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Their Take: A Parent’s Perspective on Travel in Malaysia

In part two of this three-part series of the parental unit’s adventures in Southeast Asia, they discuss Malaysia, lack of access to beer, and meeting up with us for one last time before heading to Singapore. 


This island was such a contrast of cultures. Its main attraction for visitors from the rest of Malaysia seemed to be the duty free stores, although the prices of everything, except alcohol, didn’t seem that cheap to us. We were looking forward to trying Malaysian food but on our first evening here we ended up at a Korean restaurant and on the second evening a Chinese restaurant. One of the difficulties was that so many of the restaurants owners are Muslim and they don’t serve alcohol. We started to feel very odd having to ask whether we could have a beer or glass of wine with our dinner, which immediately discounted about half of the restaurants that were in Pentai Cenang. We finally found a restaurant on the third night that served Nasi Lemak and Nasi Goreng, traditional Malaysian dishes, both of which we enjoyed, but still not as much as the Thai food.

Our hotel was the Landcon. It wasn’t on the beach, but it was very well located on the main strip in town and just a 5-minute walk to the beach. The courtyard in the middle of the hotel where our room looked out onto was beautiful. The swimming pool would have been very nice except they were just finishing renovating it so it wasn’t open.

The beach in Pentai Cenang was gorgeous: beautiful clear blue water and white, white sand. In the morning, it was perfect, but by the afternoon, it seemed to get very busy with lots of jet-ski boats, banana boat rides, parasailing etc. The one thing Val couldn’t get used to was seeing the young Muslim women with their headscarves and all their clothing going in the ocean to swim, then coming out and sitting on the sand to dry out. She couldn’t think of anything more uncomfortable. On our day trips, we also saw the Muslim couples: her covered head to toe with a black burkha and him in his board shorts and T shirt. It was such a contrast and, even though we understand the reasons, it doesn’t make it any easier to see.

langkawi cable car

Langkawi Cable Car

eagle feeding langkawi

Eagle Feeding in Langkawi

Langkawi, Kilim Geoforest Park

Our day trip through the mangroves to the bat caves, fish farms and eagle feeding site was excellent. We also took a taxi out to Oriental village and went up the cable car one morning. This would have been a good island to rent motor scooters, as there are many natural sights to see, although potentially a little more difficult than the other islands as this one has a lot of traffic and is generally much busier. We were only here for four days so we decided not to rent one.

The ferry ride from Langkawi to Penang was only about 2 ½ hours, but you had to sit inside and couldn’t see outside very much, so we were glad it wasn’t very long.

Georgetown, Penang

This is where we met up with Jamie and Kyle again. We were at the Hotel Malaysia in Georgetown and they stayed at the Reggae Hostel about 10 minutes away. We were only here for three nights, but had a great time wandering the streets and seeing the contrasts of old Georgetown and the super modern new bridges that connect the island of Penang with the mainland. A bus ride to Penang Hill was quite the experience. The streets were narrow, vendors took up all of the sidewalks, cars were parked on both sides of the street and yet the bus driver managed to maneuver his way through without anyone getting upset or honking their horns. We took the funicular train to the top of Penang Hill and immediately noticed the difference in temperature. At over 2,000 feet above sea level, we could see why the British chose to build homes up here to escape the heat and chaos of Georgetown back in the late 1800s.

georgetown malaysia

Penang Hill

georgetown malaysia

At night we ate from the street vendor stalls and sat at the white plastic tables that were set up in what appeared to be restaurants, but it didn’t matter where you actually bought the food. No beer or alcohol was served here but they didn’t mind us going to the mini mart across the street and bringing it back to our table. The food was very cheap in these areas, although beer was definitely the most expensive of our trip so far.

We had decided here that we would splurge and get a plane from Penang to Singapore. At $60 each, we felt it was advisable to make sure that we had no delays that would affect our arrival into Singapore and subsequent flight home the next day.

The Final Verdict and Daily Costs

In Malaysia, the average nightly cost for a hotel was $52, cheaper than Thailand, but neither of the hotels were right on the beach either. Daily spending for two people (this included all food, beverages, transportation and tours) was $68. This was cheaper than Thailand, but we didn’t buy as many souvenirs and only had the transportation cost from Langkawi to Penang.

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