Our journey through Malaysia feels like it was a dream, but that doesn’t stop us reminiscing about the amazing adventures we had in this (very hot but) fantastic country! Malaysia had pretty much everything you could want in a country - fabulous beaches, wild rainforests, bustling cities, wonderful waterfalls, incredible wildlife and not to mention the mouth watering food (we’re missing the food a lot!). We had so many unforgettable experiences and trying to narrow them down to our favourites has been super difficult! But we’ve got there in the end. Here you have it - the top 10 Malaysian adventures!
Before we visited Malaysia we didn’t think we would end up spending as long as we did exploring, but there is just so much to see (with each place is completely different from the last)! We spent over a month travelling around Peninsular Malaysia before heading over the Malaysian Borneo, and we had an absolutely fabulous time!
Exploring the Big City in Kuala Lumpur
Arguably one of the most well known cities of South East Asia, Kuala Lumpur was the first stop on our Malaysian journey. Being an easy transport hub, KL has an array of sights to see, and we actually ended up visiting three times whilst travelling in Malaysia (mainly because it’s so easy and cheap to get flights to anywhere!). It was easy to get around, with an established underground and the online taxi app, Grab, being available pretty much 24/7, and that meant we could visit the many different areas of the city. From the aquarium to China Town, we really packed in as much as we could, but for fear of rambling on, I’ll stick with our two most memorable places. First of all, a visit to KL is not complete without a few walks around the iconic Petronas Towers. I say a few walks because they really are extremely impressive in both day and night, and so if you have the time, it’s definitely worth seeing them at both points of the day. In the afternoon you can walk through the park that surrounds the towers, which is a little haven in the bustling city, and in the evening, the towers become the illuminated beacons in the night sky that adorns every postcard in Malaysia (understandably)!
The second most memorable place we went to in KL is something that is quite underrated but, nevertheless, worth a visit - KL Butterfly Park. Being a pair of nature lovers/photographers (and definitely not the biggest city lovers you’ll ever meet), we always love finding places in industrial areas that are green, and if there’s animals involved that’s always a plus! It was raining and we were feeling a bit stuck (and way too hot) in the city, so we thought we’d give the butterfly park a go, mainly for something to do that wasn’t your typical city sight! It’s small but set in a nice little garden with streams, waterfalls and meandering pathways around the enclosure, and there are so many beautiful tropical butterflies! We basically spent the day taking photographs of all the different kinds of butterfly that landed on our heads, which was such a laugh and, most importantly, made us forget about the humidity!
Walking on a Rainbow at The Batu Caves
Just a short train journey outside of Kuala Lumpur are the Batu Caves. If you’ve only got a short time in KL this would be the thing that we would recommend as a must do, especially because its free to enter! The best time to go is either super early in the morning or in the late afternoon/just before sunset, as this is when it’s at its coolest and quietest. We visited the Caves twice and both times were so completely different it’s unbelievable. Visit number one was a little underwhelming - there was scaffolding over all the temples and everything was white washed and dull; we weren’t that impressed by it at all, although the huge golden statue will always be pretty incredible. Luckily we arrived just in time to go on a little tour through the Dark Caves, which made this particular journey worth it. The guides really know their stuff and it was so interesting to find out more about the conservation zone, the cave passages and the wildlife living there - there is an entry fee but it’s only 33 ringgit/just under £7, and you definitely get your money’s worth.
A month or so later we visited Batu for a second time. We weren’t going to bother, but luckily we’d seen recent pictures posted by some friends and knew that this time would be so different. The whole place was completely transformed and it was absolutely beautiful! The entire temple, as well as the 272 steps, had now been painted with every colour of the rainbow, and it was like a completely different place. The colours brought the whole place to life; it was honestly an amazing experience and we can’t tell you how glad we are that we visited again!
Trekking and Tea Tasting in the Cameron Highlands
At the end of a road with a million turns is an area called the Cameron Highlands - a place that made us feel like we were no longer in Malaysia and were instead in an alpine ski resort during the summer! Sounds a little odd and not quite what you would expect from a country in Asia, but actually it was more than nice to have a break from the humid temperatures and bustle of the city. Being here was pretty much the first and only time we wore jumpers outside - it was so refreshing! The Cameron Highlands are famous for tea plantations, and we wasted no time getting stuck into the hiking trails ending with much needed tea and cake (we are British after all)! There are several trails leading out from the main town, and we chose to take trail 10 up and trail 6 down (which was an interesting experience because “trail” 6 was mostly washed away!), which gave us fabulous views over the luscious green landscape, a wonderful stroll through the picturesque plantations and some absolutely delicious afternoon tea with a view to round it all off.
We also booked onto one of the hugely popular sunrise tours and were so lucky to get a guide who took us to each place ahead of all the other tourists - we realised how grateful we were for this when we were amongst the only people able to get a table and avoid the queue in the BOH Tea Plantation cafe! Being that one step ahead of the crowds made the tour one of the highlights of the entire trip. We began the day by watching the stunning sunrise over the plantations before heading up the mountain into the clouds to explore the Mossy Forest - home to hundreds of species of medicinal plants and an interesting walk through the old twisted trees. We ended the morning with a good old cuppa in the cafe overlooking the surrounding plantations and it was jolly lovely!
Street Art and Water Parks in Penang
Penang was yet another place with a character all of it’s own - in fact by this point it was becoming clear that everywhere in Malaysia has it’s own personality, which is what makes the country such an interesting visit. It’s the old architecture and artistic vibe in Georgetown which really made us fall in love with the place. We spent days and days wandering around the streets searching for the famous street art and tasting incredibly yummy food (Gurney Drive Hawker Market and CF Food Court are a must visit).
The major highlight of our trip to Penang was something we only discovered after meeting a couple who had seen it being advertised - otherwise we would never have known to go there! This was in fact a waterpark - ESCAPE Theme Park. We spent the MOST fun day being big kids and racing on the slides, having water fights and lazing on the lazy river in the waterpark before heading over to the adventure park side. There we walked the high ropes, zipped down the zip lines and were terrified by the kite swing drop, before heading back to the waterpark to cool down. It was SO much fun and virtually empty when we visited; it’s definitely a must do when visiting Penang!
Sliding Down Waterfalls in Langkawi
Whilst in Langkawi we did everything from riding one of the the steepest cable cars in the world, rescuing a week old puppy, and lounging on the white sand beaches to getting caught in a HUGE thunderstorm whilst riding motorbikes! But the highlight of our visit to Langkawi was climbing up to the top of the Seven Wells Waterfall. Many people don’t really want to walk up the stairs (me included, so Will had to push me up most the way!), but because of this we had the place virtually to ourselves for most of the day. As the name suggests, there are several pools which you can slide down the rocks into (incredibly fun), just have a swim around in and cool down, and the view over the edge of the falls made for an amazing backdrop! We spent the day chilling in the water, exploring the surrounding jungle streams and standing precariously on the edge to look out into the jungle beyond.
Living the Island Life on the Perhentians
Right from the get go we quickly realised that we love the island life and the Perhentians were no different. Ok, so it’s probably the most basic (in terms of accommodation especially) island we’ve visited to date, but that didn’t stop us having a huge amount of fun here! We kayaked around the coast, saw our fair share of incredible fire shows on the beach, dived every day and even partied the night away in the pouring rain.
The islands are well know for it’s many dive sites and this was definitely one of the main reasons we wanted to visit them. We found a great little place called Monkey Dives and combined our diving with accommodation in their dorms, which for the Perhentian Islands, were pretty much some of the best beds you can get! Our favourite dive site was called Temple of the Sea (although Sugar Wreck was a pretty close second), and it was so much fun to swim with the shoals and spot the elusive Bamboo Sharks hiding under the rocks.
In the evenings we would grab some food (which always took soooo long to come but when it did, was super yum!) and wander along to beach to watch one of the many fire shows - and these are still the best ones we’ve seen yet!
On the last day we hired a kayak and, along with another backpacking couple, we explored some of the more inaccesible-by-foot beaches! We had so much fun here and our only regret was that we didn’t get to visit some of the other islands along the Malaysian coast!
Borneo has ALWAYS been somewhere we have wanted to visit and this was our chance to do it! Malaysian Borneo is split into two sates: Sabah and Sarawak. We wanted to see as much as we could in both of them, and we only had 3 weeks to do it! It was a squeeze but we managed to see all the things we wanted to (and could afford to - backpacker budget!) see, but it definitely required way more planning than we’d ever done before!
Road Tripping our way around Sabah
Borneo is huge and majority rural (although most of this is probably palm oil plantation), and so getting around is not the easiest. Flying is quickest but not always cheapest, so we decided to hire a car from Kota Kinabalu and road trip our way around the state! We had a lot of super long journeys, but it was so much fun and is definitely one of the most beautiful road trips we’ve been on. We drove through mountains, rainforests, cities and palm oil plantations (many more than expected, they go on for miles), and the views were absolutely stunning! Of course we had a few problems along the way - the key periodically decided it wasn’t going to unlock the car for us, so as soon as we opened the door the alarm would go off; SO LOUD!!! Thankfully we met some amazingly lovely locals who disabled the alarm and fixed the key for us, so now we just laugh about it, but at the time we did get some extremely funny looks! Despite this, we became so attached to our little car and we were sad to leave him behind at the end of our time in Sabah, but I suppose he’s gone on to annoy other people with his dodgy keys and burglar alarm!
Wildlife Encounters and River Cruising in Kinabatangan
One of our all time favourite places in Borneo was the Kinabatangan River. We stayed in a village called Sukau in a jungle hut B&B alongside the river and it really felt like we were right off the beaten track - even though the area is becoming an established point on the tourist trail.
I really want to pick one highlight of our trip here but it’s impossible! Considering that the day we turned up it was chucking it down with rain within an hour (literally went from beautiful sunshine to raining cats and dogs), we are so lucky to be able to say that it’s hard to choose from all the good experiences.
Once the rain had finally passed we were able to go on some river cruises, which went straight from our doorstep. We took trips at sunrise and dusk, and it was definitely one of the best ways to see the wildlife in the surrounding rainforest. The guides knew everything and pointed out species left right and centre, and even took us down a little tributary to see an orang-utan bridge over the river. Unfortunately no orang-utans, but we were super lucky to see a troop of endemic Proboscis Monkeys making their way across the river; it was absolutely amazing to see!
We were also going to join on a night cruise down the river, but just as we were about to get on the boat, the guides told us about a sighting of Bornean Pygmy Elephants just down the road and offered to take us in the back of the jeep to see them! Of course we were already in the back of the jeep before they’d finished their sentence, and soon we were speeding down the road to where they’d last been seen. Eventually we spied them munching on the new shoots in a recently felled plantation field and we spent ages watching them getting their fill. Elephants are my all time favourite animal so this was my absolute dream!
On the last day, which was coincidentally our 100th day of travelling (!), we decided to give the boat cruise a miss and venture to a cave we’d heard about nearby. The cave was stunning, if a little sticky from all the bat guano (poop!) and mouldy walls (really selling it aren’t I), but definitely worth the visit! The real highlight of the day was that we were super lucky and got to see two wild orang-utans chilling in the trees above the car park! Five minuets later and we would have driven away and missed them, but luckily a local guide pointed them out just before we set off. We were happy enough just getting a glimpse of them in the trees, but after watching them for some time, they came down to about 2 metres away from us! We couldn’t believe our luck, it was the best we could have asked for to celebrate our 100th day on the road. And it got even better on the way home, because we were able to see the elephants again in the same place as the night before, and that was the icing on top of the cake!
Hanging Out with the Orang-Utans in Sepilok
From Kinabatangan we drove to Sepilok - an area just outside the city of Sandakan known for it’s sanctuaries and protected rainforest. After seeing orang-utans in the wild we weren’t too sure how it would be seeing them in a sanctuary, but even though it was a completely different experience, it actually turned out to be a brilliant day. We got up early to get there for when centre opened, and just 5 minutes after walking in we had a cheeky orang-utan walking right behind us along the path! The day just got better and better, as we got to see the youngsters playing in the outdoor nursery, saw rehabilitated orang-utans coming in for some food and even saw some of the kids escaping from their playground. Once rehabilitated, the orang-utans are released into the wild and into the Sepilok reserve, and so there’s never a guarantee that we would see them, and that made us feel even more lucky to have seen so many during our day at the centre! Want to find out more about Sepilok Orang-utan Rehabilitation Centre? CLICK HERE.