Weather: 🌞 + 🌩️
Novelty factor: 🏖️ + 🍜🍜🍜
Having found my previous five-month stint in Asia (#namedrop) to be more than a little challenging, I never could have predicted flying back exactly one year later. But sure enough, I was to return in January 2017, exactly twelve months after my trip to Vietnam, this time for a few weeks holiday, revisiting my favourite Asian country of all – Malaysia.
After successfully pitching the idea to Emily, my second in command and without whom I would not have been able to survive Asia previously, I managed to find return Qatar Airways flights for just £320! As I had been saving up over the winter months, I estimated a rough budget of £300/400 for a two week trip to Malaysia would suffice. This might seem like a pittance but I can confirm I really did spend just £650 in TOTAL during this whole trip inc flights, accommodation and spending!! It might be far away but it is definitely worth considering an Asian country for your next holiday – it is so cheap out there.
So our plan came together nicely; we were flying to Kuala Lumpur to stay with friends from our TEFL days, before heading to the south-west islands of Penang (basically to eat, eat and eat some more) and onto Langkawi – an island we hadn’t managed to fit in on our previous trip!
KL has a lot to offer. Dismissed by most as just a halfway point when flying from the West to Australasia, I feel like it possesses an underrated amount of charm. As I was travelling with Emily, who I’d been with during my last visit, we both agreed we had already smashed the quintessential Kuala Lumpur To Do List – Batu Caves, Petronas Twin Towers, KLCC park etc – and it was nice to not feel any pressure to have our tourist hats on.
KL: My Top Picks
SHOPPING – Pavilion in Bukit Bintang, Times Square in Imbi and NU Sentral, which is adjoined to busy KL Sentral station, are all vast shopping institutions! The architecture of every shopping mall is stunning, there is an endless range of designer and high street stores, and the selection of delicious, authentic cuisine on offer in the food courts is enough to satisfy any foodie.
DRINKING – Get the monorail to Bukit Bintang and head to Changkat for dinner and drinks. Girls, do yourself a favour and take full advantage of the various ‘Ladies Night’ drinks deals…
TOURISTING – For an amazing view of the Petronas Towers, Instagram’s most famous Asian skyscraper, head to Sky Bar. Located on the 33rd floor of Shangri-La Hotel – preferably during Happy Hour/Ladies Night
BEAUTIFYING – If your time in Kuala Lumpur falls during a fully-fledged backpacker trip and you find yourself in need of a snip, Kimarie Hair Academy on Bukit Bintang offer a cut AND blow dry for literally RM9-11 (£2.00!)
PENANG: MY TOP 5 PICKS
**So this part might seem a bit bias considering how much I love this place… but if your idea of fun is eating + beaching + eating some more, Penang is a must.**
BEACHING: Batu Ferringhi is the main beach location in Penang, found at the Northern tip of the island, roughly a 45-minute bus ride from Georgetown. It’s the idyllic beach scene of your dreams; white sand, water as far as the eye can see, tiki bars dotted along the entire stretch of beach. As Georgetown is located further in land, if you are holding out for a beach break, I’d recommend getting a hotel along the Batu Ferringhi strip. Lone Pine Lodge Hotel is a particularly lovely spot, right on the beach and five-minute stroll from the infamous BF night markets.
EATING: Following a recommendation from my cousin we visited a devilishly delicious dessert parlour, Moody Cow. Truly the best cheesecake you will find in Asia, we went for a giant slice of the Oreo Cheesecake. To. Die. For.
The world famous street food is undoubtedly the main attraction of Penang and I could go into essay length detail about the grub, but I’ve already dedicated a blog post to that so why not check out my previous guide to Penang Street Food here. The finest street food I’ve yet to discover, but I am by no means done sampling mystery meat from street vendors.
HOSTELING: We stayed at the charming Ryokan Muntri Boutique Hostel which is slap bang in the middle of Georgetown! Round the corner from Love Lane, the backpacker bar street, this hostel is located in an ideal location and is cheap, cheerful and really peaceful.
LANGKAWI: MY TOP 5 PICKS
COCKTAILING: Ah Chong Beach bar was our favourite cocktail spot along the Pantai Cenang beach. The decor is shabby chic pirate(?) themed, they serve every variety of iced drink imaginable and even offer Prosecco infused cocktails – unheard of in my experience of Asia. For some reason they don’t have any social media pages or website, but if you wander along the seafront, it’s definitely worth popping in to see the cheeky chappies at this place, they know how to cocktail.
HOSTELING: If you are looking for a peaceful bed and (very generous) breakfast, with the ocean right on your doorstep, Tubotel is the place for you. Located slightly out of the way of the main Pantai Cenang strip, this hostel is mid-range priced but has visitors bunking in quirky little pods made of reworked concrete tubes. This might not sound all that appealing but the tubes are fully air-conditioned and overlook the sea, creating an almost camp site setting, ideal for couples or flashpacker duos.
However, if you are looking to stay somewhere more central, right in the midst of the Pantai Cenang strip, and you aren’t as fussed about fancy extras, I would highly recommend the He/She Mixed Dorm. Albeit a very basic hostel this place is perfect for a few days kip, all thanks to the wonderful host, Ahmad. He felt like a local friend of ours, making us feel right at home our entire stay, bending over backwards to help visitors in any way he could. The dorm is also located next door to a really cute breakfast bar which serves banging omelettes! Don’t let the naff photos online put you off, this place is perfect for any budget backpacker.
TOURISTING: The Langkawi Cable Car is probably the biggest tourist attraction on the island, and is well worth a visit. Unless you hate heights. It costs around £10 to go up in the (World’s Longest Free Span) cable car, explore the winding Sky Bridge and includes entry to the cute 3D art museum at the foot of the mountain. For once we actually did the right thing and got to Burau Bay early doors as it was opening, climbing the mountain before the crowds of tourists stormed the theme park. I would recommend getting their early, preferably without a hangover, because despite the Cable Car there is still a great deal of walking and steep steps.