I’m not sure what originally attracted me to Malaysia. Maybe it was that I know very few Americans who have traveled there, therefore it was sort of a mystery to me. Once I started investigating, I was blown away by how many amazing things Malaysia has to offer. I finally settled on visiting three places in the time I had allotted. Here is my one week itinerary for Malaysia.
Language: Bahasa Malaysia is official language but many people speak English
Currency: Ringgit (MYR). ATMs are not hard to find. Most places require cash so carry plenty. Credit cards can be used at hotels and some restaurants but don’t count on it.
Getting around: There is good infrastructure with buses between various cities. Within Kuala Lumpur are several rail systems, including the LRT (light rail), the KMT commuter train and the KL monorail to make a few. Traffic often gridlocked so good to use trains. Officials at stations are very helpful.
Uber and Grab Car both widely available as are taxis. All are safe.
Malaysia has incredible diversity; roughly 61 % of country is Muslim, 19% Buddhist , 9% Christian, 6% Hindu with people of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and other backgrounds. This results in an eclectic array of architecture and food, and Malaysia truly is a foodie paradise. If you read my Singapore post, you will see that many of the same unique foods can be enjoyed here as well.
Known as “The Pearl of the Orient” and located on the Northwest coast, this was my favorite spot in Malaysia. I spent two and a half days here (three nights), which was perfect, but you could probably see everything I did in two days if you have less time. Penang Island, specifically the UNESCO heritage area of Georgetown is where the action is.
These are a few of my favorite things:
The art here is world famous and there are murals scattered around Georgetown. You can get maps of where the various murals are and go find them, scavenger hunt style. Great fun and they are really cool, incorporating real objects into them.
Upside Down Museum
I adored this place. Most fun I’ve ever had in a museum and for around $6 USD, it is a great place to get out of the heat and spend an hour. I have a whole post on this, I liked it so much!
Read More: Upside Down Museum, Penang Malaysia
Many religions and cultures = cool interesting buildings and holy sites to look at. A few of the most photogenic ones pictured below.
The Nagarathar Sivan Hindu Temple
The Masjid Kapitan Keling Mosque
Hok Tiek Sin Chang Temple
This is a nice half day tour you can do. Ride the funicular to the the top for cooler weather and fantastic vistas. I booked through my hotel with Phillip from Tour Incentive Travel. He was the best!
Also you can see the largest Chinese Buddhist Temple in Malaysia, Kek Lok Si.
Like…all of it. Try the coconut ice cream, white coffee, nasi lemak, roti, satay, oyster omelette, pie tee, just to name a few. Here are some places that I loved:
The nightlife ain’t too bad here. The hot spot for bars is Love Lane. Another bar I really liked is called Y Not and has a friendly fun staff, serves food and is always a good time.
These jetties have been owned by the same Chinese families since the 19th century. Some of them are just residential while some are more commercial with restaurants and shops. I visited three of them and truly enjoyed seeing this old way of life preserved.
These green plateaus were first noted by William Cameron in 1885 during a mapping expedition. The Cameron Highlands became popular during the colonial era when British planters realized the potential of its fertile mountain slopes for growing the prized commodity, tea. It became a favorite retreat for the colonial British offering relief from the hot tropical lowlands.
I took a five hour bus ride from Penang which cost approximately $10 USD. I arrived around 1300 which is too late for tours. There’s not much you can do on your own unless you have a car or driver. I walked around the town of Tanah Rata which has many shops and restaurants. I ate more great food here including my favorite, Indian. This is Nasi Lemak, sometimes served in a banana leaf. Coconut rice with spicy sambal sauce and usually served with an egg and chicken optional. Below is a fresh grilled naan and tandoor chicken with daal.
The next day I did a full day tour with Eco Cameron. It’s a long day but covers almost all the activities available.
We visited the Boh Tea Plantation, dating back to 1930.
We went to the 2nd highest point in the Cameron Highlands, Gunung Brinchang. The day was foggy and there was no view. Sad.
Next we walked through a mossy forest and our guide taught us about local medicinal plants.
Next was a Butterfly Farm full of butterflies. There were also many cool and creepy insects to look at (more like recoil in horror). Then the part I didn’t like…mammals, including bunnies and raccoons in cages. I found this unnecessary and upsetting and wouldn’t do this again because of that. Just stick with butterflies people! There was much more on the tour including a strawberry farm, but I found it rather touristy and unremarkable.
Overall the CH was not a stand out part of my trip, but if you have the time…it’s a nice place.
I took a four hour bus ride from CH to KL and was dropped off somewhere kind of random. It’s a busy huge city and not easily walkable. There wasn’t an obvious metro station nearby and my phone service wasn’t working for me to order an uber or use a map. I couldn’t flag a taxi. I finally walked and found a fancy hotel, the St. Regis. I walked into the lobby to beg for wifi. They were so kind, offering me a seat while the doorman waited for my car. As if I was one of their guests. I have to give them a shout out!
I found an Airbnb with the most incredible pool! Upon arrival I immediately jumped in (obvy). I was shameless…taking hundreds of pics, using my gopro, my tripod, harassing strangers, etc. How to get this wonderful place? Just google “Regalia Residences KL” and you will find links to Airbnb and other sites with apartments for rent. My unit had floor to ceiling windows with this city view so I could see the lightshow without ever putting on pants! (Move over Marina Bay Sands…this place is a tenth of your cost)
This is not hard. The whole city smells delicious. You can find food everywhere!
Jalan Alor: This is “THE” food street with hawker style local food but different than a food court. Each has its own sitting area and waiters.
Tried stingray with chili sauce, some kind of spicy green, dumplings, and Mee Goreng (spicy Indonesian noodles)
Hutong at Lot 10: This is an indoor upscale food court serving mostly Japanese and Chinese specialities. You can sit down and order here as well. I tried the famous Chili Crab. It was finger licking good. Literally. They give you warm water to clean your hands…you know for after you lick them.
DC Superheroes Cafe: This is usually not my style, but it looked interesting and I needed a break from local food. I was impressed. The attention to detail was impressive and the food was actually good. Funnest lunch I’ve had in a while!
These Hindu Temples in caves are 13 km from KL and accessible by the KTM commuter train. It is about twenty minutes ride from KL. This took about half a day. Go in morning to avoid the crowds and the heat.
There are several caves, each with its own admission fee. This one has 247 steps and you MUST HAVE A SKIRT COVERING MOST OF YOUR LEGS!
The first and last caves were the best, the rest kind of…meh. I was upset to once again find raccoons in a horrible cage outside one of the temples. I found a manager and complained that I would not advise people to spend money here. This one in question is called Kalaikoodam. Avoid! The two that I have pictured are the best ones.
There is very good Indian food here including many vegetarian restaurants such as Dhivya’s Cafe where I had a nice Roti and Daal.
This rooftop bar is a great place to watch the sunset but get there early because there will be a line. They make you purchase a drink before heading up to the top. I don’t understand the system but that’s life. By the time I stood in line and waited for my drink, I missed sunset but enjoyed the night lights.
This man made lake is located next to the Petronas Towers. Every night at 1930 there is a water and light show with music.
After this you can walk around and gawk at the stunning Petronas towers, the tallest twin buildings in the world, lit up for nighttime.
So, I said a week, but it was really 8 nights. This easily could be done in less time. Two days is probably enough for KL. I didn’t visit Langkawi, known for fab beaches, because I have plenty of beach time on this trip. If that is something you wanted to add, you could spend less time in other places and see Langkawi. It is a short ferry ride from Penang.
Malaysia has many options to choose from. Bustling metropolis, cultural gems, misty cool highlands and gorgeous beaches. The infrastructure is good and it is easy to get around. The people are friendly and helpful, and the food has a high hygienic standard. What’s not to like?