Saturday, August 3, 2013

Backpacking Itinerary: Malaysia in Four or Five Days

I knew I was not in for anything much during my few days visiting Malaysia. At the time, I had already gotten used to slow travel that grasping all that Malaysia has to offer in four or five days would be quite difficult. Malaysia is after all quite a diverse nation, and a country whose history forms a significant part of the history of the whole of Southeast Asia. I came in knowing that I will only be, to put it in cliché terms, scratching the surface. Still, the visit yielded a few surprises for which I was very happy.

Hopefully, this short backpacking itinerary of Malaysia in four or five days will help those planning a short visit, too.

Backpacking Itinerary: Malaysia in Four or Five Days

Kuala Lumpur

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur
Batu Caves in Northern Kuala Lumpur, one of the most visited Hindu sites outside of India

The capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur (KL), is one of the largest transport hubs in Southeast Asia. AirAsia flies from here to practically everywhere in the region. Obviously, this had been my first stop. From the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Low-Cost Carrier Terminal, I took a bus to KL Sentral, the central transport hub in this transport hub of a capital. The bus costs 9 MYR (2.7 USD).

Anis Puteri, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The best meal I had in Malaysia I had in Anis Putri Corner in Pantai Dalam District, Kuala Lumpur.

What to See: I walked around the Heritage Trail in KL City Center taking a few photos. Here, I saw historic buildings such as the Kuala Lumpur Railway Station and the Sultan Abdul Samad Building. Then, of course, I had to see the Petronas Towers, a couple of Rapid KL LRT stations away. The two surprises though were the Batu Caves, a Hindu temple built within and around limestone cliffs and caves, and my quest to find a restaurant, Anis Putri Corner, which was recommended to me by a KL-ite. As it turned out, the restaurant provided me the best meal I had in Malaysia.

Get In: At the time, AirAsia was not yet flying from Kunming, capital of Yunnan, where I had just spent a month traveling. So from Yunnan, I had to take an overnight train north to Chengdu, from where I took a flight heading south again to Kuala Lumpur. Quite the effort, I know. At least, I got a taste of Sichuan province though. I paid 1,014 CNY (160 USD) for the one-way flight.

Where to Stay: Suzie's Guest House in Chinatown, located in KL City Center. A bed per night costs around 8 USD. Breakfast of toast (with jam, peanut butter, etc.) and coffee or tea are provided. Rooms, which had AC, are windowless boxes though, as is the case with many hostels in this busy and congested area of KL.

Terminal Bersepadu Selatan
I headed to the large and ultra-modern Terminal Bersepadu Selatan to get to my next destination in this backpacking itinerary of Malaysia: Malacca.


Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
Make sure to walk around Malacca at night, too. The lights of this charming city make it even prettier.

In my book, Malacca had the winning combination of a great travel destination: historic structures, old towns, slow pace, and excellent food. Because of its role in the history of Southeast Asia, having been a trading port populated by Malays, Indians, Chinese, Portuguese, Dutch, and British, it has quite a diverse culture, which I enjoyed. The city, though touristy, is indeed photogenic and the food, especially that of the Peranakans, the descendants of the Chinese who married the local Malays, are deliciously rich.

Baba Laksa, Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
A big bowl of Baba Laksa. It's so spicy, and flavorful, and creamy, and good that I can't even.

What to See: I took a walk many times of the day through Malacca's historic structures again taking photos, lots of photos. You can start at the Dutch Square, cross the river to the Old Town, and back again to climb St. Paul's Hill. Make sure to eat at the local restaurants, too, including the popular Jonker88 Restaurant. Get yourself one fine full meal (or two) in this delicious town. Try Baba Laksa, Cendol, Sago Gula Melaka, and Hainanese Chicken Rice Balls.

Get In: From Kuala Lumpur City Center, I took the Rapid KL LRT to Terminal Bersepadu Selatan, a bus terminal so large and ultra-modern, that I died of envy a little inside knowing that my city Manila does not have anything close to it. The two-hour bus to Malacca cost me 12.5 MYR (4 USD).

Where to Stay: There are many places to stay in the Old Town. If you can splurge a bit, do stay at one of the historic Peranakan mansions that have been converted into hotels along Jonker and Heeren Streets, both in the Old Town. That will be an experience. I stayed at Backpacker's Freak Hostel, located outside the Old Town close to a big mall, the Mahkota Parade Shopping Mall. Everywhere in Malacca's historic center is just a few minutes' away on foot. I paid 8 USD per bed per night. The four-bed dorm was basic, but had AC and big windows. That's a plus. Hang-out living room area upstairs is good for drinking with fellow travelers, too.

Malacca Old Town, Malaysia
Many of the Peranakan mansions inside Malacca Old Town have been converted into hotels, guest houses, and cafeterias. Stay a night to experience a bit of history.

Hopefully, this short four or five-day backpacking itinerary of Malaysia will serve as a guide to those who will be on a short visit, too. Though short, the stay did whet my appetite (sometimes literally) enough to visit again. And I will. Next month, in fact!

What other places would you include in a short backpacking itinerary of Malaysia in four or five days?

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