This May I'm taking a one-week vacation to Malaysia (as an add-on to a business trip to Singapore), with plans to visit Penang and KL for a day or two each. But this urban dweller and mostly urban traveler would like to leave her comfort zone and try a not-too-strenuous foray into the jungle to see animals, plants, and if possible, indigenous people. I've narrowed it down to Taman Negara or Sarawak around Kuching. TN would mean one less flight and probably more time in KL, but Kuching sounds like an interesting town in itself, and the wildlife viewing opportunities sound wonderful. Any thoughts on which is better for this time of year and my ability level?
#1 WDCtraveler has been a member since 23/4/2011. Posts: 4
Taman Nagara has the most amazing trees I have ever seen, but I honestly didn't see that much wildlife. I did a 6 hour hike (some birds, termite mounts) deep into the jungle and spent the night at one of the bunbuns (rustic wooden huts). There's a salt lick outside the hut and some animals come at night.... Even with all that effort all I saw was one tapir and one deer!
Kuching is a lovely little town and the orang utan sanctuary is a must-visit (though they're not truly wild). Bako National Park is close enough that you can visit as a day trip, but wildlife viewings are best in the early evening so definitely spend the night if you go. Odds are very good of seeing proboscis monkeys and there's usually some boars hanging around the camp grounds (so no strenuous hiking).
How long do you have for the nature-y part of the trip? Taman Negara looks like it's close to Kuala Lumpur, but you'll need a solid half-day to get there.
I'm still working on my itinerary... I arrive in Singapore at nearly midnight on a Fri. I was thinking about sleeping at/near the airport that night, then flying to either Penang or Kuching first thing Sat. If it's the latter, I'd try to do the overnight wildlife viewing Sun-Mon, then fly to Penang Tue., KL Fri, and back to Singapore Sat. pm/Sun. am. Or I could skip KL for one more day each in Kuching and Penang or an earlier arrival in Singapore. Any suggestions?
#3 WDCtraveler has been a member since 23/4/2011. Posts: 4
Wow!! Such a hard decision. My best advice would be do both and keep your fingers crossed. However, I have hiked around Taman Negara but i haven't been to Sarawak, but i have heard its amazing and i have plans to go one day. Good luck :)
They're all fine options, really. If you don't want to do strenuous overnight hiking I think you should go to Kuching -- you'll get more wildlife in a shorter time.
You also mentioned that you're interested in indigenous people... well a true longhouse stay you need more time than you have, but there's an excellent "Sarawak Cultural Village" near Kuching with models of the house styles of each tribe, traditional hunting techniques, arts, dance, music, etc. I usually stay far, far away from things like that (sound super-cheesy) but it was excellent.
AirAsia also flies Kuching - Penang ... so you can do Singapore - Kuching - Penang - Singapore all flights to maximize your time.
Unless there's something really specific you wanted to see in KL, I think by hitting Penang/Kuching/Sing you're getting a good feel for the region and could skip it - Singapore has the big city/malls part, Penang for history/food, and Kuching for nature.
Thanks, IDODurian. Your advice matched my gut feeling and what I heard from others. I'm doing Singapore-Penang-Kuching-Singapore with an overnight trip to Bako while in Kuching.
#6 WDCtraveler has been a member since 23/4/2011. Posts: 4
This is a great recommendation. If anyone who goes to Kuching, be sure to have some of the seafood there. Its gonna be of of the most freshest seafood your gonna get in Malaysia.
#8 Alec has been a member since 2/6/2011. Posts: 21
Thanks to all--I ended up spending half the week in Penang and the other half in and around Kuching. I'd have to say Kuching was the the highlight of the trip. I took an overnight trip to Bako and saw plenty of wildlife, spent an afternoon at the orang utan sanctuary, and took a half-day trip to Sarawak Cultural Village to get at least a small look at the indigenous cultures. I still had time to explore Kuching, which is a charming little city (with great seafood, yes!). IDODurian, I ended up with little free time in Singapore, sadly. My conference was near Orchard Road, which was not my scene (though I loved the food courts). When I finally got out to explore Chinatown, Little India, and the central business district, I enjoyed the city more.
#9 WDCtraveler has been a member since 23/4/2011. Posts: 4