Trip report: Peninsula Malaysia Road Trip
As a recent #firstworldproblem, I had an expiring Amex companion voucher I needed to use and a stack of Avois points. The only interesting place we could find redemption availability for was Malaysia, so I booked the tickets for DH and I to fly out to KL.
Next problem: what were we going to do there for 12 days?
I’ve been to KL before, and while its a fun city for a business trip it doesn’t merit a long stay on a vacation. I also didn’t fancy sitting in Langkawi sucking down cocktails at a resort pool in the company of self-basting Europeans determined to roast themselves to get a perfect tan. So we decided that a tour of the peninsula was in order, and that the best way to do this would be a roadtrip.
I booked a car with an outfit call Hawk Car Rentals at the airport, and we started plotting our journey.
We planned on hiring a GPS from Hawk, but they didn’t have one available on the day. So we bought a sim card in the airport and navigated using Google Maps from the Airport to our hotel in KL. We spent a day in KL, and then set off on our 1,400 km road trip over 11 days, with a manageable 18 hours of total driving time.
Our route is shown courtesy of Google Maps above, and was as follows:
- KL to Malacca (culture and an excellent place to eat)
- Malacca to Terengganu (beach and diving)
- Terengganu to Taman Negara (jungle – national park in the centre of the country)
- Taman Negara to the Cameron Highlands (hills, plantations, strawberries and hiking)
- Cameron Highlands back to KL
Overall it was very manageable: Malaysia roads are by and large better quality than the UK, and the motorways and excellent. Traffic in the towns could be a little chaotic, but not outrageous. We did get stuck behind some very large and slow moving trucks, particularly going up the hills to the Cameron Highlands, but that was part of the experience!
Malacca is a culinary destination for Malaysians and Singaporeans (although plastic chair restaurants, not Michelin stars!). I had some of the best chicken rice and tandoori chicken I’ve ever experienced there. Otherwise we found it a little dead / disappointing. We were there Monday and Tuesday and everything was closed down. Locals explained its best to go there Friday and Saturday night when the town is buzzing. Recommended hotel: the Majestic Malacca.
We stayed in luxury at the Tanjong Jara Resort which was absolutely superb. It’s an upscale resort and seems to be popular with people doing long weekend trips from KL. The food was excellent, and it had a good dive shop that took us out to a nearby island for scuba. There was a local Chinese restaurant about 5 mins drive from the hotel which was equally excellent, but about a quarter of the price! Super relaxing beach location, and not remotely crowded.
We didn’t have much time here, so opted for a jungle light experience. We stayed in Mutiara Taman Negara which is the resort directly at the entrance of the national park. You need to take the ferry over the river to get to it (there is secure parking for the car). We did day trips from the accommodation and the canopy walk, both of which were quite easy. If we had more time it would have been excellent to do a 3+ night trek properly into the jungle.
After a long trip this was an excellent place to relax in the cooler air. There are a lot of hikes nearby and we found a guide to take us on some of the most interesting routes. They also seemed to like elaborate afternoon tea.
Roadtrips are a great way to experience a country and cover a lot of ground. This was no exception. I think the route was balanced for the time available, and we had a great time. If I did it again I would spend less time in Malacca (maybe 36 hours) and time it to be there on a weekend. Recommended.