I’ll admit, Malaysia wasn’t a country that I thought we would spend any significant amount of time in during our travels, but I am so glad that we did. We explored two different cities, Kuala Lumpur and Penang. We learned so much about the different cultures living together and experienced our first temples.
Our flight into Kuala Lumpur from Singapore was later in the day, so we didn’t have too much time on our first day to wander around. Once we were done exploring the Airbnb and taking in our views, we went to a restaurant nearby and had some Indian food.
The second day in the city was spent exploring all over with a guide. We found a super great breakfast at Feeka with delicious pancakes and oat milk lattes! In the afternoon, we met up with our guide Thina at the central station and headed out to Little India, Chinatown, and to see some temples. Our first stop was lunch at a local Indian restaurant where we got the traditional banana leaf lunch. The locals were all eating theirs with their hands, but luckily we were served ours with forks and spoons — I would have made a mess. After lunch we went through little India and chatted with our guide about the different cultures living in Kuala Lumpur. I was surprised to learn about how conservative the culture is due to the major religion being Islam though the city is more liberal than the other areas of the country.
After little India we walked to a Buddhist temple and saw statues of the Buddha from all over Southeast Asia. Then we headed to the train to Chinatown to check out the knock off clothing and taste some street food. We tried some putu bambu — a steamed coconut and palm sugar treat, Doufu Hua — hot sweet tofu pudding, and Air Mata Kucing — a dark drink that is made from melon, rock sugar and longan fruit. The last spot we visited with the guide was a Hindu temple where we learned about different gods and how the locals come to pay homage to them.
After our great tour around the city, we headed back to our place and cooled off (I was sweating buckets for the whole tour — the humidity is no joke). We had such a full day that we ended up just going across to the Petronas Towers mall for some quick dinner and a little bit of shopping before calling it a night.
We went to the same breakfast place again on our third day. Honestly when you find a delicious oat milk latte, you just have to keep going. Afterwards, we headed to the KL Tower to try to get some good views from the observation deck. It was a super hot day so our walk to the tower was very sweaty…but it turns out that’s just the theme of Southeast Asia! We also saw some little monkeys on the hike up. The line was pretty long to get to the observation deck but it was worth the wait. They also had a glass floor area you could take photos in when you were up there but I was a little too scared to get fully out there on the platform — Matt loved it.
On the same grounds of the tower is a park where they have a canopy walk. We had hoped to walk through the park to the bottom of the hill, but they had one entrance open and it was of course at the top of the hill. Also they decided that the week before we visited to charge for the park, so it ended up not being as great as we had hoped. I honestly wouldn’t recommend visiting now that you have to pay.
Kuala Lumpur was the city where we decided to embrace the afternoon nap. Basically its way too hot and humid after lunch to really do anything so that’s when we decided to just embrace hanging out in our Airbnb in the afternoons. We are still using this afternoon time to nap, book more travel, write blog posts, and just chill out.
Our dinner that third night was a nice Malaysian food restaurant where we tried a famous dish called beef rendang. It was super flavorful and really delicious. Matt also got a curry dish with durian that wasn’t as bad as I had predicted. For those of you who don’t know, durian is a super smelly fruit that is used in southeast Asian cuisine — it really smells like poopy gym socks.
The last full day in Kuala Lumpur was spent exploring the Batu Caves. It started at our favorite breakfast place (yes again) and then we grabbed a car to get to the caves. Batu caves are a series of Hindu temples in limestone caves just outside of the city. It was one of the most colorful places I have ever been. There are a whole bunch of stairs to get into the main cave area and Matt was my monkey spotter for the way up so I could dodge them on the way up (in case you didn’t know, I really don’t like monkeys). The cave itself wasn’t very big, but the temple inside was really pretty with peacocks adoring the entrance. More monkeys were hanging out inside the caves but they were better behaved than the cheeky guys on the stairs. On our way out to the train, we stopped inside the main temple and Matt got some sort of blessing for men by a man inside. The train ride back to the city was nice and air-conditioned (and very cheap). We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out by the pool and in hindsight we should have taken advantage of the super nice pool before our last day!
Our final day was spent packing and eating at our favorite cafe before checking out and heading to the train station to catch a 5 hour bus to Penang. We opted for the bus in this case because it was much much cheaper than flying and we didn’t have to cross any borders, so we figured why not.
After our long but uneventful bus ride (tip: stock up on downloaded Netflix shows), we ended up on the island of Penang and took a Grab ride to our Airbnb. We arrived a bit later in the day and didn’t have lunch, so we headed out for an early dinner at a Chinese restaurant just down the street from the place we were staying. After dinner, we just hung out in the Airbnb and learned that we were staying next to a karaoke place that was very loud (spoilers: they had it every night until 11pm).
We woke up early for our second morning to get picked up for a bicycle ride in the countryside of the island. Our guide was really great and taught us a lot about life on the island. We went to a Malay fishing village and a Chinese fishing village to explore how the locals live. There was a pretty big difference between the two villages — the Malay village was not as tidy as the Chinese village but the water in both was pretty dirty and polluted. Our guide told us about the government subsidies for fisherman and basically all you do is register a boat and collect a couple hundred ringgits a month. But really there isn’t much of a market for fisherman so they need the subsidies to live.
The countryside was really nice and we saw the palm oil farms up close and personal. We also went to a goat farm and had some goat milk ice cream. The goat farm had dogs that guard the farm and the fruit trees. Penang has some of the best land for growing durian and one durian can fetch a couple hundred ringgits, so they need to make sure people aren’t stealing them from the trees.
After the tour, we went for some Indian food for lunch because I really wanted to eat some dosa. It was super good and I am probably happy until we head to India in March. I still cant get over how good the food was in all of Malaysia. On our walk back to our Airbnb, we walked through some famous street art areas and enjoyed the scenery.
We went to a nice dinner at a fusion place for Jawi cuisine. It was super delicious and apparently very popular because we got the last table and lots of people came by to try to eat dinner. One of the big draws for Penang is the food scene as it is supposedly some of the best in Southeast Asia. I guess we will have to keep traveling around to see if it lives up to the hype, but the food we had was very good.
Early the next day we were picked up by a chef and headed to the market to buy ingredients for our cooking class. The morning market was FULL of people and we got a pretty local perspective of how to shop at the market. Our first stop was to get chicken wings for a recipe and it was a little too real for me because the chicken is killed and defeathered right there in front of you. I don’t think I will ever forget the smell of that particular booth in the market. After that we grabbed some herbs, noodles, and veggies before grabbing some food for breakfast.
We then headed back to his apartment to learn how to cook some traditional Penang dishes — a fusion of Malay and Chinese flavors. Both us of used woks for the first time, learned how to combine flavors, the purpose of MSG, and how to use bean sprout paper. It was a really nice experience and I think we will be able to make some good stir fry when we come back. The best part was eating all of our food for lunch! Thanks again Chef Samuel!
Our afternoon was spent relaxing and then we headed to the beach for sunset. The beach is called Batu Ferringhi and was a pretty nice spot on the island about 25 minutes from the Georgetown city center. We went to a beachside bar and enjoyed some nice beers as we waited for sunset. While the sun was setting we walked down the beach before heading back to Georgetown for the night.
Our last day on the island was spent wandering around for most of the day before our late afternoon flight to Bangkok. We headed up to Kek Lok Si temple in the morning to take in the views from the top and enjoy the beautiful colors of the temple decorated for lunar new year. I wanted to get some of the duck broth noodles we ate the day before at the market, but apparently it was a breakfast food because once we came back down from the temple, the booth was closed. So we headed back to the city center and grabbed some very delicious Indian food for lunch at the same place we had dosa. Afterwards, we had a few hours to kill before our flight so we spent our afternoon in an air conditioned coffee shop.
Malaysia was a really beautiful country that was full of culture and great food. We had a great time there. Kuala Lumpur was a little rougher around the edges than Singapore, but we were still able to get around easily and the people were very nice. Penang was a bit surprising in that it wasn’t a picturesque island getaway destination, but a very industry-centric area with a nice town for tourists to visit. We actually saw the first overseas manufacturing site for Intel while driving to the countryside and it wasn’t the only semiconductor company site in the area. I think overall we really enjoyed our time there and it was a fascinating country. Maybe next time we head to the Cameron Highland and explore more of the jungle.
The next post will be all about Thailand! I am a bit behind, we are actually in Vietnam now and heading to Cambodia in a couple of days. But we are all booked up for the next month so its nice to not have to be spending a lot of time planning at the moment. Until the next one…