A melting pot of Malay, Chinese, and Indian cultures, Malaysia has it all! Check out Drew Arellano’s five-city Malaysia itinerary.
The colorful country of Malaysia is just four hours from Manila, but going there feels like entering a different world. This vibrant, multi-cultural nation has offerings for almost every type of traveller: modern cities, lush natural wonders, historical treasures, and gastronomical adventures. Perhaps what is most unique about Malaysia is its melting pot of diverse cultures, including Malay, Chinese, and Indian.
Here’s a guide to Drew Arellano’s trip for GMA News TV’s budget travel show, “Biyahe ni Drew.”
Kuala Lumpur is the capital of Malaysia, its most wealthy and populous urban center, and your most likely port of entry if you’ll be flying in from Manila. From here, you can rent a car to get to other cities in Malaysia. According to Lonely Planet, unlimited-distance rental rates cost MYR920 per week (P12,500) or MYR145 (P2,000) a day.Where to eat: Jalan Alor
The street food kitchens along Jalan Alor sell different kinds of Malay food. Buy from different stalls to get the most out of your food trip. Drew recommends trying roti tissue, a thin sheet of bread that’s formed into a cone and drizzled with condensed milk.
Where to stay: Anggun Boutique Hotel
Complete your stay in Malaysia by staying in a hotel with Malay-style interiors! A room for two goes for the equivalent of P3,000 to P4,000.
What to see: Masjid Jamek Mosque
The Masjid Jamek Mosque, first opened to the public in 1909, is a showcase of Moorish architecture. The high arches and rounded domes were built with differently colored bricks. It is located near Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown and Little India.
What to do: Hop-on-Hop-off Bus TourNo tour guide? No problem. For the equivalent of P500, you can ride on the Hop-on-Hop-off bus tour. The tour takes you around the city’s different sights with the help of an English-speaking guide.
Free fun: Petronas Towers
The first few floors of Malaysia’s iconic Petronas Towers form a shopping center, but you don’t need to spend a cent to enjoy the view. Head to the Towers at night and get your “turista jump shots.”
Pahang is the third largest state in Malaysia. Located north of Kuala Lumpur, it is home to many resorts, water parks and beaches.
What to see: Genting Highlands
Entrance fee: An all-day express pass costs MYR120 (P1,630) for adults and MYR83 (P1,130) for kids below 12. Other packages are available at their official website.
Also known as Resorts World Genting, the Highlands are a group of hotels and theme parks for travelers of all ages. From Kuala Lumpur, you may rent a car or take a cab for the one-hour drive or forty-minute journey to the Genting Skyway cable car station.
We recommend taking the Genting Skyway, though—at 3.38 kilometers long, it’s the longest and fastest cable car in Southeast Asia! Fare is MYR6 (P84).
Once you get to the Genting Highlands, get ready to try over 50 theme park rides, including the “zero-gravity” Flying Coaster. In their indoor theme park area, you can visit the Snow World and play inside igloos and snow villages.
Meanwhile, the Genting Skyventurer lets you experience skydiving, risk-free, in a simulated wind tunnel and with the help of an instructor. “Whoa, matatakot ba ako? Ahhh!” shouted Drew. “Pero this is exciting and worth trying. I don’t care how much it is, it’s worth it. I love it!” A session here costs MYR120 (P1,680) plus MYR18 (P250) if you want a DVD recording of your flight. You also receive a certificate from Skyventurer as a remembrance.
Where to stay: Hotel First World, Genting Highlands
When it comes to accommodations, you have nothing to worry about because Genting Highlands has over 10,000 rooms. At their Hotel First World, a double room with air conditioning and private bathroom costs MYR330 (P4,620).
Putrajaya is a planned city that serves as the administrative center of Malaysia. It is located 25 kilometers south of Kuala Lumpur.
What to do: Walk or bike among beautiful buildings
Malaysians are proud of Putrajaya, a government-owned and developed area. Here, you can admire Malaysia’s urban planning—most government offices have been moved to this sprawling city. The best view of the cityscape can be found at the Putrajaya International Convention Center or PICC.
Drew chose to take a quiet bike ride through Putrajaya on a weekend morning. No office means no cars, which means you have the whole city practically to yourself! Look for their Supreme Court building, or Istana Kehakiman, which is architecturally similar to India’s Taj Mahal.
Melaka (also spelled as Malacca)
Melaka was founded around 1400 by the last raja of present-day Singapore, who saw that the area was accessible during all seasons. Because of its strategic location, Melaka became an important stop along the trading routes between Asia and Europe. Through the years, Melaka collected influences from the Dutch, Portuguese and more; now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage City.
What to see: All of it
Here, you’ll see St. Paul Church, which has been standing since 1521; in 1553, St. Francis Xavier was buried here before being moved to his final resting place in India. You’ll also find Kota A’famosa, the oldest piece of European architecture in Southeast Asia, buit in 1511.
Beside this is the Sultanate Palace Melaka, a replica of a 15th century palace which doubles as the city’s main museum on pre-Portuguese Melakan culture. Entrance is just MYR1 (P14)! The Muzium Samudera, meanwhile, is a life-size replica of a ship turned into a museum.
To get around, try Melaka’s pedicabs. They’re similar to the Filipino ones, except they’re overflowing with bright, colorful flowers every single day. Pricing is a bit steep, at MYR40 (P560) an hour, but think of it as riding a Filipino kalesa—it’s a one of a kind experience and a different way to see the city’s many sights.
What to eat: Everything!
A visit to Melaka (or Malaysia in general) is not complete without sampling Peranakan or Baba-Nyonya cuisine, a unique blend of Malay and Chinese flavors. A popular Baba-Nyonya restaurants in Melaka is Nancy’s Kitchen on Jalan Hang Lekir. Must-try dishes are the candlenut chicken (a lemongrass-spiked curry dish) and “top hat” appetizer, which are tiny taco-like cups filled with meat and veggie fillings.
Meanwhile, Jonker Walk is located in Melaka’s old Chinatown and is a haven for serious antique collectors. But for the average traveler, Jonker Walk is the start of an epic food trip. Try the toasted, bean-filled buns sold in hole-in-the-wall stores, taste rock candy from street vendors, or line up for nyonya laska (noodles in spicy coconut-based broth) at the famous Jonker 88 restaurant or the tastier, less tourist-y Baba Low’s 486.Looking for a quick snack? Durian and yogurt puffs are also sold for MYR1 (P14). If you’re in a group, you can buy a box of ten for a discounted price of MYR7 or P98. Egg tarts cost MYR1.20 (P17). But be sure to try cendol (pronounced sen-dol), Malaysia’s version of halo-halo.
You can’t go wrong here—everything tastes good.
Johor Bahru is located near the border of Malaysia and Singapore, and there are even taxis and buses for tourists to cross over. As a major tourist draw, Johor Bahru has many shopping complexes and theme parks. AirAsia offers cheap flights from Kuala Lumpur to Johor Bahru and some other cities in Malaysia.
What to see: Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park
If you’re traveling with the family, visit Johor Bahru’s Puteri Harbour Family Theme Park. Kids and kids at heart will enjoy Hello Kitty Town, the world’s first Sanrio and Hello Kitty-themed park outside Japan. There are Hello Kitty rides, photo booths, meet-and-greets and more. Entrance is MYR75 (P1,050).
Another attraction at Puteri Harbour is the Little Big Club, a theme park with rides featuring different children’s shows: Bob the Builder, Barney, and more. To save on entrance fees, you can buy a package ticket at the entrance: MYR110 (P1,540) gets you into both Hello Kitty Town and Little Big Club.
For lunch, you can try Lat’s Place, the in-house restaurant where you can interact with virtual reality characters.
Johor Bahru is four to five hours from Kuala Lumpur via bus. For the fare of MYR60 (P840), the seats are roomy and comfortable in a literal way—they’re massage chairs, and you get the remote!
What to do: Shopping at Johor Premium Outlets and Johor BazaarOver 80 branded stores on sale every single day—what’s not to love? For bargain finds, visit the Johor Bazaar and try tiangge-style shopping. There are also shops for delicious iced lollies, such as Goyang Magic Ice Cream at MYR1 (P14) a piece, and different kinds of roti.
Where to eat: Restoran Singgah Selalu
Located near Danggah Bay, this 24-hour restaurant has a Malaysian buffet for the equivalent of P560. Their name literally means “Always Stop at This Restaurant.”
What to see: Legoland Malaysia
From its Lego block-like entrance to the Lego versions of world-famous landmarks inside, Legoland is everyone’s childhood dream.
Here, you’ll see Lego versions of the Petronas Towers, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and even the Philippines’ very own Bolinao, Pangasinan—complete with jeepneys and sorbeteros. There are also theme park rides and seasonal attractions such as the current Star Wars Death Star exhibit.
Entrance to Legoland costs MYR120 (P1,680) for adults and MYR90 (P1,260) for kids under 12.
Note: The conversion between Malaysian Ringgit and Philippine Pesos was taken during August 2013. The current conversion may vary; the figures above simply illustrate the estimated amount.
–Cristina Tantengco/PF, GMA News