Peninsular Malaysia in 5…10…15 Days

Peninsular Malaysia in 5…10…15 Days

When backpackers talk about South East Asia they often neglect Malaysia, but as one of the richest nations in SE Asia it provides a great tourist infrastructure.  There is a wide variety of things to see and do from temples to skyscrapers with plenty of beaches and small towns in between.  It’s also easier than ever to reach Malaysia, with AirAsia based out of Kuala Lumpur you are sure to find affordable flights from anywhere in the region.  In addition American and most European passport holders do not require a visa to enter the country making it an even more attractive option for visitors.


If you have just five days to dedicate to Malaysia, don’t pack too much in.  Take a few days to explore Kuala Lumpur the multi-cultural capital and home of the famous Petronas Towers. If you love to shop, there are plenty of bargains to be found in Chinatown or lavish air conditioned malls to while away your days.  KL can easily be explored in 2-3 days making sure not to miss the following highlights:

The excellent food and shopping in colorful China Town. The main artery of this bustling area is Petaling Street, which transforms into a lively night market in the evening.

The Petronas Towers. You can’t come to KL and not make a visit to the twin towers, which are stunning lit up at night.

The sacred Batu Caves. If you have three days to spend in KL, take a day trip to the Batu Caves, a holy site for Hindus with a series of caves and several deities.

Once you’ve had your fill of big city life in KL plan a trip to either Penang or Melaka for the remainder of your five day trip.  You won’t go wrong with either choice, but being they are both similar pick just one.  Penang, formerly known as the “Pearl of the Orient” is a bustling island with delicious cuisine. If you choose to head north to Penang, don’t miss these highlights:

Penang Lakhsa should not be missed. The tangy broth and robust flavor packed into this bowl of soup will have you begging for the recipe.

Wander the streets taking in the old town charm. Penang has retained more colonial heritage than anywhere else in the country and while the buildings may be worn they are still beautiful.

Delicious samosas available on the cheap in Little India

Little India’s raucous music and tasty treats. The cheap samosas and amazing teh tarik (pulled tea) could have been enough to keep me content for days.

The vibrant Kek Lok Si Temple. The largest Buddhist Temple in SE Asia, Kek Lok Si is worth a visit as you can also see the 2002 addition of an over 30 meter high bronze statue of Kuan Yin, which is pretty impressive particularly when lighted at night.

Melacca is similar to Penang, considered to be the historical city of Malaysia with colonial-style architecture it is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  The picturesque Melacca River runs right through the middle of town and offers great views of the old shop houses and residences.  Don’t miss these highlights of a stop in Melacca:

Take a Melacca River Cruise, which lasts about 45 minutes and takes you along what was once the main trade area of Melacca during its Golden era. You can catch the boat tours from the jetty beside the Maritime Museum and enjoy the scenery to just beyond Kampung Morten and then back. The night cruise is more interesting as you can see lights lit on the riverbank’s buildings, the water fountain show and bridges.

A tombstone at St. Paul's Cathedral

Saint Paul’s Church, take the path up the hill and it will lead you to this church. It was originally built in 1521, by the Portuguese. It became a fortress in 1567, until 1596. After the Dutch siege it became St Paul’s, before it was known as Nossa Senhora da Annunciada (Our Lady of Annunciation). It has been used as a burial ground for the Dutch. You can still see the ornate tombstones along the walls of the church’s ruins.

Jonkers Walk is a street in Chinatown offering antique and souvenir shopping. Have a leisure stroll along the street, observing the locals’ life and doing some shopping- be sure to bargain with the vendors.  The best time to visit is on weekend nights when the whole street is shut down and turns into a lively night market.


If you have more than just a short week to spend on the Malaysian peninsula, take in the 5 day itinerary above, maybe even opting to visit both Penang and Malacca.  However, as I said both cities are similar so instead you can opt to add in a visit to Langkawai for some beach time and duty free shopping.  If you’re not a beach person you could stop in the Cameron Highlands instead for beautiful tea plantation views.

Both of these destinations offer scenic surrounds and a relaxing atmosphere.  The beaches of Langkawi are just a short ferry ride (less than an hour and a half) from Penang and attract beach bums as well as shopaholics for the duty free shopping.  You can return home with a tan and a new wardrobe!

The Cameron Highlands won’t offer you a place to sun yourself, but instead you can take in endless seas of green from a local tea plantation.  There are plenty of places to taste the tea of Malaysia or to just unwind over a hot cup of your favorite variety.


If you have the time for a full two weeks of travel you may want to consider making a trip down to Singapore to taste for yourself some of the best food in the world.  The best part of Singapore is that it can be seen in just three short days and is a quick flight, one hour, or a day’s bus trip from Malaysia.  You won’t be disappointed by the big city lights and wide array of foodie delights.

The iconic Merlion and the new high-end shopping, casino and hotel complex of Marina Bay Sands are just a few of the attractions on offer in Singapore.  For more suggestions as to where to spend your time while on the tiny island click here for a three day itinerary.

If you would rather explore more of Malaysia than opt for a trip to Malaysian Borneo, another quick flight from KL.  Fly into Kuching and enjoy the food, culture and history of Sarawak.  You can visit a long house, take in the sounds and smells of Jalan India or head out to the Semenggoh Wildlife Rehabilitation Center to visit the orangutans.  To read more about the orangutans in Borneo click here.


  1. AirAsia is the low cost airline in Malaysia.  They are based out of KL and have many flights within peninsular Malysia as well as to Singapore and Borneo nearby.
  2. Don’t fear the buses. Malaysia’s roads are excellent and the buses are luxurious compared to almost everywhere else in Asia, so if you’re on a budget this is a great option.
  3. Don’t skip Chinatown.  In every city we visited in Malaysia we were impressed with the delicious and cheap food in Chinatown, which was all prepared in a sanitary way- not once did we get sick!
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» Andrea :
Apr 24, 2012

I loved Malaysia! My husband and I were in Kuala Lumpur for about 5 days, and we loved every minute of it. He now tells anyone who will listen that KL is his favorite city in Asia!
Read Andrea’s awesome post Romantic Korea: Namsam’s Love Lock Trees

LOCAVORista Reply:

Andrea, Malaysia is a great place for a vacation or to take a breather from the frantic pace often found in large Asian cities. We enjoyed the comfort and ease of travel on the peninsula and I’m sure we’ll be back!

» Bka :
Apr 26, 2012

Your photos are stunning… the way who has 15 days to spend in Malaysia?!?!… you dad

LOCAVORista Reply:

Dad, you have 15 days to spend in Malaysia…you’re just decided to go to Russia instead!

» cindy :
Apr 29, 2012

Awesome photos.

LOCAVORista Reply:

Cindy, thanks for the compliment. I am sure you have your favorite places in Malaysia as well with all your time in the area.

» Simone :
Feb 20, 2014

Great infor we are heading to Malaysia from Singapore in the morning and plan to hit KL, Penang and Langkawi! Love your travel guides!

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About the Author

LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.

About the Author
LOCAVORista: A curious adventurer exploring the culinary delights and local traditions around the world. Currently on a 3 year round-the-world trip discovering amazing cultures, must-eats and off-the-beaten-track destinations.


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