In August 2022 I travelled to Asia for the first time and the destination was Malaysia. It was a completely unknown country for me and this time I did not organise everything, so it was more or less comfortable.
In this post I summarise my personal experience of my trip to Malaysia and I leave you with two other articles in which I summarise curiosities of the country I discovered there and facts about its gastronomy.
Before travelling to Malaysia:
I booked my flight four months in advance and it was very cheap, through Skyscanner: about 550 euros, round trip. First I flew from Munich to Frankfurt and from there to Singapore. From Singapore, I finally arrived to Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, after a 16-hour journey. The return trip was similar, although from Singapore I went directly to Munich.
Before you travel you have to take into account that there it is 6 hours later, if you are from the European Union you do not need a visa (only passport) and they use another currency which is the Ringgit (ringit or Malaysian dollar, which is equivalent to about 0.21 euros as of September 2022).
Language-wise, almost everywhere English can be used, although many people also speak Chinese, Malay or Indian. Some basic words I can tell you in Malay right now are: Hello (hello), tandas (baths), terima kasih (thank you), selamat tinggal (goodbye or see you later), ya (yes) and tidak (no).
When it comes to food, you should be prepared to eat spicy food, which is very important. If you want to order cold water in a restaurant, say so, specifying it well or they will bring you hot water. As everywhere else, watch what you eat or you may spend some time in the bathroom.
Airports, shopping malls and Kuala Lumpur
Practically, as with all trips to faraway destinations, the first day is spent on the plane and in the airports. As I arrived in Kuala Lumpur at night, that night I went straight to the house where I would be staying for the days I would spend in the capital and was given a taste of durian. Durian is the smelliest fruit in the world, try it if you visit Malaysia, one more experience!
In the capital area, one of the most common plans is to spend the day in the shopping malls. It's a favourite plan for many Malaysians as there's everything inside and it's air-conditioned.
What I liked most was visiting the Petronas Towers from the inside. You take the lift up, of course, and from the top you get some pretty cool views. About 20 minutes drive from Kuala Lumpur is a highly recommended visit: The Batu Caves. It's a colourful, monkey-filled Indian temple that's well worth a visit. Be prepared to climb the stairs and be forced to cover your legs if you're wearing shorts or a skirt and you're a woman (of course, if you don't have anything else to cover your legs, she'll make you buy her a scarf).
If you fancy an aquatic experience in the capital, head to Sunway Lagoon, an amusement park with pools and slides. One of the pools has artificial waves and a DJ, and another has an artificial current where you can practise your surfing skills.
Five days in Langkawi
After spending the first few days in and around the capital, the next stop was the Langkawi archipelago. To get there you can take an internal flight. At the airport I had a breakfast of teh tarik (Malaysian milk tea) and bread with a special cream called ¨Kaya¨ (a cream of milk and eggs).
One thing you have to do in Malaysian airports is to go to the shops to browse, because I saw some jelly beans and other sweets that are not available in Europe. The potato crisps that caught my eye were the avocado-flavoured canned Lays (I'll tell you more about this in the article on Malaysian cuisine).
On arrival at the destination, the first thing to do was to drop things off at the hotel, and what a welcome. Valet parking, free tea, scented towelettes for refreshment, a koi fish pond... This hotel is called ¨The Danna Langkawi¨, highly recommended.
The beaches of Langkawi have white sand and beautiful water, but there is a danger of jellyfish. Of course, there are plenty of water sports on the island, including snorkelling. There are areas where you can see schools of beautiful fish, but in our case we didn't have much luck with this activity.
In our case, we booked a boat tour in which the guide showed you the most interesting spots in the surrounding area. First, we stopped in an area conquered by monkeys. As we walked towards a lake called Dayang Bunting Lake', located in a geoforest park, a monkey tried to attack us while defending another member of the group because a macaque wanted to take his backpack.
What to do if you are attacked by a monkey in Malaysia?
It is very common to see macaque monkeys on any excursion and you should be very careful with them even though they can sometimes look very cute. To avoid an attack I recommend:.
- Do not touch them, let alone touch or go near the baby monkeys.
- Do not offer food or leave food too exposed to the monkeys.
- Avoid attracting their attention as much as possible, neither with your voice, nor with food, nor with shiny objects, etc..
- Don't show your teeth. It seems silly, but their warning sign of attack is to show their teeth, so be prepared if you do the same to them. Do not show your teeth.
If despite trying to avoid doing all that the monkey comes after you showing its teeth, I'm not going to tell you to stay calm because it's impossible, they come very fast. If you run it will chase you, so you should avoid trying to run away with your back to it because they become bolder. It seems that the ideal thing to do is, at that moment, not to show your teeth and not to shout, to walk away slowly and face them, showing them your empty hands..
I ran and screamed. I picked up stones to defend myself by showing them to him and throwing them at him (without hitting him) to see if he would go away. Did I do well? I don't know. Did I survive and avoid the bites? That's right. The monkey climbed a tree and we were able to leave.
If you are bitten or scratched by a monkey, please go to a medical centre as soon as possible. Chances are that you will need some kind of vaccination and/or treatment.
After swimming in the lake we had lunch and back on the boat, we stopped to watch the eagles swoop down to pick up chicken skin that people threw at them from the boats.
Later, we stopped at Beras Basah Island for a swim at the beach and to see the fish. It wasn't planned, but we also saw wild boars, cats and monkeys on the beach. Back at the hotel we got ready for dinner at a restaurant called Kapal Layar, whose speciality is chilli crab or spicy crab. Very tasty with a fresh coconut.
The next day was an adventure in the trees at Skytrex Adventure and in the afternoon we visited the centre of Langkawi to see its famous eagle statue. In short, this island is great for relaxation but also for activities and tasting delicious Malaysian dishes. I think the best plan is to book boat trips. We went on another boat tour where they also show you the different islands, tell you interesting facts about local animals and you enter a cave called ¨Gua Kelawar¨.
One last thing to keep in mind if you're going to Langkawi is that you can't leave without taking a stroll around the market at night. If you like it, I recommend trying the spicy crab at Putumayo Restaurant (which is also very cheap) and getting a foot massage at one of the shops next door.
Five days in Cameron Highlands
The third part of the trip was in the mountains. We drove up to the Boh brand tea plantation area. Cameron Highlands is a good place for tea but I wouldn't recommend staying much longer than three days because although there are many types of farms to see, they're quickly visible and it's best to get around by car.
Among the farmhouses we visited were those of orchids, cactus, lavender and sheep. There are also strawberry, bee, butterfly farms. It also seems to be a very good place for hiking but the trails are not very well maintained and when we went there was more than one that was closed.
The most authentic hotel in the Cameron Highlands area could be the ¨Cameron Highland Resort¨which is where we stayed. There, one of the best plans is to enjoy a tasty snack during tea time.
Of course, there is a lot to visit in Malaysia and if I return I would like to visit other places that I have also heard recommendations about: Penang, Malacca, Genting Highlands, the Borneo part, and even cross over to Singapore. Next time!
Have you been to Malaysia? If you think I've missed anything or have any questions for me, please leave a comment here - I look forward to more adventures in Asia soon!