Malaysia round up ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡พ

We spent 12 days working our way down the west side of Malaysia, starting with an ascent of what was once the steepest cable car in the world on the island of Langkawi. We then ate ourselves silly in George Town, before going hiking in the Cameron Highlands. Finally, we topped off our Malaysian adventure with a few days ogling at Kuala Lumpur’s skyline.

Carbon ๐Ÿš†

As with most countries in Southeast Asia, our carbon footprint in Malaysia was relatively small since we only travelled 1,117 km. We also covered most of the distance by bus, which kept our carbon footprint low.

Cost ๐Ÿ’ฐ

Malaysia was one of the more affordable countries we’ve visited, which meant that we were able to stay in some lovely hotels along the way.

We spent a higher proportion of our budget on accommodation in Malaysia compared to most other countries. I wouldn’t say that accommodation was particularly expensive in Malaysia though, but rather transport, food and activities were relatively affordable, which might explain the imbalance.

Cats ๐Ÿˆ

Malaysia really delivered when it came to our feline friends, stealing the third spot on the podium from Cambodia.

Across Southeast Asia, we noticed lots of cats with short or kinked tails, which at first saddened us, as it appeared that many were the victims of some form of accident or abuse. However, further research has revealed that short or kinked tails are actually encoded into cats’ genes in Southeast Asia, and they only don’t exist in Europe because this gene as been systematically bred out for aesthetic reasons. Phew! Anyway, time for some awards…

๐Ÿ…Highest performing guest relations manager

We’ve mentioned our friend George before, but we couldn’t omit him from the awards section! Here he is wishing us a good day while we were eating breakfast. What a cross-eyed charmer ๐Ÿ˜ป

๐Ÿ…Joint award for friendliest kitten

These two tiny friends knew how to turn on the charm. We nearly didn’t re-board our bus at a rest stop because we were so busy chatting to the lovely girl on the left.

๐Ÿ…Cutest prawn appreciator

One night Sara didn’t quite finish her dinner, so she took away a couple of prawns wrapped in a paper napkin – pocket prawns, if you will. The risk was very real that the prawns would be forgotten and that we’d find them weeks later, but fortunately we met this hungry fellow on the way back to our hotel. He was slightly nervous at first, but once he’d caught sight of Sara’s pocket prawns, he quickly found his confidence!

๐Ÿ…Most dedicated to recycling

This mum suspected that some tins of fish hadn’t been perfectly washed out, so she was using her keen sense of smell to ensure the bag of recycling wasn’t contaminated with food waste. And best of all, she passed on the importance of recycling only clean food containers to her kitten, too!

Culture ๐Ÿ‘จโ€๐Ÿ‘ฉโ€๐Ÿ‘ง

Three cultures in one. Malaysia is a brilliant destination when you consider that you basically get three cultures for the price of one: there’s a fascinating mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian people, foods, architecture, religious traditions, and languages wherever you go in the country. It certainly keeps things interesting, even if it did present us with a bit of a challenge with finding space to try all the local foods!

Ramadan. We arrived in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country, on the third day of Ramadan. We’d read lots about what to expect but were still a little apprehensive – as you might have noticed, we really, really like food and didn’t want to miss out, but also really didn’t want to make a faux pas.

Overall, though, I’d say that it had a net positive result on our travels: the mixed population definitely made it easier because we knew if we headed to a Chinese area then there would be plenty of restaurants open and people eating. The Ramadan food markets that ran every day from mid-afternoon to evening were also a big bonus with so much delicious food all in one place, even though we consistently hit them at the wrong time – we kept thinking that people would be out around Iftar (sunset), but actually by this time they were home and getting ready to eat with their families.

Ramadan Market in Kuala Lumpur

But the biggest bonus of all from a traveller’s perspective was that there was less crowding at tourist sites – for instance, the Langkawi Sky Bridge has a reputation for hours-long queues but we strolled right in, and the Cameron Highlands is apparently normally one big traffic jam at the weekends, but had just the right level of buzz when we visited. So, while we might not have planned to be here for Ramadan normally, it was actually really interesting to be in the country during such an important period for lots of the population, and had a few unexpected bonuses for us, too.

The Langkawi Sky Bridge

Money. Not a transaction went by where the person wouldn’t ask for smaller change, even when we’d paid with what we would regard as a reasonable note (e.g. 10 MYR for an 9.50 MYR bill). People would often peer suspiciously into Oli’s wallet and question him on its contents, just in case he was harbouring a smaller note – “No, they’re US Dollars,” he’d protest. “Well what about that one?” they would demand. “No, that’s an old ticket!” People even gave us a discount on a couple of occasions just so they didn’t have to give change, and we also massively overpaid when we realised the buses don’t give change. We’ve been to plenty of places where having exact change is useful, but none where people are quite so obsessed with it as Malaysia!

Another snack, another change negotiation

From Kuala Lumpur, we made the well-travelled journey directly south to Singapore – Race Across the World‘s final checkpoint, and our final destination in Southeast Asia.

Admiring the cityscape of Kuala Lumpur ๐Ÿ™

We continued our journey south through Malaysia via coach to the capital, Kuala Lumpur. We then switched to a metro for the final few kilometres to our hotel.

Kuala Lumpur’s skyline is dominated by the Petronas Towers, despite the towers being surpassed in height by two other buildings in Malaysia’s capital (including the Merdeka 118 – the second tallest building in the world). Everywhere we went they seemed to loom over the rest of the cityscape, especially at night when they’re spectacularly illuminated. Honestly, I think they have to be the most beautiful skyscrapers we’ve seen, and we just couldn’t stop taking photos of them.

After thoroughly enjoying the miniature scenes in George Town’s Wonder Food Museum, we felt drawn to Kuala Lumpur’s MinNature Museum. This featured hugely detailed dioramas of typical Malaysian scenes, each of which were accompanied by beautifully colourful descriptions of the characters, what they’d been up to that day, what they do for a living, and their aspirations in life. We also enjoyed the larger models representing different cities across Malaysia, although this was mostly because they featured model trains which could by triggered by touching a sensor. I assume these were aimed at children, but there were no children in the museum and someone had to give the trains their big moment!

We’d read that Kuala Lumpur’s shopping was a real highlight of the city, and while we didn’t have much space in our luggage for new purchases, we did learn that shopping malls often come with speciality food courts. The Lot 10 shopping mall had dedicated three out of its seven floors to food; one Chinese (with quite the reputation), one Japanese, and one international. We ate Char Siew duck (Cantonese) and Char Koay Kak (Malay) at the Chinese food court, and Tonkotsu (bone broth) Ramen at the Japanese food court. In all cases, we were absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer number of specialist restaurants available in a shopping centre.

With full bellies, we spent one warm afternoon exploring the residential neighbourhood of Kampung Baru, an oasis of traditional Kuala Lumpur life from another era that is separated from the high-rise district by the Klang River and a busy motorway. This part of Kuala Lumpur is famous for its collection of traditional wooden houses surrounded on almost all sides by the skyscrapers. We loved this neighbourhood for two reasons; it was buzzing with life from the afternoon Ramadan markets, and it was also a cat hotspot.

We also took a trip to Petaling Street, located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur’s Chinatown. While the main market largely sells clothes and phone accessories, we were here for the food (surprise!). Sara very trustingly followed me down a dark side alley as we attempted to find a set of street kitchens that we hoped were nearby. As always, our unconventional route became clear once we emerged onto Madras Lane from the opposite direction to all other punters.

Petaling Street market

There were only a couple of vendors open when we visited, but one in particular was doing an absolutely roaring trade. This vendor was selling Yong Tau Foo, a Hakka Chinese dish consisting of either tofu filled with things, or things filled with tofu. We diligently joined the line and filled out our paper order slip, hedging our bets over many different types of tofu given that we really didn’t know what each thing was. Our order arrived accompanied by tiny bags of soy and chilli sauce, which we decanted into little plastic dishes for dipping. The end product was good, if not life changing, and it actually tasted surprisingly familiar and unchallenging relative to our expectations when we arrived at the stall! As is pretty typical in Malaysia, there was no seating available at the food vendor, but they had an arrangement with a neighbouring drinks stall where we could sit in exchange for buying a couple of cans of coke. Deal!

Kuala Lumpur was our last stop in Malaysia, meaning that our time in Southeast Asia was quickly running out. The final leg of our journey took us south beyond the tip of the Malayan peninsula, to the city-state of Singapore.

George Town Gorging

We ate so much in George Town that we couldn’t resist a food post, so we present to you the hotly-anticipated sequel to our Georgian Gorging post!

Shortly after arriving in George Town, we paid a visit to its Wonder Food Museum. In addition to being both fun and educational, it also emphasised the importance of food within the region’s identity. I mean, how many other cities have entire museums dedicated to their cuisine? The museum was filled with life-size models of food with accompanying descriptions, which served as great introduction to what we were about to eat over the next few days.

A slightly overwhelming checklist of dishes we needed to sample

We loved the miniature models depicting both modern and traditional styles of restaurant found across Penang.

One of our favourite displays consisted of a series of celebratory feasts from each of the region’s three distinct food traditions; Malay, Chinese and Indian. Each feast came with an annotated diagram, which allowed us to test our food recognition skills (apparently not very good).

Following our crash course, it was time to put the theory into practice. Below is an overview of our top food discoveries across George Town. Spoiler alert: we didn’t love them all, but we still regret nothing!

Nasi Kandar

The name Nasi Kandar comes from the Malay word for rice (nasi) and the Urdu word for shoulder (kandha) in a reference to the pole that was traditionally used to carry around tiny portable restaurants by Tamil Muslim traders from India. Today, large restaurants sell a huge array of ready-made rice and sauce-based dishes from a counter that you can pick from deli-style. Here, we got our first experience of “Kuah Campur” (literally “mixed gravy”), whereby your rice receives a small dollop of any of the other dishes’ sauce that the server deems will complement the main that you’ve ordered.

I was also delighted to find they served a style of rendang, in which the typically dry and spicy Indonesian beef dish has been adapted to include a generous helping of sauce. We ate at both Hameediyah Restaurant and Sri Ananda Bahwan, and inevitably over-ordered every time. All in all, Nasi Kandar was our favourite cuisine that we came across in George Town. It’s such a beautiful blend of Malay and Indian cuisines that I’m already regretting my comment about Vietnam’s Bรกnh mรฌ being the world’s finest fusion.

Overall score: 10/10 (worth the trip to George Town alone)

Char Keow Tao

This fried noodle dish of prawns, shelled blood cockles, chopped Chinese chives, slices of Chinese sausage, and bean sprouts is probably George Town’s most famous dish. We were introduced to it by our hotel staff who offered it during breakfast, only for a plate of steaming fresh noodles filled with smoky wok hei aroma to be delivered direct to our table from the street kitchen across the road. I loved the variety of flavours that came from the goodies hidden within the noodles, although I must admit the cockles were a bit of a test first thing in the morning!

Overall score: 9/10 (great breakfast dish)


This dish consists of a spring roll-type wrapper filled with grated and steamed turnip and bean-shoots. We’d read that it sometimes also contained prawn or pork (which I think is what encouraged us to try it) but alas ours mostly seemed to contain stewed vegetables with just a smidge of dark bean paste. We dutifully struggled our way through one roll each, though I’m not sure we’ll be rushing back to eat this again. It was so much worse than the sum of its parts!

Overall rating: 2/10 (not quite our cup of tea)

Char Siew

How can you go wrong with Cantonese-style barbecue pork? Thinly sliced and served over rice with a sweet gravy and chilli dipping sauce, this tasted almost exactly as I had hoped. We managed to squeeze in a lunch of Char Siew at the Wai Kei Cafe in the narrow window between our breakfast going down and the restaurant running out of pork (which occurs early in the afternoon). Already, we were struggling to fit enough meals into the day in order to try everything that we wanted!

Overall score: 8/10 (simple and delicious)


This was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever eaten. It consisted of deep-fried tofu and sliced crunchy fruit (pineapple, unripe mango, ambra and cucumber), covered in a very treacly sweet and salty sauce and topped with ground peanuts. To begin with, I struggled to decide whether I liked it or not, but by the end, I’d sided firmly with not. Sara enjoyed it more than me and managed to finish our plate, although this might have had more to do with making sure she had her five-a-day than anything else. I’m sure this is the sort of desert which is delicious if you’ve grown up with it, but might be something of an acquired taste for plebs like me. At least our version didn’t include squid fritters, which are apparently often part of the recipe ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

Overall rating: 4/10 (we could probably get into it, but it wasn’t love at first taste)

Curry Mee and Hokkien Mee

Malaysia is well known for its Laksa (coconut-based soup), so we just had to try two local favourites. These were right up our street: the Curry Mee (left, below) was mild and creamy, but the Hokkien Mee (right, below) was more tangy, spicy and seafood-y and was definitely the winner of the two. I can see why it’s a staple of Penang cuisine.

Overall rating: 7/10 (tasty and messy in equal measures)


We’d heard a lot about this desert, which consists of shaved ice, condensed milk, palm sugar syrup, red beans and sticky noodles. In a side street just off Penang Road, there’s a bit of showdown between two long-running, competing vendors whose stalls directly face each other. This confronted us with a dilemma, but not wanting to miss out, we applied the same logic as at the pubs beside the Batumi brewery and tried them both.

Left: Joo Hooi Cafe. Right: Nyonya Cendol

Both started strong, with the one from Joo Hooi Cafe bringing a sweeter sauce while the one from Nyonya Cendol brought noodles with a more satisfying bite. Having said that, both became pretty sickly and hard to stomach by the end, and neither of our teeth got on very well with so much shaved ice. I’m glad we got to try both, but if I’m honest, one would have more than sufficed.

Overall score: 6/10 (would share one on a hot day)

With a limited amount of time in George Town, we did our best to do justice to the breadth of the cuisine, rather than just aiming for the dishes that sounded like they’d suit our tastes. Although not every dish was up our street, the highs not only outweighed the lows, but blew out of the water many cuisines we’ve eaten since leaving London. We’ve only just left and already I want to go back!