January 14

Visiting Malaysia


After our hectic travels in China and Japan we spent a welcome week visiting Malaysia again. Planning our future travels at an apartment in Petaling Jaya … a place that was starting to feel like home.

There was the realisation that only a short period in any place makes it familiar. Eating street food at places we’d visited before and shopping at familiar shops.


Batu Caves - over rated 

The only outing and sightseeing we did was go to the Batu caves after a visit to the US Embassy to get a visa for my wife.

The only saving grace of this “attraction” is the vastness of the natural cave. There is a longish climb up many steps to get to the temple.

A gold coloured statue dominates the entrance. The place is grubby. With peeling paint, litter and feels and looks more like a building site than a place of reverence. There were lots of people coming and going so I presume that it means a lot more to other people than the visual attraction to me?

Langkawi - a laid back beach retreat

Visiting Malaysia would not be complete without a visit to Langkawi and Penang.

Many transport booking websites are flaky. There is a lack of reliable information and being scammed by these websites is a concern. As online information was lacking we went to the station to make a booking. The Malaysian Tourist office recommended the site Easybook (which is okay but not the best!)

As an alternate to flying to Langkawi we decided to take the train from Kuala Lumpur to Arau. Train travel far surpasses air travel in many aspects. No getting to some remote airport. No having to be there hours before. No ridiculous security checks. No having your genitals wanded and grazed by some security guard. No x-ray scanners or walking miles to boarding gates. All these positives only offset by the duration of the journey.

The train trip was a pleasant few hours. The stations are not too crowded although lines are more like mobs … especially after the structured arrangements in Japan. The hot and humid weather converted to freezing cold with the ridiculously efficient aircon.

Snacking on kacang parang (salted roasted broadbeans), coated peanuts and oat cookies. Supplemented by odd snack and grape from a local woman across the aisle the 5-hour journey flashed by.

In Langkawi we spent time planning the next stage of our travels. We realised that we'd left the application for our Myanmar visas very late. This was now compounded by some public holidays and we would probably have to attempt to get them expedited.

After 4 days of lazing on the beach (our room was on the sand). And getting much admin out of the way we set off to Penang by ferry. With the tickets booked online we had to pay 1 Ringit (USD0.24) to have them printed at the ferry office!

Penang the food capital of Malaysia

The ferry trip was on a grey day, in a suspect looking vessel we made our way through a choppy sea. The ferry rocked around and we were amused to see some guy sitting in his seat with his hat on his head and wearing a life jacket!

A warning! When travelling by ferry in Asia take something warm to wear. They often have the air con on full blast freezing!! Being unprepared can make for an unpleasant chilling few hours.

Some Observations  

  • Malaysia has some weird beach habits - no one is on the beach early or in the morning but start coming out later
  • Towns operate from mid-morning to late at night
  • Duty free shops in Langkawi - alcohol is available at realistic prices.
  • Malaysia, ouside of the duty free areas, is a perfect place for an alcohol sabbatical! Alcohol with duties + BIG mark-ups is expensive!! For example a Heineken in the Duty Free shop is RM2.50 (USD0.61) in the Chinese shop RM6.00 (USD1.46) and at a restaurant anywhere between RM10 (USD2.50) and RM17(USD4.15)!!
  • No SUP, board sailing or kite surfing? Just boring jet skiing on a flat sea.
  • Employees in bigger shops behave like they hate their jobs … and the customers!! This is in complete contrast to private business owners and street food vendors who are delightful.


Langkawi, Malaysia, penang

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