As part of our current trip in Asia, we recently spent five weeks travelling from Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia up to Ao Nang in Thailand before flying from Krabi to Chiang Mai. In total, we visited seven places along the way, which since we generally tend to prefer travelling slowly, was pretty fast for us!
We got around by a variety of means, stayed in a broad range of accommodation types and did a nice mix of activities. There might be a few things we’d change if we did a similar route again, but overall it was a good experience. This was our itinerary of what we did, where we stayed and how much it cost.
Kuala Lumpur: 7 nights
We flew into Kuala Lumpur from Berlin (via Istanbul) and spent a week there. The first few days we didn’t do much other than eat and try to get over the jet lag. After that we didn’t really do much more than enjoy being in a big, vibrant city, eat all the vegan food, work in cafés and visit the Petronas Towers.
To get around town we almost exclusively used Uber, which was very straightforward. A few times we got a driver who didn’t really know where they were going, but in general there were no problems. It was much cheaper than taking regular taxis and saved us from walking in the oppressive heat and it meant we got to have some pretty interesting conversations with locals! We took public transport once, but found it very inconvenient from where we were staying.
Kuala Lumpur was a comfortable place to start our trip, but it is perhaps not the most exciting city. While we would happily visit again, it would probably just be for a couple of days as a connection to another destination. Maybe next time, we’d try to visit the Islamic Art Museum and a few other cultural things.
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment on the 26th floor of a high rise condo in quite a highly developed area of town. It had a separate bedroom, kitchen/living area and air-conditioning and we got it for £26 (€35) a night.
Hello from Kuala Lumpur! We arrived at our @airbnb apartment after dark yesterday so didn't really appreciate the view and quite how high up we were until this morning. From the 26th floor, we can see pretty far across the city! Also, fortunately while it has been hot (up to 31C today), the sun hasn't been too intense due to the cloud giving us north Europeans time to adjust to this drastic shift in weather compared to winter in Germany! #kl #kualalumpur #malaysia #samandzabinmalaysia
To leave, we took a bus to Tanah Rata which took four hours and cost RM30 (€6.50) each.
Cameron Highlands: 3 nights
I’ve already written a whole post about what we did in the Cameron Highlands so I’ll try not to repeat myself too much here. Mostly, we visited to see a bit of the Malaysian countryside, learn something about tea and escape the heat and humidity of the coastal regions.
Highlights were visiting the tea plantations and BOH tea factory where the leaves are processed and getting views over the region from the highest mountain in the region. In the town of Tanah Rata, we enjoyed eating at Kougen, a Japanese restaurant with friendly staff who were happy to veganize dishes for us.
We stayed in a very basic hotel called KRS Pines Guesthouse off the main road of Tanah Rata town with a small private room and shared bathroom. It only cost £7.21 (€9.50) per night for a double room, and it was quiet and comfortable enough but was pretty dingy and perhaps not the cleanest place so we wouldn’t stay there again.
Yesterday we left the Cameron Highlands for Penang and we're treated to some lovely views from the bus window along the way. It was a much longer journey than we expected in the end, but we are now settled into a lovely housesit where we'll be till the new year! #malaysia #samandzabinmalaysia #cameronhighlands #cameronhighlandtrip #mountains
On leaving, we took a bus to Penang which took five hours and cost RM35 (€7.50) each.
Penang: 16 nights
We housesat in Penang for just over two weeks, looking after a pug called Doug who we grew quite fond of and amused us greatly.
We also enjoyed visiting the Penang Hill for views over George Town and beyond, wandering the little streets of the old town (when it wasn’t too hot or busy).
Zab was also very happy to get his hair cut at the most hipster place in town, Son & Dad Barber for RM30 (€6.50).
When it was time to leave Penang, we took a ferry from downtown George Town to Langkawi, which took two and a half hours and cost RM70 (€15) each.
Langkawi: 3 nights
On Langkawi, we decided to mostly take the time off from work and tried to relax. While we had read that it was easy and straightforward to hire a car on Langkawi, we ended up deciding not to, and instead hired a driver for one day to take us around and see a bit of the island. The rest of the time, we relaxed and swam in the pool.
We visited the Panorama Langkawi for spectacular views over the island, and spent a little bit of time on the wonderfully calm Tengkorak beach.
On a separate occasion we also took a sunset dinner cruise with Star Cruises, which included a buffet dinner, much of which was vegan. This was perhaps rather extravagant and cost RM280 (€60) per person, but we enjoyed the indulgence and got to see a lot more of the surrounding islands which we would have missed otherwise.
Vegan food was otherwise not especially easy to come by on the island, but we did enjoy eating at Yasmin, a pretty authentic Syrian restaurant and Sagar, a somewhat upscale Indian restaurant, in the main tourist town of Pentai Cenang.
We stayed in a great little place we found on Airbnb, but rather than an entire apartment (as we usually use Airbnb) it was a room in a small bed and breakfast run by Australian expat, Liz. Basically, Liz rents our two rooms in her luxurious home in a secluded spot in southern Langkawi that includes a small swimming pool. For this, we paid £68 (€89.50) per night.
Leaving Langkawi, we took a ferry to Koh Lipe in Thailand. This took just under two hours and cost RM100 (€21.50) each.
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Koh Lipe: 1 night
We only really came to Koh Lipe because it was a connection point between Langkawi in Malaysia and the southern Thai islands. It’s a crowded, tourist-centric island that we would not bother visiting again. There are some snorkelling tours to other nearby islands you can do, but that’s not really our thing.
We arrived in the morning on the boat from Langkawi and left 24 hours later. We found one nice café to hang out in that had soy milk (but not really to work in as the wifi, like on the whole island more or less, was way too slow) called Bloom Bar Café on the main street which had soy milk and served everything in mason jars.
We'll always find the #hipster cafes wherever we go! Even on the tiny and touristy #Thai island of Koh Lipe, we discovered Bloom Cafe Bar where they serve iced soya lattes in giant jars and the menu boards double as cupboards! The wifi sucked, as on the whole island seemingly, so it wasn't so much a @workhardanywhere moment for us #samandzabinthailand #ycfood #thailand #kohlipe #icedlatte #applewatch #firstworldproblems #slowwifiwillbethedeathofme
We watched the sunset from Sunset Beach along with everyone else on the island, it seemed.
It was beautiful but crowded, though the crowd was relaxed and easy to be around. We also ate a decent but slightly overpriced dinner there by the beach.
We stayed in a cosy little pod at Baan Peang Por Hostel, a ten minute walk from the main tourist area. The staff were lovely and the common area of the hostel was pleasant and comfortable and it looked very cool. However, the room was tiny and only had a fan, but the design was quite nice. For one night it was adequate, but we definitely wouldn’t be in a hurry to stay anywhere similar again. We paid £26.04 (€34.30) for the night.
Just arrived on Koh Lipe, a tiny Thai island from Langkawi and we're staying in one of these cute little pods for the night! I feel like I'm in the Shire, except that it's 32C and humid as hell! #ycdesignart #samandzabinthailand #thailand #kohlipe #kohlipeisland #bunting #theshire #shire #hobbitlife
To leave, we took a tiny speedboat to Koh Lanta, which took three hours and cost 1900฿ (€48.50) per person. It was one of the most miserable journeys of our lives, and we both agree we would definitely not take another speed boat in Thailand ever again. After about twenty minutes on board, we both felt sick and for a long time, it felt that if I moved too much, I would instantly vomit. Though no one else on the boat was actually sick, it seemed that everyone else on the board felt the same.
Koh Lanta: 4 nights
Our aim for Koh Lanta was to continue relaxing, something which we achieved pretty well. There, we hired a scooter through our accommodation, which we quickly realised was pretty much a necessity on the island since everything is very spread out.
We ate a lot of good food, mostly thanks to recommendations from Simon and Erin. Some of the highlights of the vegan food we had while on Koh Lanta included Kunda (the island’s only vegetarian restaurant run by a fascinating Polish-French lady), Red Snapper (a slightly upscale tapas restaurant serving international dishes with vegan options marked) and Irie Bar and Restaurant (a more typical Thai place with some simple but well marked vegan options).
Taking a trip down to Bamboo Bay, a beach in the south of the island, was definitely a highlight and absolutely worth it to watch the sunset.
We spent this afternoon driving down the west #coast of Koh Lanta and stayed for the sunset at Bamboo Bay in the far south. The beach was lovely and quiet and it was a wonderful place to soak up the rather striking natural beauty of this island. Many thanks to @neverendingvoyage for the recommendation! #samandzabinthailand #Thailand #kohlanta #kohlantaisland #bamboobay #sunset #thaisunset
We also very much enjoyed being pampered at the very professional Serenity Spa in the main town where a facial for Zab, a shoulder waxing for me (don’t ask) and two hour long oil massages cost 1400฿ (€36). We really loved sitting on the terrace at the back after our treatments overlooking the water and the incoming boats while sipping complimentary tea and snacking on fresh pineapple.
We stayed in a private bungalow at the Keereelay Hotel in the Long Beach area, about 700 meters inland off the main road. The bungalow was simple, but had everything we needed: a large bed, bathroom with hot water, air conditioning and a desk. Breakfast was also pretty good, which they happily veganised for us. The real highlight was the woman running the place, who was helpful and really made an effort to make things easy for us while also leaving us to do our own thing.
To leave, we took a regular ferry to Ao Nang on the mainland for 450฿ (11.50) each, which went perfectly smoothy and took about two hours.
Ao Nang: 2 nights
Our final stop in Southern Thailand, we spent pretty much all our time in Ao Nang catching up with the work we’d neglected the past few days so didn’t really take advantage of being there. Instead, we were mostly just hammering away at our laptops in Starbucks or the only hipster café we could find in town: Café 8.98.
Today we're in Ao Nang, #Thailand. We wouldn't really know it however since we've barely seen anything of the town as we needed a work day to catch up on things after taking a few days off in Koh Lanta. One highlight in the few hours not spent staring at our computer screens was lunch at the delightfully #hipster Café 8.98 where I was able to request this veganised salad with roasted #pumpkin, #avocado, #artichoke, lettuce, and homemade vinegar dressing. Delicious! Plus we weren't the only ones working on our laptops there and several of the others were cute guys. So, all in all, a good lunch break! #samandzabinthailand #ycfood #vegansofig #vegantravel #gaytravel #digitalnomad #whatveganseat
We stayed at Glur Hostel, a well designed boutique hostel just off the north end of the main street in town, which meant it was relatively quiet and secluded. Our room was a comfortable twin room with a huge bathroom, air conditioning and a desk. There was no breakfast included, but there was a nice little seawater swimming pool. This cost 1500฿ (€38.50) a night.
From Ao Nang we then took a shuttle to Krabi airport for 150฿ (€3.80) a person and flew up to Chiang Mai with Air Asia.
Have you travelled in this region before? Are there any places you would have added to or removed from this itinerary?