Travel Options w/a RT Ticket to Kuala Lumpur
December 7, 2009 4:08 PM   Subscribe

I jumped on a super cheap ticket on Air China to Kuala Lumpur next Spring. It'll be my first time in Asia and I have about 10 days. Should I stick to Malaysia & Singapore or is it worth it looking at other locations I can fly to from the airport?

My #1 addiction is travel and after doing Peace Corps in the Caribbean and visiting almost all of Latin America, I'm ready to move on to a new part of the world. I've just bought a really cheap ticket on Air China to Kuala Lumpur in late April 2010. From what I've been told, Malaysia and Singapore are good "starter" countries for getting your feet wet in Asia.

I'm in the preliminary stages of reading about both places, but would love to hear from people who've been there. Having done exhaustive "hit every town on the tourist/backpacker route" trips before, I would rather be low key in my travels. So I'm hoping for advice from people who've either been there or who live there. Would you stick to Malaysia and Singapore or is it worth it seeing what other locations I can fly to out of KL? And if I just spent my time in M & S, what are the big "tourist traps*" that I could easily skip? I like wandering around and just getting a sense of people's lives in a place. And obviously I wouldn't have thought about the ticket i the first place if I didn't have an interest in street food. Also I love going to museums and being outdoors/hiking. I have one friend of a friend who lives in KL as a contact, but I'd love to hear from other people's experiences.

* I went to Brazil 3 years ago and thinking that speaking only Spanish would be a problem, I signed up for a tour through GAP Adventures. I really regret this decision because we hit all of the high cost "gringo route" locations in the country, plus the group I was with mostly cared about partying/finding the local disco. I didn't really feel like I'd had the experience of what life is actually like in that country outside of the hostel/backpack bubble.
posted by gov_moonbeam to Travel & Transportation around Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd stick with Malaysia and Singapore on your first go-round. If you've only got ten days, why waste them in airports. In other words, a day or two in a country won't do much for you, in terms of getting to know about it. See as much as you can of those two countries, and savor it, rather than running to catch this flight or that train.

From the tourist promos that have been running non-stop in Japan, Malaysia looks pretty amazing, with more than enough to do.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:37 PM on December 7, 2009

I spent two weeks, mostly in Malaysia plus a couple of days in Singapore, and I most definitely did not get bored (and I was only on the peninsula -- didn't hit Borneo). My favorite part of the trip was just renting a small motorcycle and going for a 5-day mostly random drive around the north/central part of peninsular Malaysia. I saw lots of stuff I never would have come across taking just public transportation. I spent a few days days just wandering around Kuala Lumpur, taking the rapid transit system somewhere and then wandering around by foot. There's is great street food in KL. Singapore has great food at hawker centres too (Anthony Bourdain wrote an article about them, worth looking up).
posted by Emanuel at 4:42 PM on December 7, 2009

Oh and my trip was about ten years ago. Malaysia really didn't feel very touristy, even the well known places like Penang (but I suppose that might be because I went in a less popular part of the year). To get an idea of where I tend to come from when travelling: when Australian backpackers tell me a place is boring, I take that as the highest kind of recommendation (no insult meant -- to each their own!)
posted by Emanuel at 4:49 PM on December 7, 2009

Peninsular Malaysia doesn't get the backpacking hoards that Thailand does; mostly Singaporeans up for the weekend. It's divided into west coast/urban, east coast/rural, and the National Park in the middle. The bus system will get you anywhere you need to go. Crossing the border into Singapore is easy except during rush hour and Sunday evening when it is crowded. The only drawback is that the budget accommodation can be dismal and not good value but the incredible food makes up for it. You'll love it and will want to come back and stay longer.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 5:11 PM on December 7, 2009

If you are going to jump on another plane, come to Kuching, Sarawak. Great town to be a tourist in, mountains, rivers, national parks, orangutans and longhouses all at one-hour excursions from town center, and the downtown itself is very walkable with a few neat museums and a river running through it. You can take a 20-sen ferry across the river and stroll through the historic malay kampungs or take a boat ride down the river and back. There's a weekend "wet market" where surrounding villagers bring in all kinds of wild jungle produce. Compared to the West Malaysian experience, Kuching and its surroundings are more culturally diverse, more rugged and more natural. Then again, I live here so I'm a bit biased. You can MeMail me if you have any questions about coming out here.
posted by BinGregory at 10:57 PM on December 7, 2009

More Kuching boosterism:

Stuff to google:
In town:

Chinese History Museum
Natural History Museum (Wallace worked here)
Chinese Temples
Mosques - self link
Hindu Temples
Kuching Waterfront
Satok Market
Heroes of Independence Park-Reservoir Park-Civic Center Tower Area

An hour's drive or less:

Semenggoh Orangutan Rehab Center - really nice, no cages: the orangutans live in the park's forested land. The ones still in need of help emerge from the forest, swing down from the trees to a special platform at feeding time.
Bako National Park
Matang River Park
Kubah National Park
Mount Santubong
Sarawak Cultural Village
Longhouse Tours
Wind Cave
Fairy Cave
Sirikin Border Crossing - trading post next to the Indonesian border

The only touristy stuff to avoid is anything to do with cats. Kuching means cat in malay, but that is not where the city name comes from and the cat statue, cat museum etc are schlocky.

Accommodations available downtown range from the Hilton to Homestay Bed&Breakfasts. I recommend The Singgahsana Lodge for the budget option. Some friends of mine just stayed there last week. Clean, friendly, hip Sarawakian decor, within sight of the riverfront, and rooms from RM30 with breakfast.

**I'm not in the tourist business.**
posted by BinGregory at 11:50 PM on December 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Perenthian Islands on the west coast of the peninsula near Thai border are beautiful and very laid back place to hang, scuba, etc. Not nearly as crazy as some of the party islands north of the border.
posted by zeikka at 9:06 AM on December 8, 2009

I lived in Singapore for about a year and I miss it, especially the food and the people. The hawker centers, surrounded by markets full of shops, in the housing blocks are pretty amazing (especially the ones in the older parts of the city).

As for "traps", I'd say you can safely skip Sentosa.
posted by lmm at 12:43 PM on December 8, 2009

« Older Our child would surely bring honor to the...   |   Unemployed, uninsured... how do I get my... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.