The factors me and my husband value the most when planning a trip are natural beauty, cultural interest, cost-effectiveness and also the possibility of self-drive. A road trip across Malaysia was the top option since it checked all these points. Natural beauty is without any doubt one of the highlights of this country since in the heart of Malaysia still lies a pristine rain-forest, together with mountains and also crystal clear beaches on the islands. This country is also a melting pot of cultures, since here coexist peacefully a multitude of cultures and religions, the majority being Muslims but also Christians, Hindu and Buddhists. There is a temple or a Mosque to admire in every corner! I am also a food lover and when I travel local dishes play an important role in my trip. Malaysia did not miss to meet my expectations, since the food here is just amazing, apart from being incredibly cheap. A mix of Malay, Thai, Chinese and Indian cuisines create unique flavours and smells that accompany you as you stroll along Jalan Alor or Jalan Petaling in Kuala Lumpur, some of the most popular areas for street food. It is not just about the food here that is inexpensive; staying in a central 3-star hotel on a bed and breakfast basis won’t cost you more than €30 per night. The last, but not least, factor we took into consideration when planning this trip was the possibility of self-drive. Malaysia has an excellent road infrastructure and moreover, being an ex-British colony, they drive on the left hand side like in Malta. August is a good time to visit this region, so South East Asia was chosen as our holiday destination for this summer.
Our journey started off in Kuala Lumpur, the country’s capital. My first thoughts upon landing here were on how modern and efficient the roads are. Unlike Europe, major highways are all illuminated and getting from one place to another is fast and easy. As soon as we arrived in Kuala Lumpur we visited the famous Petronas Towers, the tallest twin-towers in the world. The area around Petronas Towers is very modern and luxurious with upscale hotels, immense shopping centres, bars and restaurants. Kuala Lumpur is a vibrant city bustling with life and after arriving at the hotel we immediately went out again to try some street food. Jalan Alor is the best spot in town for this; at first we were a bit skeptic about trying this food, since obviously the hygiene standards are far away from what we are used to. However as soon as we tried the first duck skewers, we changed our minds as they were delicious! Every stall is a show here, you can see your food being cooked in front of your eyes and you can buy any type of food you can imagine; chicken, meat, duck, fish, seafood, noodles, etc. We visited the main attractions around the city Dataran Merdeka, Thean Hou Temple, Batu Caves etc. and afterwards we left Kuala Lumpur heading North.
Cameron Highlands and Ipoh
Another famous attraction in Malaysia are the tea plantations in the Cameron highlands, which look so surreal. This area, which has a pleasantly cooler climate, offers spectacular rolling hills and lush green tea plantations along the winding roads in the hills. Apart from tea, this area is also famous for strawberries and other fruits. We continued our journey towards Ipoh and finally the island of Penang.
Penang is connected to the mainland of Malaysia with a 13km bridge, and during our drive on the bridge we were welcomed by a severe storm. The weather here is tropical with a constant all year round 30ish maximum temperature, high humidity levels and a daily afternoon downpour which may be thundery and heavy at times. We stayed in the capital George Town, whose old town is a UNESCO world heritage site. The city is a world renowned hub for food and I may say that here I ate some of the most delicious food in my life. My favourite spot on the island was the Tropical Spice Garden. I love cooking and Asian dishes are a must at least once a week at home. Seeing the ingredients of my favourite dishes growing and smelling their flavours all in one place was amazing. The cherry on the cake was the lunch at the Tree Monkey restaurant set in front of the beach. The lunch ate here classifies as one of the top meals I ever ate so if you’re in Penang you must definitely eat here.
My trip in Malaysia is almost coming to an end. In a few words this country is modern, however its uniqueness lies in the traditions formed by the mixture of cultures that coexist here. You don’t see someone here and say yes that is a typical Malaysian person, since you can see people dressed differently, with different skin colour and all of them are Malaysian. The highlight of Malaysia was surely the food, as we expected, however to be honest we were a bit overwhelmed by the heat. We are happy that we visited Malaysia and we enjoyed our days here, we now look forward to our next adventure in Indonesia.