a tour of the Petronas Twin Towers, so we walked over early to check out KLCC park. The towers tour was amazing, but we were somewhat unlucky with the weather so the views weren’t quite as spectacular as they could’ve been. Continuing our day of exploration, we had a late dinner at an eatery situated along the famous Jalan Alor.
Day 3: Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands
Accommodation: The Cameronian Inn ($7 each per night) | Transport: Unititi Express ($8 each)
On our third day, we woke up early and headed for TBS where we caught a bus to the Cameron Highlands. The bus journey took almost 7 hours (it was supposed to take 4) due to heavy traffic caused by a bicycle race! Thankfully things ran smoothly after our long journey and we checked in to our hostel.
Once we were settled, we went on the hunt for some food. We found a food stall a few minutes’ walk from our hostel, where we got some delicious fried banana and samosas. To top it off, the samosas only cost $0.10 each! After this we treated ourselves to tea and scones at The Lord’s Café. After half a year without a proper cup of tea, I was in heaven! Afterwards, we wandered around the town before a Malaysian dinner of Nori Goreng Ayam and Ayam Masak ($1.30 each) at Orchid Food Corner. It was really good, but definitely much heavier than the diet we’d grown used to in Vietnam.
Day 4: Cameron Highlands
Our first full day in the Cameron Highlands was great. We hired a scooter and went off to the Boh Tea Plantation, a bee farm and strawberry picking (all of which were free to enter).
Hiring a scooter was a bit more formal than in Vietnam; we even had to sign a waiver. It was also more expensive at $2 per hour, but it was definitely worth it as we were able to stop along the way and take in the scenery. We ate at Orchid Food Corner again but we tried the rice buffet this time ($2 each), which was good and very filling.
Day 5: Cameron Highlands to George Town, Penang
Accommodation: Red Inn Court ($7 each per night, including breakfast) | Transport: Unititi Express ($7 each)
On our fifth day, we caught an 8am bus to George Town in Penang. We arrived around midday and checked into our funny little room, before heading to a food court. We shared a couple of dishes before hiring a scooter from a crazy man called Ken. We cruised around the streets of George Town in the pouring rain and found some interesting buildings, as well as Chew Jetty. Later on we drove to Gurney Drive, but it was pretty empty so we headed to a place called Woodlands to sample some Indian food. I really fancied a thali but they were only on offer at lunchtime, so I enjoyed a tasty curry instead.
Day 6: George Town, Penang to Langwaki
Accommodation: Village 19 Retreat ($6 each per night) | Transport: Free ferry > Kesatuan Express ($4 each) > ferry from Kuala Perlis ($4 each)
Thanks to my boyfriend’s genius idea to catch the free ferry to Butterworth, we didn’t have to get a bus until 12:30pm, which meant we had a bit more time to explore George Town. We spent our morning wandering the streets, admiring the street art and sipping on coffee down Love Lane. The ferry > bus > ferry journey went smoothly and we arrived at Village 19 Retreat in Langkawi early that evening.
Days 7, 8 and 9: Langkawi
We awoke the following day to the sound of animals and nature. Opening our cabins’ wooden shutters, we headed out to hire another scooter before setting off for Durian Perangin waterfall. Although it isn’t the tallest waterfall on the island, it was beautiful and we even spotted an elusive hornbill. Later on, we checked out Black Sand Beach, which was also beautiful and almost completely empty. For lunch, we found a lovely roadside spot. Here we gorged on chicken, coconut rice, fried bananas and iced Neslos (a naughty-but-nice drink combo of Nestle coffee and Milo chocolate powder) for only $1 each.
The following day we checked out Tanjung Phu Beach, which is ranked the world’s 13th best beach. With its white sands and warm, turquoise waters, I could see why. Our next stop was another of the islands’ waterfalls; Seven Wells. The top of the waterfall was pretty impressive and we had great fun sliding down the natural waterslides. That evening we had a couple of drinks at Kasbah; a really cool café/bar that had live music and a very chilled vibe.
On our final day in Langkawi, we thought we’d continue our tradition and visit the third and final waterfall. Temurun Falls was similar to Durian Perangin, but with an even calmer atmosphere. It was also much emptier than the other spots and we even had it to ourselves. For our final evening on the island, we watched the sunset on the beach before treating ourselves to cocktails by candlelight.
Day 10: Langwaki to Kuala Lumpur
Accommodation: D’Oriental Inn ($7 each per night)
We spent our final evening in Kuala Lumpur shopping, before our flight the following morning. Malaysia was a great experience, but I feel like I barely touched the surface and would love to go back someday. It definitely isn’t the cheapest country in South East Asia and areas such as Langkawi seem to be more geared up for holiday makers than backpackers, but it’s still possible to keep to a fairly low budget. I wonder where I’ll go next…