Malaysia: Two week itinerary

Malaysia Insider
Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary (Photo: Lonely Planet Images)
Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary

First timers in the city will obviously want to see the Petronas Towers up close (to walk across the Skybridge you need to be there at 8.30am to get one of the free tickets). An alternative is to visit the viewing platform of KL Menara which, due to its construction on a hill, actually looks down on the towers.

There's also some enjoyment to be had from visiting Masjid Jamek on Jalan Tun Perak, one of the oldest mosques in the city dating back to 1907. As well as being architecturally fascinating, it also sits where the Klang and Gombak rivers meet — the 'muddy confluence' which translates to 'Kuala Lumpur'. It was here that the city was born.

Generally though, while KL is a splendid place for shopping, dining and living, it doesn't offer up much in the way of sights for tourists. After two or three days you'll be inclined to try somewhere different. Hop on a luxury coach to Penang — it takes no longer than flying if you include waiting time at the airport, but gives you the chance to see Malaysia's enormous palm oil plantations.

Food is centre of life in Penang. If you're a fan of spice, try the Penang nasi kandar (rice drenched with lashings of different curries). You can buy it anywhere, but Nasi Kandar Line Clear in Penang Road is especially good.

The largest Buddhist temple in South-East Asia, Kek Lok Si, can be found in Air Itam, but most people are drawn to Penang to see the colonial architecture that Georgetown offers. Look out particularly for the Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion, which is a sensational blue colour guaranteed to get keen photographers snapping.

For those with just a week to spare, get the ferry from Penang to Langkawi and spend a few days lounging on the beach. However, those with time to really explore should fly from Penang International Airport to Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. Air Asia usually offers the cheapest flights.

There's plenty of beach opportunities in KK, as it's known, but plough forwards to Mount Kinabalu, located in Kinabalu National Park. At a height of 4095m (13,435 ft) it's possible to hike to the summit, but take a jacket to fight the cold, and don't even consider it if your usual idea of a hike is leaving the sofa to grab a beer.

Take the bus to Sandakan, where you can spend time considering the horrors of the Sandakan Death Marches, the single worst atrocity suffered by Australian servicemen during the World War II. Having paid your respects at the Sandakan War Memorial Park on Mile 8, Jalan Labuk Utara, seek out the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary to lift your spirits again.

To round off your two weeks, stock up on books and hit the beach. Two of the country's most scenic options lie off SandakanTurtle Island, for the sight of turtles coming ashore every night to lay eggs, or Lankayan, for totally stunning beaches and solitude. Fully rested, you can fly direct from Sandakan Airport back to KL.

Have you tried any of the places on this itinerary? Got any ideas we haven't thought of? Have your say using the comments form below.

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User comments
If you have the time (and the money) definitely take a trip to Sandakan. I went for four days and had what would have to had been a once in a lifetime experience. Exploring the infamous "bird's nest" caves, travelling down the Kinabatangan river and seeing a wild herd of elephants, the Sepilok Orang Utan Sanctuary, and getting a boat to Turtle Island where it's next to magic seeing the giant turtles come in at night and lay their eggs (then releasing and guiding the hatchlings back into the night time waves). Having travelled to Malaysia over five times in the last ten years, I'd recommend you see all the places mentioned above, and try as many things as you can... but I probably would recommend that of any country... or else what is the point of travelling?
I was over in Malaysia in March 2008, and my itinerary was different, except for the 2 nights in KL. We chose to see Melaka instead of Penang and Kuching instead of KK and Sandakan. Also we spent 2 nights in Singapore. Kuching was our favorite stop. We spent 5 nights in Kuching, exploring Bako National Park, Semenggoh Wildlife Rehab, Sarawak Cultural Village, and the other museums in Kuching. We want to see these other places too, so we're planning to come back in 2010, either to do an all-peninsular Malaysia trip (Penang, Kota Bahru or Kuala Terengganu, islands, and KL) or an all-Borneo trip (Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Brunei, Kuching, Miri, and some other places).
What ever happened to Sarawak??!! It is a stunning destination and yet seldom appears in Malaysian tourism publicity - KK Sabah always, but rarely Kuching Sarawak. Great adventure destination and easy access from KLIA. Oh yes - and the best named restaurant anywhere with great food - "Blah Blah Blah" yes....that's what it's called. Try the Borneo seafood platter.