MALAYSIA – a Complete Guide to Asia’s Cultural Melting Pot

Although regarding tourism, Malaysia has been stepping it up a notch, it’s still by far not as overrun by travellers as other Asian countries.

Mardaka Square, Represetning MALAYSIA - a Complete Guide to Asia's Cultural Melting Pot
At the Mardaka Square, the colonial past and today’s modernity come together.

Besides a fascinating mix of religions and cultures, you find unspoiled nature and empty beaches on the Malayan Peninsula between Thailand and Singapore.

Malaysia’s strongest suit is probably the diversity of its people:

Although there is a clear hierarchy – stemming from colonialism and historic development, the different ethnicities still live together peacefully – which is already not so bad in these time. The population – about 32 million people – is mixed from almost 70 % Malay, 23 % Chinese, and  7 % Indian. Although these ethnicities do live next to each other peacefully – there is a Street of Harmony in many cities – i. e. a neighborhood or street where a Hindu Temple, a Buddhist Temple, and a Mosque are standing wall to wall – they do not really live together. I think the very different philosophies and rules of the religions that have a strong impact on everyday life would make assimilation pretty difficult.

Group of Dancers reprsenting MALAYSIA - a Complete Guide to Asia's Cultural Melting Pot
Malaysia – Truly Asia is the tourist board’s slogan insinuating profound harmony.
Here, dancers performed traditional dances of the different cultures settled in Malaysia.

Anyway, it’s interesting and inspiring this way: You can plunge into totally different cultures staying at the same small town.

Malaysia’s History

The reason why Malaysia’s population is this diverse lies, of course, in its history and mainly in the colonial past.

Already in the very early years, namely the first century, Chinese and Indians began to establish trading ports and coastal towns in Malaysia which, of course, has also a strong influence on the local culture and religions.
With the hegemony of the Majapahit empire, Islam began to spread in the 14th century, and in the 15th century, the Malacca Sultanate was founded, becoming an important trading place.
Malacca was first conquered by the Portuguese in the 16th century and eventually taken by the Dutch.
I’m referring to this hegemony in the following section about the Malayan and Indonesian language.

End of the 18th century, the inevitable British Empire took over and with it the infamous British East India Company. Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and Labuan became the Straits Settlements.
Till 1909, the four northern states Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu were controlled by Thailand.

In WWII, the Japanese Army invaded i. a. Malaya. During this time, ethnic tensions and nationalism grew so that the post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony were strongly opposed. Also, suspicion towards the Indian population grew since they were considered being the British protegees. On the other hand, the Chinese were envied for their relative wealth. The worst ethnic conflicts happened in 1969 during post-election riots – the number of fatalities during these conflicts differ very strongly depending on the sources, therefore I don’t quote them.

However, on August 31, 1957, the Malaya Federation, consisting of nine Malay Sultanates, as well as the Straits Settlements Penang and Malacca, had gained independence.

There are two excellent books dealing with these topics – the most complete one being The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy  by Anthony Burgess. The other one is called The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell. While the first one deals with the Malay ethnicities and rather sociological aspects, the latter describes the life of the British colonialists.
Both are a gripping read.

Practical Information

Money

Since 1975, the Malay Dollar is officially called Ringgit – and can be divided in 100 Sen.
The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 4,36 MYR current rate resp. 1 €UR = 4,71 MYR current rate (as for April 2020). There are ATMs practically everywhere and credit cards are widely accepted.

Language

The official language in Malaysia is Malay, often referred to as Bahasa – which translates to language. It is extremely similar to Bahasa Indonesia.
I gained some basic knowledge before going to Bali for the first time and I was amazed at how easy it is – especially since the Latin alphabet is used.

Just some simple phrases in Bahasa made these visitors from Jakarta our friends – selfies included.

It’s very interesting that there are still remains from Portuguese – like sepatu (shoe) or meja (table), but mostly from Duch such as gelas (glass) or handuk (towel) – and these words are also very similar in German. Everything related to time like hours and weekdays is obviously deriving from Arabic. As a language aficionado, I loved diving into these structures and enjoyed learning….on babbel!
Yes, Indonesian is actually one of the languages babbel offers – still don’t get why.
However, as usual, the first lesson is free and supplies you with the most important words to interact with people.

Getting There and Around

There are many airlines flying relatively cheap to Kuala Lumpur. From Europe, KLM has often unbeatable prices – I don’t know if it’s the colonial heritage and the fact that many people from Indonesia are studying or have relatives in the Netherlands – and Malaysia is a convenient stop-over.

On the Malayan peninsula, there is a very good and reliable train going from Kuala Lumpur to Butterworth on the mainland across from Pulau Penang. If your destination is on this route, it’s highly recommendable.

Kuala Lumpur Sentral - the largest railway station in all of Southeast Asia.
Kuala Lumpur Sentral – the largest railway station in all of Southeast Asia.

There is an excellent bus system reaching every hidden corner. The quality of the vehicles, however, is very different – from new, modern, and climatized to pretty shady. The quality of the drivers is always…questionable.
They are often pretty rude, do whatever makes them happy and comfortable, and if they like to smoke while driving, they are smoking and respond pretty indignant if you ask them not to.

I’ve had my generous share of arguments – you can read about it in an earlier post.

Also, they seem to be always in a rush – why else would they speed like they do, the wheels barely touching the ground?! Some rides made my blood freeze.

However, since I’m obviously not the only one who is not happy sitting in big clouds of smoke while flying pretty low over the highway: Since Summer of 2017, the Malaysian Road Transport Department (JPJ) wants the public to report reckless bus drivers exceeding the speed limit of 90 km/h, smoking, or using a mobile phone while driving. The report can be submitted to the JPJ via WhatsApp +60 – 11 – 51 11 52 52.
I’m usually not a big fan of reporting people, but in this case, it could save lives.

Besides the regular public transport, there are many private companies offering shuttles between the most important touristy places such as Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands, the national park Taman Negara, Kuala Besut – which is the port for the Perhentian Islands and more. This service is a bit more expensive than the regular buses, but much more efficient and comfortable – and faster, which is not necessarily a good thing as you can read above.

Especially if you have a limited time to spend on the peninsula, you might wanna consider using these private companies – especially since most of the time it’s a door to door service.

This is the route I travelled…


….and these are the places I visited

KUALA LUMPUR
IPOH
PULAU PANGKOR
CAMERON HIGHLANDS
PULAU PENANG
PULAU LANGKAWI
PULAU PERHENTIAN
TAMAN NEGARA
KUANTAN
MALACCA

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Guide to KUALA LUMPUR

Kuala Lumpur is not that much of a great city. However, practically everyone is visiting; because basically, everyone has to: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital and home to 1.7 million Malayans, has two major airports, a busy, reliable train system – and is more or less halfway between the northern border to Thailand neighboring Singapore in the south. It’s a hub.

 

View of Kuala Lumpur from the most imposing landmark – the Murugan statue in front of the Batu Caves in the district of Selangor, 12 km north of Malaysia’s capital.

As a matter of fact, it is the eighth most visited city in the world. So every visitor spends at least one to two days, whether they like it or not. And actually, there are some great spots to like.

How to get there and around

Getting into Malaysia, almost everyone will arrive in Kuala Lumpur, probably at KLIA which is short for Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

It’s a huge airport, but fantastically organized; and getting downtown, there are a couple of different possibilities, however, the average traveller will probably choose between the KLIA express, a train taking you quickly to Kuala Lumpur Sentral, the huge and maybe a bit intimidating railway station, and a taxi that you can prepay at the airport to prevent unpleasant surprises. You just tell the lady at the ticket window where you’re going, you pay, you get a voucher – and off you go to your final destination. This is certainly more convenient than going to the train station – and if you are two people or more, it is even cheaper.

 

Kuala Lumpur Sentral is the largest railway station in all Southeast Asia.

Next to Sentral is also the bus station, serving the entire country and beyond – like e. g. Singapore.

Once you’re in Kuala Lumpur, you can get literally everywhere by public transport – the worst thing that can happen is that you get confused and overwhelmed by all these choices: There is the Rap Transit and the Light Rail Transit and the Mono Rail and there are all these buses – and everything is really cheap and comfortable.

 

The Monorail, that serves only a small part of Kuala Lumpur – but no worries: There are many alternatives, nobody ever gets stuck.
(Photo: Sirap bandung, SCOMI Sutra for Rapid Rail, cropped to 7:5, CC BY-SA 4.0)

And to make it even more attractive – there are free shuttle buses taking people to the most important tourist sites.

 

Taking the free shuttle bus from the Petrona Towers to the Berjaya Times Square Mall.

 

What to see

Although there are many places to visit within the city limits, let’s just start with one of the most iconic landmarks that’s actually located 12 km / 7.5 miles north of Malaysia’s capital at Gombak in the state of Selangor.

Batu Caves

 

Funny enough, on every visit, on each of my visits, the Batu Caves were first on my agenda. And I recommend an early visit to you, too, since the major activity at this important shrine is to climb the 272 stairs. The earlier you get there, the better: fewer crowds, less heat.

Just take the KTM Komuter train at Sentral to Batu Caves. The journey is about an hour and the fare to the Batu Caves is only RM 2.30. You can’t get lost: As soon as you get off the train, you spot your final destination; no wonder: the Murugan statue is almost 43 meters / 140  feet high.

The Batu Caves temple complex consists of three main caves and a few smaller ones.

Closest to the train station is the Ramayana Cave where the story of Rama is depicted along the walls.

 

To the Ramayana Cave this way.

 

Inside, everything is really shiny and colorful – emphasized by the lightning in bright colors.

As you walk from the Ramayana Cave towards the main temple, there are parts where you have to pay an entrance fee. The first time I visited, I got confused thinking this was the access to the large shrine.
Well, it’s not.
There is a museum with some very flashy exhibits that are nice, but there is also a small sort of amusement park which is not: There are some cars and toys for small kids and a menagerie with poor critters like snakes and scorpions in cages. Actually, it’s neither educating nor entertaining – whereby I never find poor critters amusing.

 

Here we have Mr. Hanuman, Lord Rama’s right-hand man. 15 meters / 50 feet tall, he certainly does make a great bodyguard.

Climbing up the 272 steps to the biggest hall, called the Temple Cave, be aware of the monkeys – they are cheeky – and slightly aggressive.

Halfway to the main cave is the entrance to an exhibition on different critters living in the dark caves that should be pretty interesting.

 

The main cave – also called Cathedral.

 

Merdeka Square and the Historic Center

On the way back downtown, you can get off already at the Bank Negara station and walk towards the Merdeka which is large, yet not very spectacular. However, across the street is the Sultan Abdul Samad Building completed in 1897 to house the British colonial administration – one of Kuala Lumpur’s important landmarks.

 

Sultan Abdul Samad Building to the left and the famous flagpole to the right – Merdeka Square completed.

On the Merdeka Square’s southern tip is the Kuala Lumpur City Gallery – which is not that great, but at the entrance is the I❤KL-sculpture – no visit is complete without a picture…so here is ours:

 

Thanx again to the friendly gentleman for taking our picture.

If you’re in the mood of visiting an exhibition, rather than the City Gallery, you should visit the Textile Museum across the street. They have a permanent collection of national fabrics and costumes and changing exhibitions which do not necessarily deal with Malaysian design.

Turning into the Leboh Pasar Besar street at the corner, you’ll spot the Jamek Mosque – built in 1909 – to your left. Although I had to cover myself with a heavy cloak and put on a huge hood, as a woman, I was still not allowed inside the mosque. Is the visit worth it? I’d say no since it’s such a fuss and you don’t get to see much, anyway. And you can take the best picture from the Jalan Benteng in front of the HSBC bank.

 

Jamek Mosque Kuala Lumpur – where the strictest rules ever apply.

Did you know that three of world’s ten largest shopping malls are located in Kuala Lumpur? Well, now you do. However, for most of us Westerners, browsing and shopping around in the area south of Masjid Jamek station is far more fun: The narrow alleys stuffed with small shops and stands, an incredible number of restaurants and cafés – how do they say again? Malaysia – truly Asia!

 

Jalan Hang Kasturi Central Market – shop till you drop.

Hidden within all this craziness are some of Kuala Lumpur’s most precious cultural jewels like the Sin Sze Si Ya Temple, the city’s oldest Taoist temple, founded in 1864. It is a bit hidden on Jalan Tun H S Lee.

 

No temple is complete without joss sticks leaving you breathless.

Three blocks down on the same street is its Hindu counterpart, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. A bit newer, namely from 1973, it is still the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur….and, of course, incredibly colorfully decorated.

 

Statues decorating the Sri Mahamariamman Temple of Kuala Lumpur.

 

High Life

A ten-minute walk east of the Masjid Jamek station is an area that shows of Kuala Lumpur’s incredibly fast development – the neighborhood of towers. There are all these luxury hotels and malls that seem to grow way up in the sky. There is the Menara Kuala Lumper – yup, Menara means tower – a communication tower that is partly open to the public, e. g. on the restaurant level.

 

A little fascinating extra-tour before you go up the towers: The KL Forest Eco Park at the foot of the tower is a real small rainforest with several nature trails and a comfortable canopy walkway.

Visiting at tea time is just wonderful since you can enjoy a generous buffet while the venue is revolving so that you get to see all of Kuala Lumpur from above. Highly – pun intended – recommendable!

 

Help yourself to some Asian specialties….

 

….and then just enjoy the views. Oh look, there are more towers!

Another ten minutes walk and you’ll get to the most famous of them all, the Petronas Towers.
These twin towers, 88 floors on 451.9 meters / 1,483 feet high were finished in 1996 and remained world’s tallest building till 2004. Basically, every global player company has an office at the towers and even poverty jet-setter like me can visit – an exhibition level, the bridge, and restaurants. Below the towers is Suria KLCC, a big shopping mall, and the Petronas Philharmonic Hall.

If you have the time, take a stroll at the adjacent KLCC park where every night – of course colorful – fountain shows take place.

 

Looking up to the top….

 

….and from the top down to the ground.

Around Sentral Station

Some of the best places to visit during your stay are actually around the Sentral Station; and even the station itself is a great place – for shopping and eating.

Right behind the station is the National Museum of Malaysia that I like a lot since it explains in a diverting way the development and history of the country.

The beautiful museum building with friezes depicting Malaysian history.
(Photo: anonym, National museum, KL, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Behind the museum, and across a deadly road – be very careful when crossing, is a green oasis in this mega-city that can get pretty hazy and sticky at times called Perdana Gardens. Here, you can walk for hours just enjoying the lush garden. Or you pay one of the compounds a visit: There are a butterfly park, a bird park, and a deer park.

To get another great view of Kuala Lumpur, it’s great to take a walk across Brickfield, which is the Indian neighborhood, and walk up to the Thean Hou Temple.

 

Grand view from a grand place.

Built by Kuala Lumpur’s Hainanese community in 1894, it is said to be is one of the oldest and largest temples in Southeast Asia.

Putrajaya

 

While Kuala Lumpur is the cultural, financial, and economic center of Malaysia, the federal administration is located in Putrajaya.
Since this city was built only for that purpose, it is very….new. However, there is the Putrajaya lake, the pink granite Putra Mosque, located next to the Perdana Putra, which houses the Malaysian Prime Minister’s office.

 

Putrajaya by night.

If you are interested in how a city is successfully planned on a drafting table – here is an excellent example.

 

Here you find all the places mentioned above:


 

Best place to sleep:

 
Accommodations are not very expensive in Malaysia so that you can get a nice hotel for about 50 bucks. A good location is e. g. around the Berjaya Times Square Mall: You can walk to the Bukit Bintang shopping neighborhood, even to the Petronas Towers. The Mono Rail station is right at the door and it takes you i. a. to the Sentral station in about ten minutes. And it’s always handy to have a shopping mall within reach.Besides the Berjaya Times Square Hotel, which is a bit upscale, the Melía Kuala Lumpur is a great alternative – and their breakfast is the most generous and complete I’ve ever seen: They cater to all their guests, i. e. they have continental, American, English, Chinese, Indian, and Malayan food – complete buffets!

Check out their availability and rates.*

 

Best place to eat:

 

Malaysia is very proud of the incredible variety of the different cuisines – hence it’s impossible to recommend let’s say ten restaurants – let alone a single one. Then, you have all these markets and night markets where you can feast on fantastically tasty and incredibly cheap street food…it doesn’t stop.
However, I would recommend either the tea time or another meal at the restaurant on top of the Menara Kuala Lumpur – already for the night markets.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Malaysia? 

Then go to the main post and take your pick!



If you choose to pin this post, please use these pictures:


 

 

* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal, I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me!

Guide to IPOH

Though Ipoh is Malaysia’s third largest city and a two-hours-train ride north of the capital, it is mostly considered a gateway: To the Cameron Highlands in the east or to the Pangkor Island in the west.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Ipoh welcomes its visitors at a colonial building – the railway station, opened in 1917.

This means that Ipoh’s own attractions are widely underestimated: The Hakka Chinese heritage, mysterious cave temples, and bustling Asian city life.

History

Ipoh is the capital of Perak on the west coast north of Kuala Lumpur.

In the 19th century, the city began booming due to the tin-mining industry and gave the city its nickname City of Millionaires. End of the 1950s, the glory was over as the prices for tin dropped dramatically.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Those were the days: Ipoh’s British colonial town hall building.

70 % of Ipoh’s more than 650,000 inhabitants are  Ethnically Chinese. Their ancestors were mostly Hakka and moved here to work in the tin mines. Today, however, most of the Chinese speak Cantonese. Actually, my driver’s Bahasa was so limited that when we got stuck in our conversation, he had to call his sister and she translated for him into Chinese.
I guess this shows, how much the individual ethnicities stick to their own people.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Colonial Chinese architecture.

The Chinese also had a strong impact on the city center’s architecture which is characterized by their traditional shop houses as well as impressive historical buildings from the British Colonial era.

Visiting

 

I came to Ipoh by train from Kuala Lumpur which allowed me to admire the most imposing buildings right away: The Railway Station, the Town Hall, and the Court House as well as the Negeri Perak Mosque.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Negeri Perak Mosque under a dramatic sky.

Past the Birch Memorial Clock Tower right at the Padang Ipoh Park is the Tourist Information. They called a driver for me who brought me to the cave temples in the city’s southeast.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Sam Poh Tong – Ipoh’s oldest and most famous Buddhist Temple.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Turtle Pond at Sam Poh Tong.

To get to the famous Perak Cave Temple in the north, I took a taxi cab. The driver made sure that I visited also the Mekprasit Buddhist Temple.

Kind of a disclaimer: I don’t claim that introducing this handful of temples makes the guide complete: Just type temple and ipoh on google maps – and the result will make your head spin. If you are very, very, very much into temples, call Ipoh your Cockaigne!

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Entrance to the Mekprasit Buddhist Temple.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
I was not bye:myself at all.

Besides all these temples and a couple of museums dealing with Ipoh’s forefathers and grand past, it’s an excellent place to just walk around and taking it easy: Checking out the mysterious Chinese health stores, sampling exotic fruits – Ipoh is famous for incredibly succulent pomelos, wasting hours at coffee shops and fascinating tea stores; I even went to the hairdresser and got a great haircut. Ipoh will relax and ground you – before you continue to wherever you go next.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Humongous Pomelos are one of Ipoh’s culinary specialties.

Until not long ago, there was an old bus station just a stone throw from the train station. It was just perfect for one day: I got there by train, left my big luggage with the stationmaster – at his office, even not in a locker – and took only what I needed for the night with me. The next day, I picked it up and took the bus to Tanah Rata.

Today, you have to go to the Terminal Amanjaya all the way in the north.

Best place to sleep:

 

The reason I picked the Regalodge Hotel was the excellent price-service-ratio.
It actually is located in the outskirts of the very city center, however within walking distance.
Since I spent only one night, I left my big luggage at the train station and took only a daypack with me.

Best place to eat:

There are many nice places in Ipoh – but I liked Purple Cane Tea House best: Seated between tea specialties, some of them at the price of a small car – they serve all kinds of fancy tea-based drinks and cocktails, foods – also on the basis of tea, and – yes, hot tea.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Ipoh
Seated amidst luxury: Everything you see on the shelves is pressed tea – some as expensive as a small car.

 

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Malaysia? 
Then go to the main post and take your pick!


If you choose to pin this post, please use these pictures:





* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal, I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me!

Guide to MALACCA

In 2008, Malacca became – together with George Town on Pulau Penang – part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a reason: The city – home to almost half a million inhabitants – is the oldest Malaysian settlement on the Straits of Malacca and therefore reflects the countries everchanging, fascinating history.

 

Colonial Chinese Shop Houses.

Located less than a two hours drive from Kuala Lumpur, the city center is as beautiful as an outdoor museum, yet bustling with authentic everyday life.

In Malacca, the Chinese heritage is very present: It was an important stopping point for Zheng He’s fleet, and this hero is still being celebrated. Also, in the 15th century, a Chinese Emperor’s daughter got married to Sultan Mansur Shah and as she moved to Malacca, she brought her entourage of about 500 persons. Their families settled around Bukit Cina, meaning Chinese Hill.

 

Memorial for Malacca’s Chinese residents who perished during WWII at the foot of Bukit Cina, the Chinese hill. On the hill was established a residential area for the entourage of princess Hang Li Po who came to Mallaca to be married to Sultan Mansor Shah.

In the 16th century, Malacca was conquered by the Portuguese, and in the 17th century, the Dutch took over – their colonial houses make parts of the city look like part of Amsterdam. Also, the Stadthuys, built in that era to house the governor’s office, is still an important landmark.

 

Malacca’s iconic square with the clock tower from 1886 – given to the city by Tan Jiak Kim, a descendant of a Chinese philanthropic millionaire’s family –  in front of the Stadthuys, built by the Dutch in 1650 as the Governor’s office.
 (Photo: User: (WT-shared) Slleong at wts wikivoyage, Malacca stadhuys1, CC BY 1.0)

Later came, of course, the British – and as a souvenir, there is they left the Christ Church, an Anglican house of worship built in the 18th century.

 

Christ Church, being an Anglican House of Worship, is the oldest Protestant church in Malaysia.

The Portuguese, the Dutch, the British…..together with the Malay, Chinese, and Indians, there is an eclectic ethnic and cultural mix taking the visitor by storm: You can sample the widest range of foods right on the street – e. g. at the Night Market on famous Jonker Walk, being the center of Malacca’s China Town.

 

One of the many restaurants on Jonkers – in a traditional Chinese building.

The culture of the Peranakan people in Malacca can be traced at the Baba Nyonya Heritage Museum – and the stores around Jonker Walk sell furniture, porcelain, clothing, and more.

 

And in Malacca, too, there is a Harmony Street: On Jalan Tokong are two Buddhist Temples, Cheng Hoon Teng, and Xia Ling Si, a Hindu Temple, Sri Poyyatha Vinayaga Moorthy Temple, and the Masjid Kampung Kling Mosque – almost – side by side.

 

Picturesque Malacca River.

Inspired by the Street Art Penang project of George Town, Malacca joined the bandwagon with their River Art Project in 2012. Since the river has always been vital for Malacca, they chose to let artists paint their works on the walls of historical shophouses along the river in Jalan Kampung Hulu.

 

Colorful walk along the river…..

 

….where all the backsides of the houses are decorated with scenes from Malacca’s life.

Once you’re on your way strolling along the Malacca river, I urge you to walk all the way to Villa Sentosa. This old mansion is a fine example of a traditional Malay village house.

 

Villa Sentosa, a traditional Malaysian home.
(Photo: Chongkian, Villa Sentosa, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Make sure to take the – free, based on donations – guided tour to the surrounding neighborhood Kampung Morten with more than 50 traditional Malay houses.

Villa Sentosa
Lorong Tun Mamat
1, Kampung Morten
75300 Malacca
Phone: + 60 – 6 – 282 39 88

Please check out their operating hours on their facebook-page.

You don’t have to walk all the way back downtown: A short walk further up the river takes you to the Melaka River Cruise Boarding Port from where a ferry takes you back to the pier at the Casa del Rio hotel.

 

The Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum – not to be missed if you want to learn about Malacca’s history.

Since Kampung Morten is a neighborhood and not a museum, besides the Sentosa Villa, you don’t get to see the houses’ inside. To take a glimpse of how people used to live in Malacca, I recommend a visit to the Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum just one block from the Casa del Rio. It’s very informative and beautiful.

Baba & Nyonya Heritage Museum
No. 48 & 50 Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock
75200 Melaka
Phone: +60 – 6 – 282 1273
Email: admin@babanyonyamuseum.com

The museum is open daily from 10 a. m. to 5 p. m., weekends till 6 p. m.

Across the Malacca River, behind the iconic Red Square, are the remnants of St. Paul’s Church and an impressive number of museums: Democratic Government Museum, Governor’s Museum, History and Ethnography Museum, Malacca Islamic Museum, Malaysia Architecture Museum, People’s Museum – to mention just a few!

If you are into sanctuaries, about 15 km / 10 miles inland, there is a Bird Park, a Butterfly and Reptile Sanctuary, a Crocodile Farm, a Zoo, and more.

Don’t get stressed out – it is basically impossible to get to see everything on just one visit. But that’s nice: You’ll always have a reason to come back!

Best place to sleep:

 

Due to the perfect location – but mostly due to the beautifully decorated rooms, the perfect amenities, and the impeccable service, the Casa del Rio Hotel just has to be recommended. It is a bit upscale, but worth every cent.

Casa del Rio Hotel – down by the riverside.
(Photo: Orderinchaos, Melaka C – Malacca River and Casa Del Rio, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Check out their availability and rates.*

Best place to eat:

 

Malacca is foodie’s paradise – it is simply impossible to recommend one restaurant. Just don’t fill up at one place – this way you can try local delicacies at different locations.

 

That’s truly new to me: Eggs on a stick. Not the only exotic dish Malacca has to offer.

If I really had to recommend one place, then it would be a pretty unique breakfast and lunch place, namely the Dim Sun Garden Restaurant.

 

Best and most varied Dim Sun ever.

It is pretty far from the center – about a half an hour walk, first across Little India, then around Bukit Cina, i. e. you get to see the less touristy parts of Malacca that way. If you aren’t into walking and don’t care about the less touristy parts, just take a cab; but don’t miss out on their Dim Sun breakfast!

Dim Sun Garden Restaurant
Jalan Tamby Abdullah
75000 Malacca
Phone: + 60 – 12 – 261 57 00

Check out their opening times on their facebook-page.

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Guide to KUANTAN

In Malaysia, it is very easy and comfortable to travel between touristy hot spots: There are shuttles and connections and people practically carry you from place to place.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Kuantan
Sultan Ahmad Shah State Mosque, the state mosque of Pahang.

It’s getting far more complicated and time-consuming as soon as you leave these beaten paths. It’s not impossible, it just takes some detours and a little more time.

However, due to this, I skipped some destinations along the east coast I initially planned to visit. Basically, Kuantan was the only place left on that list.

Actually, I don’t know whether I missed that much. Not that the towns and cities in the east aren’t pretty – the east is only far more strict and religious than the west coast.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Kuantan
Obviously, the casual attire for the whole family looks different from what you get at the GAP.

You notice it immediately: People, men and women alike, in Islamic attires – it was the first time in my life that I saw completely covered women. And completely means even the eyes: Eyes covered, not with a net like Afghan burkas, but with a black veil.
Also, most shops have signs in Arabic, restaurants serve halal food, and boutiques all kinds of headscarves.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Kuantan
A headscarf store – everything you see hanging here is headscarves. The demand must be overwhelming.

This means that as a woman, especially a solo travelling woman, you almost have no chance to do things “right”.

Anyway, even in Kuantan, being the capital of Pahang state, is not very liberal and open. People do look at you in a funny way. Remember the demographic figures I gave you in my post on Ipoh, located on the west coast? Well, the over 400,000 inhabitants of Kuantan consist of almost 80% Malay and only 18% Chinese and 3 % Indian; it’s almost exactly the opposite.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Kuantan
The skyline of Kuantan – with minarets as high as a skyscraper.

However, Kuantan is pretty important for the Malayan industry and also transportation – it has a port and an airport – and a bus station located about half an hour from the city center; which is valuable info if you have a specific bus to catch since the street can be incredibly jammed at rush hour.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Kuantan
Dried fish and shellfish, one of Kuantan’s main industries.

You can actually do some pretty good shopping since Kuantan has a couple of modern malls.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Kuantan
The mighty Kuantan River – seen from the hotel’s rooftop terrace.

You can also take a cruise on the Kuantan River – and you can take the cheap city bus #200 that takes you all the way to the Teluk Cempedak beach.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Kuantan
Empty, clean, and easy to reach: The Teluk Cempedak Beach.

Here you can either enjoy the deserted white beach or the seafront park Taman Teruntum a small Zoo.

 

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Kuantan
These little fellows are not inhabitants of the zoo but were simply hanging out at the bus station.

Best place to sleep:

 
The Hotel Sentral Kuantan does not lie: It is very sentral, i. e. centrally located – and right next on the Kuantan River. Since at least the center of Kuantan doesn’t seem to get many international tourists, the price for this standard – which would be an ok business hotel – is incredible: About 20 bucks and a good breakfast is included.So check their availability – and their current rates.*

Best place to eat:

 

There is a variety of nice restaurants and good eateries in the neighborhood of the Berjaya Megamall – don’t ask me where the Mega comes from, but yes, it’s a big mall.
I liked the food at Ayam Penyet – although it’s a chain and totally fast food-ish, however, Malayan fast food-ish. They are located at the mall’s southern corner.

Ayam Penyet
Jalan Tun Ismail
25000 Kuantan,
Phone: + 60 – 9 – 513 14 08

They are open daily from 10 a. m. to 10 p. m.

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Guide to the TAMAN NEGARA

Let the adventure begin: One of the highlights of my visit to Malaysia was the two day trip to the
Taman Negara, which simply translates to National Park and – being about 130 million years old – is one of the world’s oldest rainforests.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to the Taman Negara Malaysia
The sky’s the limit: These trees had many years to grow.

So if you’re a bit sad not having enough time to visit also the natural wonders of Malaysian Borneo, a visit to the Taman Negara should make up for it – at least a little bit.

the national park

The National Park was established by 1939 on an area of 4,343 km² / 1677 mi². In this tropical rainforest you, obviously, find trees, bushes, flowers, mosses, and mushroom in abundance as well as some rare mammals including the Malayan tiger and the Asian elephant. At this point, I need to lower your expectations….or fears: These guys are not exactly waiting for you at the entrance of Kuala Tahan village.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to the Taman Negara Malaysia
Wildlife is actually free: A tapir was sleeping in the middle of the Mutiara Lodge after we came back from the night safari.

You are more likely to spot some colorful birds above the treetops and fishes in the Tembeling River.

And that brings me to

how to get there

As I explained before, the Malayan tourist industry makes sure that you don’t lose your way but get to the most visited attractions quickly and comfortably.

Besides the regular public transportation, there are shuttle buses taking visitors from other touristy points straight to the Taman Negara, namely to the entrance at Jerantut.

Here you register and can book some activities – if it’s not already included in your trip. Because that’s how many travellers do it: They book sort of an all-inclusive trip that includes transportation – often one way on the river which takes very long, accommodation, meals, and the most popular activities.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to the Taman Negara Malaysia
Gliding on the Tembeling River.

Like I said, you can book all that also at the visitors’ center in Jerantut – or at the Kuala Tahan village where you might negotiate a better price.

In Kuala Tahan, naturally, everything is about experiencing the Taman Negara, i.e. you’ll have no problem finding an accommodation, something to eat, an ATM, shops selling all sort of gear you might need for a hiking tour or fishing trip.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to the Taman Negara Malaysia
The riverfront of the Kuala Tahan village.

If you don’t choose to spend the night in the jungle, you’ll be fine with some good trainers, a bottle of water, and maybe some repellent: There are trails made of wooden planks – hiking here is less challenging than on the gravel of your local park. Even to climb up the hills – like e. g. Bukit Terisek – is mostly on stairs.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to the Taman Negara Malaysia
A very comfortable jungle walk.

But wait, this is already the chapter about

what to do there


by day

Like I said, often at least some activities are included in your package. If not, here are the most amazing things to do – in two to three days:

Silently hiking the woods – preferably in the early morning while the others are still having breakfast and therefore don’t chase the wildlife away.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to the Taman Negara Malaysia
Walking between tree crowns.

Crossing the Canopy Walk stretching along 500 m in the tree crowns. Not for those suffering from acrophobia.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to the Taman Negara Malaysia
Overlooking the park from the top of Bukit Terisek.

Climbing up hills – like Bukit Terisek in the vicinity of the Canopy Walk – for the views and the cardio training.

Taking a boat trip on the Tembeling River that takes you i.a. to an Orang Asli village. The Orang Asli, indigenous people of Malaysia, are living also in the Cameron Highlands. I’m not fond of visiting people to observe how they are doing things: On the one hand, it reminds me of the infamous Völkerschauen, ethnological expositions that took place i. a. at European Zoos in the 1920s. And to be honest, I don’t believe that you get to see how they actually live today, anyway. At least those visits that I couldn’t evade didn’t feel genuine. However, if you don’t want to visit this sort of Human Zoo on your boat trip, you can just stay on the beach or take a dip in the murky river.

by night


Going on a guided night walk in the jungle. They take about an hour which is fine. The amazing part is that the insects are masters of camouflage – looking like sticks or leaves – which at the same time is a problem since they are difficult to spot. Our sharp-eyed guide saw much more than I did.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to the Taman Negara Malaysia
Camouflage can be more than a fashion statement.

Of course, there is also a night river safari where you have the chance to spot animals in the water and along the riverside.

day and night

And then there are the two-day hikes which, as I’ve been told, are only for really well-trained people. Not only is the hike rough, but you also have to carry everything you need across the sultry jungle – even drinking water for the entire trip. Then, you are staying overnight at a hide like Bumbun Kumbang or a cave.
I guess this must be an amazing experience, but I did not do it since I already experienced at other places how exhausting hikes in tropical woods can be.



Best place to sleep:


There are many rooms and guest houses on the eastern shore of the Tembeling River – all of them rather rustic. The most luxurious option would be the Mutiara Taman Negara Lodge, a hotel consisting of very well-maintained wooden cottages with everything you need – including a generous breakfast buffet. I particularly like how the lodge – despite all the amenities – blends perfectly in with nature.

Check availability as well as their rates.*

Best place to eat:


The most popular places with the travellers are the boat restaurants on Tembeling River across from the Mutiara Lodge. But don’t expect sophisticated food in an elegant setting: It’s very rustic, if the owners aren’t in the mood to be friendly, they simply aren’t.

I had the impression that these people who were living isolated in a small village in the jungle for generations didn’t really understand that these foreigners awing at trees are a source of income that they have to nourish and cherish.
On the other hand, this shows how relatively unspoiled it still is here.

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Guide to PULAU PERHENTIAN besar

The stopping point is the meaning of Perhentian in Malay – pronounced perhentee-yan and referring to the once thinly populated islands having been a waypoint for traders between Bangkok and Malaysia.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: pulau perhentian besar malaysia asia
My corner of the Perhentian Islands.

These isles, that used to be home to a couple of fishermen and their families, albeit still quite secluded, now cater to national and international tourists alike.
Divers and snorkelers find a fascinating variety of sea life such as clownfish, cuttlefish, blue spotted rays, and sea turtles in the turquoise waters.
But unfortunately also irresponsible fellow humans.

getting there…

My itinerary got all messed up by the Malayan school holidays: The trip I had planned was not doable since the buses were booked out for days.
I freaked.
And then relaxed – and relied on a more or less friendly lady at a tourist booth on the main street: She arranged a package including pick up and transport to the ferry, the ferry ride, and eventually a night bus to Kuala Besut. This did not sound great – especially the night bus part – but I didn’t want to get stuck more than one day on Langkawi – although there are worse places to get stranded.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: pulau langkawi malaysia asia
There are definitely worse places to get stuck than Pulau Langkawi.

What can I say, although the ferry was delayed and I got a bit nervous, everything worked out fine, I took the bus around eight in the evening in Kuala Perlis – it was surprisingly comfortable with broad, reclining chairs. I woke up only shortly before we reached Kuala Besut around 6 in the morning.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: pulau perhentian besar malaysia asia
The morning boats coming from the mainland.

There we were ushered to the jetty taking a small motor boat to the Perhentian islands. Although the ride was pretty rough, I will never forget the color of the sky, the light, and the whole atmosphere on the open ocean at that hour – it was just mesmerizing.

…and not getting anywhere else

I picked Pulau Perhentian Besar since I’m an old lady and Kecil is said to be a hippie-ish place with accommodations that cater rather to guitar playing pot smoking backpackers. No guitar for me – and my pot shall be filled with rice and some yummy Malayan curry – so Besar it was.

By the way – besar means large and kecil – which is pronounced ketchil – means small…and once we’re on it: pulau is an island; see, I did learn some useful stuff with babble!

Anyway, Pulau Besar is practically divided into bays so that you have to tell the boatsman the name of your accommodation. If you don’t have one, I guess he just drops you off at his cousin’s guest house.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: pulau perhentian besar malaysia asia
Sumptuous nature surrounded by turquoise waters – with a bit of a Robinson-feeling to it.

However, I had one and although it was a budget option, the location was great: Right next to the jetty and between to more upscale hotels where I could have breakfast and a fantastic barbecue with the best grilled squid I ever had in my entire life – and between these two meals, I was allowed to use their beach chairs for free.

Snorkeling was possible right in front of the hotel – which was amazing.
It was holiday season in Malaysia, so loads of tourists were snorkeling, behaving like idiots, trampling on the corals, feeding the fishes potato crisps.
It was so, so sad seeing the ocean get damaged by people who obviously cannot even swim but feel the urge to snorkel and show no understanding or even respect for the beauty and ideational value of the ocean.
Alas!

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: pulau perhentian besar malaysia asia
But sadly, in intervals, this Robinson is not as lonely as she wishes.

To get away from the temporary invasion of snorkeling non-swimmers, it’s possible to take a relatively short walk on the beach – whereby this takes you to the non-touristy part which sadly means the part where the garbage is not picked up…
It is also possible to get to the other bays by hiking across the island’s center through a small jungle – which I was too lazy to do since I was busy doing nothing – besides sunbathing and water bathing and snorkeling as soon as the non-swimmers had left.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: pulau perhentian besar malaysia asia
Malaysian fisher boats – it’s them who bring the shrimps’n’squids and all the other delicacies from the sea.

To get back to the mainland and continue wherever you want to continue, everyone on Perhentian Besar can arrange sort of an all-inclusive trip for you: Motorboat back to Kuala Besut and then a bus ride to wherever. Well, actually not to wherever – only the most frequented places such as Kuala Lumpur, the Cameron Highlands, or the Taman Negara.
Latter is where I went.

Good to know:

There are no banks or even ATMs on the Perhentian Islands, but credit cards are accepted at bigger hotels, restaurants, and dive shops. However, you might want to bring some extra cash from the mainland.
Although some dive shops and bigger hotels offer cash advances with credit cards, they charge a major commission for it— 10 percent or even more.
They also change foreign currencies – but since you’re carrying cash on you, you can as well change it in Ringgit on the mainland.

There is power on the Islands, but it comes from generators that tend to come and go. Blackouts are very common. Keeping a flashlight with you – be it one from your phone – is always a smart idea when travelling.

There is a wifi connection, but it strongly depends on where you are staying.

Best place to sleep:


It stayed at Suhaila Palace Chalet which shows Suhaila’s great sense of humor: If there is a place on Perhentian Besar that is neither a Palace nor a Chalet than it’s hers. It’s a small room with a fan – which is not enough in the Malayan heat. She offers just this, no meals. That’s not a problem since you can get everything you need at the hotels next door.

A really nice place – but, of course, significantly more expensive – is the Tuna Bay Island Resort next door. It is a relatively upscale place – but they are nice enough to allow even the Cheap Charlies staying somewhere else to use their beach chairs.

Check out their availability and rates – and compare them to Suhaila‘s.

Best place to eat:


Best seafood barbecue ever at Cozy Chalet right next to Suhaila’s – what she calls – Palace Chalet. They also serve an acceptable breakfast at an ok price. Albeit, they are not very friendly – and I don’t like spending my money where people are not nice; but the grilled squid….

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: pulau perhentian besar malaysia asia
Dinner with….what a view!

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Guide to PULAU LANGKAWI

Eager to enjoy Thailand-ish beaches without the crowds? Pulau Langkawi, i. e. Langkawi island, is Malaysia’s northernmost island and actually geographically closer to its neighbor.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Pulau Langkawi - Pantai Cenang
Lots of space for anyone on Pulau Langkawi. 

It’s the same turquoise waters, white sands, swaying palms, and enchanting long tail boats as in Krabi and on the Andaman islands – but there are so much fewer tourists that you can actually enjoy it.

Langkawi is not just an island, it is an archipelago of 99 isles, but only four of them are inhabited – besides the main island Pulau Langkawi also Tuba, Rebak, and Dayang Bunting.

The island can be accessed by ferry from Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis, and George Town – which is where I came from. If you prefer to fly, there are domestic flights from Kuala Lumpur and international connections to Singapore and Guangzhou.

On the island, there is no public transportation, so that you either have to take a cab – don’t worry, there is a standard fixed price system – or rent a car, motorbike.

The island’s major part consists of forest-covered hills and dense vegetation, but what brings most of the visitors to Langkawi are the beaches, Pantai Cenang, a long stretches of fine white sand, being certainly one of the most beautiful ones.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Pulau Langkawi - Pantai Cenang
Pantai Cenang.

While the beach area is still more or less undisturbed, though along the parallel running road you’ll find restaurants, bars, shops and stores, malls and tour operators. Because once you get tired of just laying on the beach and swimming in the Andaman Sea, they can arrange for you to explore other parts of the island and the waters around.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Pulau Langkawi - Pantai Cenang
Boats waiting for passengers.

For Malaysian people, shopping is really a big thing on Langkawi since there is an incredible number of duty-free outlets. One of the great deals is on liquor – which is quite ironic in an Islamic country…and in this part of Malaysia with a population of 90% Malay, they tend to be pretty strict about it.

Another popular activity is a visit to the peak of the Gunung Mat Chinchang mountain. You can go up from Oriental Village by a Cable Car and then cross the Sky Bridge for fun – and breathtaking views.

The Sky Bridge grants the best views.
(Photo: fusionstream, Bridge at summit, Langkawi, CC BY-SA 2.0)

There are various boat tours – day or half-day – to deserted islands or to Langkawi’s coastal mangrove forest, a monkeys’ refuge. Another very interesting stop is at a bat cave where an amazing number of bats was sleeping hanging upside down on the ceilings.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Pulau Langkawi - Pantai Cenang
Mother and child at the exit of the bat cave.

Unfortunately, there is also a visit to a fish farm included as well as eagles being fed. I wonder what these poor birds feasted on before their lunchtime was considered instagramable…there is also a lunch included – which turned out to be…..neglectable.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Pulau Langkawi - Pantai Cenang
From beach to beach by boat.

All in all, although Pulau Langkawi is relatively touristy – obviously especially around the beach areas – compared to Thai beaches e. g. in the Krabi region, it’s pretty calm and you can even find secluded spots.

bye:myself - Renata Green - byemyselftravels: Guide to Pulau Langkawi - Pantai Cenang
Definitely not crowded.

Best place to sleep:


Since there is international tourism as well as national tourism and tourists range from backpackers to wealthy families, you’ll find accommodations for any taste and budget.
A good option for those who want a bit of comfort combined with a relaxed atmosphere might be the beach front Meritus Pelangi Resort.

Check their availability and prices.*

Best place to eat:


There are all sorts of restaurants along the main road Jalan Pantai Chenang. I particularly enjoyed the family styles restaurants at the corner of Jalan Pantai Chenang and Jalan Bohor Tempoyak where you can help yourself to some Thai inspired dishes on a generous buffet: Chenang Thai Food Corner and Siti Thai Food – the geographical proximity to Thailand takes its toll.


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Guide to GEORGE TOWN on PULAU PENANG

George Town is fantastic – I don’t even know where to start: It was the first British settlement in Southeast Asia and became – together with Singapore and Malacca –  a British crown colony in 1867.

View of the modern part of the city of George Town from the Kek Lok Si Temple.

George Town, counting about 710,000 inhabitants, is Malaysia’s second largest city and the capital of the Penang Island.

Pulau Penang is a very diverse island and has therefore always been one of Malaysia’s most popular tourist destinations. National as well as international visitors, among them Somerset Maugham, Rudyard Kipling, and Queen Elizabeth II, came here to enjoy unspoiled nature, savor Asian delicacies from different cultures, and admire unique and vibrant street art.

A guided tour of the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion aka the Blue House allows you a glimpse at a very wealthy man’s life in old George Town.

And there definitely is a reason that the historic old town made it on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008.

Street Art

Isn’t this the coolest and most creative way of….

Obviously, George Town got on the list for its well-preserved colonial architecture. However, this nomination was the initial spark for transforming the city center into an outdoor museum:

In 2009, the Penang State Government commissioned a street art project called Marking George Town.

The Malaysian sculpture studio SCULPTUREATWORK won a competition with their concept of telling George Town’s through funny cartoons made from iron rods.

Titled Voices From the People, they’ve made 52 flat sculptures that are to be found mounted to building walls throughout the city.

Although the material and make give them a homogeneous appearance, the signature of each of the local cartoonists who invented the motives can be distinguished.

….teaching travellers Penang’s history?!

Then came 2012 and the George Town Festival took place and Lithuanian-born, Penang-based artist Ernest Zacharevic was commissioned to paint six murals.

One of Zcharevic’s first murals depicts a little girl in blue aka Kung Fu Girl. This pieces marks – you’re ready for this, ladies? – the shop where Penang-born and now world-famous shoe designer Jimmy Choo learned his trade!

He has not only depicted local culture and customs, but he also used given props such as bikes, a chair, or windows which made his works a mix of mural and installation. New, ingenious, inspiring.

Children on a Bicycle on Armenian Street – no visit to George Town is complete without a picture of Zacharevic’s most famous piece.

I wonder how many lovely ladies were seated on the Boy on a Bike‘s bike – riding down Ah Quee Street.

Naturally, these works inspire the many admirers to interact – and everyone wants their picture taken being part of some genius artworks.

Young Zacharevic, he was born in1986, has since then been invited to embellish places in Singapore, Barcelona, Lisbon, and the Wynwood Walls in Miami.

Since Zacharevic’s interactive murals are such an overwhelming success, other street artists jumped on this particular bandwagon and are also creating designs including the givens.

Children on a Swing – and me, too – by Louis Gan (them, not me).

An inspiring and inviting mural that created in collaboration by St. Xavier’s Institute, Homesoy, and Vilmedia.

I Want Pau by W K Setor – another cute mural putting a bike in focus.

But you will also notice that there is a remarkable number of cat-murals – hm, what is that all about?!

Cats carrying Taoist lanterns, banners, and some deities in the garden of Cheah Kongsi.

In 2013, the group Artists for Stray Animals ASA ran a new project named 101 Lost Kittens. Thai artist Nathhapon Muangkliang created together with local artists Louis Low and Tang Yeok Khang 12 cat murals.

Hang in there, kitten – which is not the original title of this mural, but something I invented.

Here are two more examples of what I liked best – but there is so much practically everywhere you look that it can be only the tip of the artberg.

Graffiti artist and illustrator Cloakwork from Kuala Lumpur created the mural Only You Can Stop Air Pollution on Ah Quee Street

I love the sensitive, hyper-realistic murals by Russian artist Yulia Volchkova like this Indian Boatman on Stewart Lane.
Chair No 61….

The George Town Festival is an annual, month-long art festival.

In 2016, CHAIRS was a community project taking place during this festival.

It was a social experiment to find out how people react to scores of individually decorated chairs placed at various points around George Town’s heritage district.

By the way, what enthralls me most is with how much respect and care all these projects are treated: Nobody damages or steals the props, no one smears something stupid on the murals – it’s very impressive.

….and the explanation on the seat surface.

The Temples


There are all these different ethnicities in Malaysia and Penang is no exception to the rule: The reason for being Malaysia’s gastronomic capital is buried deep in the pots and pans of Malay, Chinese, and Indian restaurants – whether at elegant restaurants or rustic booths and carts.



The CF Foodcourt, a huge Chinese eatery across the street from the Clans Jetties on Penang’s southern shore.


Apart from their culinary temples, these ethnic groups also have their houses of worships that make a trip to Penang an unforgettable cultural experience.




The Kapitan Keling Mosque, built in the 19th century by Indian Muslims.



The Arulmigu Sri Mahamariamman Temple, built in 1833, is Penang’s oldest Hindu Temple.



The Haina Temple Thean Hou on Lebuh Muntri.



The Kek Lok Si Temple, built between 1890 and 1930, is Malaysia’s largest Buddhist temple,…



…but also an important pilgrimage center for Buddhists from other countries in Southeast Asia.
You can get there by bus #203 or – if you want to save time – by taxi from downtown George Town.


Great insight into Malaysia’s colorful past is granted at former private mansions such as the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion aka the Blue House which you might already have seen in movies like Indochine.

The Beaches

Penang is an island, hence there are beaches. However, I would not necessarily recommend planning a beach vacation here; on this purpose, you should rather consider crossing over to Pulau Langkawi.

Nonetheless, it is hot in Malaysia, stuffing face at the restaurants and chasing art in the streets for hours can be exhausting – you might wanna just stretch out on the fine white sand and take a refreshing dip in the ocean.

Floating village, seen from the Penang National Park.

The most popular beaches like Batu Ferringhi and Tanjung Bungah are located north of George Town and can be quickly reached by bus #101 e. g. from the Komtar bus terminal downtown.

Nevertheless, Monkey Beach is said to be the nicest one and while I don’t know about that, I can confirm that it’s the most secluded – which doesn’t make it any cleaner, by the way.

Monkey Beach….obviously.

You can reach it either by boat from Teluk Bahang or you hike for about one hour through the Penang National Park which is nice but cannot be compared to other tropical forests in Malaysia.

The Hill

If you are looking for a more genuine hiking experience in sumptuous nature, I recommend you climb up the island’s central hills west of George Town.
However, the peak is also accessible by a funicular railway from its base station on Hill Railway Road.
Albeit, I have to warn you – on busy days the wait can be extremely long.

Riding the funicular railway.
(Photo: Syed Abdul Khaliq from Shah Alam, Malaysia, Hello! (3440590727), CC BY 2.0)

Like many of these more highly situated places in Asia – such as Da Lat in Viet Nam or Thansur Bokor in Cambodia – Penang Hill, too, used to be a retreat for British colonials.

Today, it is a popular tourist attraction – mainly for the grand views.

Best place to sleep:


Talking ’bout views – the best hotel for this is definitely the Gurney Resort. Actually, there are many great – and taaaall – buildings on Gurney Drive, but this resort has definitely the best service-price-ratio and is also affordable for Cheap Charlies like me.

Try to get a room as high as possible, make time for checking out their amazing swimming pool, and

check out their availability and rates.*

Best place to eat:


I think it would be much easier to tell you about the places where the food is not good. I truly suggest you just walk around and keep your eyes and nostrils open and eat your way through this city of milk and honey.

This gentleman is serving Satay skewers, one of the most iconic Malaysian specialties.

If you insist on a recommendation, then I can tell you that I had the best butter chicken of my entire life at Tandoori chicken and Nan Restaurant across the street from Nagore Dargha Sheriff shrine – and I had my share of butter chicken alright.

Tandoori chicken and Nan Restaurant
93, Lebuh Chulia
10200 George Town

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Malaysia? 

Then go to the main post and take your pick!



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Guide to the CAMERON HIGHLANDS

While we poor Europeans are travelling to Asia seeking the tropical sun, the Colonialists – no matter which motherland had sent them – were desperately looking for cooler places in higher regions, building settlements and mansions there to take a break from….being wealthy and having servants.

A visit to the beautiful tea plantations is not to be missed when visiting the cool highlands.

Whether you go to Da Lat in Viet Nam, Thansur Bokor in Cambodia – or precisely the Cameron Highlands: You’ll find temperate climate, elegant villas and holiday homes, and excellent infrastructure in lush surroundings.

Having been to many of these places, I must say that the Cameron Highlands are a bit less colonial and a whole lot more sumptuous.

Cameron Highlands


These highlands, named after British explorer and geologist William Cameron, range from 800 meters / 2,600 feet to 1.603 meters / 5,259 ft above sea level.
There are over 700 species of plants growing here, and the vegetation changes according to the ascent of the mountains.

The highlands are known for tea farms – BOH being the most popular one, vegetable farms, and flower nurseries. Therefore, the views of the breathtaking landscape are obstructed by ugly, plastic covered hothouses. But no worries, it gets better: Once you get into the woodlands, you’ll be amazed by the perfect and undisturbed ecosystems. Besides the sumptuous flora, this area is also a shelter for a wide variety of animals, birds, reptiles, and insects.

These butterflies are real. Mimi doesn’t try to catch them, she’s holding her hand in the picture to show their size.

And all this is crowned by the famous Rafflesia arnoldii, a stemless blossom looking like some weird red cabbage, being the largest single flower of any flowering plant – we’ll get to that later.

Visiting


There are two main places to stay in the Highlands, Brinchang and Tanah Rata, latter being the administrative center. However, if you are into hiking and nature and Malaysian life, you should stay in Tanah Rata.

If you are rather into shorter strolls, souvenir shopping, and lots of strawberries, stay with the Asian tourists in Brinchang. You need to know that strawberries, being a very exotic fruit in Asia, are the big thing here for visitors from other Asian countries. Picking a couple of these red fruits at a ridiculously high price is one of the major activities.

While strawberries are not special to Europeans, tea bushes are.

I’m European, we are drowning in strawberries, I came here to see the jungle: All over Tanah Rata, you can book different combo-tours practically around the clock.

How close or how far you have to hike, how difficult or how easy the trail gets depends exclusively on the spot the Rafflesia picked for growing.

Obviously, you’ll book a tour according to your interests, but if you ask me, I’d recommend taking a hike – no offense! – to see the Rafflesia arnoldii, if it is the season (mostly April).

Rafflesia Arnoldii – the pride of the Cameron Highlands.

If it’s not the season, you do not need a guided tour to explore the jungle trails around; actually, we didn’t even have a map. But if you want to take one with you, you can buy it cheap at many places in Tanah Rata and just follow one of the 9 designated trails; however, ask locals whether there is a reason not to go on a particular hiking trail at that moment e. g. due to recent disturbances or if they have any recommendations.

How considerate from the other wanderers to leave some explanations on the official signs.

You cannot miss the beautiful tea plantations – and one of my favorites was the mossy forest. Normally, moss grows on the tree’s shady northern side. Here, however, it overgrows the trees and bushes completely so you could not use it for orientation like you might in other woods. The mossy forest looks like an enchanted fairytale jungle.

Bewitched mossy forest.

Moss-grown rocks along the way.

Although the center of Tanah Rata looks really small, you find all the facilities and amenities you might need, including various banks and ATMs, a hospital and the main police station. The taxi and bus station make travelling to, from, and around the Highlands very easy and affordable – even if you don’t want to join an organized tour.



The radio and tv station on top of Mount Batu Brinchang, constructed by the British in the 1950s.

Best place to sleep:


If you are looking for a comfortable place that leaves you happy and wantless, you’ll enjoy the relative luxury of the Century Pines Resort. They offer everything you expect from a good hotel – including an excellent location about three minutes from the Tanah Rata main bus station on one side and the jungle in the backyard.

If you can do with less luxury, want to enjoy the company of other budget travellers, and don’t mind staying a bit farther – however, still in walking distance – from the town center, Gerard’s Place is your best bet. It’s basically a big flat where every guest has its room – some with shared, some with en-suite bathroom. The owners get out of their way to assist you with everything you might need.

Check out the Century Pines Resort‘s* availability and prices if you’re in the mood for a little bit more at a great price – or check out Gerard’s Place* if you’re looking for comfort yet contact and togetherness with other travellers.

Best place to eat:


Like everywhere in Malaysia, in Tanah Rata food is a very important asset. In the city center are many good Indian restaurants, but the big thing here is the Steamboat, sort of a fondue where you cook ingredients of your choice in a broth – here, too, you can choose between two different kinds.

The only thing that’s a bit irritating is the seafood formed from some….paste. Don’t get me wrong: They have an incredible variety of veggies and real fish and meat, but simply also some weird formed stuff, too.
However, it is a very enjoyable and entertaining way of eating – I guess, the more the merrier; we were only two, but had a great time.

Noodles, veggies, meats, and fish – everything is simply thrown in the hot broth and makes a delicious steam boat.

To enjoy the best of both worlds, i. e. Malaysian tea, British scones, and local strawberry jam, you absolutely have to pay The Lord’s Café a visit. It’s located basically across the street from the bus station on the upper floor. A real – local – treat.

Do you want to read about all the other beautiful places I’ve visited in Malaysia? 

Then go to the main post and take your pick!



If you choose to pin this post, please use these pictures:






* This is an affiliate link. If you book through this page, not only do you get the best deal, I also get a small commission that helps me run this blog. Thank you so much for supporting me!