Jani Jermans – Travel Diaries

December 30, 2023

Discovering Malaysia – Truly Asia

Filed under: International Travel — jani @ 5:07 pm

The decision to embark on a week-long escape with Sur was a spur-of-the-moment choice, driven by his limited leave days that couldn’t be carried forward into the new year. Originally eyeing South Korea, our enthusiasm was tempered by the lengthy visa processing time of 2-3 weeks. Undeterred, we swiftly redirected our attention to Malaysia, enticed by the recent announcement of a one-year free visa, effective December 1st, 2023. This impromptu change injected an element of excitement into our travel plans. The urgency of Sur’s leave left little room for meticulous trip planning. Malaysia, with its newfound visa leniency, emerged as the ideal alternative. Moreover, the alignment of my pending client meeting in Malaysia seamlessly fit into our spontaneous travel narrative.

About Malaysia: Nestled in Southeast Asia, Malaysia’s allure extends across the Malay Peninsula and the Borneo island. Renowned for its pristine beaches, verdant rain forests, and a rich tapestry of Malay, Chinese, Indian, and European influences, the country promises a vibrant and diverse experience. Kuala Lumpur, the bustling capital, boasts colonial charm, lively shopping districts like Bukit Bintang, and iconic skyscrapers, including the majestic Petronas Twin Towers.

MDAC (Malaysia Digital Arrival Card): Navigating the practicalities of travel, Malaysia recommends registering for the Malaysia Digital Arrival Card (MDAC) three days before departure. The process is streamlined through https://imigresen-online.imi.gov.my/mdac/main. A crucial tip is to ensure to carry a printout of the confirmation email received in your inbox; it’s a valuable document for a smooth entry upon arrival.

Day 1: Arrival in Kuala Lumpur – An Eventful Start

Our journey kicked off with a morning flight on Malaysian Airlines, a welcome change for me as I had spent most of the year traveling solo. This time, Sur’s company added a pleasant touch to the experience. The flight offered decent hospitality, though a bit more legroom would have been appreciated. The aircraft’s seats, adorned with newly installed leather, looked sleek. The in-flight meal, though decent, kept us satiated during the four-hour journey.

Landing in KL, we encountered the standard immigration procedures. The officer requested our return ticket, took our fingerprints, and granted us a 30-day entry stamp. Thanks to meticulous preparation, including copies of essential documents like flight tickets, MDAC confirmation, hotel reservations, and insurance, the process was smooth.

A minor hiccup occurred when a fellow passenger ahead of us faced delays due to a missing boarding pass. This emphasized the importance of keeping all documents readily accessible, sparing unnecessary inconveniences for fellow travelers.

Exiting the airport, we hopped into an airport taxi bound for Sunway Putra Hotel, KL, a 45-minute drive away. Upon our late-night arrival at the hotel past 9:30 PM, our hopes for a leisurely dinner were met with a surprise. Although the in-room dining option was available, the hotel’s restaurant had already closed, seemingly prematurely at 10 PM. With a nearby mall attached to the property, we decided to venture to Me’nate Steak Hub.

Dinner at Me’nate Steak Hub presented a mixed experience. While I relished their steak, the boiled egg proved excessively salty. Sur, opting for spaghetti, encountered a mix-up in the order. Despite requesting a vegetarian dish, the initial serving included small slices of beef. A subsequent clarification and another pasta order finally secured a vegetarian meal. This episode highlighted the scarcity of vegetarian options on Malaysian menus, prompting a note for future travelers to explicitly specify dietary preferences and mention no meat when you place an order. With dinner complexities behind us, we retreated to our room and welcomed the embrace of sleep, eagerly anticipating the adventures that awaited in Kuala Lumpur.

Day 2: Heading to Langkawi

After a much-needed rest, we found ourselves in a state of blissful lethargy, opting to sleep in rather than venture out. By the time we stirred from our slumber in the afternoon, the day had slipped away. Deciding to make the most of the remaining hours, we checked out of our hotel, stowed our luggage, and ventured to the adjacent mall for a delightful pastry interlude.

Our choice of Bread Story rewarded us with an assortment of delectable treats – chicken puffs, mocha bun, and croissants. Armed with these delights, we settled into HWC (Coffee House Café) for a rejuvenating session of cappuccinos and refreshing fruit juices.

With our energies somewhat restored, we bid adieu to our temporary abode and headed to the airport to catch our evening flight to Langkawi. There are two terminals in KL, Terminal 2 mostly has Air Asia flights and others are in Terminal 1. Do verify the ticket before going to the airport for hassle-free travel A quick one-hour flight from KL brought us to our island destination.

As we landed in Langkawi, our choice of accommodation, Wings by Croske, turned out to be conveniently close to the airport. Amused by the short distance, our Uber driver shared a laugh as we opted for a brief ride rather than a mere five-minute walk. Arriving at Wings by Croske, we were greeted by the allure of a beautiful hotel, and without further ado, we checked in.

Given our limited time in Langkawi, we sought the assistance of the hotel’s recommended travel agency, Andaman Secrets, to make the most of our stay. Despite the late hour, they efficiently confirmed our bookings for the next day’s exploration. A quick dinner followed, with me indulging in a sumptuous seafood platter while Sur settled for the more familiar comfort of French fries and a cocktail. The fatigue from the day’s travel caught up with us, leading us to crash for the night, eagerly anticipating the adventures that awaited us in Langkawi.

Day 3: Island Exploration and Enchanting Landscapes in Langkawi

The day commenced with an early start, accompanied by a quick breakfast that introduced us to the flavors of Nasi Lemak. This fragrant rice dish, infused with coconut milk, was adorned with fried anchovies, sambal (spicy shrimp paste), a choice of boiled or fried egg, cucumber, and peanuts. While the anchovies were a personal favorite, their dry preparation in Malaysia offered a unique twist to the dish. Opting for another local delicacy, I indulged in Sarawak Laksa – rice vermicelli, shredded omelette, cooked prawns, and chicken strips in an aromatic broth, accompanied by sambal and lime on the side.

Our adventure for the day began with an island-hopping tour facilitated by a local agency. Awaiting the tour’s commencement, we embarked on a delightful boat ride, reaching our first destination – Pulau Dayang Bunting. This island featured Langkawi’s largest freshwater lake, Tasik Dayang Bunting, often referred to as the “Lake of the Pregnant Maiden.” A brief mini-hike added an adventurous touch to our visit.

The journey continued with eagle feeding at a location teeming with these majestic birds. Observing the eagles gracefully swooping down to snatch food from the water proved to be a captivating spectacle. Our exploration extended to a nearby island, offering water activities and a serene beach where we relaxed before returning to the boat.

Next on our itinerary was the breathtaking Kilim Geoforest Park. Enroute, we picked up Shankar. The journey, mostly by a private boat, afforded us glimpses of fish farming. A seafood feast during lunch, with Shankar and I savoring various ocean delights while Sur opted for an omelette, added culinary delight to our day. The limestone formations and mangrove forests further enchanted us as we navigated through the park.

Our adventure took an unexpected turn at the bat cave (Gua Kelawar), where, unfortunately, the bats remained elusive. Undeterred, we returned to the jetty and proceeded to the Cable Car. Ascending to the sky deck, we were treated to a breathtaking view of Langkawi, accompanied by cool, refreshing air. The journey continued to the 3D museum, offering a playful exploration of optical illusions. A visit to Mamachinchang Café for a late lunch, featuring a limited menu with options like chicken nuggets and veg samosas, concluded our eventful day.

With memories captured in photographs and the day’s experiences etched in our minds, we retreated to our room, thoroughly exhausted, and surrendered to a well-deserved night’s rest.

Day 4: Farewell to Langkawi and a Coastal Welcome in Penang

Awakening refreshed from a good night’s rest, we completed our checkout and welcomed Shankar to our trio. Eager to savor the remaining hours in Langkawi, we relaxed near the hotel’s swimming pool, basking in the warmth of the tropical sun. As our flights were scheduled for the evening, we opted for a leisurely stroll, contemplating the memories created during our stay.

Considering our luggage, the thoughtful hotel staff offered to drop us off, a gesture we appreciated. Following a sweet poolside interlude, we headed to the airport for our respective departures. Shankar, with an earlier flight to Kuala Lumpur, bid us farewell after ensuring I indulged in a quick foot massage at the airport’s massage chairs. A brief, rejuvenating 10-minute session was a welcome respite.

With Shankar off to his next destination KL, Sur and I eagerly awaited our flight to Penang. Boarding our flight, we touched down in Penang after a short hour. Opting for an airport taxi, we embarked on a 45-minute journey to our new abode, Hompton by the Beach. Nestled close to the shoreline, the hotel offered a picturesque location with a charming Elementos restaurant overlooking the beach. The hotel staff, friendly and accommodating, assisted us in planning our sightseeing for the next day.

With the day’s adventures behind us, we dined at the hotel’s restaurant Elementos which is Tapas & Lounge bar next to the beach, immersing ourselves in Penang’s culinary offerings. We had the best food here during the trip. The promise of new experiences lingered in the air as we retired for the night, anticipating the exploration that awaited us on the vibrant streets of Penang.

Day 5: Cultural Marvels and Culinary Delights in Penang

A rejuvenating night’s sleep set the stage for another day of exploration in vibrant Penang. Rising early, we indulged in a quick breakfast, opting for soup and salads to ease into the day. Eager to delve into Penang’s cultural tapestry, we embarked on a sightseeing adventure.

Our first stop, the Butterfly Farm, unfolded a mesmerizing display of vibrant winged wonders, a visual feast for nature enthusiasts. Moving forward, we visited a craft batik workshop, immersing ourselves in the intricate process of wax-resist dyeing. The artisans demonstrated the meticulous artistry behind batik, showcasing the creation of patterns through a spouted tool called a canting or a copper stamp known as a cap.

Venturing deeper into Penang’s cultural heritage, we explored the Burmese Buddhist Temple and its Thai counterpart, Wat Chayamangkalaram. After offering our prayers, we indulged in a delightful treat from Papa’s Ice Cream within the temple campus. The coconut ice cream, adorned with surprising elements like corn and Attap seeds, offered a delightful twist reminiscent of ice apple.

Our cultural odyssey continued with a visit to the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a captivating museum dedicated to Penang’s Peranakan heritage. Housed in a distinctive green-hued mansion that once served as the residence and office of a 19th-century Chinese tycoon, Chung Keng Quee, the museum showcased a remarkable collection.

Adding a touch of whimsy to our day, we explored the Upside Down Museum, a unique and entertaining space for capturing gravity-defying photos. Our journey through George Town led us to vibrant street art, another facet of Penang’s artistic expression. Along the way, we discovered a Chinese temple and indulged in some street shopping.

Our sensory adventure continued at Coffee Tree Trading, where we savored various coffees, teas, chocolates, honey, and perfumes. Laden with newfound treasures, we proceeded to Penang Hill, ascending to its summit for breathtaking views and a tranquil tea break at David Brown’s Hilltop Garden Restaurant.

Before concluding our day, we visited the Murugan Temple, adding a spiritual touch to our cultural exploration. Returning to our hotel, we capped off the day with a delectable dinner. I relished the flavors of Char Koay Teow (Stir fry noodles) and Tom Yum Soup, while Sur enjoyed a well-prepared vegetarian pasta. Satisfied and content, we retired for the night, cherishing the rich cultural experiences and culinary delights that Penang had generously offered us.

Day 6: Kuala Lumpur – Towers, Temples, and Tantalizing Delights

Embarking on the penultimate day of our journey, we kicked off the morning with a swift breakfast before making our way to the airport for our return to Kuala Lumpur. Upon our arrival in KL, we checked into Sunway Putra Hotel, where rooms were available only by 3 PM. Eager to make the most of our time, we dropped off our luggage and set out for a day of sightseeing.

Our first stop was the iconic KL Tower, where we ascended to the Sky Deck. Although there was a queue for photos, we decided to forego the wait and proceeded to indulge in a culinary delight – the thinnest shawarma roll we had ever encountered. We made our way to the renowned Petronas Twin Towers. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side as tickets were sold out due to the limited number of visitors allowed, coupled with the drizzling weather. Unperturbed, we improvised our plans, heading to a nearby mall and then to the captivating Thean Hou Temple, a beautiful Chinese temple adorned with intricate sculptures and surrounded by serene parks.

As dusk settled in, we returned to the hotel to freshen up before an evening of business engagements. I had arranged a meeting with Chitti and his friend, and together, we dined at the Rabbit Hole restaurant. Our orders of chicken pizza and chicken nuggets were met with culinary excellence, setting the stage for a delightful evening. Chitti and his friend graciously dropped me off at the hotel before venturing to catch a movie. Meanwhile, Sur indulged in a relaxing massage, bringing a perfect end to a day filled with exploration, gastronomic delights, and fruitful business discussions. We retired for the night, cherishing the diverse experiences Kuala Lumpur had offered us.

Day 7: A Day of Cultural Immersion and Natural Wonders

With a quick breakfast fueling our energy, we set our sights on Genting Island, ready for a day of adventure. However, the weather had a different plan for us. The island greeted us with an unexpected chill and dense fog. Since we were early, most of the rides were closed as well. Undeterred, we decided to return, leaving behind the mystical atmosphere of Genting.

En route, we had hoped to explore a strawberry farm, but the rain played spoilsport, prompting us to skip the visit. Our next destination was the renowned Batu Caves. Climbing a few hundred steps, we encountered mischievous monkeys attempting to snatch the food. Undeterred, we proceeded to the caves, where we offered our prayers before making our descent.

Our journey continued to St. Mary’s Cathedral, one of the oldest cathedrals, exuding an aura of serenity. The nearby Independence Square, also known as Selangor Club Padang, provided a picturesque setting.

Next on our itinerary was Tugu Negara, the War Memorial, a poignant reminder of historical sacrifices where ongoing renovations did little to dampen the significance of the site. Our exploration took a sweet turn with a taste of ice cream, expertly scooped into a single cone with two delightful flavors. A visit to KL Bird Park awaited us, offering a unique experience as birds freely roamed the vicinity, allowing us to capture unforgettable moments with pelicans and dancing peacocks.

As the day unfolded, we stopped at the restaurant at park for a well-deserved lunch, savoring both the culinary delights and the beauty of the surroundings. Then we headed to Istana Negara,  the official residence of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, the monarch of Malaysia. We can only stand outside the gate for pictures. Then we returned to our accommodations, surrendering to a well-deserved rest after a day filled with cultural immersion and encounters with Malaysia’s natural wonders.

Day 8: Journey Home

As the sun dawned on our final day, we embarked on an early morning flight, bidding adieu to the captivating landscapes of Malaysia. Arriving at the airport with time to spare, we indulged in a leisurely coffee break and explored the duty-free shopping options, savoring the last moments of our Malaysian escapade.

Malaysian Airlines lived up to its reputation for hospitality, offering a comfortable journey. However, a curious encounter with Malay rice, anchovies, and peanuts left us pondering the authenticity of the provided sachet. The distinct taste, or lack thereof, prompted me to forgo the anchovies, opting instead to relish the flavorful rice and succulent prawns.

As the wheels touched down in Bangalore, our hearts were filled with the memories of a journey that unfolded like a tapestry of diverse experiences. Each day brought new adventures, cultural discoveries, and moments that will linger in our minds. The vibrant hues of Malaysia, from its bustling city scapes to the tranquil beaches, had left an indelible mark on our travel story.

With gratitude for the hospitality received and a suitcase full of memories, we concluded this chapter of exploration, knowing that new adventures awaited on the horizon. Until the next journey unfolds, the echoes of Malaysia’s beauty will resonate in our hearts.

See you in the next adventure…


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