Asia Budget Travel

Get A Taste Of Malaysia In 12 Days – A Sample Itinerary

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on
March 27, 2017

Situated in the heart of southeast Asia, Malaysia is a tropical paradise full of variation and surprises. Bustling towns, pristine beaches, and lush rainforests make Malaysia a fascinating and somewhat underrated destination. Besides the breath-taking nature, what makes Malaysia truly unique is the cultural diversity, which is prevalent in the culture and cuisine all over the country. If you want to explore the whole nation, you’ll have to spend at least 1-2 months in Malaysia. However, you can get a taste of Malaysia by visiting parts of the country, such as the highlights of the Malay Peninsular in only two weeks.

Malysia Map Itinerary

The Route In A Nutshell

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur
Day 2: Kuala Lumpur
Day 3: Bus To Penang
Day 4: George Town
Day 5: Penang
Day 6: Ferry To Langkawi
Day 7: Langkawi
Day 8: Langkawi
Day 9: Bus To Tanah Rata
Day 10: Tanah Rata & Cameron Highlands
Day 11: Tanah Rata & Cameron Highlands
Day 12: Bus To Kuala Lumpur

Highlights Of The Trip

– Get to know Malaysia’s vibrant capital city Kuala Lumpur
– Visit the Hindu temples inside the famous Batu Caves
– Experience Malaysia’s culinary capital George Town
– Go on a self-guided street art walking tour in Penang
– Visit Kek-Lok-Si, one of the largest Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia
– Take a ride on Langkawi’s impressive SkyCab cable car
– Relax on beautiful white beaches
– Go jungle-trekking in the Cameron Highlands

12-Day Itinerary

Make your way to Kuala Lumpur one day before the start of your program. Since this itinerary has a pretty tight schedule, be sure to add a few extra days here and there if you prefer traveling slowly.

Day 1: Kuala Lumpur

Where To Stay: Kuala Lumpur

On your first day in Kuala Lumpur, you can explore different districts to get an overall idea of this vibrant capital city. Make your way to Bukit Bintang, which is the central area of Kuala Lumpur. Chances are you’re already staying somewhere nearby as this district is full of accommodations, night markets, and street food.

From here, take a walk on Jalan Bukit Bintang Street to the Pavilion KL, a large shopping mall. At the fountain in front of the entrance, turn left and go into the arcades where you’ll find various restaurants lined up. Keep walking until you reach the pedestrian bridge. This walkway is over 1 km long and connects KLCC with the Pavilion KL. It takes around 10-15 minutes to get to the convention center. By following the signs to the Petronas Twin Towers or the convention center, you can’t get lost.

Once you reached the convention center, explore the beautiful gardens of KLCC Park, from where you’ll have great views of the world’s largest twin structures and KL’s most famous landmark. The Petronas Twin Towers are 452m tall and share a sky bridge on the 41st and 42nd floor. At the base of the towers, you’ll find  Suria KLCC,  an upscale shopping mall. If you’re super fascinated by the buildings, you may also visit the observation deck on level 86 for MYR 80 / approx. 20 USD. However, lines can get quite long, and reviews are very mixed. I’d rather spend the money on an observation deck from where you have a skyline view that includes the Petronas Twin Towers. 🙂

Petronas Twin Towers

The Petronas Twin Towers are Kuala Lumpur’s most famous landmark.

Afterwards, have lunch inside the KL Convention Center. There is a large food court on the ground floor, just opposite the Aquarium. The food here is cheap and really amazing.

When you’re done with lunch, make your way to KLCC Station and take the red line to Masjid Jamek. From here, the Sultan Abdul Samad Building is around 5 minutes on foot. The complex was constructed in the late 19th century and used to be the administrative hub of Malaysia. Today, this gorgeous building is home to local ministries.

Keep walking south for about 10 minutes. You will soon reach the Central Market, which is a pretty imposing construction from the outside and offers excellent shopping opportunities on the inside. Exotic smells, beautiful textiles, an extraordinary blaze of color, inexpensive clothes and handicrafts make this an extraordinary place you shouldn’t miss.

Just around the corner from Central Market, you’ll find KL’s busy Chinatown centered around Petaling Street. There are plenty of street food options around as well as many vendors who sell cheap clothes, accessories and souvenirs. Chinatown becomes alive at night so you might want to consider staying in the area for a while.

Chinatown

Chinatown is a great place to buy cheap accessories and taste delicious street food.

After dinner (definitely try some street food in Chinatown), make your way to Menara KH, where you’ll find the aeronautically-themed Heli Lounge Bar on the 34th level. Located on a full-functioning helipad by day, this rooftop bar probably offers the most spectacular views of the KL skyline. You can even see the illuminated KL Tower and the Petronas Twin Towers while having a rather expensive glass of wine or cocktail. Nevertheless, a drink with this view is absolutely worth the money.

Helibar Kuala Lumpur

Probably one of KL’s coolest rooftop bars, the Heli Bar and Lounge offers spectacular views of the skyline.

Day 2: Kuala Lumpur

Where To Stay: Kuala Lumpur

On day 2, you’re going to head out of the bustling city.

Situated about 30 minutes by train from KL Sentral Station, Batu Caves is waiting to be discovered.

Batu Caves is said to be the most important Hindu temple outside of India. The cave temple built inside a limestone mountain can be reached after climbing 272 steps from the main square in front of the gigantic, golden statue of Lord Muruga, who this temple is dedicated to.

On your way up to the cave, you’ll likely be accompanied by a few sneaky monkeys that seem to be waiting for you to either throw some food away or take a water break so that they can steal your bottle.

From up the mountain, you’ll have an amazing view of the Kuala Lumpur skyline on the horizon and most of all the entire temple complex. It consists of several smaller caves as well as the massive cathedral cave, which is home to numerous Hindu shrines where ceremonies are regularly conducted. Around the whole temple area, you’ll find lots of statues of different Hindu gods.

Batu Caves

Batu Caves is the one of the most important Hindu temples outside of India and absolutely worth a day trip from KL.

Be careful, falling rocks are common in the last part of the cathedral cave. When I was there, a massive rock from the 100m high rockface above had dropped down hitting the ground maybe 1m next to me.

Once you’re back in KL, explore Alor Street Food Night Market for cheap local food. If you’re looking for something a little more fancy, but not super expensive, you may also check out Lot 10 Hutong Food Court on the ground level of Lot 10, the shopping center right next to Bukit Bintang Station.

Day 3: George Town

Where To Stay: George Town

From Kuala Lumpur’s Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, take a bus to Butterworth, from where you can take a ferry to George Town on Penang Island. Buses in Malaysia are among the most comfortable in Southeast Asia, so just sit back, relax and enjoy the long ride.

Once you’re in George Town, make your way to your accommodation. Perhaps head out to try some of Penang’s legendary street food if you’re still up for it.

Day 4: George Town

Where To Stay: George Town

George Town is the capital of Penang Island and a multicultural hub with Malaysian, Chinese and Indian citizens. In George Town, the cultural diversity is absolutely remarkable and can not only be seen in the food but also in religious buildings. Never before have I seen a mosque in Little India and a Hindu temple right next door. It reminded me a lot of Beirut in Lebanon, which is another city where such a cultural and religious diversity is prevalent all over town.

On your first day in George Town, you can get acquainted with the UNESCO awarded Old Town. Pick up a street art guide either at your accommodation or at the Information Center at the ferry terminal. With this brochure, stroll through the lanes of George Town and find as many of the fantastic artworks as you can. It’s a fun way to explore the city with its historic streets and narrow lanes.

Street Art George Town

George Town is full of excellent street art.

You will also come across other attractions, including the Kapitan Keling Mosque constructed by the first Indian Muslim settlers in the 19th century as well as the 650-year-old Khoo Kongsi, which is said to be the most impressive Chinese clan house in Southeast Asia. There’s also Kuan Yin, Penang’s oldest temple featuring Chinese architecture with both dragon carvings and sculptures around the roof. This temple was built by immigrant settlers from China in 1728.

Mosque George Town

Check out the beautiful Kapitan Keling Mosque in the heart of George Town.

If you need a break from both the heat and the street art, consider visiting one of George Town’s numerous funky museums. You will have some excellent photo opportunities inside the Upside Down Museum as well as the 3D Trick Art Museum while the Wonderfood Museum will probably increase your appetite. Photography-gurus will also enjoy the Camera Museum, and manga-lovers will be well catered for at the Asia Comic Cultural Museum.

As mentioned before, Malaysia’s George Town is a melting pot of different foods and has repeatedly been named one of the best food cities in the world. At night, I recommend checking out Chulia Street, which is home to various quality street food vendors. Try some of Penang’s favorites, such as the Chinese originated dish Laksa or the Indian dish Car Koay Teow.

Day 5: Penang

Where To Stay: George Town

With only a few days in the city, I recommend spending an entire day at the famous Kek Lok Si Temple, which is the largest Chinese Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. This unique heritage site is home to hundreds of Buddha murals, sculptures and carvings in each hall.  However, it’s main attraction is a seven-story Pagoda covered in 10,000 Buddha statues. Admission is mostly free; only one or two of the temple halls have an entry fee of MYR 2.

Kek Lok Si Temple

Kek Lok Si Temple contains thousands of Buddha statues and carvings.

Once you’re back in George Town, have dinner on Love Lane, which offers many restaurants, cafés, and shisha bars. This street comes alive at night time with live music and lots of drink specials. During the daytime, I especially recommend D’Loovis, which serve pretty delicious sandwiches and fries for only MYR 9.

Day 6: Langkawi

Where To Stay: Langkawi

Although not the cheapest option, I recommend going to Langkawi by boat. Take a direct ferry from George Town to Kuah on Langkawi. It’s the fastest and certainly most convenient way.

Go to your accommodation and have a relaxing evening.

Day 7: Langkawi

Where To Stay: Langkawi

The most flexible way to travel around Langkawi is by renting a motorbike.

From your accommodation, which is probably somewhere in or around Kuah, make your way to the main road. Following this road in the northern direction, you’ll pass the colorful Wat Koh Wanararm aka. Langkawi Lucky Temple as well as a couple of other small attractions on the way.

Keep following the road and signs to the Oriental Village at the foothills of Mount MacChingchang.

From there you can board the SkyCab to the summit of the mountain. This cable car is the longest free span single rope cable car in the world and was designed and constructed by one of the leading Austrian cable car companies in 2002. The ride is pretty steep (42° gradient) and really fascinating.

SkyCab Langkawi

A ride on Langkawi’s famous SkyCab offers panoramic views of the island, the rainforest underneath and Burau Bay.

Once up on the mountain, you have the most spectacular views of Langkawi Island, Burau Bay as well as the jungle underneath. There’s a curved Sky Bridge located near the SkyCab top station that you can also cross to get to another mountain peak. Be careful and take some sunscreen – the sun is very intense up there.

Back down at Oriental Village, you can spend some time shopping as the whole village is a duty-free zone. The Oriental Village also houses themed restaurants as well as a 6D cinema, a SkyDome (mainly works like a dome-shaped 3D cinema), a pretty lame Time Travel Museum (I encourage you NOT to spend money on that one), a Zipline and an impressive 3D Art Museum, which is similar to some of the exhibitions in George Town, but certainly worth a visit. You can easily spend the entire day at Oriental Village.

3D Art Musuem Langkawi

Oriental Village is home to a number of funky museums, such as the 3D Art Museum.

Day 8: Langkawi

Where To Stay: Langkawi

Finally, after so many days full of exploration tours and different attractions, it’s time to unwind a little bit. Offering several beautiful beaches, the island of Langkawi is the perfect spot to get some rest and process everything you have seen so far.

Pantai Cenang is the longest beach on Langkawi and very popular among tourists. Nevertheless, strolling along the stretches of white sand, you’ll likely find yourself a peaceful little spot away from the crowds. Many restaurants and bars are lining up the beachfront making this area great for sunset drinks or a fancy dinner overlooking the sea. Not far from Cenang Beach, you’ll also find Pantai Tengah, which is as gorgeous as Pantai Cenang but significantly less touristy.

Langkawi Beach

Spend some quality time at one of the pristine beaches in Langkawi.

Alternatively, you could spend the day relaxing at the very secluded Tanjung Rhu Beach in the north of the island. To get here, you first have to drive through a dense jungle-like area. With only a few snack booths, this quiet and peaceful beach guarantees pure relaxation.

TIP: If you decide to spend more time in Langkawi, consider a day trip or multi-day trip to Koh Lipe in Thailand. It’s only a short boat ride from Langkawi.

Day 9: Tanah Rata

Where To Stay: Tanah Rata

From Langkawi, hop on a ferry to Kuala Perlis, from where you can take a bus to Tanah Rata via Ipoh. The journey will more or less take up the whole day, but the sceneries you’ll pass are gorgeous. So just look out of the window here and there and try to enjoy the ride as much as possible.

Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands will be your base for the next two days.

Situated at an average altitude of 1500m above sea level, the Cameron Highlands are entirely different to everything else you’ve seen in Malaysia so far. The air is much clearer and a lot less humid than in the urban centers. I’m sure this lush mountain landscape will be a welcoming change to the bustling city and island life.

Make your way to your accommodation, check in and, if it’s not too late, head out into the town center and visit the tourist information center at the bus stop. Here you can find all kinds of information about both self-guided hikes and guided trekking tours. I recommend booking a local guide for (at least) one day with whom you can explore the thick jungle on the slopes of Mount Batu Brinchang.

Day 10: Tanah Rata

Where To Stay: Tanah Rata

Start day 2 in the Cameron Highlands with a good breakfast at either your accommodation or somewhere in town.

Whether or not you booked a guide, head to Brinchang, the next town. From here you can climb Mount Brinchang. The hike uphill is particularly adventurous as the path will lead you right through the lush jungle-like scenery with sheer fantastic vegetation and beautiful views.

From the summit of Mount Brinchang at 2034m, take the paved road downhill until you reach the Mossy Forest on the left. After visiting the Mossy Forest, you can try to hitchhike back to Brinchang. If you can’t find anyone to take you, consider waving down a taxi or shuttle bus. You may also walk down, though this will definitely take you over an hour.

Cameron Highlands

Jungle-treeking is a fun activity in the Cameron Highlands.

Have an early dinner in Brinchang and visit the authentic Brinchang Night Market, which takes place on Friday and Saturday nights as well as on weekdays during school holidays. Street vendors offer all kinds of locally-grown products, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, honey, and tea. On top of that, you can find delicious street food here, so hopefully, you still have some room left in your stomach after dinner.

To get back to Tanah Rata, you can either take a bus or taxi, depending on the time and weekday.

Day 11: Tanah Rata

Where To Stay: Tanah Rata

On day 3, I suggest going on a day trip to visit several attractions. Guided tours can be organized and booked through the tourist information center. These day excursions typically include places like the Boh Tea Plantation, a strawberry farm, Honey Bee Farm, Cactus Point, Water Cress Valley, a butterfly sanctuary, Sam Poh temple as well as Rose Village.

In the evening, have dinner in Tanah Rata.

Day 12: Kuala Lumpur

Where To Stay: Kuala Lumpur

At the bus stop in Tanah Rata, you can board a direct bus to Kuala Lumpur.

From Kuala Lumpur, you may continue exploring Malaysia’s south, for example the vibrant city of Melaka, or take a flight to Borneo.

Also, you can find pretty cheap flights to several other Southeast Asian destinations. Many people continue their trip in Vietnam, Taiwan or Thailand.

Last year, I used Malaysia as a cheap visa run destination while backpacking around the Philippines. In fact, there are several connections a day between both Manila – KL as well as Cebu – KL.

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LOTM

Hi there, I'm Lena! I love being on the move around the world - travelling, diving or taking pictures. I've recently started dealing with and writing about ways to make diving more affordable. I enjoy sharing my experiences and tips with y'all, fellow budget backpackers and budget divers! Read more

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