Embark on a journey through Malaysia’s past, present and future with this spellbinding tour, which over 10 unforgettable days will take you to its most emblematic cities and some of its most spectacular landscapes. Malaysia is a melting pot of such diversity that every destination you visit brings a new sense of adventure and wonderment. It is a country that looks to the future but cherishes the past. Blessed with nature’s bountiful gifts, it also offers age old forests, beautiful beaches, idyllic islands, hills and mountains. With expert guides and five-star accommodation throughout, this tour is the ideal way to discover the real Malaysia and all she has to offer.
Kuala Lumpur: Munch on some goreng pisang – the deep-fried banana fritters that are a local delicacy
Cameron Highlands: Enjoy some tea and scones while taking in the scenery in one of the area’s picturesque tea plantations
George Town: Check out the innovative three-dimensional street art that adorns many of the walls in the old town
Kuala Lumpur: Tour the historic heart of the capital, visiting the National Mosque, Royal Selangor Club and Thean Hou Temple among other sights
Malacca: Discover the European colonial heritage of Malaysia’s oldest city and enjoy a scenic river cruise
Cameron Highlands: Escape from it all in this English-style hill station where tea, strawberry and rose plantations abound
Kuala Kangsar: Visit former royal palaces and the golden-domed Ubudiah Mosque, which is considered to be the most beautiful in the country
Taiping: Stroll the spectacular Lake Gardens of Malaysia’s wettest city and visit the poignant war cemetery
Penang: Explore the capital, George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a variety of temples and the War Museum
Upon arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, you will be met at the arrivals hall by a representative and transferred to what will be your accommodation for the next three nights, the five-star Hotel Majestic. Located opposite the old Moorish-style railway station, the Majestic is also within walking distance of the capital’s main heritage attractions such as the National Museum, the National Mosque, the Islamic Arts Museum, Lake Gardens and the Bird and Butterfly Parks.
Enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the hotel in preparation of a seven-hour tour dedicated to discovering and exploring many of the top cultural and historical sights in the city, with Muslim, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist places of worship on the itinerary. See the National Monument, which commemorates those who died in Malaysia’s struggle for independence and during the Japanese occupation of World War II as well as the troubled times that followed the war, known locally as the Emergency. Continue to the landmark Federated Malay States Railway Station, whose eye-catching architecture blends European, Arabesque, Indian and oriental elements. After visiting this early 20th century temple of transport, head to the radically modern National Mosque, which was built in the mid-1960s. The main roof is reminiscent of an open umbrella while the minaret’s spire looks like a folded one. Reflective pools and fountains are spread throughout the mosque, which is surrounded by lush, landscaped gardens. The KL City Gallery is as famous for its neo-Renaissance façade as for its stunning scale model exhibits. Head to Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) where old and new Malaysia merge in a vast, open space. Among the notable buildings in the square are the Moorish-style Sultan Abdul Samad Building, the former High Court building, the late Victorian St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral and the Tudor-style Royal Selangor Club. Nearby is the magnificent Moorish-style Masjid Jamek, one of the oldest mosques in Kuala Lumpur. It lies at the confluence of two rivers and is surrounded by palm trees of all shapes and sizes. Continue to the art deco Central Market, where the scents and sounds of KL come to life, and the adjacent Annexe Gallery. You will be spoiled for choice by the selection of food and beverage outlets in the Central Market, so you can enjoy a nice lunch while watching the world go by. After lunch, head to the dazzling Thean Hou Temple, which is considered one of the finest examples of Chinese architecture in Malaysia, and the Sri Mahamariamman Temple, which is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur and is famed for its multifaceted Dravidian-style gopuram tower. Return to the hotel with the rest of the evening free. Dinner at own arrangement.
Feast on breakfast at the hotel before departure at 09:30 hours for Malacca, driving south through verdant countryside dotted with villages. On arrival, check in at The Majestic Malacca hotel and enjoy some free time for lunch in this most historic of Malaysian cities. Malacca was founded by a Hindu prince in the 14th century but its strategic location on the Strait of Malacca, which was a vital route in the medieval spice trade, made it an attractive prize for European colonists. From 1511 to 1957, it was ruled first by the Portuguese, then the Dutch and finally the British, each leaving a legacy that can still be spotted today, from the ruins of fort A Famosa to Queen Victoria’s Fountain. The result is a fascinating multi-cultural city that will captivate your heart. At 14:00 hours, we begin a four-hour orientation tour of Malacca, visiting the top attractions. Head to the Dutch-era St John’s Fort for a panoramic view of the city – on a clear day, Indonesia on the other side of the strait. Discover Bandar Hilir, the city’s oldest area, and climb St Paul’s Hill, where the ruins of St Paul’s Church stand, before continuing to the Porta de Santiago, which is all that remains of the Portuguese-built A Famosa. Visit the ‘antiques row’ of the always colourful Jonker Street, where shops and stalls will tempt you with their historic and folkloric wares. Complete the tour with stops at Cheng Hoon Teng Temple, the Tranquerah Mosque – which unusually has a pagoda instead of a minaret –the three-century-old St Peter’s Church and the haunting Bukit Cina, where Chinese burial sites are scattered on a barren hill. Return to the hotel with the rest of the evening free. Dinner is at own arrangement. You can ask the driver-guide to take you to one of the many restaurants in the city such as those in the Portuguese Square or to try the local Peranakan cuisine (also known as Nyonya), which blends Chinese and Malay flavours, try any of the Peranakan Restaurant, Manis Sayang, Ole Sayang and The Mansion.
Breakfast at the hotel is followed by a gentle sightseeing cruise up the Malacca River, which is flanked by historic homes, old warehouses, mangrove stands and churches. Expect to pass under some rather colourful bridges, too. The river featured in the 1998 Hollywood blockbuster Entrapment, which starred Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones. After the cruise, enjoy a trishaw ride to Villa Sentosa, a family home located on a bend of the river. The house has been turned into a museum of early 20th century Malaysian family living. Admire the intriguing collections of costumes, embroidery, furniture, muskets and other everyday items. The combined cruise and trishaw tour takes about four hours. Return to the hotel for lunch (not included) before departing for Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon. The evening back in the capital is at your own leisure.
Take to the road after breakfast at 09:00 hours with a stunning, scenic drive to Cameron Highlands in the state of Pahang. The highlands are a resort area situated at 1,500 metres above sea level in the Titiwangsa Range and are renowned for their pleasant cool climate, romantic rolling countryside and their tea plantations. En route, there is a one-hour stop to visit Gua Tempurung, a spectacular cave that was used as a hideout by communist guerrillas in the tumultuous years of the Emergency. Apart from the impressive stalagmites and stalactites, there are also rim stone pools, curtains, straws, calcite crystals and pillars to admire. There are also magnificent marble columns inside a huge cavern honeycombed with smaller caves of different dimensions. Stop for lunch (on own account) at a local restaurant in Tapah, a quiet country town. After eating, head back on the road with a brief sightseeing stop at the Iskandar waterfall, which is almost at the halfway point between Tapah and Cameron Highlands. Here you can meet members of the local hill tribe and maybe even witness a blow pipe demonstration. Continue to the hotel for check-in and enjoy the rest of your day at leisure. For dinner (on own account), you may choose to eat in your hotel or you may prefer to ask the driver to take you to check out the many types of cuisine that can be found in Cameron Highlands. Chinese restaurants are favoured by locals for steamboat, a novel ‘do-it-yourself’ style of cooking in a boiling pot of hot soup – perfect for a cool evening!
Begin the day with a leisurely breakfast before joining the driver-guide for a scenic four-hour tour of Cameron Highlands, taking in the Rose Center, the BOH tea plantation (closed on Monday), a strawberry farm, the Smokehouse Hotel and a vegetable farm. One of the reasons why Cameron Highlands were developed as a resort was because British colonialists wanted a cool retreat from the tropical settlements on the Strait of Malacca and as you travel through this highland Eden, the bucolic charm of rural England is still visible in the architecture and flora, with an abundance of timber-framed Tudor-style homes as well as plenty of vegetable and fruit farms. Be prepared for the extraordinary sight of seas of flowers, which you won’t see flourishing elsewhere in Malaysia. Return to the hotel for an afternoon and evening of leisure, with the option of enjoying the wide range of available activities and facilities, which include a snooker room and a spa village.
Check out after breakfast and depart at 09:00 hours for Penang, driving along a scenic route via Simpang Pulai and Kuala Kangsar, the royal town of the state of Perak, which we stop in for a one-hour tour of its main landmarks. Head to a leafy and exclusive area south-west of the city centre, where a number of historic, cultural and religious attractions are located. Visit the Sultan Azlan Shah Gallery, which is located in a former royal palace named after the late sultan whose personal belongings, documents, mementos, family photographs, trophies and state regalia, among other items, are on display. Continue to the nearby golden-domed Ubudiah Mosque, probably the finest mosque in Malaysia, and Istana Iskandariah and Istana Kenangan, two very different but equally beautiful former royal palaces. Take to the road again in the direction of Taiping, which has the dubious honour of being the wettest town in continental Malaysia, with annual rainfall double that the rest of the peninsula. All that water has led to a fertile landscape of flora and large and mature rain trees in the moist Taiping Lake Gardens, the first visit of a two to three-hour stop in the city. You will also see the old railway station, the first in the country, dating from 1882. Stop for lunch at a local restaurant (on your own account) and maybe try some of the savoury seafood for which the town is renowned. Afterwards, head to the Taiping War Cemetery, where the graves of more than 800 Allied soldiers – mainly British, Indian and Australian – are neatly laid out in a poignant reminder of the brutality of war. Head to the south-western outskirts of Taiping to visit the Kuala Sepetang charcoal factory in Matang. It is made in kilns using greenwood harvested from the nearby mangrove forest reserve. For each tree that is cut down to be processed into charcoal, a young sapling is planted as replacement. Be careful as everything here is soot black. Continue to Penang island, crossing the 13.5km-long Penang Bridge and driving up the east coast before arriving at historic George Town to check-in at your hotel for the remainder of the tour.
Wake up in the luxurious surroundings of the historic Eastern & Oriental Hotel, which since 1885 has been setting the standard in Penang. Located along a 275-metre-long stretch of coastline in the north-western edge of the old town, the hotel pays homage to the elegance of colonial George Town while integrating all the mod cons of 21st century accommodation. After breakfast, enjoy an orientation tour of George Town, starting with a visit to the Thai Buddhist temple, which houses a 33-metre-long reclining Buddha. Just across the road is the Burmese Buddhist temple. Down by the bustling waterfront are the ‘homes on stilts’ of Chew Jetty, which form a water village dating back to the early Chinese immigrants. Next, visit the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a historic house museum preserves the Victorian ornamentation of the home of a prominent ethnic Chinese merchant from the late 19th century. The Peranakans are assimilated ethnic Chinese who have lived in Malaysia for centuries – while in the country as a whole, ethnic Chinese make up a quarter of the population, in Penang they account for almost half of it. This lavishly decorated mansion boasts more than 1,000 pieces of antiques and collectibles, and features an eclectic design, incorporating Chinese carved-wood panels, English ceramic floor tiles and Scottish cast iron balustrades, balconies and railings. Walk along the Street of Harmony, which is bordered by religious landmarks such as Kapitan Keling Mosque, the Hindu Sri Mahamariaman Temple, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy Temple and the pristine neo-classical St George’s Church. Along the way, check out ‘Little India’, a colourful area in the heart of the old town, where you will find many specialised Indian stores and diners. Indulge in specialties such as spices, Indian music, garlands, trinkets and gold jewellery. Lunch at a local restaurant on own account. After eating, return to the hotel with the rest of the day at your leisure.
After a leisurely breakfast, proceed to the south-east of the island to visit the Penang War Museum and learn about the country’s experiences under Japanese occupation during World War II. See exhibits that bring home the harsh realities of war, including a ‘glimpse’ into the daily lives of soldiers in a ruthless conflict that cost the lives of tens of thousands of Malaysians. The museum is located in a military fortress was built in the 1930s by the British to protect the island from invasion though it proved to be of no avail. See also the Penang War Memorial, which is dedicated to the soldiers who sacrificed their lives during the First World War, as you head back to George Town for an authentic banana leaf lunch. The leaves are used because it is believed that the hot rice will release the coating on the banana leaf, which aids in digestion. Remember to fold the banana leaf towards you to show your appreciation after a satisfying meal! The rest of the afternoon and evening are at your leisure.
Savour one final breakfast at the hotel and enjoy the its facilities until it’s time to leave for the airport for your onward flight.