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Malaysia forum

Sabah and Sarawak, or Peninsula?

Posted by Bridgequeen on 30/12/2014 at 10:15


I would be grateful for any advice. I have just over two weeks in Feb/March (would have been earlier but thought it would be prudent to avoid CNY - is this true of Borneo?) and simply can't decide on an itinerary. I am tempted by what I read about Kuching , but equally by Sabah. I don't climb mountains nor do I dive and being the wrong side of 50 and totally unfit I am also a little concerned that some of my plans may be too much. I am used to solo travelling having done Cambodia many times as well as Laos and Vietnam and am reasonably happy to use public transport though I do like somewhere comfortable at the end of the day including my own bathroom. I usually spend 3 nights per place and find that that is a comfortable pace. Also I hate group tours so was hoping to be able to organise this all on my own either in advance or when I get there (suggestions welcome). Thinking of:

Day 1 arrive KLIA - transfer KLIA2 fly Sandakan
Day 2 Sepilok sanctuary -
Day 3 - 5 River safari (recommendations?)
Day 6 - To Kota Kinabulu????
Day 8 Fly Kuching
Day 11 - Fly KL bus to Melakka - is it worth it?? Alternatively fly to Langkawi then fly Penang and back KL
Fly back day 16

So, is it worth including the area around KK? I have no intention of climbing any mountains
Is the river safari really only for the young and fit? I can't think of anything worse than being wet and miserable and stuck on a boat. Having lived in Africa I am aware that wild animals do not necessarily appear on demand.
Is Kuching worth it ?? The city looks interesting and there appear to be interesting sights around (more orang utans although I have read conflicting views). Also there is a kayaking trip that can be done from here - good reviews in which case should I drop the river safari? But travelling solo would I be able to go on my own?

So many questions - sorry about the stream of consciousness, but very grateful for any opinions.

Thanks in advance

#1 Bridgequeen has been a member since 29/7/2013. Location: Earth. Posts: 55

Posted by withluck on 30/12/2014 at 18:08

Kuching is suitable nature and museums lovers. From kuching, one can visit closer national parks and orang utan sanctuary. Kuching has a few museums in town and all are adjacent to each other.

Malacca is one of the oldest trading ports in Malaysia. You can colonial buidings like Porta De Santiago, Christ Church and St Paul Church to name a few.

Penang is one of food paradise and share similar criteria with Malacca. Colonial buildings, culture and many more. Nature lovers will find Penang National Park is a must visit place and is the smallest national park in the world.

Langkawi is free port and island hopping.

Which town you should visit, you should consider your interests. If you need more information, please feel free to get in touch with me.

#2 withluck has been a member since 27/4/2014. Location: Malaysia. Posts: 17

Posted by savorygal on 30/12/2014 at 19:10

A few years ago I spent a month in Malaysian Borneo & had a great time. I took public transport & was surprised by how easy & comfortable it was.
I did a 3 day tour of the kinabantangan river &stayed here http://naturelodgekinabatangan.com/ . Very comfortable chalets and the excursions were a nice pace. food: meh.

I also liked kuching. Its a good city to explore on foot, nice promenade along the river, interesting museum ( even if it is sponsored by the palm oil council) and I also did a day trip from there to to Bako national park. Easy trails and good for a day trip.

I was underwhelmed by Kota kinabalu, not sure why, lots of people love it.

I also loved Malacca, but I am a foodie/architecture person so it was right up my alley. Great place to wander on foot, eating & snapping photos.

Hope that helps
happy travels

#3 savorygal has been a member since 16/7/2010. Posts: 176

Posted by Bridgequeen on 31/12/2014 at 04:40

Thanks for your time - Savorygal sounds like we have pretty similar interests, so I shall heed your advice. Only concern about Melacca is that I am sure I read somewhere that it used to be ok but now not so much. How long ago did you go there?

Also any ideas how to get between Kuching and Sandakan or do I have to fly through KK?

Thanks again

#4 Bridgequeen has been a member since 29/7/2013. Location: Earth. Posts: 55

Posted by savorygal on 2/1/2015 at 03:27

I was in Malacca about 3 years ago. no problems. I also love Penang, it's a bit like malacca but on a larger scale.
I don't know about travel between kuching & sandakan as I flew from KK to kuching & kuching to KL. sorry

#5 savorygal has been a member since 16/7/2010. Posts: 176

Posted by gecktrek on 2/1/2015 at 05:07

i'd vote for penang for the food, even though melacca is more atmospheric...

#6 gecktrek has been a member since 24/3/2013. Location: Australia. Posts: 171

Posted by captainbkk on 2/1/2015 at 06:38

have done the trip overland/sea from Kcg to KK last nov (start of rainy season-dead slow for tourism) via Brunei. Have much in similar with you, except gender. Had originnaly planned to go even further east to Sandakan, but dropped this.Indeed Kcg is quite an attractive city, do not expect too much oldtime atmosfere-its thoroughly new malay, but it has nice museums (free as well) and some nicely restored old buildings. Well worth a 2-3 day visit.
KK spent longer (had built in some extra time for unforseen-it all went extremely smooth) as planned and was aso not disappointed, but I think Kcg wins with a little margin as atmosfere. Tip: try to do the Sabah railway to Tenom from there (overnite needed at outer end). Peek in to Brunei (if only to say you have visited yet another coutry), maybe fly from there to Kcg (qute long and tedious overnite bus else).
Its al daft easy to go by yourself (I hardly ever do it otherwise). IMHO that food in Penang is grossly overrated, though I am aware now step on long Malay toes. You can easily get all that food too in about any Malay city and certainly Melaka also has lots of atmosfere and old buildings. There are not that many Chinese in Borneo (except in/around Miri), but as anywhere else they do run the bisnis and this may impact travel around their NY. Both these towns are mainly Chinese and thus overwhelmed with tourists and visitors around CNY. However, some 2-3 yrs ago I spent some days around 1 week after CNY in Png and that was quite nice, incl. some lesser known festivals.

#7 captainbkk has been a member since 16/2/2012. Posts: 472

Posted by neilmason on 2/1/2015 at 16:11

It's easy to travel on your own within Malaysia. On Borneo I have only visited Kuching, and as stated above it's good for museums and nature. Bako National Park makes a good day trip (discounted entry to Sarawak parks for age 55+), as does the Orang-utan rehab centre, which for me was the highlight. Sarawak Cultural Village was surprisingly good too; I normally don't go for such artificially created culture.

As for getting around by plane, Air Asia is definitely your friend!

IMHO the food in Melaka is better than that in Penang, seriously under-rated and over-rated respectively. If you like colonial history it's an interesting place.

I like Pantai Cenang on Langkawi for a few relaxing days on the beach. There are plenty of good budget rooms near the beach (Sandy Beach Resort does it for me but there are others).

One thing to bear in mind is that no matter what time of year you go it will be hot. Paradoxically monsoon season is about the coolest time of year, as there are more breezes (these seem very scarce in Malaysia for some reason) and the rain showers cool things down for a few hours.

#8 neilmason has been a member since 31/12/2012. Posts: 45

Posted by Bridgequeen on 6/1/2015 at 14:28

Thanks for all the advice. I am nearly there!

Having had a complete nightmare trying to book with Momondo (not their fault I hasten to add) I managed to get a ticket a day earlier than I had planned - doh! So now flying into Kuching on 19th when I had intended to avoid New Year (flying from Middle East in Kuching out of Langkawi - complete steal less than $450).

So my questions are: fly on to Sandakan on Sunday 23rd ?- super expensive compared to a day later but is there enough in Kuching for 3 full days?? Plan then is overnight in Sandakan, 2 night river safari, another overnight then out to KL for the bus to Malacca (I believe I can pick this up from KLIA2?). The Sandakan leg tentatively booked via Harbourside Backpackers (opinions anyone?) and one thing they say for the Kintabagan leg is to bring "rubber shoes" what do they mean??
That takes me to 26th or 27th so I have 11 or 12 more days which I think is doable to see Malacca, Penang and Langkawi as long as I fly. If anyone has any other suggestions I am all ears but obviously I am committed to Langkawi and I do fancy Malacca. I did quite fancy Cameron Highlands but seems difficult and time consuming to get to.

Thanks again for taking the time

#9 Bridgequeen has been a member since 29/7/2013. Location: Earth. Posts: 55

Posted by Bridgequeen on 6/1/2015 at 14:54

And another question - if I take the more expensive flight which gets me into Sandakan at 12.10, will I have time to get to Sempilok fin time for the orang utan feeding? I take it they are open every day?

#10 Bridgequeen has been a member since 29/7/2013. Location: Earth. Posts: 55

Posted by GCheng on 3/6/2015 at 03:55

Happy to answer any questions. Just visit Kota Kinabalu, been vlogging my time there: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=onUPqQqs3HE

#11 GCheng has been a member since 3/6/2015. Posts: 2

Posted by daawgon on 3/6/2015 at 22:00

I was in Penang at the tail end of this years' CNY, and the city of Georgetown disappointed me, but there are some very nice beaches on the island. It was not overly crowded due to the holiday, but I did notice many Chinese visitors there (I assume they were up from KL or Singapore). I next flew to Kuching, and that was my favorite stop in Malaysia - very nice city indeed. I made the mistake of stopping in KL prior to jetting on to Vietnam - sorry, but KL did not impress in the least. On the whole, I found Malaysia far less friendly to tourists than Vietnam, and I will not be returning.

#12 daawgon has been a member since 17/4/2007. Location: Vietnam. Posts: 1,159

Posted by Gogomobile on 15/6/2015 at 09:09

Malaysians tend to be less open and less warm people.

#13 Gogomobile has been a member since 14/4/2015. Posts: 412

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