Published: February 16th 2010February 9th 2010
Click on the first picture to enlarge it and browse through the pix. Below you find a short summary and our itinerary including some travel tips
Together with Singapore and Brunei, Malaysia is the most developed and richest country in South East Asia, which makes it also the least interesting one for me. It is more expensive than other South East Asian countries, and compared to Thailand or the Philippines, the locals, although still friendly, seem to be less open, happy and relaxed. The beaches we have seen, at least at the west coast, also are less impressive than the ones we have seen in other places in the region.
For me the most interesting part about the country is the mix of Asian cultures and religions living in harmony together: you see Chinese Buddhist temples next to Indian Hindu temples next to a mosque. The food is also a great mix of the best that Asia has to offer. Although I would rank Peninsular Malaysia at the bottom of my list of countries I have seen in South East Asia, for Asian first timers or people traveling with kids, Malaysia has still a lot to offer and
is a convenient Asian country to travel.
Due to the rainy season in the east, we had to stick to the west coast: Langkawi
is Malaysia's number 1 holiday destination. Compared to the islands in Thailand we have been to, Langkawi is much more developed and we like it less, especially coming from Koh Lipe: a lot of traffic on the roads, the main beach Cenang is full with jet ski's, banana boats and other water sport activities, the water is not clear, so no off shore snorkeling. Main activities on the island are: island hopping trips and a one day snorkel trip to Pulau Payar where you can snorkel next to baby sharks being fed. Having read numerous negative reviews of this snorkeling trip (its basically extremely over crowded with life jacket wearing Asian snorkelers), we decide to skip it. Instead we rent a scooter (for which you need a license, however a car driving license is sufficient) and cruise around the island. We find some deserted beaches, but most of them belong to a luxury resort. The cable car ride is worth the money, as the view from the top is quite amazing,
especially on a clear day. Georgetown, Penang
The Unesco world heritage site, Georgetown, is a nice colonial town on the island Penang that is full of mosques and Buddhist and Hindu temples. We enjoy walking around this relaxed old little town. Unfortunately the fort and the cable car to Penang hill was closed when we were there on a Sunday, so it worth checking opening times upfront. The food in Georgetown is great and cheap. A great place to eat at night is Red Garden Food Paradise (http://www.malaysiasite.nl/redgardeneng.htm): it has a lot of delicious hawker stalls. Hawker centers or complexes feature permanent stalls, each offering their own special dishes, all very reasonably priced. Cameron Highlands
another main tourist attraction, is a highland region with tea plantations. We just pass by by car. We decided to skip it, as we already have seen the not so impressive tea plantations in Madikeri (India) and the stunning rice terraces in the Banaue & Batad (Philippines), which look a bit similar but are much more impressive. Taman Negara
We decide to spend two days in the oldest rain forest on the planet (130 mio years). We enjoy the jungle landscape and
tranquility of the place we stay at close to the river. From there we trek through the jungle and walk the canopy walkway. Even in the rain forest, you can see that Malaysia is much more developed than other countries in the region: all walkways are signposted nicely telling you the direction and remaining distance; furthermore you can find information of plants and animals. Therefore you can do the shorter treks easily on your own, a guide would only be necessary for treks of several days. The only animals we saw where leeches crawling up our shoes, especially after it rained, and that can be pretty annoying. Kuala Lumpur
Overall we find the Malaysian capital with a population of 1.9 Mio inhabitants a bit boring and expensive. It’s another modern Asian city with a big expat community and a lot of big shopping malls. Our internet research indicated that apart from the huge amount of fancy expat bars and restaurants, there is also an underground scene. However we only make it to a dub step party and watch the rich ‘alternative’ Malaysian kids. We walk around town and check out the Petronas Twin towers, with aprox. 450 meters the
world's 3rd tallest building and main tourist attraction. We do not go up, because in order to do so, you have to cue up very early in the morning to get one of the limited free tickets. We go up the KL tower instead from which you can see the twin towers. However the main attraction for us, and already worth the visit, is the Thaipusam festival, an annual Hindu festival (end of January) at the nearby Batu caves, which draws approx. a million people. Several hundred devotees spear their cheeks with long, shiny steel rods - often a meter long - and pierce their chests and backs with small, hook-like needles in penance. (More info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thaipusam).
There are more photos below