Max and I have travelled to Malaysia a number of times and have always enjoyed exploring this often overlooked Asian country. What do we like about it? The food of course, the beautiful tropical islands, the colonial architecture, the shopping and last, but not least, the fact that they drive on the same side of the road as we do in Australia. On one of our trips, we drove all over the country and it was so easy!
In September 2013 we decided to visit Redang Island off the north-east coast as well as the historical city of Malacca on the west coast and then a few days in Kuala Lumpur.
Redang Island is known for it’s abundant marine life and a favourite for scuba divers and snorkellers. To get to the island, we flew from Subang Airport in Kuala Lumpur and spent 4 nights at the beautiful Taaras Beach Resort and Spa. It’s tucked away in a secluded spot on Berjaya Beach. The resort is ideal for honeymooners or anyone just wanting to unwind and relax. The beachfront with its crystal clear water and powdery white sand is simply beautiful.
The resort has two dining options, the Asean All Day Dining and the Beach Brasserie. Both serve good food, however, one evening we decided to try the local restaurant just outside the gates (Aima’s Seafood Restaurant). The food was mighty nice – and cheap.
On our second day, we decided to swim over to the secluded beach, around the cove from the Taaras. After exploring, we returned to Berjaya Beach to do some snorkelling, and then headed back to our room to freshen up before leisurely cocktails at the Bayu Bar, followed by dinner.
We booked an island hopping tour on our third day to do snorkelling and sightseeing and the cost was AUD25 which included 5 stops. Our guide picked us up after breakfast and our first stop was Pulau Pinang. Our final stop was the beautiful Long Beach of Redang Bay and this is where most of the hotels are located, ranging from budget to luxury. Again, the water was crystal clear with sugar white sand and swaying palms.
We weren’t disappointed with this idyllic island and I’d recommend it to anyone. We were fortunate to have sunny days as we arrived at the start of the rainy season. Best time to visit is February to August.
Malacca (or Melaka) was a former Portuguese and Dutch colony and major trading port. From 1824 to 1942 it came under British rule. In the city, you’ll find many fine examples of Chinese Baroque, Portuguese and Colonial architecture. It has a fascinating history worth reading about.
Our hotel for 3 nights was at the Courtyard @ Heeren – a charming boutique hotel in the heart of the historic centre of Malacca, close to the famous Jonker Street. The rooms were designed in a specific style, combining Peranakan style with modern elements.
All the major sights were within walking distance and we were surrounded by great local restaurants. We particularly liked Nancy’s Kitchen. The houses along Heeren Street have ornately decorated facades and many have been restored to their former glory. Although Jonker Walk is more famous, the buildings on Heeren Street have more old world charm and history.
As we strolled along, we came across one such house being renovated and we struck up a conversation with the English owner who took us on a tour through the house. It was simply beautiful – and huge! They look small from the outside, but are long and spacious inside and often with large courtyards. This is because homeowners were taxed on the width rather than total area of their homes.
The house was over 200 years old and was formerly a school. It eventually became an orphanage and then during World War II it again became a school run by the Japanese. When Roger bought it, he said they couldn’t give them away, but by the time he got round to renovating it, it became heritage listed and worth over AUD1.3 million.
The Maritime Museum was interesting, specifically as it was housed in a replica of a Portuguese galleon ship. It depicts the history of the Malaccan Maritime from the Malacca Sultanate era, to the Portuguese, then the Dutch and culminating in the British era.
St Paul’s Church was built in 1521 and sits atop St Paul’s Hill. It’s the oldest church building in Malaysia and Southeast Asia.
In the evening, the old town was a hive of activity and what we found really captivating were the magnificently decorated and colourful trishaws. They’re decorated with flashing lights, bright flowers and stuffed toys. So kitch! The owners all try to out-do each other. They’re a lot of fun and if you take a ride, you’ll get a running commentary about Malacca and it’s history.
We returned to Kuala Lumpur for 3 nights at the Shangri-La. Oh my, that was a beautiful hotel and we enjoyed the luxury. We spent our time re-visting favourite sights including the Petronas Towers and China Town.
Malaysia is really worth a visit. It’s full of history and culture and the food is some of the best in Asia. I hope I was able to whet your appetite…
- Image 1 – Izuddin Helmi Adnan on Unsplash
- Image 2 – Journeytoplaces on Unsplash
- Rest of images – author’s own