Malaysia is the result of its history of invasions and foreign dominations and this is reflected in a multiracial society: It is a country where it is difficult to find indeed, people which immediately you can identify as Malayans, what we saw arriving at Malaysia is a big mixture of races: Indians, Arabian, Thai, Indonesian, Chinese...
We also realized it is a very developed country and even more if we compare it with its neighbours of South East Asia: Vietnam, the Philippines.... and this a result of the English presence which is really visible all around the country with influence in the infrastructures, commerce and most of the sectors... Also as a result of all this, most of indicative posters or announcements or of publicity (private and public), are in English, Chinese and of course in Malayan.
Cities are pretty modern and we did not see much difference between rich and poor like we saw in other countries.
Who visits the East and the West coast of Malaysia will realize that the level of development in general: infrastructures, tourism, level of spoken English... etc, is much more than in the Western side of Malaysia.
July 29th to August 21st, 2005.
We arrived via Singapore and left from Kuala Lumpur, so that in the same travel we can quickly visit another country beside our main destination Malaysia.
We decided to go to the main recommended cities and islands according to our willing and to what most of the guides recommend. Unfortunately we hadn't enough time to visit everything what we would like to of the Malayan part of Borneo island and we only spent there 3 days.
Who has more time or does not want to spend so many days in wonderful islands can decide to stay longer in Borneo, to visit more national parks or islands in Sabah, to share some days with families and to see orangoutangs; and also to take the chance of visiting the kingdom of Brunei.
Days 1-2: Barcelona - ... - Singapur
Day 3: Singapur - Johor Bahru
Day 4: Johor Bahru - Kuching (Borneo)
Days 5-6: Kuching
Day 7: Kuching - Salang (Tioman)
Day 8: Salang (Tioman)
Day 9: Salang (Tioman) - Kuala Terengganu
Day 10: Kuala Terengganu - Pulau Kecil (Perhentian)
Days 11-12: Pulau Kecil (Perhentian)
Day 13: Pulau Kecil (Perhentian) - Pulau Besar (Perhentian)
Day 14: Pulau Besar (Perhentian)
Day 15: Pulau Besar - Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands)
Days 16-17: Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands)
Day 18: Tanah Rata (C. Highlands) - Georgetown (Penang)
Day 19: Georgetown (Penang)
Day 20: Georgetown (Penang) - Kuala Lumpur
Day 21: Kuala Lumpur - Melaka - Kuala Lumpur
Day 22: Kuala Lumpur
Days 23-24: Kuala Lumpur - ... - Barcelona
In Malaysia it is possible to change euros or dollars in banks or houses of change with no proble. We had the experience changing the two currencies and we never had problems to change. Somewhere we even asked if we could get a better change and surprisingly they did it, therefore you're advised to insist if the change can be improved. Credit cards however, are accepted in almost all places and hotels but be aware that they charge between a 3% and a 5% of commission.
Banks do not take commission when they exchange in cash, but they take 10RM when changing travel checks. It is recommendable to compare the change rates in different places.
In Singapore we took American dollars by Singapore dollars: 1.636 dollars of SGP by each American dollar (to go faster in the calculation of the prices, you take the price in dollars of Singapore, and divide between two and the result are €).
1 € = 4.6 RM (Malayan Ringgit): to go faster in the calculation of prices, we divide between 5 the price of RM and the result will be €. Another way would be multiplying x2 the prices in RM and to remove a 0 and we will have the price in euros. By each American dollar they give us 3,6 RM.
+ 1034 € (BCN-Malaysia-BCN blight)
+ 45 € (flight Johor Bahru-Kuching-Johor Bahru)
+ 120 € (transport: interurban buses, buses and taxis)
+ 280 € (hotels)
+ 140 € (restaurants, drinks, juices and supermarket expenses)
+ 38 € (souvenirs and others)
+ 48 € (excursions and entrance fees)
= 1.705 € (Total)
Average daily budget: 27 €, flights aside.
It is obligatory to take the valid passport and to keep the entrance card until the end of the travel because it will be requested at the airport customs. The visa is only necessary if we want to stay in Malaysia longer than 90 days. The same is valid for Singapore.
It is not necessary to be vaccinated if you're not going to the island of Borneo, if you want to go there, it's better to be vaccinated and to take pills to prevent the malaria. The recommended vaccines are those of the yellow fever, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid fever, meningitis, to be updated of the vaccine of diphtheria and tetanus.
You need to be vaccinated at least one month before beginning the travel, and the tablets of the malaria must also be taken 1 week before the trip and during 6 weeks. To get the vaccine you must go to the centres qualified by the department of health of the Generalitat de Catalunya (Tel. 93-443 05 07). The vaccines and consultation cost around 30 €. We recommended to ask for the appointment, minimum 3-4 months in advance, because as travellers to exotic destinations are growing, it is possible that they cannot give us our preferred time.
Malaysia is a country that seemed to us very, very calm, the same sensation as in other Asian countries. Certainly is recommended to have the same precautions that we would have in all the places where we travelled (or where you live). The robberies happen, but they do not have to happen if you're watching your properties and the value objects that you take. Logically it is advised to travel without jewels or external ostentations. Our experience was absolutely positive and for the rest, we took the habitual precautions that had in any other travel (or when you go for a walk in your city), and of course in places with people agglomeration and night hours or places with few luminosity.
Although distances in Malaysia are not big, when you use public transport, they do seem to be bigger as they are. Taxis or buses do not drive over 70/80 km per hour and what could be done pretty fast, takes longer, some hours. The infrastructures of the roads are better in the West side as the East side, and when we were there, they were building a new highway from the North to the South, and they are making big investing efforts in infrastructures.
Airplane. We only took an internal flight that we bought a month before in Internet. We flew from Johor Bahru (and not from Singapore as it's cheaper to fly from Johor Bahru) to the island of Borneo. Johor Bahru is a small and modern airport where they also have low cost flights and we do not found them at the international airport of Singapore. In August 2005, the works at the Johor Bahru airport were just finished and it was really surprising its modernity.
In the guide they say that at the airport, leaving Malaysia you must pay an airport fee of 47 RM, but it's better to ensure that this airport fee is included in your ticket as it will probably be.
Taxi. The taxis in Malaysia are cheap, and the only place where they use taximeter (= barmeter) is Kuala Lumpur, and it must be requested (better demand!) that they switch it on, because sometimes they don't use it and they raise prices. As we have the right that they switch the taximeter, it is our choice to demand that they switch it on or to get out of the taxi and take another one. That's what we did a couple of times. For instance, what could cost taximeter between 2,5-3 RM, without it they charge 10 RM. Of course you also find taxis that work honestly. In the rest of the country they do not work with taximeter and the routes prices are stipulated with official fixed tariff, and the rest of the routes must be agreed.
Bus. The interurban buses are a good option to move around the country. The different companies that operate between cities, have all the same price, therefore what we must do is to check which kind of buses offers this service. All buses we took, they put oil once they had charged the passengers and in addition they put it wile the motor was on (very dangerous!), we saw that everyone puts oil this way in Malaysia. The disadvantage is that although the distances are not big, speed oscillates between 60 and 90 km/hour. Some bus lines have buses with three seats by row instead of the four habitual ones, and this allows us to be much more comfortable. We recommend to ask which type of bus the different companies use.
Train. We did not take any malaysian train, because there is only a train-line in the Western side of Malaysia and the schedules, duration of trip and prices are better with the buses.
Rental car. The option of renting a car seems to be good, because the oil is very cheap and the price of the renting cars seems not to be abusive. But we did not do it, so we cannot explain much about that!.
Malaysia has many types of lodging, in general with very good price. We have verified that that some hotels have a nice website in which the rooms seem very pretty and new but the reality that we found was another one... Who does not have odd habits or has austere habitudes can find lodging between 30-50 RM per night per double room. The modern or only better hotels cost between 90 RM and 150 RM. From 150 RM they are very pretty hotels, new and modern. When the hotels offer rooms with TV it is usually local channels unless they have satellite tv that also offer some channels in English.
In this travel, exceptionally we went to some hotels with the reservation already done per internet from Barcelona, some hotels they gave us surprises when comparing what we saw in their website with the reality, and due to this, we recommend to follow our usual system: when we arrive to a new city, one of us remains with the backpacks and the other goes around to see the hotels that the guide recommends, and we also checked those that we had found previously per internet. Without problem the managers of the hotels allow us to see the rooms and give us the price. You should also try to bargain the price, but in Malaysia it is not like in other countries that always reduce the price obtaining big discounts. You must try it at least.
Breakfasts are not always included in the price of the room, and to be sincer, if you are not a rice lover, it's not necessary you get the breakfast included. We saw it usually was Asian breakfast, or thought for Asian guests with cooked rice and noodles in different ways. We rarely found fruits (melon, watermelon and pineapple basically) and eggs in the breakfast buffets.
If you pay with credit card, they always charge 3% or 5%. Also it is better you ask if the prices are net or plus plus: +5% of taxes of government and 10% of services fee. If you foresee you will arrive to a city on Friday or Saturday, we recommend to make a previous reservation because we had difficulties to find a room when we liked the place (and the price) because we arrived on Friday and the Malayans are used to travel in weekend. If you prefer to leave your country with all reservations done, we recommend not to do it with the hotels directly, but in: Malaysia Hotels or in firstname.lastname@example.org, because we were able to verify that the prices that hotels have in Internet are cheaper than making the reservations directly with the hotel, or through the website of the hotel. And the service is extremely good and kind.
Malaysia is the varied result of an incredible mixture of cultures and logically this is reflected in very various gastronomy: we found specialties from India, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Japan, China... In addition beside that, we found many counters in the streets that are built up in the evening and there you can taste any type of plate you wish in very simple conditions and at very economic prices. For us it is a very recommendable food.
The restaurants that we went to were usually simple, with plastic furniture, and opened, that is to say, without glass windows or walls, almost completely outdoor. We must say that the prices of dishes were cheap, if you want you can eat for 2-3 €, if you prefer a better restaurant, you could pay about a 10-15 €. The difference of these restaurants with the cheaper ones, is the facilities or the presentation of the food, but for us the cheaper ones have also a good quality of food (at least the raw material meat, fish, seafood). Interesting is to eat fish where you can choose it: they show you the different fishes they have, and you agree how to cook them and you also agree the price according the weight. They are generally fast in serving.
Though in the tourist zones they live on the tourism, their level of English is minimal to understand what drink you want and not much more. Although we ordered a first and a second dish, they bring the food whenever they want, without considering if it's a starter or a main dish and also without expecting that all people sitting in the table get the dishes at the same time. A negative surprise was that fruits were not so good or sweet as we expected and the juices that they give us contained half glass of water. We only obtained in few places the juice we wanted (pure juice we must say) and for that you must always pay extra money. The prices of juices oscillate between 3 RM and 10 RM.
For the wine lovers, we are sorry to say that in Malaysia the wine is clearly a product of luxury and not of consumption. In some restaurants of medium level can be found Australian or French wine to a relatively high price.
At the time of paying you must consider that in some restaurants they will receive the plus plus: +5% government taxes and 10% of services fee.
- In most of the restaurants they do not give (and often nor they have) knives. And the napkins frequently must be specifically requested, because they do not give them automatically with the meal.
- It's recommendable to reveal photos and the digital photos in Malaysia, we paid to 0,35 RM per each digital photo in size 10x15. In order to reveal analogical pictures we paid 0,35 RM plus 5 RM for the reveal. It is worth to compare prices and also to try to negotiate prices by amounts, in most of the places they offer 0,60 RM by photo revealed as a first price, but you can get it for 0,50 RM or 0,42 RM. We did it in Kuala Lumpur in Suria Photo (50 Jalan Hang Kasturi, just in front of the power station market). They have several stores around Kuala Lumpur.
Most of Malaysia territory does not present significant seasonal variations, neither in rain, nor temperature or humidity. The climate in Malaysia when we visited it, was extremely warm and humid and we were always sweating. Temperatures were superior to the 35 degrees during the day and during evening around 30. In the mountains area, in the Cameron Highlands, evidently it did not make an extreme heat but a good temperature. In the island of Borneo the heat was extreme.
During our summer, Malaysia is 6 hours ahead of Barcelona.
Malaysia e Brunei, Lonely Planet Italian version (Ed. March 2004).
Singapore is a country located in an island in the south of Malaysia. We decided to book the flight from Barcelona entering by Singapore and leaving by Kuala Lumpur to take advantage of visiting a new country (quickly only). Singapore is the cleanest city we have ever seen, it's wonderful and very modern, with an incredible extreme mixture of races and people and in the few hours that we spent there was very pleasant.
The prices of Singapore are cheaper than in Barcelona but not much cheaper. It is a very modern city that conserves some colonial houses and nice districts like China Town and Little India
We bought the ticket in the travel agency Viajes Iberia in Mataró (0034 93-755 25 80). We paid 1.034 €. The flight Barcelona-Frankfurt with Lufthansa takes 1 hour and 40 minutes. In Frankfurt we have had just the time to change and take the flight Frankfurt-Singapore that takes 11 hours and half. In the international airport of Singapore we took a taxi that costed 16$ till hotel 81 Palace
Hotel 81 is a hotel chain with many hotels in Singapore and we choose one of the cheapest, the Hotel 81 Palace (25 Lorong 6, Geylang, Singapore 398867, Tel. 0065-6440 8181), with a metro station 5 minutes walk, which leads us to the center of the city. We paid 49 € for a double room without breakfast. It is a simple hotel and probably not the best choice of the chain.
More hotels in Singapore (updated May2012):
• The Saff. Design hotel with small rooms and located in China Town. Highly recommended for lovers of design that don't want to pay the exorbitant prices of Singapore. Prices around 100 €
• Scarlett. Boutique hotel with the rooms totally different decorated. Located in the heart of China Town. Highly recommended for design lovers.
• 1929. Another boutique hotel also located in China Town. Highly recommended for lovers of design that don't want to pay the exorbitant prices of Singapore. Prices around 100 €.
• New Majestic. Among my favorite hotels in Singapore is the New Majestic, for its original design and its excellent Cantonese restaurant. Everything in a very cool wave or vintage style. From 125 € onwards.
• Fullerton. Elegant hotel in the harbor of Singapore. Housed in a classic building, which is located at the former Singapore Post Office, now completely rebuilt and the place of meeting place for locals. The Lighthouse terrace is another must in Singapore. Very famous its Sunday brunch. From 300 €. My pics link here.
• Fullerton Bay. Luxury hotel design open since 2010. I love it. Its swimming pool and terrace Lantern is a must see in Singapore. Prices from 400 € onwards
• Ritz Carlton. Probably my favorite in Singapore due to its location, decoration of the rooms modern but account, vintage inspirations with 608 rooms, Club Lounge to help in everything. Art scattered throughout the hotel. Swimming pool surrounded by vegetation. I love this hotel and in addition has Nutella breakfast if requested in advance. Prices from 300 € onwards.
• Mandarin Oriental. Another excellent hotel of Mandarin Oriental that offers 527 rooms with an oriental inspiration. Its magnificent pool to swim with the best views of the Bay of Singapore. At 7 am yoga is offered for all guests. Its awesome and recently refurnished spa, is as in all Mandarin is unique and exclusive. Spectacular breakfast (Nutella included) and an exclusive lounge club. Prices from 300 € onwards. My pics link here.
• Marina Bay Sands. Opened in February 2010, it is the largest Singapore hotel 2.571 rooms, beautiful and with what is probably the largest infinity pool I've ever seen. A must go for a drink. What I did not like at all were the services. The level of services offered it's not what I expect from a luxury hotel. Rooms from 250 € onwards. It has a huge casino, shopping centre, theatres, Convention Center and exclusive restaurants.
• Capella Sentosa. This hotel opened in 2009 is located at the Sentosa Island, 15 minutes away from the centre of Singapore. It is a resort with different infinite pools, gardens, in a colonial building of 1.890 which includes a Convention Center and a modern building with 112 rooms where the smallest one measures 77 m 2. Spectacular. The Auriga spa is the centre of relax and luxury. I enjoyed a wonderful massage and a great afternoon tea. Rooms from € 300 onwards
• Fort Canning, only 5 minutes away from Orchard Road, was inaugurated in December 2010. Located in fort Canning Park, one of Singapore's landmark, once used as a base for the British Far East Command during World War II, totally restored. It has 86 modern rooms with reat views to the gardens. Two big pools and no spa. Gattopardo, its well known Italian restaurant, offers in the evenings free cocktails for guests at the Tisettanta. The building was formerly the base of the British during the second world war and later private Club The Legends. The completely restored building is very nice. My pics link here
• Four Seasons, in Orchard Road, opened in 1994, 20 story building and 255 completely refurbished rooms. Note that with its ipod central system, you can see your content on the TV. They have a floor for couples with many romantic details. I like this!. Two swimming pools, one for adults only and one for families. The spa has no views. My pics link here
• The Sultan a boutique hotel, with kind staff and lovely rooms. Wifi can be improved.
• Naumi one fo the newst design hotels in the heart of Singapore.
• Wanderlust great crazy design hotel in China Town.
Restaurants.We only had one evening and we did not even look for something special. We chose a shopping mall full of restaurants: Imperial Treasure La Mian Xiao Long Bao (6 Raffles Boulevard #02-138, Marina Square Singapore 039594), nothing special.
More restaurants in Singapore (updated May 2012)
• Casual restaurants: Ganga (Indian vegetarian in Little India), Banana Leaf Apolo (Indian non vegetarian, in Little India), Soup Restaurant (Chinese food in a local Chinese chain), and Shin Yeh (Chinese taiwanese restaurant).
• Indian restaurants: The song of India.
Singapore is a modern city, a city of businesses that we think it's the cleanest one we have ever seen, even in the subway is strictly prohibited to eat, and they put fines if you eat or you smoke in the subway.
You must walk around China Town and Little India. And if you have time enough a funny thing is to visit the island of Sentosa that is a kind of amusement park where you must pay absolutely for everything, except to go to the beach; things to do: to raise the Carlsberg tower (with nice views around), to swim with dolphins, to visit butterfly and insects farm, the underwater world.... There is an internal bus that goes around the island and costs 0,90$. To arrive to Sentosa we took a cable car where price includes the entrance to the island and costs 11.90 $ for a return ticket.
To move around Singapore we chose the subway although the taxi has a reasonable price. Curiously the metro ticket is a hard card that once is used you must give it back to the spending machines and they give you back 1$. The price of the subway depends on the distance but it's around 2 and 2,5 $ (it includes 1$ that later will be given back by the spending machine).
The Raffles Hotel is a charming building that must be visited or if you can try to spend some nights at this wonderful colonial hotel. At the Raffles you can also enjoy the Sundays brunch for 65 $ and it is possible to have dinner for 45 $ with free buffet. It is a precious historical building with gardens and a general elegance that is worth to go although only to take a picture.
Johor Bahru is the first city of Southern Malaysia and we decided to go there because it has an airport from where there are low cost flights and we don't find low cost flights in Singapore. We took the bus to the Queens street Bus Depot, the ticket costs 2.40 $ and takes 25 minutes until Johor Bahru. We must cross the border of Singapore walking and some meters later we take again the same bus until the Malayan border. From there we walked until our hotel which was very close
We chose by Internet from Barcelona the Compact Hotel, the double room costs 110 RM (18 Jalan Wong Ah Fook, 80000 Johor Bahru, Tel. 0060-7 221 3000). It is a tall modern building and they gave us the highest room with corner, which allows us to enjoy the views of Johor Bahru and the Straits of Johor that separates continental Malaysia with Singapore. This price is without breakfast.
To have dinner we went opposite of the hotel where there is a long narrow street, Medan Selera Meldrum Walk, with thousands of gastronomical stalls that offer everything what you wish and we had for dinner fresh fish for few money
In Johor Bahru, State Capital of Johor we arrived at 5 in the afternoon and we only had the evening to go around. It's worth to see the museum Royal Abu Bakar that was the main palace of the royal family of Johor, built in 1866. Beside that Johor Bahru has not much interest.
In order to arrive from Johor Bahru we took a flight of one hour and 15 minutes. To go to the airport of Johor Bahru we took a taxi from the Compact hotel that costs 40 RM and takes 45 minutes (considering there is no traffic at 5 am in the morning!). The flight of AirAsia was kind of dangerous as after 10 minutes of flying we had to fly back for technical problems. After 20 minutes we took off without problems and landed in Kuching and with an anecdote to explain. In the airport of Kuching we took a taxi to the centre that costs 17,50 RM, the price is fixed and we got a ticket for it in a counter in the terminal exit
The hotel that we chose is very centric and very recommendable: the Singgahsana Lodge (1 Temple Street, 93000 Kuching, Tel. 0065 6 82429277), a cute hotel in Serawak style, simple but he is one of the cleanest and prettiest that we saw. We booked the "honeymoons's suite", per internet from Barcelona. This suite is one of the two only rooms that has a bathroom inside the room, it costs 107.80 RM per night including a simple breakfast. The other rooms do not have bathroom inside but they are equal to the "suite". Dormitory costs between 40 RM and 80 RM the double or triple room. It must be made an advanced payment by credit card of 30% of the total of the room. To wash clothes at the Singgahsana costs 3,50 RM the kilo, Internet 4 RM per hour and to rent a bicycle all the day costs 20 RM. Right opposite there is a tall building, the Harbour View Hotel (Lorong Temple, 93100 Kuching, Tel. 0065-6 82 274 600) which as it indicates well its name has views to all the fluvial port and a double room including breakfast costs there 98 RM. Who wants some more luxury there is also a Hilton Hotel, a Crowne Plaza and a Holyday Inn Hotel in the centre of Kuching.
To eat well, we recommend a very simple restaurant, that offers really fresh and very cheap fish and seafood, and you pay it according to the weight: See Good (53, Ban Hock Road, 93100 Kuching, Tel. 0065-6 82 232609). Also we had dinner at Khatulistiwa (Jl tunku Abdul Rahman, Tel.0065-6 248896) next to the river with varied and western kitchen, it was good but took them longer than one hour to bring the food. Another recommendable is Bing! (84 Padungan Road, 93100 Kuching, Tel. 0065-82 421880), where we went to drink something, the ambience was very pleasant and it's a design bar. Another restaurant to go and to taste the crab with black sauce, is D'Alif (Waterfront, Tel. 0065-82 8188400, Fax 0065-82 413753). Life Coffee (108 Ewe Hai street, 93000 Kuching, Tel. 0065-82 411754) offers good Chinese and vegetarian kitchen. The big water bottles cost in Kuching 2 RM and the small 1 RM
Kuching is the State Capital of Sarawak, in the island of Borneo. The island of Borneo has the oldest known forest in the world and is full of national parks. In addition, in the island also there is also Brunei and Indonesia.
Kuching means "cat" in Malayan, is a pretty and interesting city which as all the Malayan cities has their China Town and Little India, parks are very nice. The river Serawak invites to take a walk along the very attractive Waterfront. The Bazaar is in front of the waterfront and there are hundreds of stores that sell exactly the same. It is worth to compare prices because there are remarkable differences. In Kuching there is the place where handicrafts in Malaysia are made and mostly sold. After to have compared prices with the ones at the power station Market of Kuala Lumpur we say it is the cheapest place to buy handicrafts. It is in Kuching where we recommend to do our souvenirs and wood crafts shopping because the prices are half as in Kuala Lumpur.
To cross the Sarawak river costs 0,30 RM. At the other side of the river we saw Istana, the residence of the governor of the state that cannot be visited. You must visit the mosque (Jl Nan Hock), and the market of fishes, birds and fruits, everything is less than five minutes walking and we will find it near the waterfront. From Kuching is and ideal place to make several trips that can be done in Sarawak. For the lovers of the cats, they will find the only museum on cats of the world, it's a little kitsch but it pays tribute to the felines that give their name to the city. At dusk we made a boat trip to enjoy the evening, it takes around one hour and a half and costs 30 RM. Also there are other boats that cost 45 RM, that can fit more people
Excursions around Kuching. The excursions can be done on your own or with an agency that organizes them. The prices of agency are around 170 RM per person to see the Semengoh Wildlife Centre and the farm of reptiles, or to go to the Gunung National Park costs 190 RM, to go to the Bako National Park in excursion of one day costs 200 RM by person, and the 2 days excursion and 1 night costs 316 RM by person. To go to visit the Longhouse costs 2 days/1 night 422 RM by person, 3 días/2 nights costs 528 RM by person and to go to the Longhouse more far would cost 952 RM by person. You can see all this in Borneo Adventure, the main agency of Kuching (there are others more, we found all in the bazaar). We chose to make the trips by our own.
Bako National Park. Try to remember to bring at least one passport among the people who go together to the park, because at the entrance of the park, they request a passport to register the visitors. A bus of the company Petra Jaya Transport leaves very early, at the time o'clock, we took number 6, they are yellow and blue, it costs 1,5 RM. You can also find some vans that leave once they're full, they're at the market, next to the mosque of Kuching, price 5 RM per person and they bring you to the jetty where we embarked to the Bako national park. It took 30 minutes to drive 27 km. At the jetty there is a place to register (remember to bring your passport) and to pay 10 RM, the boat that takes us until the park entrance and the boat costs 10 RM if you are 5 people or less and 8 RM if you are 6 to 9 people. The boat takes 20 minutes to arrive at the entrance park.
In the park we found several itineraries to do and they are perfectly indicated with the hours that it can take to finish them. If you want to contract a guide it must be done previously as there are no guides at the entrance. In the Bako can be seen proboschis monkeys (monkeys of prominent pink nose), and all type of rainforest animals.
Semengoh Wildlife Centre. To arrive there you must take any bus 6A, 6B, 6C that leaves in front of the post office, price: 2 RM. You must tell the driver to stop at the Semengoh. The trip takes 55 minutes. The entrance to the Semengoh costs 3 RM. At the Semengoh they feed twice a day orangutans, at 9 in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. We arrived one hour before and we had the opportunity to give them the breakfast fruit by ourself attracting them with typical shouts that made that orangutans approach and come down the trees. The real show at the park is the feeding the orangutans done by the keepers and tourists are around 50 meters distance. You can observe as orangutans approach to take their fruit, but it is not the same as feeding by yourself, that's why we recommend to arrive early in the morning. To return we took the 11:30 bus, which came 20 minutes earlier.
At the airport of Kuching we arrived by taxi paying 17 RM (fixed price), we took a flight from AirAsia that takes one hour and half to arrive at Johor Bahru. There we took a taxi paying in a counter a fixed price of 160RM and took 2 hours in driving 140 km to Mersing. In Mersing we walked until the jetty where at 13.30 we took a speed boat that takes 1 hour to Tioman. We paid 30 RM. There is also a slower ferry that takes two hours and costs 30 RM. The decision to take speed boat or ferry is not a money question but a question of capacity to resist the seasickness. The different small hotels and resorts are located in different beaches and when entering the jetty you must request the ferry driver to leave you at your chosen beach
We arrived at Pulau Tioman without previous hotel reservation because we wanted to see different options, we decided to go to the biggest beach which is in the north of the island, Salang. The guide says that the biggest beach, Salang, it is a very pretty beach and there are many resorts. We had printed three different hotel website and the reality is very different to the nice pictures of the web. We stayed in Salang Indah Resort (Kampung Salang, Pulau Tioman, Tel. 0060-9 419 5015). We paid 130 RM (the initial price before bargaining was 170 RM) for a villa on pillars on the water for 4 people without breakfast. The villa is in an idyllic place and the beach is also very pretty, but inside the villa-room, it's very simple and most of the hotels are also very simple. If you choose Salang you must not have many aspirations. If we want some better resort we must look for other beaches (we have not verified it personally), for instance the Paya Beach Resort and the Panuba Inn Resort or the Japamala Resort seem to be better options.
To eat we went to the restaurant of resort that at night offers a barbecue (of fish and meat) where they weigh the fish you choose and they cook as you want. The big bottles of water cost in Tioman 3,5 RM. Internet costs 12 RM per hour
Pulau Tioman has 20 km of length and 11 of width and it also has a small airport. It is a paradise island that has small towns that can only be acceded by boat. The island only has one only path that connects with the seaside crossing the jungle. This paradise destination is perfect to make snorkelling, diving or simply nothing.
We took speed boat in Salang at 9.30 that takes 1 hour until a Mersing. We went to Island Connection Travel & Tours (2, Jalan Jemaluang, 86800 Mersing, Tel. 0060-7 7992535) the agency that sell tickets of the company of Transnasional buses. At the arrival to Mersing to go to Tioman, they told us that we needn,t a reservation to find tickets for the direct bus to Kuala Terengganu that "you will always find free seats" in the bus at 12 (26,40 RM price). When we arrived at the agency coming from Tioman they told us that there were tickets available and therefore we decided to take the bus at 12 to Kuantan, it costs 12,40 RM. It took 3 hours until the bus-station of Kuantan and when we arrived at Kuantan there were no more buses leaving to Kuala Terengganu. We decided to take a taxi that costs 140 RM
In Kuala Terengganu we slept in Midtown YT Hotel (30, Jalan Tok Lam, 20100 Kuala Terengganu, Tel. 0060-9 6235288). We paid 90 RM for a double room including the breakfast. The hotel is a tall building and of modern aspect that requires an urgent renovation and where there is a permanent bad smell.
We had dinner in the Ping Anchorage Travellers Café (Ground Floor, Jalan Dato'Isaacs, Kuala Terengganu, Tel. 0060-9 6262020) in front of the hotel. It's also an agency for hotel reservation and different trips for Tioman and other places of the coast of Malaysia, and it also has a bar-restaurant inside
Kuala Terengganu is, for us, a bridge place to arrive to the Perhentian islands. We should have arrived sooner to see something of the city but we arrived at 11 at night and we left at 7 in the morning.
From Kuala Terengganu we took a taxi to the jetty of Kuala Besut that takes 1 hour and we paid 80 RM (in Kuala Besut a bottle of water costs 1 RM). We took the speed boat (30 RM) that took us in 30 minutes till the small island. It leaves the passengers around 100 meters of the beach and there we took watertaxi that costs 2 RM. We bought all these tickets in Yaudin Holidays and Tours (9 6 10 Rumah Kedai 2 Tingkat, 22300 Kuala Besut, Tel. 0060-9 674677)
In Pulau Kecil we stayed at the Suria Perhentian Dive Resort that we previously booked by Internet from Barcelona. It is located in Corale Beach, which is the only beach of the two islands from which the dusk can be observed. Resort is precious, in a spectacular beach, but the villas inside are extremely simple, basic, actually too simple. We chose a package of 3 days and two nights with two snorkelling trips and full board, we paid 350 RM per person. In the beach, only some meters away of the resort there is the restaurant Mama Kitchen that offers barbecue of meat or fish including a salad, potatoes, rice and watermelon by 15 RM.
In the Eastern side of the small island there is the Long Beach, where we found many hotels. The beach is very long and is the one that is considered like zone of discos and bars. The Long Beach can be reached crossing the only path of the island from the Corale Beach, it takes around 15 minutes, we saw some monitor lizards that theoretically are inoffensive.
We decided to remain more days in the wonderful Perhentian islands but to look for a resort we liked and we changed island, we went to the bigger one: Pulau Besar.
There we visited a precious resort: Tuna Bay Island Resort, a resort ahead the beach with new and modern rooms of beton, costs 250 RM per night. Just some meters away we found the New Cocohut Resort with precious villas, cost 200 RM the night. We went to the Arwana Resort (Tel. 0060-9 752 1741) that is in another beach, and is the newest resort of the zone, we paid 400 RM per person for a package that includes double room in front of the beach, all the meals and two excursions of snorkelling; a double room with views to the swimming pool costs 160 RM. The resort has a precious swimming pool. In the same beach we found the Flora Bay Resort with some perpendicular villas to the beach for 150 RM that are very well (attention: you must request the new villas, New Flora Bay)
Perhentian islands. Pulau Kecil (small island) and Pulau Besar (big island) compose the incredible paradise of Perhentian islands. Transparent waters, charming white sand beaches and cosy hotels on the beach. In the jetty you must pay to 5 RM for conservation fee of the marine park.
We previously wanted to go first to Kota Bahru and then Tanah Rata, but we discarded this possibility as other tourists told us there is nothing interesting for tourists in Kota Bahru. So we decided to go directly to Tanah Rata.
From Perhentian islands to the Cameron Highlands there is a daily mini van paying 75 RM by person. Organised by Yusoff Awang Ya (tel. 0060-19 9452999 o 0060-9 7442831). It took us 6 hours to arrive to Tanah Rata that is one of the two cities that the guide recommends to go at the Cameron Highlands, the other is Brinchang where according to what people comment to us Brinchang covers mostly local tourism, and in Tanah Rata you'll find more international tourism. In Tanah Rata money is only changed in cash and only at the Maybank
We arrived on a Friday at 8 in the evening and it was difficult to find two hotel rooms. We finally decided to stay in a dirty and ugly hotel, the BB Inn (79A, Persiaran Camellia 4, Tanah Rata, 39000, Tel. 0060-5 4914551). We paid 65 RM for a double room without breakfast (Mondays to Thursdays costs 45 RM). On the following day we changed to another simple hotel but clean and cosy, the Cameronian Inn (16, Jalan Mentigi, 39000 Tanah rata, Cameron Highlands, Tel. 0060-5 4911327), we paid 60 RM for a double room without breakfast. Who prefers to stay in a new one can go to the Century Pines, where the double room (including the breakfast) costs 197 RM standard and 240 RM the deluxe room.
We really recommend to go to the The hotel Old Smoke House (By the golf Course, Tanah Rata, Tel. 0060-5 4911215), it's exactly like and English cottage, if you want to pay prices like 455 RM for a double room. Another good option is to go there just to enjoy a cup of tea with strawberries from the Cameron, delicious!.
In order to eat we recommend the T café (4 Nuncan Road, Side entrance, first floor, 39000 Tanah Rata, Tel 0060-5195722883), very recommendable its lasagne. We also enjoyed eating in the Indian restaurant Kumar (26 Nuncan Road, 39000 Tanah Rata, Tel. 0060-54912624). Restaurants where you definitely must not go another Indian: Suria for their bad service or the Rosendale for their bad quality and also bad service
The Cameron Highlands are at an altitude between 1300 and 1800 meters. Obviously is not as hot as in the rest of Malaysia. The Cameron Highlands are famous for the strawberries farms, delicious vegetables and the tea plantations.
We chose to make a trip that we contracted directly with the hotel Cameronian Inn and we paid only 15 RM for 4 hours of excursion. They took us to visit a strawberry farm, a butterflies and insects farm (3 RM), a farm of bees, a centre of roses and orchids (4 RM), the Buddhist temple of Brinchang and the tea plantation of Boh. Another option of excursion is to make the top of the Brinchang mount with 2.031 meters, and to do trekking through the jungle in 4x4 and to visit the Boh tea plantation, it costs 40 RM per person and lasts 4 hours. The third excursion offered is the one that lasts all the day and costs 80 RM per person and lasts 9 hours. It combines the two previous excursions. In the environs of Tanah Rata there are itineraries to walk with different difficulties and hardness, we tried to do one and although we recognize that we are not used to the mountain, the different paths are not well signalled as the signs are not clear. We recommend to follow Yen, who is a permanent guest of the Cameronian Inn and that each morning does one of the itineraries during 3 or 4 hours and in return he only asks for a tip. There are other excursions to go to the mountain, and we think that the best agency is CS Travel & Tours (47 Nuncan Road, 39000 Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Tel. 0060-5 4911200).
From Tanah Rata to there are many buses, we took a bus at 8 in the morning which leaves from the bus station at the Main Road and costs 23 RM. It takes 6 hours to drive 201 km, in taxi it would have costed 280 RM, it's a fixed price. The bus indicates that it goes to Penang and it stops first in Butterworth and later in Georgetown. It left us in the new bus-station in the south of the city, around 15 minutes of the centre. To arrive to the centre in taxi costs 20 RM
We slept in the hotel Cititel (66 Jalan Penang, 10000 Penang, Tel. 0060-4 3701188). We paid 185 RM for a double room with breakfast, it is a modern hotel, of recent construction and has a nice indoor swimming pool with jacuzzi and sauna. In addition it's also very well located, very central. Another option and a little bit more expensive is the delicious Eastern & Oriental Hotel (10 Lebuh Farquhar, 10200 Penang, Tel. 0060-4 2222000). The double room costs 354 RM and the one with sea view 415 RM. It's really worth to go, either to have a drink, either to eat something in the bakery or in the pub or the elegant restaurant. A cheaper option, with simple rooms and also quiet and clean (some without windows) is the Crystal Guesthouse (294 Chulia Street, 10200 Penang, Tel. 0060-4 2638068), double room costs 40 RM. In the Crystal Guesthouse also they make massages and reflexology, 45 minutes they cost 30 RM.
In order to eat we recommend Ecco Cafè (402 Chulia Street, Tel. 0060-42623178), where they do delicious pizzas and Italian-Malaysian pasta home made. Most of big hotel chains offer thematic buffets for dinner: Asian, western, seafood... We tasted the Eastern & western of the Sheraton Hotel (3, Jalan Larut, 10050 Penang, Tel. 0060-4 2261888) for 59 RM per person
Penang island is the favourite holidays destination of the Saudi. We only saw Georgetown, which is the capital of the island and it seemed to us a very attractive city and we think that surely it would be worth to stay longer in Penang if we would have had more time to do so. Penang is united to continental Malaysia by the Penang bridge (the longest bridge of Southeast Asia).
Georgetown has a nice colonial district of which they have rehabilitated only some of the precious buildings, some host governmental institutions. The city offers a free shuttle bus that goes around the centre, and it stops at all the places that are worth to see. The schedule is from 7 to 19 and Saturdays until the 14 hours, and it is worth to take it since it represents the ideal solution if you don't have much time to visit the city and you want to go around the colonial centre. There is a map with the route of this bus in all the hotels. It's also very nice to take a walk by China Town, by the markets of Little India (if we you're able to resist the bad smells). The Fort Cornwallis is surrounded by walls and is where on 1786 Francis Light founded Georgetown. The entrance costs 3 RM and the most interesting thing is that inside we found an exhibition with Penang's history. It is worth to go up the tower of the Komtar building, it has 65 floors and on the ground floor it has the greater commercial centre of Georgetown. Also it is recommendable to visit Watt Chaiyamangkalaran, the Chinese Buddhist temple. Inside we found one of the biggest lying Buddhas of the world, it makes 33 meters. Right opposite the street there is another Buddhist, Thai temple.
To go to Kuala Lumpur from Penang there are many buses that make this route, we bought tickets under the Komtar building, 27 RM and we took a super-vip, a bus with 3 seats by row. They leave from Nibong bus station, southern of Georgetown and to go there we took a taxi per 20 RM. Another possibility would be to take a bus for 2 RM that leaves from the Komtar building. It takes almost 5 hours to arrive at the KL-Puduraya bus station. We paid 10 RM to arrive to the hotel, which actually was near the station but considering the terrible heat and humidity and wearing the backpacks we decided to pay a taxi
We slept at the hotel hotel Bintang Warisan (68 Jalan Bukit Bintang, 55100 Kuala Lumpur, Tel. 0060-321488111) that is located in the Golden Triangle which is the business area with skyscrapers, restaurants and party on night. We paid 115 RM for a double room without breakfast. Other cheaper and well located options near the Golden Triangle area are The Green Hut, and also Number 8.
To eat, like all the Malayan cities, the variety to choose is endless. We went to The Old Siam (23 Tengkat Tang Shin, 50200 Kuala Lumpur, Tel. 00600-321483708), a delicious and very pleasant Thailander. Down of the Petronas towers we ate in the modern Chinoz restaurant (G47, Suria KLCC Kuala Lumpur, Tel. 0060-321668277). Also we eat several times in a simple Indian restaurant called Hanifa at the Nagasari street
Kuala Lumpur. The capital of Malaysia surprised us very positively. It was really pleasant because it is not as chaotic as many other huge city in Asia. KL has three meter lines (subway and on the air, on pillars through the city) and you pay depending on the distance you go. The subway and the taxis are very cheap. In Kuala Lumpur the taxis have taximeters and are forced to swicht it on when a passenger goes in.
The Petronas Towers are the headquarters of the public oil company Petronas. It's is an impressive building that we all have seen on the TV or the cinema ("The entrapment" movie with Sean Connery is a good example). It's not possible to go to the top, for visitors is only allowed until the skybridge which is free, but be careful as only 800 visitors can accede daily to visit it, therefore if we want to choose when you want to go upstairs, please make queue before 8am and you'll be lucky and you'll be able to choose what time you want to visit Petronas towers in groups of maximum 20 people. They open the ticket offices at 8:30am. Skybridge is in floor 41, between the two towers. Down on the Petronas there is a luxury shopping centre, very big, the KLCC.
You cannot miss to go up at the Menara Kuala Lumpur, the tower of communications, that offers a unique view of the Petronas and all Kuala Lumpur, to go up costs 20 RM and ticket offices close at 21:30. The tower was inaugurated in 1996 and its height is 421 meters.
Also we recommend to take a walk and enter into the National Museum of History. It is for free and helps to understand the history of Malaysia. It is located at the Merdeka square, which is very nice. It is worth to visit it by daylight and also at night, because Merdeka square is very gracefully illuminated. China Town and Little India are classical areas of the city typical to visit and also very recommendable, as well as some mosques.
To go to Melaka from Kuala Lumpur: In the Puduraya bus-station you'll find many buses leaving to Melaka, we recommend to take those of company KKKL because they are the unique ones that have three seats per row, it takes around 2 hours and it costs 9,40 RM. The Transnasional buses leave every 30 minutes and the rest of companies every hour
As we did not sleep in Melaka, we cannot recommend any special hotel. But, if you have the time, please spend at least one night in this wonderful city.
However we found the time to stop in three wonderful and historical restaurants where it's worth to go at least to see them:
Cafe 1511 (52, Jalan Tun Tan cheng Lock, 75200 Melaka, Tel. 0060-62860150), Restoran Peranakan (107 Jalan Tan Cheng Lock, 75200 Melaka, Tel. 0060-62845001), Harpers Restaurant (2 Lorong Hang Jeba, 75200 Melaka, Tel. 0060-62828800)
Melaka is a wonderful city where you can find two parts differentiated: Eastern, in which it emphasizes the legacy of the Portuguese domination and Dutch, and the Western or Chinese Town, which is a very nice and better maintained than any other that we have seen before.
The most important thing is to walk through all Melaka and to visit the Eastern part with its historical legacies. You cannot miss the Stadthuys (or City Council), Saint Paul's church, the Sentosa villa, the Marine Museum (it's inside a recommendable reproduction of a Portuguese ship), and all the temples of China Town and its delicious streets.
Near China Town we also found some nice and original stores that we want to point out:
• T-shirts, not of the typical ones we could imagine, but design t-shirts: Orangutan (59 Lorong Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, Tel. 0060-62826872).
• A masterful craftsman who makes shoes and who continues making shoes like the ones high class Chinese women wore. He seems to be as himself explains, unique in the world who still makes them by hand, his name is Raymond Yeo (Wahaik Shoemaker, 56 Jalan Tokong, 75200 Melaka, Tel. 0060-62849726).
• Also we went to the factory of a local artist that made us fall in love with to his works: Temple Street (13 Jalan Tokong, 75250 Melaka, Tel. 0060-62831815).
• Lastly we recommend a non-typical souvenirs and antiques store with a nice café inside: Jonkers Melaka (17 Jalan Hang Jebat, 75200 Melaka, Tel. 0060-62835578)
To arrive to the international airport of Kuala Lumpur (KLIA), which is 75 km away from the centre we must calculate minimum one hour. It actually took us 1 hour and 15 minutes, the taxi costs 70 RM, fixed price. There is a train from the centre which connects with the airport and it costs 35 RM each.
We took a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok (1 hour and 15 minutes), and a second flight Bangkok-Munich (11 hours) and finally a flight Munich-Barcelona (1 hour and 40 minutes), with Lufthansa.