To see the attractions around KL, use the free GoKL buses.
The pinkish-purple coloured buses are free (at least for now), has wifi on board and covers the KLCC, Bukit Bintang, Chinatown, KL Tower and Pasar Seni area.
Skip the taxis and use these free air-conditioned buses instead.
No roads, no cars, no cash machines, no hordes of tourists. Perhentian Kecil, little brother to Perhentian Besar could just be utopia. Flanked by a sprawling jungle, pristine white beaches are lapped away by sparkling clear azure waters, the temperature of the most perfectly drawn bath in the world. A water taxi to one of the many secluded coves and beaches fringing the island meant an entire day with the stunning 'Shark Bay' to myself - a once in a lifetime experience. The locals couldn't be friendlier, and during Hari Raya the beachfront restaurants cooked and provided entertainment completely for free, with an open invitation to all on the island. Whether you are a backpacker or on the search for the ultimate paradise island getaway, Perhentian Kecil cannot come more highly recommended.
Speed boat crossings from Kuala Besut leave frequently, charging 70RM pp. The nearest airport if flying from Kuala Lumpur is Khota Baru - one hour's drive by minibus from Kuala Besut.
Google map: bit.ly/z8mNeZ
Beautiful riverside lodge in a spectacular jungle location. You can dine under the stars beside the river and set off early in the morning to track orangutans in the wild. Amazing place.
KG Bilit Seberang Jalan Sukau Kota Kinabatangan, 90200 Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur has a few big mega sales each year and not only are they huge, they have some of the best deals around. Big malls such as the Pavillion and One Utama are massive with most shops having 50% to 70% off in their stores every year during March, May and December. These dates are known to change though and I've been to KL in July/August for some amazing shopping!
Stay at the Parkroyal hotel in Bukit Bintang where you have about three big malls within walking distance.
Pavillion KL is a glitzy mall where you can get the latest and high end fashion. Sungei Wang Plaza is right opposite Parkroyal hotel and this is where you will find 500 retail outlets selling everything from food to clothes and score a bargain!
Behind Parkroyal hotel,there is a Low Yat Plaza which is THE malls for electronics and IT products. I have bought cameras and computer accessories from here at half the price!
At the end of a long shopping day, hang out at one of the big food courts in the mall for really good hawker food in a comfortable air conditioned surrounding. Lot 10 (Starhill Gallery) in Bukit Bintang is known for it's fantastic and tasty food court.
www.kuala-lumpur.ws/klshopping/ - Top 10 shopping malls
Jalan Sultan Ismail, 50250 Kuala Lumpur
+60 3 2147 0088
Google map: bit.ly/ukkIUy
Located in front of a very old mosque with the pagoda style minaret, Limau Limau used to be on the busy Jonker street til it moved just off it down this lane. It serves up lavazza coffee, fresh juices and yoghurt drinks and great sandwiches. Not cheap by Melaka standards but affordable none the less, the staff is friendly and the ambiance delightful. There's an upstairs where you can lounge in mismatched arm chairs or sit on the lopsided balcony as mobiles spin in the air and the mosques calls for prayers.
No 9 Jalan Hang Lekiu 75200 Melaka. A side street from Jonker Street.
+60 12 698 4917
Cute rustic wooden cabins overlooking the beach on Perhentian Kecil, an island with no roads, no cars and no stress! The only traffic is a speedboat which drops off and picks up the few visitors straight onto the beach twice a day - that and the disco-coloured fish which teem round the bay. What's more, our own wooden cabin was around £15 a night - which left our meagre wallets just enough for the ridiculously fresh BBQ fish banquets each night on the beach. The huts also run a diving and snorkelling school. Perfect - still dream of it now when stuck in a florescently lit office in rainy Manchester.
Although these are more beach bungalows than beach huts, their price is very reasonable and compares to the price of beach huts elsewhere. They have 32 bungalows set in 67 acres of jungle right on the edge of the Andaman Sea. I have never felt so close to nature. We had a hornbill feeding it's young less than 10 metres from our balcony, we could see dolphins out at sea and we even had a morning visit from two monkeys who somehow got into our room! Treat yourself and stay in a 'luxury' beach hut.
P.O Box 199, Jalan Pantai Kok, Teluk Nibong, 07100, Langkawi, Kedah Darul Aman,
+604 952 0222
Borneo is such an amazing island with great beaches, thick jungle and cultural treasures to discover. You should not miss the orangutan sanctuary at Sepilok, and you can even see pygmy elephants in the Danum Valley.
This is a private resort on the cheap! Some of the buildings need a bit of renovation, but the setting is fantastic - in forest, on a great private beach. I suspect that they'll spend some money refurbishing the place, then up the prices, but at the moment it's great value (but lower service, I'd think) compared to neighbouring resorts. Visit the restaurants at Perdana Quay for some great food - better than the hotel restaurant.
When John Milton sat down, pen in hand, ready to put the final touches to Paradise Lost, he clearly hadn't made it here. Pulau Perhentian Kecil might prove a mouthful to pronounce and a mission to get to, but it'll prove worth every bit of effort you put in to find it.
That South East Asia is littered with beautiful islands is unquestionable, but many are well en route to being trashed by the carnage their economy depends upon. However, few that register on the backpacker's radar, remain as untouched and in rude health as this pint-sized paradise, located 50km off the Eastern Coast of northern Malaysia, a stone's through from the Thai border.
Though Malaysia is far from synonymous with beach life, whip out your weary-limbed backpacker's checklist upon arrival and you'll be able to tick off translucent, turquoise waters, white sandy beaches and abundant palm trees. There are shacks aplenty to house you, few of which it is even possible to find evidence of, let alone book, online. These range from the rather basic mattress in a beach hut to the more opulent mattress in a beach hut, with air con, electricity and an en suite bathroom. For an added luxury, the island folk have mastered the art of the flushing toilet, so you won't find yourself staring at your own emissions as you desperately try to sink them with a bucket like you will in Thailand. Prices range from around 20RM (£4) to 80RM (£16) a night making these eminently affordable and worth every penny thanks to the surrounding beauty.
Well-priced and friendly options include Panorama Huts, located centrally on Long Beach, and Moonlight Chalets, tucked away at the periphery, among the palm trees at the beach's edge. Both house their own restaurants, serving up sizeable portions of pan-Asian and western cuisine at great prices and offer a host of options when it comes to entertainment.
Rather unique to Kecil is the complete absence of roads linking the backpackers' paradise of Long Beach with anywhere else on the island. The only way to circumnavigate this drop in the ocean and its various enclaves is by boat or on foot. With some of the best priced and most stunning diving you'll find anywhere in the world ... or so the divers in my midst assured me, you'll be able to plunge to coral-addled depths, offering twenty-metre visibility, for as little as 60RM. For the uninitiated, the snorkelling trips offered around the island also prove mind-blowing in themselves. The prevalence of incredibly vibrant coral, makes for a psychedelic underwater experience for all, without the need to team up, tank up and drop to new depths. With sea turtles, sharks and sting-ray among the marine life promised to the average day tripper, these certainly prove a rewarding experience. But it doesn't end there. If you haven't heard one of more considered and more erudite of your party yelling “awww, look it's Nemo” before the end of the day, then your trip will not have been complete.
Kecil, as stated, means small, thus it should come as little surprise that the island is also rather quiet. Those seeking the kind of intensity of nightlife a full moon party can serve up need not apply. Neon pink body paint, glow sticks, Samsong buckets and hoards of beered up geezers grappling you in sweaty hugs couldn't be further your mind as you negotiate Long Beach's four bars, none of which ever seem to fill up. If a dancefloor does emerge, it invariably boasts little more than a few bar tenders busting a groove, a barely cognisant European guy or two with far more confidence than their ape-being-elecricuted-esque dance moves deserve and a couple of ladies who defences will inevitably be broken down by either/or before the night is out. For most, however, candlelight and a shisha become the order of the evening, accompanied by the odd slug on a bottle of the local rum. With relaxation the ambient vibe, it isn't long before most of the island's visitors slip away for a relatively early night in order to make the most of the next day on one of the continent's most stunning destinations. And whether they'll be found soaking up the sun, lost in a book, kicking a ball over a net with some uber-flexible locals or several metres under the ocean chasing a shark around a wreck, there can be little doubt they'll be having the time of their life. Perhentian Kecil is a mission to get to, it was even harder to get away from, but I for one will definitely be heading back.
Check out: www.perhentian.com.my
Go to: Putra bus station, Kuala Lumpur a short walk from the Putra World Trade Centre stop on Kuala Lumpur's efficient LRT network.
Here you can book a ticket to Kuala Besut, for a paltry sum.
The final leg: book yourself onto a speedboat at Kuala Best jetty for 70RM, open return.
Do go: between March and September.
Don't go: between October and February, when you'll find little other than some tropical storms, monsoon rain and the tiny collection of locals that brave them during the off-season.
Google map: tinyurl.com/355hvlk
Get away from the crowds in Thailand and enjoy lazy days on the island once filmed for South Pacific. You can flashpack to the island these days on a Berjaya Air flight instead of getting the ferry, but you still need to clamber onto a local boat to reach Salang Bay on the palm-fringed east coast. A handful of eateries and a beach bar are all you need when there is white sand and clear waters with coral and turtles accessible from the beach. Join in the evening campfire singsongs or make friends at the B&J diving school. Either way you'll find this an idyllic spot without any neon lights.
Clove Hall feels less like a hotel and more like the private home of a fabulously wealthy and cultured friend. It’s a place in which it is impossible not to relax. Everything about it is laid-back and beautiful, and no detail too small to have been given thought. Carefully chosen antiques and sepia photographs against light white walls give an impression of understated luxury and are perfectly fitting with the building’s history.
Despite Penang’s UNESCO protection, too many of the old buildings outside the central area are falling derelict, so it was a pleasure to see one which had been so lovingly restored. The owner has a history of renovating old buildings to their former splendour, another of his projects being the celebrated Galle Fort Hotel in Sri Lanka.
Clove Hall is still newly opened and feels like a bit of a secret, but I don’t think it will be long before the travel and design magazine editors take note and its popularity grows - go now!
Langkawi is probably better known for upmarket beach resorts, but there are cheaper options. Laid back Pantai Cenang is situated on a long sandy beach which never gets crowded. There is a good choice of places to eat, drink and stay, some right on the beach. The AB motel has clean rooms with a/c, fridge and TV. We stayed in the (most expensive) room at only £24 a night.
07000 Langkawi, Kedah Darul Aman, Malaysia, Pantai Cenang, Langkawi, Kedah, Malaysia
Google map: tinyurl.com/2wpet3h
Take a tour of the state of the art KLCC aquarium with the kids and then head next door to the fish spa. Dip your legs in the pools of water and the fish will nibble the dead skin off. Lots of fun!
Kuala Lumpur, next to the Petronas Towers
Google map: tinyurl.com/3acufeu
This place is so good! Cheap hawker style stalls, dishes from all over Malaysia, and also some Thai. The atmosphere is buzzing and informal, and its open-air location is particularly interesting during a tropical downpour! About 10 minutes' walk from the Eastern & Oriental hotel - if you are saving your pennies for a drink or two in its colonial splendour - this is the place to go for tasty cheap eats!
Very stylish restaurant, on a cafe/eating stretch in central Kuching which is likely, should you have any preconceptions about nightlife in Borneo, to blow them away. This place serves up local food with a modern edge, and despite the service sometime being a bit haphazard, on the whole its worth the trip. Prices by Kuching standards are high (around £8 for a main) and you may well get just as good quality somewhere round the corner for half the price. However, come here for the atmosphere, the ambience, the stepping stones over a fish pool to reach your table in the lush gardens - this place is unique!
Jalan Tabuan, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Google map: tinyurl.com/36w3w8e
Located on Gaya Street, one of the few tree lined streets in downtown 'KK' - the Jesselton Hotel is a throw back to colonial times. Kota Kinabalu, formerly know as 'Jesselton' pre WW2, is the capital of the Sabah.
While the hotel gives itself the rather grandiose title of 'Premier Boutique Hotel in Sabah' it is really no boutique by European standards, but is definately a cut above the majority of options in the centre of town. It might not have the majestic views of the Hyatt or Meridien on the waterfront, but has a charm more akin to finding yourself turning up in a small hotel in Paris or London. The rooms are spacious and the green outlook over the trees is welcoming amidst the searing heat of Borneo. Downsides are no balconies and breakfast is very expensive and not worth the trouble - but hey, Gaya Street is choc a bloc with super tasty Chinese and Malay cafes where you can set yourself up for the day with an excellent roti canai, laksa and a teh tarik!
The spiced crab is to die for. Good job, given the quantity of fat used in its preparation - the English pun on the name may be a happy accident but it's accurate all the same. It's quite cheap, too.
1, Lorong Awan 6, Kuala Ampang, Selangor
Google map: tinyurl.com/3a987pq
A Buddhist-run vegetarian restaurant, this is a lot more fun than it sounds. Stunningly good fake burgers, stir fry etc.
It's tricky to find but so, so worth it.
Unit 19-LG1, Level B1 Block D Jaya One,
No. 72A Jalan University,
46200 Petaling Jaya,
Tel: +603 7968 1818
Google map: tinyurl.com/366mmhc
It's in a dining 'complex', downstairs by the car park.
If you're stuck for things to do in KL (besides eating well), a fun thing to do is go out to Kuala Selangor and watch fireflies on the river. Kids will enjoy the rickety boats, and maybe the nature too.
Hire a car or take bus 141 from Puduraya Bus Station in KL.
Google map: tinyurl.com/373dqbp
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