Often described as a melting pot of culture and religion, Malaysia offers everything from big cities to marvellous beaches.
Start off your trip in Singapore for a weekend of shopping, dining and urban indulgence. Whether you’re unwinding with fellow clubbers at the city’s hip nightlife hub at Clarke Quay, or tucking into mouth-watering local dishes at a cheap hawker centre, Singapore’s liveliness will keep you on your toes.
Then, hop on a coach to Melaka – home to a historic city’s Chinatown with strong Portuguese and Dutch influences. Another bus ride will take you right to the heart and capital city of the Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. The city thrives on bustling modern life and its celebrated Petronas Twin Towers, the world’s highest building until recently. Get a taste of local cuisines and party as the locals do at Bukit Bintang; if you’re up for some shopping, head over to Kuala Lumpur City Centre or, for cheaper copies, to Jalan Petaling Street Market.
Wind your way up the West coast to cool down in the hilltops of Cameron Highlands. Don’t forget to learn all about the history of the highlands in Time Tunnel - The Local Museum.
Your history lessons extend all the way to Penang, where you can learn about the traditional Southeast Asian cultures and observe the colonial architecture still intact to this day.
A paradise for beach lovers, head up to Langkawi for a well-earned swim in the Seven Wells waterfall; perhaps you’ll even head out with a few traditional goodies for keepsake! Catch the breath taking cable car for a marvellous view of the neighbouring islands and even to Thailand.
From Langkawi, bus across the country to the peninsular's east coast, which is home to some of the nicest beach islands in the world. Don't miss Pulau Perhentian, made up of Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar. You’ll be hard put to find yourself with nothing to do on its beautiful white-sand fringed beaches and the lively nightlife scene on Kecil's Long Beach.
Pulau Perhentian is located in the Malaysian state of Terengganu, and a backpacker hotspot. Pulau Redang is just a bit further south and more upscale. It is mainly visited by weekend-holidaymakers and divers from Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Even further south, laid-back Pulau Kapas is frequented by backpackers who try to avoid the crowd in Thailand and (more and more so) on Pulau Perhentian.
If you’re looking for a little more adventure, head down to Taman Negara. With time to spare, take a scenic ride on the Jungle Railway from Kota Bharu to Jerantut, and catch a boat from Jerantut to the park's headquarters. A coach can bring you there much faster, though. Taman Negara literally means National Park, and this one is huge at 4343 sq km. Trek through the jungle and keep your eyes peeled for the Orang Asli and their kampong houses.
Then wrap up your epic journey by heading to Tioman, a boat ride away from Mersing. This beach island has plenty to offer for nature-lovers and beach bums – from trekking to snorkeling to diving into the deep clear waters.
Pulau Tioman is within easy reach from Singapore. Pulau Besar, Pulau Sibu and gorgeous Pulau Rawa are nearby. Pulau is Malay for Island, by the way.
With so much variety in sights and sounds, Malaysia offers a compelling insight into both the traditional and modern Southeast Asian life.
(This itinerary is based on our Malaysia Backpacker CheatSheet, a visual guide available for free download. We offer Backpacker CheatSheets for many more countries.)