From Malaysia

12 Asian Destinations for First-time Solo Backpackers

In 2012, I traveled solo for the first time in my life.

I still remember how scared I was before the trip. With only a small backpack, a Neil Gaiman book, a thousand dollars, and a will to get out of my comfort zone, I boarded the plane to Bangkok. As I was checking in, there were no butterflies in my belly, only a great fear that I might find myself unfit for the travel lifestyle and come running back home earlier than planned.

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How to Get to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur by Sleeper Train and Ferry – Malaysia

The overnight sleeper train to Langkawi from the capital is set to leave at 9:20 pm and arrive at Arau Station, the stop closest Langkawi, at 8:00am. I’m sure there are other ways to do this but this is how I did it so this is what I’m sharing. So here it is — a detailed guide on how to reach Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur airport by overnight sleeper train.

First things first: It would be best to book in advance especially during peak season. If not, well, you can always take your chances at KL Sentral.

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LANGKAWI, MALAYSIA: Budget Travel Guide

Comprising 99 islands, Langkawi lies in Andaman Sea, off the coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Its main island, Pulau Langkawi, takes its name from the reddish brown eagle that has also become the symbol of the island. The archipelago is known for its natural resources. It may be small but it is packed with all kinds of natural wonders — glorious waterfalls, white beaches, mangrove forests, brackish rivers, limestone cliffs, and diverse wildlife.

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Peninsular Malaysia: Sample 1-Week Itinerary

We never intended to tour around Malaysia that month. Our original destination was Siem ReapCambodia but an unfortunate event forced us to drop the idea. Our connecting flights were in Kuala Lumpur so we figured, Why not explore Malaysia instead? So just a couple of days before the trip, we found ourselves rummaging through the Internet for travel ideas. After a night-long research, we listed down the destinations we wished to visit and most of them are located near the West Coast. Our initial list had five cities but, wait, that was too many stops for a 6-day trip! Since I had been to Malacca and Kuala Lumpur in separate occasions, they got the cut. We settled for three destinations — Langkawi, Penang, and Cameron Highlands.

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Panorama Langkawi Cable Car, Malaysia: 6 Things to Expect

I still remember how I struggled to find another imaginary bowl to contain my overflowing excitement moments before my very first cable car ride in Hong Kong. Like all first times, the thrill was just immeasurable. I remember that very first step into a gondola; I almost jumped from the platform into it. I remember that moment when we reached the very peak of the line; I was scared and happy at the same time, and not many things can make me feel that weird mixture of emotions. It was that milestone in Hong Kong that got me too excited for my second gondola ride in Langkawi.

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Batu Caves: All Things Tall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Dozens of macaque monkeys ushered visitors up the 272-step staircase to the Temple Cave. Actually, saying that they were “ushering” would be sugarcoating it. Not only did some of them follow visitors around, a few also found themselves on one end of a mini-brawl when they start getting territorial or when they just try to snatch food from unsuspecting tourists.

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Kang Travelers Lodge (Daniel’s Lodge): Where to Stay in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

There was a bonfire in the far end of the Jungle Bar, where guests were gathered around. Selina, a British lady I met on the road, pulled a chair, invited me to sit beside her, and introduced me to the rest of the group. The bonfire was providing the warmth on that chilly evening, but a different fire sparked within me as our conversations went on. For the first time ever, I was able to break out of my bashful bubble and make friends with other travelers on my own.

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Tropical Resort: Where to Stay in Langkawi, Malaysia

“You’re the first Filipinos to check in at this resort this year,” the manager told us after checking out. It was our second and last day in Langkawi. We spent the previous night at Tropical Resort in Pantai Tengah.

It was a shame to leave this early. I loved the island and I wished I could stay longer but we needed to get moving to Penang. The manager and staff were just starting to warm up to us. Just the day before, we arrived at Tropical Resort after a full-day tour of the island and everyone seemed to be so busy. The manager was the only one at the reception, taking calls, welcoming guests, and doing a quick tour of the resort. Unlike most hotel-owners I had met in Malaysia, he was not really friendly at first; very straight forward with no effort to connect with us. But I guess he was just swamped that afternoon.

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Rosette Cafe: Where to Eat in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

The hunger that was tormenting me was starting to burn a hole in my tummy, but I was sure I won’t be having a meal any time soon. My travel buddy and I stared at the menu for more than five minutes, deciding on what to have for dinner. We arrived at the restaurant to try their steamboat feast, but the Western dishes on the menu were making the task difficult.

“Not ready?” asked the waitress whose impatience leaked despite a very polite facade.

“Not yet,” I answered. “Give us five more minutes.” And with that, the waitress rushed to the next table. She’s the only server on duty at the time.

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