A Week in Malaysia: Beaches, Food, and Skyscrapers

A Week in Malaysia: Beaches, Food, and Skyscrapers

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I didn’t know much about Malaysia or its history before our visit. I did know that the capital is Kuala Lumpur and that Derek Zoolander thwarted an assassination attempt on the Malaysian Prime Minister by the evil Mugatu back in 2001. Since our trip, I learned that Malaysia consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 127,720 square miles. The South China Sea separates the country into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. We spent most of our time in West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia and our first stop was Langkawi.

Our flight from Singapore left at 4:30 PM and once we got to Langkawi, we just took a cab to our Airbnb (NAS Homestay), checked-in, got dinner, and went to bed. Known as the Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah, UNESCO gave Langkawi World Geopark status in 2007. The island has a number of natural attractions and activities but the most famous is the Langkawi Cable Car which takes visitors up to the peak of Gunung Mat Chinchang. At the top, the Langkawi Sky Bridge gives you amazing views of the island and surrounding area.

Our intro into Malaysian food, delicious!

Day 1 - On our first full day I went for a run around the island and saw some monkeys just chilling along the road. After I came back, we grabbed lunch next to the hotel at The Boat Restaurant. Similar to Singaporean food, Malaysian food has strong influences from its surrounding neighbors like Thailand and Indonesia. We ordered chicken in orange sauce (12myr), sambal kankung morning glory (16myr), claypot chicken (18myr), papaya salad (8myr), and crab corn soup (5myr). It was all good but slightly lacking salt. During lunch it started pouring rain so we ate slowly until the rain died down and just went back to the room. It cleared up later on but we just wanted a rest day so we stayed in and watched Sherlock season 4. When we got hungry, we went back out for dinner at Maya Restaurant next door. We ordered pad thai & curry noodle soup. The pad thai didn’t quite have the right flavor but tasted ok. Diem’s curry soup was delicious but small. We walked back home and called it a night.


On our way up the cable car

Day 2 – We got up late and went to lunch at The Wood's. We wanted brunch food but they didn't have either of the dishes we ordered so we settled their Indian choices. I ordered the chicken tikka masala and Diem ordered the biryani chicken set. Both were delicious. After lunch we tried to rent a scooter but they told us that we needed a motorcycle license. So we walked to the nearest taxi stand and took the taxi to the SkyCab Oriental Village (32myr). We just wanted to take the cable car up to the top but we had to pay for the basic combo ~$55 Malaysian Ringgit (cheapest option). The ticket included the cable car, SkyDome (3D dome movie), SkyRex (4D dinosaur attraction) and another 3D video. We had a nice, hot day but it was a beautiful view at the top all around the island and the ocean. There are two panoramic viewpoints and on the way up, you can see two waterfalls. We spent a solid hour there and headed down. While we were at the top, we saw there were a couple of spots around the island that had rain but luckily it wasn’t around us.

Left: Langkawi Sky Bridge; Right: ice cream at the top hit the spot

When we got to the bottom of the mountain, we decided to try out the other exhibitions included in our combo pick. We went into the SkyDome and watched a weird movie that was essentially a simulated roller coaster through space. The SkyDome is a smaller version the OmniMax at the St. Louis Science Center and which give you a panoramic view of the screen on the dome. The movie actually made both of us sick so we decided to pass on the rest of the exhibitions. We took a cab back to our place and had planned to go to the beach but it started pouring rain so we just stayed in and watched TV. For dinner we went out to Cactus again. We ordered Seafood Noodle soup (12myr) and Singapore Noodles (7myr) and beers (3.50myr). Once again, it was delicious and was a nice ending to the day.

Day 3 – This morning we woke up late again and packed up our stuff for check out.  Checkout was a noon so we left our bags with reception and went to lunch.  We walked to lunch at The Boat again and ordered crab corn soup (5myr), small beef with vegetables (15myr) and a large fried Char Kuey Teow (20myr).  After lunch we finally headed to the beach finally. The beach itself was pretty nice. There were some islands in the distance and some rocks along shoreline. We walked towards the rocks where there was shade and chilled there.  I cut my hand up pretty good when I slipped on a rock and partially fell in the water. Not my best moment. We had time to kill before our flight so we stayed at the beach for a bit and headed back to the hotel to use their Wi-Fi. Our taxi came at 4 PM and took us to the airport. We had a short 30 min flight to Penang and took an Uber from airport to our Airbnb (17myr). When we checked in, we noticed that host gave us wrong room. We booked one with private bathroom but he explained that the room we booked is being used as storage so we were stuck with the smaller room with a shared bathroom that looked terrible. We were tired so we didn’t argue much and for dinner, we ordered sushi delivery on the Foodpanda app. Another quirk about our host was that he played the same song over and over on repeat. It wasn’t a good song but it must have been popular in Malaysia.

Day 4 – Penang is known as the “Silicon Valley of the East” and the food capital of Malaysia. We were excited to taste the food and explore so we took an Uber to George Town to have lunch. We ate lunch at Yeap Noodles which was really delicious. The place had a really authentic feel to it because it was so small and they made the dishes right in front of you. After lunch we walked around to see some of the world famous street art of Penang. In 2012, as part of the George Town Festival of Arts and Culture, Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic created a series of 6 wall paintings depicting local culture, inhabitants and lifestyles. They now stand as celebrated cultural landmarks of George Town, with Children on a Bicycle being one of the most photographed spots in the city center. Most places downtown have maps of where each of the different drawing are located so we grabbed one and went exploring. We found most of them and took the obligatory pictures with the street art which were really cool to see up close. As the day wore on, it got pretty hot out. We walked down around the ferry but it started raining pretty hard so we tried to find a way home. Luckily, we found a restaurant with internet so we called an Uber and went back to the Airbnb.

Having fun with street art

Goddess of Mercy Statue

Day 5 – In the morning, we wanted to see some of the beaches around the island. We took an Uber to Batu Feringi Beach in the northern part of the island and had lunch at Andrew's Kampung.  We made our way to the beach and walked around for a bit. It was so hot and humid and we couldn’t find much shade so we didn’t stay there long. We walked back a restaurant to get Wi-Fi and ordered an Uber to Kek Lok Si Temple. When we got there, we walked around a bit and checked out the giant statue of the Goddess of Mercy at the top. We saw postcards of the temple and night which showed a beautifully lit up temple and statue but it wasn’t as impressive in person. The statue was undergoing restoration efforts so we couldn’t get that close and the construction blocked some of the statue. When we were ready to head home we realized the temple didn’t have Wi-Fi so we had to get an unlicensed cab back to the Airbnb. It took some haggling but we finally got it down to a reasonable price.

Day 6 – On our last day in Penang, we just checked out and took an Uber to airport. The flight landed in Kuala Lumpur (KL) at 4 PM and we took an Uber to our Airbnb (Ragalia Suites). It was an hour drive from the airport to the city but it went by fairly quickly. We were really excited for this Airbnb because the pictures and reviews talked about the beautiful infinity pool on the rooftop. We really wanted to go to the famous infinity pool at Marina Bay Sands Casino in Singapore but you had to be a guest at the hotel to get in. Unfortunately, the $300+/night rooms were outside of our budget. Our Airbnb in Kuala Lumpur was only $24/night so it was a nice budget-friendly alternative. After we put our stuff in the room, we went straight to the infinity pool. The pool had amazing views of the city and the famous Petronas Towers. We got there right at sunset and stayed until dark and took pictures. For dinner we just bought some things at the minimart at the lobby and watched movies.

Night views from the infinity pool

Outside the Batu caves

Day 7 – In the morning, we woke up and went back to the infinity pool for morning pictures. Unfortunately, the sun glared right into your face so you couldn’t take really good photos of the view and the city. After breakfast, we took an Uber to the Batu Caves (12myr) and hung around there for a bit. The Batu Caves are located within a limestone hill that has a series of caves and cave temples. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu (Stone River), which flows past the hill. The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, and is dedicated to Lord Murugan. The giant statue of Lord Murugan at the entrance to the Batu Caves is really impressive. Going up the stairs, we saw a number of monkeys climbing and eating food left as offerings by the locals. Inside the caves, there is a large opening with a number of shrines and steps leading to another area of the cave. The second area contains a temple and a sunlit opening where heaps of monkeys climbed on the walls and shouted their calls. The cave walls were very beautiful and had a number of stalactites and stalagmites. It doesn’t take too long to explore the entire cave so after about 15 minutes we headed back down the stairs.

Left: posing with Lord Murugan; Right: inside the Batu Caves

The Batu Caves has other caves and attractions in the area so we walked around a bit and then took the metro back to our Airbnb (Putra Station) for only 2myr pp. We ate lunch at the Suneay Mall next door to our Airbnb.  It was getting close to my 36th birthday so I decided to switch things up and get a mohawk haircut. We found a place in the mall and for only 17 myr (~$4 USD) I completed my mid-life crisis purchase. It was really hot outside so we walked around the shops to enjoy the AC for a while.  Once we cooled off, we went back to the pool again for more pictures and then back to the room. We went back to the mall for dinner. Diem was craving Korean food and the mall had a Korean place but it was pretty disappointing. After that, we called it a night.

Left: new haircut; Right: daytime pics from the pool

Day 8 – On our last day in Malaysia we had to check out by 11 AM so we just took an Uber to the airport. We actually went to the wrong terminal and had to take a shuttle to the right one. Apparently KL airport does not have any good public seats for people waiting to check in. Our flight wasn’t until 7 PM so we just set up shop at McDonalds and Diem went shopping for a bit. We eventually checked in and then got on our flight which was a 5 hour trip.

While we were traveling in Malaysia, I didn’t feel like I appreciated it as much as I should have. Looking back at our time there and going through our pictures, there were some really amazing experiences. The food was really delicious, the beaches were beautiful, and the cities and sites really stand out in my memory. To be honest, I don’t think I’m dying to return to Malaysia but I’m really glad we went there and we had an incredible time there.

See the full gallery of our time in Malaysia here: Best of Malaysia.

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Paul is a lawyer taking a mid-career break focused on capturing all his adventures during his yearlong honeymoon around the world.

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