I’d been told many wonderful things about Malaysia before my trip, heard stories about the beautiful white sand beaches in Langkawi, seen pictures of the famous Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, and been told about the interesting mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine. But I can definitely say that three weeks in this amazing country was enough to literally make me want to pack up and move there. As a vegetarian, I have never eaten so well in my life!
We started our journey on the beautiful island of Langkawi, an archipelago lying in the north coast of Malaysia. I originally thought that there wasn’t much to do in Langkawi aside from lie on a beach, but how wrong I was. After a bit of research, we found ourselves in the middle of a dense jungle abseiling down 50ft trees, traversing high ropes and climbing up the biggest scrambling nets I had ever seen, all thanks to our awesome guide from Langkawi Canopy Adventures. This is a MUST DO if you want more from this beautiful island than just a beach holiday.
Our next stop was Penang, another beautiful island off the west coast of Malaysia, just a short three-hour ferry journey from Langkawi. A must visit is the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Georgetown. It has an eclectic mix of museums, Chinese temples, colonial architecture and a great ‘Little India’. Penang is considered the culinary capital of Malaysia offering a wide variety of food such as laksa, curry, and skewers. To experience the local flavours, head to the hawker stalls in Gurney Drive.
Other things worth doing are the tram ride up Penang Hill that offers a spectacular view of the city. It also has a small cafe that serves traditional English tea at the top in the beautiful garden.
I recommend staying at the Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa located at the Batu Feringgi Beach – a jewel in the crown indeed. For a beautiful old colonial hotel, check out the E&O. Penang’s answer to Singapore’s Raffles Hotel.
From Penang, we then flew to a city in the north of Malaysia, Khota Baru followed by a taxi to Kuala Besut to board the speedboat which would take us to the Perhentian Islands. This was the part of the trip I had been most looking forward to and when we arrived I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
We stayed at the Coral View Island Resort in a jungle chalet, which although wasn’t the most luxurious of hotels (accommodation on the Island is all pretty basic), it was located right next to the most amazing beach, with completely white sand, the clearest azure water I have ever seen. It was also surprisingly peaceful. The Perhentians is an excellent diving spot and as well as the colourful fish, you can see both turtles and reef sharks.
If you have more time, look into staying on Perhentian’s smallest island – Gemia. It’s relatively untouched, and they have a private turtle sanctuary.
We stayed at the 5-star Traders hotel located at the heart of KL, a large property with a fantastic rooftop pool and bar, located right in the centre of town, with an unrivalled view of the Petronas Towers. KL was a little heaven for me. Food and shopping, what more can a girl ask for? Pavilion Mall located at the heart of Bukit Bintang carries all those high street brands that we miss from.
In terms of food, KL has everything. If you prefer a more local flavour and doesn’t mind street food, head to Jalan Alor – a street filled with hawker stalls specialising in all sorts of local fares such as skewers, noodles, etc. For a more upscale dining experience, Frangipania is a favourite – a French restaurant that is considered one of the most elegant in the city.
Just a tip if you want to go up to Petronas Towers, you will need to queue up at about 7:30 am to get in. It’s definitely worth a trip up the spinning tower for a view of the city. For an equally impressive view of the city, with fewer queues, visit the KL Tower – at night, the view of KLCC lit up is gorgeous.
On the whole, I would highly recommend Malaysia as both a beach and cultural destination, and for any foodies out there you won’t be disappointed!
By Kathryn Gardner