In a Nutshell:
- SUPER cheap once you’re there 🙂
- Fantastic, reliable, easy to use public transport (just avoid taxis in KL – rather use the trains). Also amazing public health care 🙂
- Great people – very friendly, helpful and most people speak English. It is a Muslim country though and so just remember to wear respectful clothing (especially when seeing temples etc).
- Go to Sabah and try to see orangutans in the wild – TOTALLY worth the trip.
- Our highlights: the melting pot of cultures, orangutans, Batu Caves, street food and general vibrancy (chaos?), Kek Lok Si Temple, the beach (truly incredible beaches!) and the Petronas Towers
- July and August is the peak tourist season so if you going then and plan to spend some time at the beach book your accommodation at least 2 months in advance
- Flew to Kuala Lumpur arriving about 10pm
- Slept in the Capsule Container Hotel at the airport. This was awesome and SO convenient.
- First flight to Sandakan arriving about 9:30am (3 hour flight)
- Taxi from airport to Sepilok and dropped off at the Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre (caught the feeding just in time). I don’t know if it’s because we’re from South Africa (and so used to seeing animals in the wild) but this bummed all 3 of us out… Just felt like orangutans are too intelligent to be gawked at by crowds with cameras…
- Accommodation picked us up and took us to the Sukau Greenview Bed and Breakfast on the Kinabatangan River (about 1.5 hours drive). Accommodation was basic but clean, right on the river and very helpful.
- Went on an afternoon boat cruise and totally saw an orangutan IN THE WILD 😀 (this was very lucky so don’t count on it for your trip)
- First accommodation bus back to Sepilok and dropped off at the Rainforest Discovery Centre. This was brilliant. Walked around, took in the jungle and by complete luck saw a mother and baby orangutan!! 😀
- Got a taxi to the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre. We were impressed with this and it was well worth the visit.
- Got a taxi to the airport and caught a 5:40pm flight back to Kuala Lumpur
- Stayed at Submarine Guesthouse. Basic accommodation but couldn’t be better situated and is run by the most helpful, wonderful guy.
- Batu Caves. Fantastic. Top of the list 🙂 Just hide your food because the monkeys will jump on your back and forcibly remove it from you if they can see it.
- Islamic Arts Museum. I loved this. This boys not so much. Exquisite stuff though.
- Caught a 4:15pm bus to Malacca (2 hour drive)
- Got a taxi from the bus station to River View Guesthouse
- Explored Chinatown and found dinner
- Explored Malacca (Chinatown, Town Square and St Paul’s Hill)
- Caught a 2:30pm flight to Georgetown (1 hour 20 minute flight)
- Found accommodation at the Red Inn Court
- Walked to the Red Garden Night Market for dinner
- Walked and explored Georgetown (Little India, Chinatown, Fort Cornwallis and Around)
- Indian Curry for lunch at Kapitan
- Beer with locals
- Dragon Mountain House
- Kek Lok Si Temple for sunset (Penang Hill unfortunately wasn’t not open). Brilliant – really recommend this. Just know (contrary to what our guidebook said!) it closes at 6pm so get there by 5pm at the latest.
- Technically caught the first bus (9am!) to Jerteh (again, contrary to what our guidebook said, there are only 2 buses a day: 9am and 9pm). But when our bus reached Kota Bharu our bus driver organized for another bus to take us directly to Kuala Besut (where we needed to catch the ferry from). This seemed like a bit of a deal on the sly but it only cost us RM10 and it was SUPER convenient so we were happy chaps.
- Stayed at a ‘hotel’ right on the water and 3 minutes from the ferry terminal. Found street food for dinner
- 11am boat to Palau Perhentian Kecil to our booked accommodation at Rainforest Camping. It was rustic (camping with reed showers with a stunning, if exposed, view of the jungle) but fantastic vibe, private beach and just generally magical.
- Relaxed on the beach
- Did a short snorkel trip to see turtles, fish, coral and sharks
- Relaxed on the beach
- Relaxed on beach
- Got last boat (4pm) back to mainland
- Caught the 8:30pm night bus to Kuala Lumpur
- Arrived in Kuala Lumpur 4:30am and hung around the bus terminal
- At 7am emailed Submarine Backpackers and were told we were welcome to check in early (seriously, the guy who runs that place is a saint!)
- Went to Betel Leaf for awesome Indian Curry for lunch
- Wandered Chinatown
- Went to Strato Skydining Restaurant next to the Petronas Towers for dinner
- Saw the Petronas Towers at night
- Submarine Backpackers personally walked us to the airport bus stop at 4am
- Caught our out flight at 8am
I really did try to keep track of all our spending but with three of us travelling together (my brother adventured with us) it all got a bit complicated. But this is what I can tell you, dear Reader:
- We took RM4472 (about US$1000 for Husband and I) with the idea that we’d each spend about RM200 a day. We didn’t. We came in WAY under budget (hence our fancy dinner on our last night next to the Petronas Towers plus a massive shopping spree in Chinatown).
- We had already booked and paid for our domestic flights within Malaysia (all super cheap) and 2 nights of accommodation before we arrived though.
- Accommodation (dorms or private room in backpackers): RM25 – RM80 a night
- Domestic flights: Less than RM150 per person per flight (booked in advance)
- Two hour public bus: RM10 per person
- Eight hour public bus: RM45 per person
- Taxis: RM10 (short trip) to about RM40 for a 30 minute trip. Always agree on a price before getting in.
- Restaurant or street food: RM1 – RM25
- Alcohol: Expensive. RM10 for cheapest beer.
Ok. I think that’s it 🙂 Please feel free to comment or ask if you have any questions that you think I might be able to help with 🙂 Happy travels!