Getting around Malaysia
It’s easy. Thanks to their train and outer city bus systems. You can book buses via travel agencies, your hotel or just show up at the bus station early and book a ticket. Normally, there are several times offered for major tourist/city destinations.
The train system is awesome. It’s possible to get from Thailand to Singapore for fairly inexpensive prices via the Malay railway! Just keep in mind that most Malaysia primarily handles only Malaysia destinations and can’t make bookings for you to cross the border. Thus, continuing into Thailand or Singapore, your reservations must be made in those countries. The online train booking system www.KTMB.com at the time wasn’t working (but it shows you the schedule), so it’s probably best to book with directly through a tourist agency (of which you’ll find in most tourist/guesthouse areas) or go down to the station in person.
My original launching point was from Bangkok to Hat Yai to Butterworth <http://www.seat61.com/Thailand.htm>.
Bangkok was able to handle this reservation up to Butterworth. However, returning to Bangkok via Kuala Lumpur, I was told the KTMB could only book me up to Hat Yai (and it would have to make an overnight stop in Butterworth, which I didn’t want to do). So I decide to fly to Hat Yai directly instead. Saved me time and money.
Getting from Kuala Lumpur to the LCCT (aka Low Cost Carrier Terminal or the terminal for Air Asia) airport:
The convenient part of traveling Kuala Lumpur is that the major bus, train station and Skybus all converge at KL Sentral (picture above). There are 2 airports (International & LCCT) and if your flights are with Air Asia, yours will be the LCCT. From the KL Sentral , catch the Skybus to the LCCT. Cost of Bus to LCCT: 9 ringgit. It takes no more than 45 minutes and is easy.
For Skybus information go to their website at www.skybus.com.my
PENANG / BUTTERWORTH
Is it Penang or Butterworth? It’s easy to find confusion with the names but the two names are known synonymously as the same place. Butterworth is the port that connects to the island of Penang and Georgetown is the capital city. The main attraction in the city is Chinatown — a Chinatown in the sense of old architecture and Chinese signs– but it has to be one of the mellowed versions in all the world. It’s a small and quiet district with a few Chinese restaurants, hawker stands and it’s seemingly a bit of a ghost town. Little India occupies a few streets and there’s a free shuttle bus to take you around to the major sites in Georgetown. You may feel a little strapped for itinerary ideas here; the city is pretty quiet. However, take a bus ride out of the city and around the island and you’ll find it has a tad bit of a country flavor.
Star Lodge (Area: Chinatown)
39 Muntri street
*Rough Guides recommend. Forget guidebook prices– most places have hiked their prices up within a year of publication. Basic double with bathroom ensuite. Fan. 36 MYR.
Take free shuttle to famous landmarks
Take local bus to giant Kuan Yin temple
Getting There (from Bangkok):
Take overnight train from BKK to Butterworth ($25-35). Train stops at Hat Yai for border crossing. Ferries shuttle between Butterworth & Georgetown/Penang Island every 10 minutes, taking 15 minutes.
River top Guesthouse (Area: Chinatown)
No39, Jalan kampong pantai
When I visited in June it was still newly opened. Owners Mani & Raymond offer the most generous hospitality. Clean rooms, nicely designed modern guesthouse with rooftop patio, they offer free home-baked cakes, fruit, tea/coffee and WiFi. Central and walking distance to everything.
It may seem a bit more pricier than figures in the guidebook will quote, but the home-like hospitality makes it worth every ringgit.
Getting There (to Melaka from Penang):
• Overnight bus from Penang to Melaka. Approx. $15. You can book with your guesthouse or through tour agencies. Arrival in Melaka bus station (15-20 minutes from the city). Take taxi into the city.
• Day bus from Melaka to Kuala Lumpur: bus tickets to Kuala Lumpur and onward, can be purchased at the station.
Shopping Mall in park
Weekend night markets
Take the ferry up/down the canal at day or night * night is best for lighting.
Houses on stilts
As the Malay capital, KUL was a lot more interesting and worthwhile of a stop than I had initially read about. There’s sites to see, malls to shop, restaurants to dine at and nearby day trips you can take. A surprisingly modern city, it’s also fairly small. You may not know it but it’s actually walkable. Still, you won’t need to walk as there’s the LRT & Skytrain (a monorail/metro) that gets you around. You can catch buses from Chinatown or take the train to nearby outer city destinations.
Getting to the airport is easy-peasy. You just take a skytrain to the LRT station (central train & bus station) and take the bus to the airport. The bus ride will cost under $5 and take not more than 45 minutes.
156 Jalan Tun H.S. Lee, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Clean, a few months old. Great lobby/lounge area with free wifi, tv, computers and free coffee and tea. Free continental breakfast-= coffee/tea and bread with jams. Free water.
Masjid Jamek (Oldest mosque built in 1909)
– take Rapid KL LRT off Jalan Tun Perak
Kuala Lumpur Tower (4th tallest telecom tower in the world)
• Gettting there: Take KL Monorail- Bukit Nanas Station. Free shuttles at base of tower. Opens 9A-10P daily
Petronas Twin Towers (451.9 m high)
May not be the highest tower in Kuala Lumpur but is certainly one of the most impressive, especially when lit up at night. Inside building holds a chic shopping mall with designer brands. Going up to the Skybridge? The line for tickets starts at 8A but be there earlier; the cutoff time for tickets can be at 8A. Admits a limited number of tickets (approx 100) daily
Getting there: Take LRT to KLCC Station
Chinatown Petaling Street
Street lined with vendors selling anything from watches, bags, dvds and souvenirs. Food restaurants selling Malay faire on street running perpendicular. Food carts for shishkabob items and fruits within the vicinity.
Getting there: Take the LRT to Pasar Seni Station. 10 min walk from the station.
If shopping malls are your thing this area’s got a handful to choose from.
Getting there: Take the monorail to Bukit Bintang.
A Day Trip to Batu Caves
13km north of KL. 140 feet statue of Lord Muruga and 272 steps up to the temple. Bottom temple at entrance devoted to Shiva and other gods. Occasionally temple offers free food. Inside the caves, there are three big caves housing Hindu shrines.Two nearby restaurants serving Indian food– okay but your tastebuds won’t feel quite like you’re in India.
If there’s one place which offered a lot to do and see for me, it was Taman Negara. This was my highlight. The oldest national rainforest in the world, Taman Negara is accessible by boat and offers treks (independent or with guide), river shooting, night safaris and the option to camp out at observation hides. But just a warning on the latter– accommodations are bare bare bones and you’re roughing it. Treks can be long and beware of the leeches. Chances are, if you stay on the worn path, you’ll not encounter them. They don’t sting or hurt (from what I’ve heard– you don’t know they’re there until you take off your shoes) and they’re deeper in the jungle.
TAMAN NEGARA NATIONAL PARK TOUR (Oldest national rainforest)
3 DAYS , 2 NIGHTS FREE & EASY Tour Package
Includes Accommodations, Park Permit, Breakfast, Transportation to & from Taman Negara
Price: 160,000 MYR
Accommodations (2 nights):
Mutiara Resort Hotel
Tour @HAN TRAVEL, LOCATED IN 5 ELEMENTS HOTEL, CHINATOWN
Sightseeing (3 days):
• NIGHT JUNGLE WALK
8-12 Flashlights light the darkness like première night as you walk in the darkness of the jungle looking for nocturnal insects and animals. Salt bees, wood ants, large tarantula like spiders and antenna swishing crickets. What I like is that they’re in the jungle and not my room. We made our way to a observation deck or hide to see if we could spot anything. They say it’s rare to have a spotting and the more people sounds less the chance. But we did see some anteaters as well as the glint of watchful eyes – apparently you can camp at some of these if you’re the adventurous sort. But the setup is fairly minimal- you’re pretty much you, a raised platform and nature.
• Free Treks at Taman Negara Park
• CANOPY– WORLD’S LONGEST HANGING BRIDGE, TREKKING TO BUKIT TERESAK
Getting There: Van bus from Kuala Lumpur to KUALA TEMBLING (RT); transfer to boat KUALA TAHAN TO KUALA TEMBELING