Malaysia – An odyssey into Asia’s south east and street food capital

From cloud piercing sky scrapers to paradise island archipelagos, Malaysia’s diversity as a destination is rivalled only by that of its people, cultures and cuisines. Home to Asia’s street food capital Penang, pack your tastebuds and experience the flavours of this bucket list foodie nation.

1. London Heathrow > Kuala Lumpur International

The stunning capital provides a fantastic introduction to the melting pot of culture famed in Malaysia. Fluid and fast paced, this metropolitan city is centred around the iconic Petronas Twin Towers, the tallest in the world and a reminder of the economic prominence of Malaysia in Asia’s south east.

Aside from the dramatic views skyward, head to Kuala Lumpur’s Golden Triangle for endless shopping opportunities and bustle by day and night – whether it’s shopping in Bukit Bintang, partying in Changkat or heading for street food and late night bartering in close by Petaling Street market.

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Heading slightly out of town, the famous Batu caves arrive as a culture shock with a whirlwind buzz and sea of visitors to navigate. One of the most significant Hindu shrines outside of India, take this opportunity to be absorbed by an explosion of colour while staying alert to the local macaque population. An awe inspiring experience and never a better view to “take a coconut”, people watch and take a million and one pictures.

With the tropical heat and city bustle in full force, having comfortable accommodation is essential and, with mid to high-end hotel pricing considerably more accessible in this part of the world, take full advantage when shopping around for a reservation.

Hotel Stripes, Chow Kit

Part of the Marriott’s Autograph collection, Hotel Stripes offers a central location complete with rooftop infinity pool and Man Tao bar; a space that brings visitors closer to Kuala Lumpur’s vibrant and colourful skyline.

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Stripes’ rooms are spacious and comfortable, with everything needed to recharge ahead of another day exploring the sights. Breakfast in Malaysia is a unique experience with a blend of very different plates on offer to kick start your day; whether it’s a Malay Nasi Lemak, Indian Roti Chanai, Chinese steamed buns or Western classics, Stripes breakfast buffet has it all.

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A fantastic stay, Stripes elevates any trip to KL with a fresh and welcoming atmosphere.

Marini’s on 57

Alongside incredible street food, Kuala Lumpur is home to an ever expanding fine dining scene. Marini’s on 57 tops countless lists for unparalleled city views given its altitude and status as the highest restaurant and rooftop bar in Malaysia. In touching distance of the Petronas Towers, get up close and personal with a view that needs to be seen to be believed.

Photo by Paulius Staniunas (www.allisamazing.com)

Specialising in Italian fine dining, Marini’s combines elegant interiors with stunning plates and ultra luxury ingredients. Whether it’s black truffle, beluga caviar, oysters or Wagyu beef, the Marini’s kitchen doesn’t hold back so expect a blow out meal accompanied by fine wines and an unforgettable cityscape to accentuate your dining experience.

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For those simply wanting to take in the 360 degree panoramic views of Kuala Lumpur, Marini’s rooftop bar is a must visit. An extensive cocktail list, inspired by Italian and Malaysian flavours, is partnered with a diverse bar menu that ranges from caviar to stone baked pizza. An all round incredible venue, gain a new perspective of this fantastic city while discussing the days excitements over a fancy cocktail.

2. Kuala Lumpur > Penang, George Town

George Town is an exciting location that comes alive in the evenings as traders from around the city set up to serve the unique, delicious plates that have established this world heritage site as the street food capital of Asia. Established in the 1700s by British explorer Francis Light, George Town is brimming with the rich history of its colonial past and development since gaining independence in the 1950s.

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3 to 5 nights here is ideal, granting enough time to explore the main attractions while adjusting to the change of pace from Kuala Lumpur’s bustle. Penang Hill and Penang National Park afford the opportunity to get out into the dense, surrounding jungle while burning calories amassed at evening hawker stalls. Kek Lok Si Temple is well worth a visit, instilling calm and colour among its lush green jungle surrounds.

Food is the epicentre of Penang culture, bringing people together (in sometimes obscure locations) to feast on a wide variety of savoury and sweet local favourites. Malaysian dishes consistently feature in south east Asian food guides, and it is easy to see why; Ikan Bakar (grilled fish with spicey sambal), Satay and Char Kuew Teow (stir fried noodles with prawns and Chinese sausage) were stand out dishes with New Lane Market coming out on top for diner attendance and variety.

Other must tries include the Kashmir Restoran on the edge of Little India for fragrant Biryani and Saag Paneer, while Wheelers Café on Love Lane serves refreshing, super strong cold brew and an interesting Malaysian twist on brunch.

George Town’s vibrant nightlife is centred around Love Lane, with a number of hidden speak easy bars to discover after a visit to Chulia Street hawker market. The Grab app is a real life saver when navigating town, taking the barter out of every ride with an average 10 minute trip costing around 13 ringgit or £2.60 – a no brainer when hopping from bar to hawker centre.

3. Penang > Langkawi Island

There are a couple of ways to reach Langkawi from Penang; if flying is not your thing then opt for the coach and shorter ferry ride from Kuala Perlis. Why? Let’s just say the ferry services direct from Penang are notoriously bumpy, gastro experiences for all onboard.

101 perfect tropical islands await visitors to Langkawi and they are picture perfect, so spending as many nights here as possible is a good idea with a lot to do between pool and beach down time.

Don’t pass up on the opportunity to learn about Langkawi’s rich biodiversity. A few days spent with an expert tour guide brings a whole new perspective to the island and the knowledge of Ex-Chairman of the Langkawi Tourist Guide Association, Vijayendhren (vijay27leo@gmail.com), is unrivalled. Now a freelance tour guide, learn from one of the pioneers of Langkawi tourism about island life and wildlife, geology, history and most importantly the best in food.

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Other unforgettable experiences in Langkawi include a boat tour of the Kilim Geoforest Park , a day jet ski island hopping with Mega Water Sports , the miraculous Langkawi Sky Bridge and the stunning Seven Wells Waterfall.

With five star hotel experiences in Asia’s South East much more accessible when compared to western destinations, consider allocating a fair chunk of your accommodation budget to this leg of the trip for the perfect paradise island stay.

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The Ritz Carlton, Langkawi

Featured in the Condé Nast Travellers ‘Top 25 Resorts in the World 2019’ and ‘Top 5 Resorts in Asia 2019’, The Ritz Carlton is a unique and spectacular property. Set within a 10-million-year-old rainforest on the edge of the Andaman Sea, the Ritz team have perfectly curated a magical space where luxury, tradition and nature work harmoniously.

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Rooms are elegant and fitting with the natural surrounds, bringing the calm of outside in through the use of natural materials and traditional furnishings. Stunning wild flowers add colour amongst lush green surrounds, home to amazing jungle wildlife including dusky leaf monkeys and giant, prehistoric great hornbills.

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Facing west, and blending seamlessly into the horizon of the Andaman sea, The Ritz’ Horizon infinity pool, bar and restaurant is perfect at any time of day. Unforgettable sunsets over cocktails is a daily occurrence here with wildlife spotting extending out to sea including dolphins and hefty monitor lizards.

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A magical corner of Langkawi with unparalleled service and fine cuisine, a stay at the Ritz Langkawi is an unforgettable travel experience.

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The Els Club, Langkawi

Langkawi’s 10 million year old rainforest and crystal blue Andaman waters play backdrop to an unforgettable golf experience at the Els Club Teluk Datai. Dramatic, challenging and picture perfect, getting out on this tropical course is truly memorable.

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With Great Hornbills flying overhead and an audience of Macaques roaming hole to hole, the Rainforest course is true to its name. And with surreal ocean views under the shadow of the surrounding Mat Chinchang mountains, take aim and earn your personalised engraved bag medal, a celebratory souvenir worthy of an exhilarating round.

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4. Langkawi Island > Kuala Lumpur

If flying back to the UK from Kuala Lumpur it’s well worth spending a couple of nights in the capital before heading home. This provides ample opportunity to shop till you drop across Kuala Lumpur’s high-end shopping malls and world famous night markets where street vendors live to barter, so keep stern and earn yourself a bargain.

The W Hotel, KL

A literal stones throw from the iconic Petronas Towers, views from the W’s east facing rooms are postcard worthy by day and night. Modern interiors alongside techy, in-room comforts are as standard and expected from the W brand, with a cool and relaxed vibe throughout the property. This ambient feel plays into the W’s love of music and culture, with frequent events and performances from established musicians, DJs and creatives.

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The Petronas towers play a dramatic backdrop to the W’s outdoor pool (the “WET” deck), towering over this refreshing space. The cityscape view, accompanied by an outdoor bar and smooth tunes, is a centre of town spot like no other so be sure to grab a drink here while taking a break from the bustle outside.

The W is definitely a glitzy city stay in the blingiest part of town, with a couple of nights here before returning home providing yet another perspective of this amazing country.

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The Verdict

There aren’t many destinations in the world that can rival Malaysia for diversity, which emanates from the intersection of three very distinct cultures. Everyday in Malaysia offers another opportunity to experience truly authentic Malay, Chinese and Indian plates, which are a world away from the staples found in UK takeaways.

From high rise metropolitan landscapes to paradise island archipelagos a visit to this exciting country is truly enriching, granting visitors worldly travel experiences accompanied by familiar home comforts along the way.

A huge thank you to our trip partners Marriott International, Els Club Malaysia, Marini’s on 57 and Naturally Langkawi. All opinions expressed are completely our own.

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