Malaysia is a nice country. Not my favorite in Southeast Asia, but definitely worth a visit. It is safe, different, relatively cheap, and has plenty to do. Not as “fun” as Bali, Thailand, Vietnam, or parts of Philippines, but definitely a nice break from these places if you want to do some adventuring.
Kuala Lumpur (Spent 2 days here, should have spent 3) –
While it can be argued that Kuala Lumpur is just like any other major city, it is much, much more developed that I was expecting. I knew about the Petronas Towers of course, but the whole city is a working big city. Not as nice as Hong Kong or Singapore, but not by the distance I was expecting. It is on par, if not nicer, than both Bangkok and Jakarta.
The Metro is nice and clean, the Petronas Towers are beautiful and impressive, and it is similar to Indonesia in that even as an outsider/non-Muslim I felt very, very comfortable. If you are in this part of the world and have the time drop by, and/or if you are here on business, plan on staying a couple of extra days to explore the city.
I met some fellow Texans at the Batu Caves, which are on the red-line in the metro system, and is easy to get in and out of. The Texans were fun to see, and it was a nice little break for the second half of my trip to meet them. With them, and some people from England, we went to a few of the hot spots:
- Batu Caves- The caves themselves aren’t as cool as you might thing, but the outside of the caves is very impressive. The huge gold statue, the steps leading up to it, etc. are all very cool. However, I would avoid the other “museums” or whatever else is around there, as they are a bit weird and really just for those who are super interested in history, or animals. They have a kind of creepy section for an assortment of snakes. We only went because it was raining a lot, and you should follow suit.
- Batu Bintang – A cool place east of Chinatown with fun places to eat and some bars. The food in this area is good but expensive, and so I would suggest just finding anywhere to eat, and then going to the nearby bars, as they are very cool.
- Skybar and Helibar – Skybar oversees the Petronas Towers, and Helibar is a bar on top of a functioning helipad. Both are very cool, expensive, but totally worth it. Helibar especially is one of the coolest bar experiences I’ve ever had at a bar.
- Chinatown – Have you been to literally ANY other Chinatown ever? If so, skip it.
On top of a helipad bar
Kota Kinabalu (Spent 3 nights, and 2 days here, and this was perfect)
I was just here as a transitional city, and that’s how you should be too. The night market is cool, and there are bars and clubs here that you should check out if you stay at the right hostel where you can meet people. Really though, it’s just a normal mid-size city, but with more sex-trafficking because of the tourists that are there. So, get in and out to see Mount Kibalu and you’ll be fine. If you are here during the day try to get out to the beach as soon as you can. I waited too long and got stuck in the city.
Mount Kinabalu –
I came here to climb Mount Kinabalu and while absolute hell on my knees, it was worth it and has an incredible view. It’s the highest mountain on Borneo/Malaysia, is relatively quick and easy to get to compared to other mountains in the region, and doesn’t require advanced hiking capabilities. That said if you are not a huge hiking fan, and/or already plan on doing a similar hike elsewhere on your trip, I wouldn’t blame you for skipping this one. It was a wonderful experience, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do say this, and one of the big mountains on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.
The accommodations at the base of the mountain are decent, but it is all a bit disorganized, and you’ll have to walk around quite a bit to get places, as it has more of an estate feel. The food is good, and once you start the hike it is actually very well organized and pretty cool.
Unless you just want to be a hard ass, I highly recommend just paying the porter to carry your stuff for you (don’t bring too much). These guys need the money, don’t care, and your legs/knees will appreciate it later. Unless you just really want to do this as a work-out, save yourself the trouble and pay your guide to carry stuff (it’s like $.25 per pound of weight).
At base camp, where you “sleep for the night” (for like 6 hours) it is amazing what they have done up there because all of the food, building materials, etc. were all brought by porters. Absolutely incredible, these guys get roughly $.50 per pound that they carry up almost a mile vertically and 6km one way. It’s amazing.
As far as the hike goes, for me, it was brutal. A lot of people did it, and a normal able-bodied person can do it, but it’s rough on the average person. In 30 hours, you climb up 2km vertically, and 9km across one way. You are both hot and cold at the same time, there aren’t really views until you are ascending the top of the mountain (at 4:00 a.m.), and you may get short of breath. However, once again, it is a beautiful view, and I am very glad I did it.
Me and my porter/guide
Country level of difficulty – 7/10