I think taking tours is a fantastic way to truly get to know your destination and thus I spent a good amount of time seeking out the best tours in Malaysia on my recently visit to this exciting and diverse country. To type of tour (and cruise) varied depending on the essence of each destination and ranged from street food to chic cocktails and from traditional villages to fancy historic mansions. Discover the top things to do in Malaysia north to south thanks to these fabulous activities!
Sunset Cruise, Langkawi
The perfect way to see the various islands which make up the group of Langkawi, off the northwest coast of Malaysia, is definitely from the water! And you can do this aboard the sleek catamarans of Crystal Yacht Holidays during one of their spectacular Sunset Cruises. The first company to offer chartered cruises in Langkawi, Crystal Yachts know their stuff and have honed their cruise experience into an art. The sunset cruise departs from the south of the island at the end of the afternoon, granting great daylight visibility of the numerous out-lying islands and the glorious sea. After about an hour into the cruise, you’ll be invited to try out their signature “Salt Water Jacuzzi” … something I’ve never seen nor done before (see the photo above to spark your imagination!). Back on the boat you’ll be treated to a vast feast of a barbecued meats, fish and salads along with an open bar of wine, beer spirits, cocktails, soft drinks, juices and water, which are available all through the cruise. Well sated, you can settle in on your preferred area of the boat to prepare to take in the stunning sunset. It’s a magical and very romantic experience!
Looking for a great hotel in Langkawi? It’s hard to beat the romantic ambiance of the seafront Casa del Mar. The Mediterranean-style hotel only has 35 rooms, providing you with a excellent service in a gorgeous setting. The hotel’s refined restaurant is also open to outside guests if you’re looking for a romantic location for a special candlelit diner on the beach.
Eat Drink Georgetown Food Tour, Georgetown
Located on Penang island south of Langkawi, Georgetown is famous the world over for its delectable cuisine. Discover the best of this on the fantastic Eat Drink Georgetown tour organized by Simply Enak. Penang native Mark Ng and his team have scoured the city’s food stalls, restaurants and bars, picking out the top ones, all safe for foreign bellies. You’ll settle down at a casual hawker’s station next to the picturesque Clan Jetty to dig into a steaming plate of Char Kway Teow, Penang’s legendary fried noodle dish. A stop at renowned Indian restaurant will shed light onto the country’s Indian communities and their culinary specialities. Your amble will eventually take you to the city’s best cocktail bar, an occasion to see how the city’s palate is evolving into the 21st century. An insightful and delicious experience which will leave you hungry (and thirsty) for more!
Want to delve deeper into George Town’s cocktail scene? Check out this article I wrote on the subject for Playboy.com.
Walkabout Tour, Georgetown
In addition to being a fabulous food destination, Georgetown also has a wonderful historic city centre which has been included on the UNESCO World Heritage List. You can learn more about the city’s fascinating history on the free Walkabout Tours arranged by Georgetown’s Tourist Information Center. I usually shy away from free tours, preferring ones led by experts, however, these ones are conducted by members of the heritage society. Held every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 10:30 am (show up at the Tourist Centre 10-15 minutes early to register) the 90-minute tour gives a thorough overview of the city’s history shown through a number of key buildings and sites found in the former European colonial district, the two Chinatowns, the Muslim district and Little India (we even saw secret passageways!). It’s a great and useful primer to get to know the city and do further exploring on your own.
Alternatively, if you are looking for an in-depth private tour, reach out to Joann Khaw of Georgetown Heritage Walks. Unfortunately, she wasn’t available when I was there, but I’ve heard excellent reviews of her tours.
Cheong Fatt Tze’s Blue Mansion, Georgetown
An excellent way to understand the history and rise of George Town is through one of it’s most prominent historic residents, Cheong Fatt Tze, which you can do my visiting his famous Blue Mansion. The heritage society guides three tours a day (11:00am, 2:00pm and 3.30pm) of parts of the mansion during which you can learn about the life and career of this distinguished businessman, referred to as the Rockefeller of the East, and the creation of his splendid mansion. It’s also a great opportunity to learn about the evolution of the city, the different levels of society and the issues around preservation in Georgetown.
You can complete your Blue Mansion experience by either dining at its stylish restaurant or staying overnight in the hotel part of the mansion. Learn more about both in my review here.
Countryside Tour, Cameron Highlands
Many visitors to Malaysia include the beautiful and unique Cameron Highlands into their itinerary and it’s well worth the detour. A mere two hours northeast of Kuala Lumpur, the area is a lush green oasis. Popularized during the 1920s during the British Colonial era, the area offers a classy taste of the English highlands in the form of tea plantations, flower nurseries, honey farms and more. You can discover the best of these on the great private and shared “Highlands Countryside Tours” offered by CS Travel & Tours which includes a visit to the area’s premier tea plantation, a butterfly/reptile and honey farm, strawberry picking venue and even a local market. The area also has a more mysterious side, which you can read about in this article I wrote on the subject.
You’ll want to stay in a place which evokes the history and traditions of the area. You can achieve this at the gorgeous Lakehouse Cameron Highlands. This beautiful historic hotel has a lovely tudor style, luxurious guest rooms and exceptional staff (don’t miss their high tea!). Discover more about the hotel in my article here.
Food Tour, Kuala Lumpur
If you want to sink your teeth into the food scene of Malaysia’s capital then book a spot on Simply Enak’s Kuala Lumpur Street Food tour. I looked around, but couldn’t find a better food experience than with this fantastic company I first discovered in Georgetown. Their comprehensive KL tour did not disappoint. In the hands of our local expert guide, we zigzagged through the centre of KL in search of its most delicious eats. A morning tour, we tasted favorite Indian breakfast treats, learnt about the historic market, ate fresh noodles and unusually delicacies at street hawker stalls we wouldn’t have found on our own, dared to try a bite of a durian tart (ahhh!), nibbled on peculiar fruit and ended at community café run by volunteers who help the city’s homeless community. Along the way we visited important historic and religious sites, granting a window into the city’s history, culture and daily life as well as leaving us with both full bellies and minds!
Kampung Morten Tour, Melaka
Like those mentioned in Georgetown above, you can also attend some interesting free tours in Melaka, here offered by the Go Heritage Melaka Association. I took their history one, however, I thought it was more interesting to include the other more offbeat tour they offer to Kampung Morten. A village found along the Melaka River a 20-minute walk from downtown, it is comprised of a collection of traditional houses saved from demolition in the 1920s by its namesake, British administrator Frederick Joseph Morten. While you can wander the area on your own, taking one of these free tours gives you wonderful insight into traditional village life, Malay customs and daily life. Plus, you’ll be able to visit the inside of a local house, like a living museum, meet the owners (possibly get to try on some traditional Malay clothing!) and see the area through the eyes of a local. The tours run every Mon, Weds and Fri, departing from the cafe across from the Kampung Morten at 4 pm, arrive a bit early to register.
Are you more for old or new Malaysia? you can choose from the best of either by staying at the brand new Treasures Hotel & Suites or the Jonker Boutique Hotel, my two hotel picks for a perfect stay in Melaka.