24 Karat golden mosques, I hear you think? Yup, that’s right. Let me introduce you to the lesser traveled part of South East Asia. Experience the roughness of the nature in Borneo, be overwhelmed by the beauty of a tiny yet beautiful country and compare the city jungle to the green version you visited at first. Are you ready for a great adventure that you can do in just 4 weeks? Keep on reading then…
Okay, let’s get down to business. It’s time to plan your next trip to South East Asia and this blog post is going to help you get the most important part sorted: your travel itinerary. Happy planning!
Countries visited: Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Koh Lipe (Thailand)
Trip duration: 29 days
Total cost: €2000 incl. transportation, excl. local expenditures
Best travel period: April/May
When I planned this trip I wanted a perfect balance between culture and nature. I wanted to see the extreme contrasts South East Asia has to offer in a relatively short amount of time. Would you like to experience the same? Simply follow my footsteps or use this itinerary as a guideline for your own travel route.
Day 1: Home – Kuala Lumpur
Fly to Kuala Lumpur. Rest a few hours and do a little sightseeing. You will be back in KL at the end of the trip for more sightseeing, so don’t worry if you miss a few things.
Day 2: Kuala Lumpur – Kota Kinabalu
Early flight to Kota Kinabalu, Borneo. Make sure you get enough rest, talk a walk down the boulevard or chill at Tanjung Aru Beach. There are some fantastic food courts to find at Tanjung Aru Beach. Enjoy the mesmerizing sunset while sipping from your fresh young coconut. Pack your bags for the Mount Kinabalu hike tomorrow.
Day 3: Mounty Kinabalu day 1
Get up early for the Mount Kinabalu pick-up service to Timpohon Gate. Check in, store your backpack at the reception, meet your guide and take your daypack and lunch with you. It’s time for some action! From here you will start a 6-8 hour hike up to the Laban Rata rest house. Go to bed early because your alarm clock will go off at 2.00 AM tomorrow morning!
Day 4: Mount Kinabalu day 2
Get up at 2.00 AM, have a descent breakfast and continue the hike. Reach the top of Mount Kinabalu before sunrise. Enjoy the spectacular view and then head back to Laban Rata for breakfast. Take a quick power nap or skip the nap and go straight down to Timpohon Gate for lunch. After lunch you will be returned safely to your hostel in Kota Kinabalu.
Day 5: Kota Kinabalu
Feel the muscle pains! This is what accomplishment feels like. It’s a perfect day for a beach visit and loads of relaxation. A massage will also help. Trust me, you’ll need it 😉
Day 6: Kota Kinabalu – Pulau Labuan – Brunei
It’s time to leave KK. Go to the Kota Kinabalu Ferry Terminal at Jesselton Point Waterfront. The ferry and boat terminal operates daily from 6.00 AM to 6.00 PM. The terminal fee for passengers heading to Labuan Ferry Terminal is RM7.20 for adults and RM3.60 for children. Be aware that Labuan is a very strictly religious island, so make sure you are dressed appropriately. Also, there is not much to do in Labuan. If your ferry arrives at Labuan FT in time, I’d suggest buy your ticket to Brunei immediately after arrival and make sure you get on the next boat the same day.
Day 7 + 8: Brunei
Hello Brunei! What a beautiful country. There is not much to see in the vicinity of the ferry terminal, so once you pass customs try to get a personal taxi outside on the parking lot. Public transport in Brunei is very limited, so become buddies with your taxi driver. He can take anywhere you’d like to go. Keep in mind though that taxi’s only operate between 7.00 AM and 7.00 PM. Outside operating hours they charge you double and they only pick you up on request.
Spend two or three days exploring the city. Visit the Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin mosque, go shopping, take a tour by speed boat to see Kampung Ayer, the biggest water village in the world, the Sultan’s palace and the proboscis monkeys (don’t book in advance, just go to the waterfront and pick a boat of your choice).
Day 9: Brunei – Miri
Next stop: Miri! There are two ways to travel to Miri: either by bus or by plane. Since plane tickets from and to Brunei are very expensive, it’s better to take the bus (PHLS Express). The bus to Miri leaves at 7.00 AM, I repeat 7.00 AM! Do not believe any taxi driver who tells you the bus doesn’t leave until 8.00 AM, because it does. Trust me on this one. The second bus to Miri leaves at 1.00 PM. The trip to Miri takes about 4,5 hours and costs $20 BND. The pick up point is at Jalan McArthur, just opposite the old Maybank.
Day 10: Miri
When the PHLS Express bus arrives at the Miri bus station, make sure you capture an official taxi to your hostel. There are many locals here who pretend to be taxi drivers. They are not afraid to put up a fight with other taxi drivers, so be strong and tell them off!
Jalan Merpati in Miri is a very popular street in the evenings. The decorative lights hanging from the trees are a positive addition to the atmosphere. This strees has many cute restaurants and bars to enjoy a good dinner or a cocktail. An hour drive out of town you can visit Niah National Park. It’s so worth it and a great alternative if you’re not able to visit Gunung Mulu National Park.
Day 11: Miri – Kuching
Take the evening flight to Kuching. You could also travel by bus. The bus ride takes about 8 hours, whereas the direct flight only takes 1 hour. Since the plane ticket to Kuching costs about €25 and saves you many hours, I’d go for that option. Book your accommodation at the Borneo Tribal Lodge, you won’t regret it! The owner, Danny, is a fantastic guy.
Day 12 + 13: Kuching
There is a lot to discover in Kuching. Visit Semenggoh Urangutan rescue center, Bako National Park or one of the local longhouses. For fantastic seafood visit the Top Spot Food Court on the rooftop of a 6 story car park (Jalan Padungan, GPS Coordinates: N1 33.367 E110 21.145). Another option is the James Brooke Bistro near the waterfront. They serve the beste Wild Borneo Laksa here!
Day 14: Kuching – Singapore
The exhausting and most adventurous part of the trip is finished! From now on it’s all about taking it easy. Take an early flight to Singapore. Book a hostel in China Town near Smith Street. Smith Street has many delicious food courts. Try the giant banana pancakes at the Indian food court! Do some sightseeing, the Singapore subway system is the best and fastest way to do so. Visit the Marina Bay Sands hotel by dusk and buy a ticket to the rooftop for a jaw-dropping view of the Singapore skyline. When it’s dark, visit the Gardens by the Bay right behind the Marina Bay Sands hotel to enjoy the beautiful light show.
Day 15: Singapore – Malacca
Explore the city, go shopping or chill at the beach at Sentosa Island. Buy a bus ticket and get on the evening bus to Malacca. The bus stop is situated at the Golden Mile Complex (MRT stop Nicoll Highway, cross bridge to Beach Road and go right to Golden Mile Complex). You can buy the bustickets at the Golden Mile Complex. Take a taxi from Melaka Sentral to your hostel.
Day 16: Malacca – Kuala Lumpur
Spend the day in Malacca. Stroll through Jonker Street, do the Malacca River Cruise, hire a cheesy decorated trishaw for a personal tour through the town. Visit the Hard Rock Cafe for your dose of Western food, if you please. Head to Melaka Sentral in the afternoon for the Delima bus to Kuala Lumpur (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan). The bus ride takes about 2 hours and costs RM 15. Book a hotel close to the airport because you have an early flight to catch in the morning.
Day 17: Kuala Lumpur – Langkawi
Take a morning flight to Langkawi. On arrival, get a taxi to Cenang Beach and find a place to stay. Cenang Beach is quite a popular area for backpackers. You can either choose to relax at the beach or perhaps rent a water scooter for some action.
Day 18: Koh Lipe (Thailand)
Book a day trip to one of the Thai islands. I chose to visit Koh Lipe, one of the lesser known islands and a true little piece of paradise on earth!
Day 19: Langkawi
Hire a scooter and explore the island. Places to visite are e.a. the Langkawi Panorama (including cable car) or the Kilim Geoforest Park. Hire a personal guide at Kilim Geoforest Park for speed boat tour to the crocodiles, bat caves, fish farms and eagle feeding places.
Day 20: Langkawi – Penang
Enjoy a good breakfast and start packing your bags. Hire a taxi to Jetty Point in the city center. Buy a ferry ticket to Penang. The ferry takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get to Penang and leaves at 2.30 PM and 5.15 PM. A ticket costs RM 60. Once you arrive in Penang, drop your stuff at your hostel and explore the city. Have dinner on top of Penang Hill or visit the Batu Feringghi night market for some good souvenirs.
Day 21: Penang – Cameron Highlands
Order a taxi to take you to the Penang bus station. Buy a bus ticket to the Cameron Higlands and wait for the bus (Unititi Express Coach). The bus leaves at 8.00 AM and at 2.30 PM. It’s quite a long bus ride (3,5 to 5 hours), so don’t worry if you didn’t get enough sleep during the past night. You can catch up some sleep during the trip to the highlands. Get off the bus at Tanah Rata and stay at ‘Father’s Guesthouse’ near the bus stop.
Day 22: Cameron Highlands
Visit the Boh Tea tea plantation, pick your own strawberries at one of the strawberry farms or, if you’re up for even more adventure, go on a hike through the Mossy Forest. Make arrangements with your guesthouse for a transfer to Kuala Besut by minibus. Booking the minibus at your hostel is cheaper than booking it online!
Day 23: Cameron Highlands – Perhentian Island
Early morning pick-up for an 8 hour minibus ride to Kuala Besut. Halfway you will stop for lunch and you probably have to switch buses. Be prepared for a ‘cozy’ ride. Once you arrive in Kuala Besut, the bus driver will show you where to buy your boat ticket to Perhentian Island. Try to catch the last boat in the afternoon, otherwise you’ll have to spend the night in Kuala Besut. Make sure you arrange your hostel or hotel on Perhentian in advance, because accommodation is limited! I booked at the Bubu Resort on Perhentian Kecil. Bubu is situated on Long Beach, the largest beach on the island.
Day 24 – 26: Perhentian Island
Go snorkling, swimming, tanning and don’t forget to relax! 😉
Day 27: Perhentian Island – Kota Bharu
Take the early speed boat back to the mainland (Kuala Besut). Sometimes there are more tourists than taxi’s, so make sure you get one as soon as possible. Or see if you can share one with other travelers.
Day 28: Kota Bharu – Kuala Lumpur
Catch an early morning flight to Kuala Lumpur. Get some rest and do some final sightseeing or shopping before leaving to the airport for your flight back home.
Day 29: Kuala Lumpur – Home
Home sweet home!
€650 on hostels/hotels (including 3 nights at luxury resort
€620 for intercontinental ticket (Amsterdam – Kuala Lumpur)
€150 on local flights (5 in total)
€386 for Mount Kinabalu excursion (booked at Amazing Borneo Tours, the cheapest option I could find. Booking in advance is required in any case if you want to climb Mount Kinabalu!)
€100 to €200 on ground transportation (taxi’s, buses, ferries)