If travelling cheap is on your mind, then there is no better way than to fly with AirAsia, the low-fare airlines which connects Southeast Asia very well. I am always on a lookout for their promotional offerings and that’s how Malaysia happened for me. Low-fare is something which compels me to visit a country that was never in my travel bucket-list.
After a quick research on places to visit in Malaysia, I had 6 places on my mind.
- Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
- Genting Highland
- Perhentain Island
However, due to a limited travel-time and the weather conditions, I had to shorten the list to just KUL, Penang and Langkawi. Me and my friends decided on-the-spot and in no time, our flight tickets were booked. And yet again I was their travel agent for the trip. I sat for hours Google-ing the best places to stay. AirBNB came to my rescue. For most of you who don’t know AirBNB, this is a website for people to list, find, and rent homes. It enables you to communicate with the hosts directly who are pretty helpful & trustworthy.
In no time, the day arrived when we boarded our flight from the KIAL airport in Namma Bengaluru. It was in the second week of February and after a 4-hour-long flight, we landed in KUL. As planned we headed to the domestic wing of the airport to take a flight to Penang. The idea was to pay a short visit to Penang, a city bustling with beautiful artwork and creativity at its best. KUL to Penang is about an hour by air. The Penang airport took me by surprise, a pleasant one though, when I discovered that we could walk through the runway to reach the terminal. This was my first ever experience of being on foot on the runway. As usual, I didn’t waste any time to take out my phone and click a few selfies in front of the plane and before I could get that perfect shot, the security shooed me away. After collecting our baggage we took a prepaid cab from the airport counter to get to Georgetown. I would suggest to take cabs from airport counter, as the taxi fares are pretty much the same if you hired one outside.
En-route to Georgetown capital of Penang Island, I was surprised to notice that the city streets were almost deserted. Shops, not open until 1:00 PM and almost nobody on the streets except for a few pedestrians who seemed mostly like tourists. Georgetown is the capital of Penang Island.
After having checked-in to a loft booked through Airbnb I got to talk to my host. I learnt from him that we had arrived on the first day of the Chinese New Year and most of the places were closed because it was a HOLIDAY. Most of Georgetown is largely dominated by the Chinese. Most of them had either traveled out to celebrate New Year with their families or were still sleeping with a Hangover from Last Night. My host spared a good 30 minutes to explain the city map. I zeroed in on a few places and we set out with the map to explore the city still fast asleep under blazing sun. Knowing that Georgetown is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, I visited the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion & Kek Lok Si Temple. They are only open at specific times during the day. Georgetown is best explored by foot to really experience the Old-World Charm, British colonial buildings, Chinese shop-houses, large number of murals on almost every street and to enjoy the delightful street food.
As the night arrived, which we realized only after looking at the time, the city was springing back to life. The sun sets pretty late and there is enough daylight even at 8 in the night. I hopped into a taxi with my friends to explore the nightlife. Taxi Drivers in Malaysia speak good English unlike many south Asian countries. So it was easy for me to tell that I wanted to go to a place where I can get to see the city’s nightlife. And I was not disappointed when he took us to a street over-dosed with club-life.
A number of bars & restaurants decorated the street with their hustle and bustle. Many small pubs with tables put on road…It looked like these pubs were competing with each other to set a record for the loudest music played. My eyes were stuck on to a board which said ‘Buy 2 cocktail, get 1 free’. We went in and downed a few drinks, hopped pubs, made friends with other tourists and danced along. We literally set one place on fire so much that the DJ ended up playing Bollywood songs for us. It looked like everyone were having good fun shaking their legs to Bollywood songs until way past 5 AM. My friends & I literally sneaked out of the pub to find our way back to our loft. What would have taken just 5 minutes went on forever and after 30 minutes of drunk-walk, we found our way back to the loft.
Next thing I remember is our host knocking at our door. I woke up to see that its 7.30 AM. “Holy Cow!!!” I said. We had our tickets booked for the 8.15 AM ferry from Penang to Langkawi. Luckily, our host had informed us the previous day that he would drop us to the ferry jetty from the loft. I struggled to open the door and found the host waiting outside. He asked me to hurry up as ferries are always on time & we would miss ours if we didn’t leave immediately. I pulled my friends out of bed, dumped all our clothes, lying scattered around everywhere, into our bags and just rushed. It kinda got into my head when one of my friends said that she wanted to have a shower. I literally had to drag her out and we rushed to the jetty. We were all just nothing but HUNGOVER from a crazy night and less than a couple of hours in bed and it was definitely getting the best of us.
Well, we managed to arrive at the Jetty just in time and waited to be transferred to the ferry. I had absolutely no clue of what was coming next. The sea was rough, tides banging on the ferry’s windows, and the ride got bumpier. The next thing I knew – I was SEA-SICK and my hangover made it worse. I had no choice but throw up. After the 4-hour-ride, I promised myself that I would never get into a Ferry again in my life. (Sometimes promises are made to be broken. :P)
Taxi fares here are fixed . So no scams. On an average it’s about 30 Malaysian Ringgits to go anywhere around the island. I had booked a hotel on the touristic Patai Cenang beach road. It is quite populated with restaurants, bars, hotels, travel agents, duty free stores, souvenir & retail stores. If you are looking for a more relaxed holiday you should book one of the many resorts away from Patai Cenang beach road.
After we checked-in at the hotel, we took a nap to get sober. A quick shower and then we were all ready to hit the streets again. We took a taxi to the Oriental village. About 20 minutes of drive through the picturesque landscapes of Penang, we arrived at the foothills of Mt. Machincang where the quaint Oriental Village lies. We went into the open air complex and saw the huge lake in the center. The village has many attractions including the Cable Car & Sky Bridge. We bought tickets for the cable car ride and sky bridge and after waiting for about an hour I got to experience my first cable car ride. The ride has 2-3 stop-overs and would last for about 45 minutes. The ride was smooth and the view from the peak was spectacular. If you are doing the cable car ride during the sunset hours, make sure you are well prepared for a cold and a windy evening. It was worth every penny and we headed back to Patai Cenang.
It was dinner time and my cravings for sea-food became stronger. We walked into a restaurant with a spread of sea-food on display. Varieties of uncooked Fish, Crabs, Prawns, Squids and a lot more that I was seeing for the first time. So the concept was ‘You see what you eat’, where you can choose the fish or anything else, buy it by weight and get it prepared in the style that you like. We ordered pretty much every single animal we could see there and ate like there is no tomorrow.
Our stomachs were full and to make more room we strolled down the street. Picked up a few souvenirs and clothes and had some fried ice-cream from an ice-cream truck by the road. We also found a travel agent on the street and bought tickets for the famous island hopping tour of Langkawi for the next morning. The tour costs about 40 MYR per head. We then headed back to our hotel and hit the sacks.
At 9 AM the next morning we were picked from our hotel for the 4-hour-long island hopping tour. I would recommend that you don’t miss this tour when you are in Langkawi. All through the speedboat ride I was mesmerized to see how magnificent the hill-tops stood in the middle of the ocean. I was lucky to get so close to unspoilt nature. The first stop was the Lake of pregnant maiden which is a large fresh water lake. Though crowded, it was good for a dip. Next stop we got to see the eagles being fed in the sea. Third stop was Bahas Island with white sand beach and clear blue water. I swam in the sea and it felt like bliss. You also have the option to snorkel by hiring the gear from the beachside stores nearby. Small fish and a variety of colorful sea-shells along with corals is a sight you cannot miss underwater. We left the beach in the boat we came in and the ride was thrilling throughout. We were dropped to our hotel at 1pm.
We had a heavy lunch at one of the cafés on the beach. Visited the Underwater World and then headed back to the hotel to pack our bags.
We checked-out of the hotel and took a taxi to Marble Jetty, next to the Kuah Jetty. Like always I had booked my next accommodation through AirBNB. This one was a unique open air dorm on a private island .The best AirBNB I have ever stayed in. My host had given me clear instructions on how to get to this island. We took a private chartered boat for a 10min ride to his place paying 50 MYR. A shared boat would cost 10 MYR per head. When we arrived at the island we were awestruck. Wow!!! It was a simple, basic, open air wooden dorm right at the beach with an open kitchen & bar area all built with wood. People who stayed there had built this place. A private beach at your disposal, with the host & travelers from different counties who volunteer with helping the guests, cooking & keeping the beach clean. It was extremely relaxing to just lie down on the shore and forget who you are.
At dinner we were joined by volunteers where we exchanged our experiences. A lot about India was spoken including Bollywood. One of the volunteers from Tanzania even played a few Shahrukh Khan numbers as she was a huge fan. Everyone expressed their wish to visit India .After 2 hours of long conversation with beer in hand we went back to our dorm to crash. We shared the dorm with two volunteers Ben & Adeline. Ben was a super cute Australian teenager and Adeline was a yoga freak from Germany. To my dismay I couldn’t sleep much that night. Damn!!! The sea was just 5 meters away from where I was sleeping. I am someone who has been constantly paranoid about Tsunami. I remember waking up every 10 minutes to keep an eye on the tides.
Early morning the tides got low, the sound of waves disappeared & that’s when I quickly caught up with a couple of hours of sleep. My friend woke me up. After a shower we clicked a few pictures, strolled through the beach & packed our bags to take a boat from the island to the Jetty and then a taxi to the airport. We had a flight to KUL at 12 noon & we had to leave the island by 9 AM as it would take about an hour to reach the airport. To our surprise, our host told us the tides were very low and the boats will not be able to pick us. We waited till 10 AM and as we were getting late our host asked us to prepare for a hike to the other end of the island from where we could take a boat.
As Ben helped us in carrying our bags for the hike, our host luckily spotted a tourist yacht with a dinghy (a small inflatable rubber boat) He communicated with them and they were helpful to send the dinghy to fetch us from the shore one at a time and drop us to another shared boat that waited for us. For the very first time i wasn’t blaming traffic for the delay in reaching airport.
We sighed a relief and bid adieu to the host & the volunteers. We paid 10 MYR each for the shared boat ride to reach the jetty and soon rushed to stop a taxi for the 30-minute-drive to the airport. We reached airport at 11.20 AM and made it to the flight to KUL.
Arriving at KUL we took a taxi from the counter to get to Regalia apartments which was about an hour’s drive from the airport. We checked in to this amazing facility. The highlight of this place was the view of the magnificent Petronas towers from the infinity pool on the 27th floor.
We decided to pay a visit to the Petronas and then proceeded to the Menara Tower where we bought tickets to go up the tower to see the bird-eye view of KUL. It is said that the view from here is much better than the view from the Petronas observation desk. As I had done enough research I knew Bukit Bintang was the area to hangout next. We always stopped a red coloured taxi as they don’t overcharge & we paid the metered fare. It was around 9 PM and my eagerness to experience the KUL nightlife grew after having a crazy night at Penang. I first decided to go to Jolan Alor to eat at the open air stalls. Food Street filled with wide variety of restaurants serving Malaysian, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Western amongst other cuisine. There was plenty to choose from. The sight was a culinary delight & I was in the mood for some gastronomic adventure and decided to taste as much as I could. Go there for cheap tasty food, don’t expect any great ambience but eat as much as you can. A short walk away is the famous Chagkat Road filled with large number of clubs, lounges and bars where mostly tourists hangout. The street was so alive with lights, colours, music and people having a great time. Best thing that you can ask for a pub crawl. I tried few drinks, had some hearty conversation with my friends & went back to our apartment to sleep.
Day 2 in KUL started with good swim in the infinity pool and the countless selfies we shot. In the noon, we checked-out of the apartment and headed for a taxi. We struck a good deal with the taxi guy for a 6-hour-cab on disposal. We could go around the city and then get dropped to the airport at the end of six hours. We also could leave all our bags in the taxi when we went out shopping. All this for just 200 MYR. We visited the Batu Caves, China Town, Little India and a number of malls. I shopped for clothes/Souvenir at Berjaya Times square. Finally we headed to the airport and had to bid farewell to Malaysia. Not a day passes by when I don’t crave to eat Malay food.
Malaysia is definitely not a destination for a two-day-packaged trip or to be clubbed with Singapore nor is it for a short stop-over en-route to other South Asian destinations. Malaysia has a whole lot of surprises. You have to be there to experience it. I am definitely going back to visit the beautiful islands on the eastern coast of Malaysia.
- What to do in Georgetown,Penang
Stroll/bicycle ride in the streets of Penang
- What to do in Langkawi
Explore different beaches
Cable Car Ride & Sky bridge at Oriental Village
Island hopping tour
- What to do in KUL
Visit Petronas, Menara Tower, Batu Caves
Explore Bukit Bintang
Eat at Jalan Alor , Party at Changkat
Malaysia Budget Travel (Expense per person on sharing basis in Indian Currency)
- Visa: 4000 inr
- Air Asia Flight (approximate cost when booked 2 months in advance including 20 Kilos baggage):
Bangalore (India) -> KUL: 5500 inr
KUL -> Penang: 3500 inr
Langkawi -> KUL: 3000 inr
KUL -> Bangalore: 6500 inr
Penang -> Langkawi: 1200 inr
- Budget stay in sharing basis for 4 nights: 6000 inr
- Food/Transport/Entry fee: 1000 inr
Total: 38000 inr [580$] + Personal shopping
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