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2013 • 2 • 23

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.

That's me, squeezing my way across the field.
That’s me, squeezing my way across the tea plantation in Cameron Highlands.

Booking Flights

Kuala Lumpur is the primary gateway to Peninsular Malaysia. Low-cost carriers Airphil Express, Cebu Pacific Air, Zest Airways, and Tiger Airways all fly to KL from Manila. Our tickets to KL were booked almost a year in advance during a massive AirAsia sale. But we got our return ticket from an Airphil Express sale. (Back then, Airphil’s Kuala Lumpur-Manila flight 2P 876 was scheduled at 11:55pm.)

The roundtrip cost at the time was PhP 2080 (USD46). The downside was that we would be flying out of Clark airport, which was okay with us since it was just a ride away anyway.

Although there are flights to Langkawi and Penang from the capital, we decided that once we landed in KL, we would be taking only the bus, train, or ferry to get to other cities because we didn’t want to spend so much on transportation.

Finding Accommodations

Finding cheap places to stay in Malaysia is really easy. All it takes is a visit to your favorite travel booking site like HostelWorld, Agoda, AirAsiaGo or Expedia. Before we started the trip, we already reserved rooms and we only paid the deposit via credit card. Here’s the list of places where we stayed at on this trip.

That’s a total of 4 nights. We spent the first night on the train to Langkawi from Kuala Lumpur, which saved us one room night! Yay! I enjoyed my stay at each of these hostels because the rooms were clean, the staff friendly, and the location excellent.

Kang Travelers’ Lodge in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands

Building Itinerary

The most difficult part of planning this trip was the itinerary. We wanted to stay at each destination for at least 2 days but it was not possible. We had to cut short our time at one stop and, unfortunately, it was Penang. Here’s our original itinerary:

09:05 am – Check in at Clark airport
11:05 am – ETD: Clark Airport
02:50 pm – ETA: Kuala Lumpur LCCT
04:00 pm – Take bus to KL Sentral
05:30 pm – Go to Merdeka Square and Petronas Towers
09:20 pm – ETD: Train ride to Arau (Station nearest Langkawi)
Overnight on the train

07:20 am – ETA: Arau Station
07:40 am – Take cab to Kuala Perlis
08:00 am – Buy ferry tickets to Langkawi Island
09:00 am – ETD: Kuala Perlis
10:00 am – ETA: Kuah Jetty, Langkawi
10:30 am – Langkawi Island Tour: Kilim Geoforest Park, Tanjung Rhu, Cable Car
04:00 pm – Check in at hotel
05:30 pm – Walk at Pantai Cenang
07:30 pm – Dinner and nightlife

08:00 am – Breakfast and walk at Pantai Cenang
12:00 nn – Check out: hotel
02:30 pm – ETD: Kuah jetty
05:30 pm – ETA: George Town Ferry Terminal
06:00 pm – Check-in at hotel
07:00 pm – Food trip, night walk around George Town

06:00 am – Check out: hostel
07:00 am – Half-day Tour of George Town
02:30 pm – Minivan ride to Cameron Highlands
07:00 pm – ETA: Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
07:30 pm – Check in at hotel
08:20 pm – Dinner, find tour operator, night walk

07:00 am – Whole-day tour
05:00 pm – Rest
07:00 pm – Dinner

07:00 am – ETD: Tanah Rata Bus Terminal
01:00 pm – ETA: KL Sentral
02:00 pm – Batu Caves, KL Tower
07:00 pm – Take bus to LCCT from KL Sentral
09:30 pm – Check-in at LCCT
11:55 pm – ETD: LCCT (via Airphil Express)
04:05 am – ETA: NAIA Terminal 3

This was the plan and we were able to follow it almost perfectly. The only major deviation was our stay in Georgetown, Penang. We couldn’t find an available afternoon trip to Cameron Highlands. We were forced to take an early morning mini-bus which cut our time in Penang even shorter, a mere 12 hours.

By the way, if you have more days, you might want to visit Malacca, too! You can even go farther to Singapore and just fly back to Manila from there. Here’s a sample Malacca-Singapore itinerary that you can use to add to the above plan. Just make the necessary adjustments.

Day 1: Clark to Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi

We landed in Kuala Lumpur ahead of schedule, which meant more time for us to explore Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately, work followed me even to Malaysia that I had to stay at a cafe and do some work-related stuff, which pushed me to just skip visiting Merdeka Square and Petronas Towers. I had been to these places before but I really wanted to see the Petronas Twin Towers at night. What a shame.

KL Sentral became our "hotel" in Kuala Lumpur for this trip
KL Sentral became our “hotel” in Kuala Lumpur for this trip

We booked second-class upper berths (RM34) the Senandung Langkawi Train to Hat Yai, Thailand. Arau Station, our stop, was the third to the last. After getting my work done, we grabbed dinner-to-go and boarded the 9:20pm train. The experience was very pleasant but I guess I was too tired that the moment I lay down, I fell asleep instantly. I didn’t even get to have dinner. When I woke up, it was already morning. More about the train ride here.

Day 2: Langkawi Island Tour

Kilim Geoforest Park in Langkawi Island, Malaysia

When we arrived in Arau, we took a cab and then a ferry to Kuah, the capital of Langkawi Island. The cab driver who was supposed to take us straight to the hotel offered to tour us around for RM 100. We thought it was a good deal since every cab ride charges a fixed rate of RM 25. Taking the RM100-tour will allow us to stop at many of the island’s major attractions. (More about that here.) Here are the places we visited:

After the tour, we checked in at Tropical Langkawi Resort and headed back to Pantai Cenang to watch the sunset. At night, my travel buddy and I shared a big, big dinner at Orkid Ria Seafood Restaurant.

Day 3: Langkawi to Penang

The next day, we walked on the beach again and had a quick breakfast at a restaurant near the resort. We checked out early and just waited for the ferry to George Town, Penang. To kill time, we explored the area around the jetty. One of the most touristy spots was the Brown Eagle Monument.

At 2:30pm, we boarded the boat and started the 3-hour ride to Penang. It was almost 6pm when we arrived. We were blown away by the architecture of the old buildings in the city and we were really excited to get moving after checking in. Unfortunately, work kept haunting me that I had to stay in my room to make sure I don’t lose my job. My buddy went out on his own. I was a sad loser that night.

Love Lane in George Town, Penang

At around 8:30pm, I went out for a night walk and took pictures of the structures around the area. We found a travel agency and hoped to book a 2:30pm trip to Cameron Highlands but there were no more seats left so we settled for the morning trip, cutting our time in George Town in half.

We also had dinner at Gurney Drive. Here’s a more detailed chronicling of our 12 hours in Penang.

Day 4-5: Cameron Highlands

We reached Tanah Rata, a major settlement in Cameron Highland, at around 1pm. We checked in immediately and explored the small town on foot. We instantly fell in love with the weather and the misty atmosphere! The only thing we did not appreciate much was that it rained later that afternoon. Regardless, we began trying the restaurants in town and looked for souvenir items. We also met some of the only 11 OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) in Cameron Highlands.

Mossy Forest in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Kuya Rey, a Pinoy in Tanah Rata, manages a travel agency and we booked a whole-day tour with him. The spent the following day exploring many of what the highlands had to offer:

I especially loved our visit to the tea plantations, the mossy forest, the rose center, the Buddhist temple, and the market square. Everything else felt like tourist traps, to be quite honest. I recommend that you just take a half-day leisure tour that includes both the tea plantation and mossy forest. Read more about this tour here.

Hedgerows of black tea in Cameron Highlands
Hedgerows of black tea in Cameron Highlands

The truth is, the real reason we wanted to set foot on Cameron Highlands was a chance to see the Rafflesia, the world’s biggest flower. Sadly, it was not the flower’s season when we visited. Maybe next time.

Day 6: Back to Kuala Lumpur

At 6am, we were already at the bus station waiting for a bus to Kuala Lumpur. At around 12:30pm, we were back at KL Sentral in the capital. The first thing we did was deposit our bags at a baggage counter at the station so we won’t be carrying too much weight as we explored the city. The baggage counter is located just across the Intercity train booths. We then moved to Batu Caves but we enjoyed so much we didn’t realize we wouldn’t be able to go anywhere else.

Batu Caves, Malaysia

At around 7pm, we boarded the bus to LCCT and just waited for our Airphil Express flight back to Manila scheduled later that night.

Budget Breakdown

Here’s a breakdown of my expenses throughout this trip.

  • DAY 1
  • PhP 2,080 – Roundtrip airfare Kuala Lumpur
  • PhP 1,600 – Travel tax
  • PhP 750 – Departure Fee
  • PhP 105 – Bus to KL Sentral from LCCT (RM 5)
  • PhP 459  – Upper berth, second class, overnight sleeper train (RM 35)
  • DAY 2
  • PhP 158 – Taxi ride from Arau Station to Kuala Perlis (RM 24/2 pax)
  • PhP 236 – Ferry ride from Kuala Perlis to Langkawi (RM 18)
  • PhP 984 – 6-hour Langkawi Island tour (RM150/2 pax)
  • PhP 1,311 – Kilim Geoforest Park tour (RM 200 per boat/2 pax)
  • PhP 744 – Tropical Resort Langkawi (USD36.6 per room/2 pax)
  • DAY 3
  • PhP 164 – Taxi Ride from Hotel to Kuah (Langkawi) port
  • PhP 787 – Ferry ride from Langkawi to Penang
  • PhP 623 – Old Penang Guesthouse (RM95 per room/2 pax)
  • PhP 164 – Taxi Ride to Gurney Drive
  • DAY 4-5
  • PhP 498 – Minivan ride from Georgetown to Tanah Rata (RM 38)
  • PhP 447  – Kang Travelers Lodge (USD 11 per bed)
  • PhP 787 – Full-day Tour of Cameron Highlands (RM 60/pax)
  • DAY 6
  • PhP 459 – Bus from Tanah Rata to Kuala Lumpur (RM 35)
  • PhP 52 – KTM Komuter train roundtrip to Batu Caves (RM 2, one -way)
  • PhP 105 – Bus to LCCT from KL Sentral (RM 8)
  • Php 400 – Incidentals (map, candies, bottled water)
  • PhP 3,300 – Total food expenses
  • PhP 16,213 – TOTAL EXPENSES

Please note that I grabbed airline promo seats for this trip, which helped reduce the cost. Note that we we were a party of only 2 travelers. Had we been a bigger group, it could’ve pulled the cost much lower.

It’s honestly one of my most expensive trips I’ve gone on but, definitely, one of the best. It was incredibly hectic but I enjoyed the rush and the constant moving. The only spoiler was that urgent work-related stuff kept on popping up in the most inconvenient time. (Not that I’m complaining! I love my job!)

But overall, it was truly unforgettable. I’m planning a Part 2 of this Peninsular Malaysia trip. This time, more days in Penang, and a stop in Taman Negara National Park, Johor Bahru, Tioman Island, and Perhentian Islands. Hopefully, I get to cross over to Thailand, too!

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hi, its my first time na mag tour sa KL malaysia dis may 2013, siguro my first and last travel abroad since pinag-iipunan ko eto. para makatipid naman sa gastos, dun ako sa house ng friend ko mag stay, not more than 30 days ako dun, sasagarin ko na ang pag to-tour ko. sabi kasi nila sa IO (immigration officer) mostly nagkaka problem ang mga tourista na kagaya ko. kelangan ko pa ba magpa book ng ticket kahit may matutuluyan ako dun? hindi ba nila ako kukulitin sa pagtanong kung bakit more than 2weeks ako sa malaysia? kelangan ko pa po ba mag produce ng invitation galing sa friend ko? at magkano kaya ang pocket money na isho-show ko sa kanila since not more than 1month ako dun??? thanks

The Poor Traveler

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