You have two weeks in Asia, and wonder where to go? We hear you! Here is Option B of our TOP 4 favorite trips in Southeast Asia.
This trip covers Singapore and Malaysia. It is good for beginners, but can also be taken by experienced travelers who like excursions off the beaten track. There are lots of options, and you can even do it multiple times without seeing anything twice (well, besides the bus terminals). You will get a good dose of city sightseeing, stunning landscapes and wonderful beaches.
This trip should definitely be taken between April and October, when there is only a light Monsoon along Malaysia’s west coast that doesn’t affect traveling. Only during these months, you can visit the stunning beaches on the east coast islands. If you travel at other times of the year, concentrate on the cities on the west coast and Langkawi - also on the west coast - for a decent beach.
Stop 1: Singapore
Start in Singapore, the most westernized city in Southeast Asia. Singapore is one of Southeast Asia's top cities, and has enough sights and activities to keep you busy for 3-4 days.
Follow our Singapore Backpacker Cheatsheet and wander through Chinatown, the Colonial District, Kampong Glam and Little India. The next day, go shopping on Orchard Road and partying in Clarke Quay. Then visit Warner Brothers Movie World on Sentosa, say hello to the world famous white tigers in the Singapore Zoo, or – if you get up too late - make it for the Night Safari. In between, try some local food – available in fancy restaurants or for just a few dollars in hawker stalls and coffee shops.
Stop 2: Malacca and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
When you’re done with Singapore, it is time to get into the “real Asia” – take a bus to Malaysia – “truly Asia”, as their tourism slogan goes.
Follow our Malaysia Backpacker Cheatsheet: Leave Singapore early in the morning and make a day trip to Malacca, one of the three original Straits Settlements with an interesting history, a Dutch church and town hall and a Portuguese fort. Go to Malacca by bus, this is the fastest option.
The next day (or even in the evening of the same day) continue north for two more hours by bus to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s biggest city. Climb KL Tower and admire the Petronas Tower from almost the same altitude. Explore the city walking and buy some souvenirs in Chinatown. By now, you should know how to bargain!
Spend two days in KL, and then continue north.
Stop 3: Extension Options to Taman Negara, Penang and Langkawi
Now comes the chance for experienced travelers (and fearless beginners): Taman Negara, the world’s oldest primary rain forest. You can visit Taman Negara in just two days, but this means you will spend most of the time in the bus or boat and won’t see much except the stunning tree-top walk. We recommend 3-5 days including travel time. This allows for some day trips by boat, or even a longer overnight trip away from the base camp. But don’t expect to see tigers or other big mammals. They are there, but if at all, they will only see you and keep hiding. However, do expect to get wet and to share dark caves with snakes and other creepy animals.
After some days, continue north for more city sightseeing on Penang. Singapore, Malacca and Georgetown on Penang are known as the three Straits Settlements. Overall, Penang and Malacca are quite similar - so you may skip Malacca and/or Penang if you have enough of cities.
We also recommend skipping the Cameron Highlands for western visitors. That’s because we assume you have seen strawberries and cabbage grow. However, the Cameron Highlands are a great place to escape the heat, and the views over the tea plantations may be worth a visit if you have enough time.
Langkawi is the northernmost island on the west coast accessible to tourists. If you are into landscapes and great views, come here and take the somewhat frightening cable car to the viewing platform, from where you can even see Thailand. Langkawi is one of Southeast Asia's most beautiful islands.
Langkawi also has a decent beach, but it is only so-so for Asian standards. If you are traveling between April and October, consider skipping Langkawi altogether and head straight to the peninsula's east coast.
Stop 4: Perhentian Islands, Malaysia
And now you have really earned it: Take a bus over to the peninsula’s east coast, and hop on a boat to the Perhentian Islands. Stay on Long Beach on Perhentian Kecil, which offers the biggest and nicest beach. You’ll find crystal clear waters, powder white sand and a great, wide beach.
This is the place to take a PADI Open Water dive course, you won’t get it cheaper anywhere else (if you do, leave a comment!). Or just snorkel: Where else are you guaranteed to see sharks and turtles while just snorkelling on the surface?
Perhentian is as nice as other islands in Thailand, minus the crowds. Sure, you won’t be the only one on the beach, but you will likely have lots of space for yourself.
There are many alternative islands similar to Perhentian. We recommend Perhentian mainly because it has a bit of everything: A great beach, but also some nightlife and nice restaurants that offer barbecue on the beach. Alternatives to Perhentian are Redang, which has an even nicer beach (actually, it is two of them divided by a small headland) and good diving. Redang is rather quiet and caters mainly to Asian package tourists. Or go further south, and hop over to Pulau Rawafrom the port in Mersing. You can circuit this tiny island by kayak in just an hour, and the beach is marvelous. But staying in one of only two resorts on Pulau Rawa is somewhat overpriced for Malaysian standards.
In between Redang and Pulau Rawa is the hidden island gem of Pulau Kapas, for those that have already seen it all.
Perhentian, Redang and Rawa are all among Southeast Asia's best beaches. They also offer great diving and snorkeling.
Stop 5: Back to Singapore – or on to Bangkok
Finally, when your time in paradise is coming to an end, head back south to Singapore, for a last Singapore Sling and your flight home.
With some of the extension options listed above, this trip can take 3-4 weeks. Nevertheless, it is easily doable within 2 weeks, if you focus on Singapore, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and one of the islands. Just stick to what interests you most.
With even more time, consider flying into Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo, both only a cheap domestic flight away from peninsular Malaysia. Flights leave frequently from Kuala Lumpur and Johor Bahru.
Another option is to continue north into Thailand, maybe visiting Phuket or Koh Samui on the way. In this case, continue to Bangkok and fly home from there.
Our GuideGecko Rating for this trip:
Beaches: **** (4 of 5 stars: Didn’t we say Malaysia’s beaches are hidden gems?)
City Sightseeing: ***** (5 of 5 stars: Singapore, KL, Malacca and Penang. Who wants more?)
Landscapes: *** (3 of 5 stars: That’s for Langkawi and Taman Negara)
Cultural spots: ** (2 of 5 stars: We throw that in for all the Little Indias and Chinatowns)
Want more suggestions?
This suggested itinerary is one of our TOP-4 trip recommendations for 2 Weeks in Asia. Also check our other suggested itineraries for:
Have questions or would like to suggest something else? Let’s discuss!