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From Singapore to Thailand via land, a 20-day complete backpacking guide.

The journey from Singapore to Thailand is a culture-rich journey, you will cross vibrant, exciting cities, rainforests, stunning tea plantations and experience a smooth religious belief drift from Islam towards Buddhism.


Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia


giovannilodato
Giovanni Lodato

A story from: 

Giovanni Lodato was born in Italy in 1996. After worked 6 years in a factory he felt that something was pushing him towards unravelling the world. He therefore left his beloved country to explore Australia, where he spent one incredible year. Now he is exploring the South-East Asia and is super excited to share with us his journey from Singapore to Thailand. Giovanni is traveling solo since he left Italy. However, he met many people along his way. After Australia, he did no have any fixed plans but to visit Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. He started his travels in South-East Asia by himself and once in Malacca he met Asa and William and decided to travel together. Giulia then, joined the group in Kuala Lumpur. Giovanni talks about the beauty of traveling without any fixed plans: meeting people, deciding what to do according to what you feel to do that day and the immense sense of freedom. If you want to get more about his traveling, check him out at @giovannilodato.






THE STORY


Singapore - Thailand via land itinerary
Singapore - Thailand via land itinerary

The itinerary Giovanni wants to share today comprises firstly Malacca, followed by Kuala Lumpur. Two unmissable cities and beating heart of this country. He then headed towards north exploring the tropical jungle of Taman Negara national park, before taking a “relaxing” and breathtaking stop at the majestic Cameron Highlands. Followed Ipoh, George town and Langkawi, last malaysian stop before Thailand!



How to get from SINGAPORE🇸🇬 to MALAYSIA🇲🇾


The main route from Singapore to Malaysia is via land. Even though during holidays and peak season it is hard to book a spot on the hopping bus, the latter is the cheapest way to reach a country from the other. The journey is about 6 hour-long and cost around 30-40 Singapore Dollars. The two main companies offering connecting services are RedBus and 12go Asia, which remain the leading one all throughout the continent. 


MALAYSIA🇲🇾

Useful expressions

Terima kasih =  thank you

Sama Sama, tolonglah = you're welcome

Currency and money

Move around

SIM card and internet

Safety

Food


ITINERARY:


MALACCA (2/3 nights)

As a first stop in the country, Malacca is a good kick start to taste some delicious malaysian food. What immediately stroke, was the mixed culture that Malaysia has, even thought Islam is the main religion, Indù and Chinese temples, Christian churches and Mosques rise and shine everywhere.




Where to stay: 

Giovanni slept at Vspace, a modern guest-house offering the possibility to sleep in capsules at a cheap and affordable price: 104 RM (21 Euro) for three nights.

The place, which overlooks the malacca river, is also a cafè so you can warm up your brain with a coffee. He highly recommend the chocolate waffle with vanilla ice.



Not too far from there, on Jonker st, Voyage home&guesthouse is another possibility, where a friend of him, Will, stayed. Is a basic hostel with a relaxed mood, there is a great space to play music or games and an intimate roof terrace with beautiful sunset views over the tiled rooftops. They spent a few nights playing cards, drinking beers and watching the sunset and hearing the sermons, as muslim prayers are called. Another hostel suggestion from his friend Asa, is The Three Little Birds. Generally, during the high season is best to book at least 2 days in advance. The price for one night is 25 RM. 


Nightlife: 

If you'd like to drink something, the Malacca river is full of pubs and bars. However, Malacca did not seemed like a partying city. On the other hand, you can meet travelers and enjoy the temples, architectures and cultures without many tourists.


Where to eat:

Jonker street is the best option if you are looking for cheap street food. The city’s main market sells everything, from dresses to souvenirs and food. Keep in mind that these markets take place only during weekends. A good street food alternative, in this case always open, is called Makan avenue. It overlooks the Malacca river and the prices are generally low.



For fancier experiences, Locahouz, is nice place to have a meal surrounded by plants and Heritage Flavours offers a dining experience underneath colorful umbrellas.




KUALA LUMPUR (3 nights)

Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the most populated city. It is rich in culture and a melting pot of different cultures. However, it is also super trafficked, crowded and chaotic. 

The city is not well connected by public transports, there are some train routes but you need to change multiple times to reach your destination. Buses are often in delay if not cancelled and the drivers do not accept cash or credit card but only a local transport card called Touch’NGo card, purchasable at the main stations. 


What to do:

Petronas twin towers: Is the city symbol and the main attraction. It’s possible to climb up the tower to get an astonishing view of the city.  The recommendation is to see the towers during nighttime, when a lights show takes place.

Under the twin towers there’s a multiple-floors mall where you can get food at a fair price. Chill Pan Mee restaurant is recommended. It offers incredibles Homemade pan mee dry (a kind of noodle soup).



noodle fish ball soup
Noodle fish ball soup

Petaling street markets is probably the biggest and most chaotic street market in the whole city. Located in Chinatown it offers a wide range of souvenirs and clothes. Street food is mostly sold around the market but not inside. 


petaling street market

Batu Caves: Located just 30 minutes outside the city, this complex of sacred caves and temples are the place everyone wants take a picture of. Due to this, make sure you reach the place before 9 am as the mass of tourist is not yet there. The gold statue of Lord Murugan is the epicenter of the site, but there are many indu temples which worth a visit as well. 


batu caves
Batu caves

Nightlife:

Changkat Bukit Bintang street is where you can find the main nightlife in KL. Another good site for the nightlife is The Hive Trec where more fancy bars are present, of course at western prices.

The Manor by Mingle, a hostel chain, offers every Tuesday the Bar crawl for its guests. In particular, after a fee of 10 RM you can take a stroll around some bars in the city and the first drink is free. It starts at 8pm. Anyway, a visit at one of the Three Mingle hostels - Chinatown mingle, High Street mingle and manor, is highly recommended. 


TAMAN NEGARA (3 nights)

The adventure started with a bus from KL (about 95RM) booked through RedBus some days in advance. Keep in mind that there is just one bus per day heading towards Taman Negara and one bus per day leaving Taman Nagara as well. 

The main station is Kuala trembling jetty, once there plenty of activities are suggested. Therefore, a good recommendation is not to book online tours but decide what to do at the station, as well as for the bus to leave the national park.


What to do:

A good and cheap recommendation, since it is free, is the Canopy Walk. On the other hand keep in mind that this must be done everyday before the national park closes at 3pm except on Friday.

Giovanni best highlight is definitely 2D1N: a group tour in which, as the name suggest, 2 days are spent in the jungle with one night spent sleeping under a cave.


night under a cave, 2D1N tour
night under a cave, 2D1N tour

His best tips: There is the possibility to rent a backpack if you prefer not to use yours (can get wet and dirty). Food, mattress, sleeping bag and water are provided but you can bring yours if you feel more comfortable with. You can leave the backpacks in the hostel nearby but at your own risk.

The tour operator adopted a really interesting and environmentally-friend politic: clothes, shoes, food and plastic bags brought was counted and wrote down. At the end of the tour, if you come back with less stuff, a fine is given. 

The food was given prior to start and the guide, Tam, mostly made the cooking helped by the tour participants. It was a great moment to talk with him and get a better overview about life in Malaysia. During these two days they explored caves, villages and learned a lot about the wildlife.



However, Prepare to get extremely wet and to walk in the mud for 15h, split in 2 days. The trail is not particularly hard but there will be circumstances that will make it, for instance hot, humidity and mud. Just to let you know, your shoes will feel this two days more than you will, so use shoes you do not care about! 

Giovanni also shared that he participated in this tour in January (usually the monsoon season). However, he felt lucky because he had 2 beautiful sunny days that were following some rainy ones, that explains all the mud he encountered.



But not worries! There’s a laundry available to everyone so at the end you can give a treat to your stuff. Anyway, be prepared to live your best experience ever!


2D1N tour, taman negara

If you are looking for other tours there is the possibility to participate at 3D1N tour or other activities such as boat tour on the river or exploring the nomadic villages nearby.


Some useful informations about the national park and the village:

There are many restaurants usually open just for dinner and lunch.

You need to pay 1 RM all the time to cross the river towards the national park and forth. Plus, a 6 RM fee for your camera (keep the receipt with you so you don't have to pay all the time).


CAMERON HIGHLANDS (1 night)

Generally, Cameron highlands are the place sought by people willing to escape from the hot temperatures of the big cities. The highlands are mainly known for their tea plantations, making them a must see in Malaysia. Giovanni reached the highlands with a bus booked from Kuala Trembling, in Taman Negara national park.


Cameron Highlands, Malesia
Cameron Highlands, Malesia

Where to stay 

Giovanni and his friends stayed at Alora guest house, which was a overall nice hostel that had also scooters to rent. 


What to do

Tea plantations are not only a must see, but a mandatory stop for breathe and taste the local flavors. The most known are Cameron valley and Bharat tea plantations. If you are seeking a nice instagrammable spot,  Cameron Vally is where you want to go. Whereas for a delicious tasting head towards Boh Sungai Palas tea.

It’s  also possible to take a nice walk/hike through the tea plantations. In particular, old trail 10 takes you to the summit of the hill, and with a 4 RM fee entrance you can enjoy also a great cup of tea. Sunrise is highly recommended from there.

For strawberry lovers, Big Red Strawberry farm offers a self-picking tour.


Where to eat

After your wake up, head towards Cameron Valley Tea Room 2 for an energy-booster breakfast, during the day, the indian restaurant Singh chapati has been tried and approved. 


IPOH (2 nights)

Ipoh is the biggest closest city to Cameron Highlands. The former is reachable with a bus from the latter, and viceversa. As mostly everywhere in the country, it’s possible to book online or directly at the bus terminal. 


What to do 

Visiting the Kek lok tong temple, the particularity is that it sits in a cave (best to visit it in the morning since it closes during afternoons).

Take a stroll to Mirror Lake, Cermin lake and mirror lake 2. It is possible to pay for a boat tour into the cave and around lake 2. It will cost roughly 25RM. If you have to pick one to see, go for lake 2.


Lake 2, Ipoh
Lake 2, Ipoh

Particularly famous are the Ipoh Night markets. They are located uptown and can be reached by taxi or grab. Food is delicious and cheap.

A visit to the Street art mural Art's Lane is recommended: Ernest Zacharevic headed to Ipoh and, with the Old Town Coffee help, painted 8 murales. After this visit, the city gained importance among other artists which gathered there to continue the paintings.


Ernest Zacharevic's murales, Ipoh
Ernest Zacharevic's murales, Ipoh

GEORGE TOWN (2 nights)

In Georgetown is it possible feel the mix of culture that live together in Malaysia. Giovanni had the luckiness to arrive during the Thaipusam festival, a great occasion to visit the city.

But George Town is also one of the first islands of the Malaysian state of Penang where you can feel and find more tourism. This island vibes more as holiday destination for western people in general. So prices are a bit more high than the main land.

Giovanni reached George Town firstly with a bus from Ipoh to Butterworth’s wharf and then with a ferry. It's possible to book the tickets at the ferry station. Normally, the ticket costs 8 RM but he had the first way for free due to the festival.


George Town from Penang Hill
George Town from Penang Hill

What to do

Take a walk through the Chew jetty, a pretty and peculiar street alongside the wharf adorned with plenty of shops, mostly chinese.


Chew jetty, George Town
Chew jetty, George Town

Take a stroll through the Georgetown’s street to get a glimpse about its colorful street art.


If you are seeking an unbeatable place for the sunrise, Penang Hill will not disappoint. It is reachable by hiking or with a cableway (30RM in total). The hike is pretty steep and long so if you make sure you wake up early enough. Both cableway and hiking start can be reached with a 1 hour drive from the city centre by bus. The cost is around 2 RM. In case you opted for the cableway, 1.30 hour before the sunrise is the right time to leave your accommodation. After the sunrise Giovanni suggest to visit the Kek lok si temple, which lays right after Penang Hill.


Another great place you do not want to miss is Penang national park: a 50 RM fee for the entrance is applied. there, you can reach beaches through internals walks or via sea. Unfortunately, the whole park was filled with dumped plastic and not well-kept. 

Giovanni and his friends decided to visit monkey beach by boat because the total price was 100RM. they also hiked to the lighthouse, however it closes at 3 pm.


During sunset there is a chilling place that offer happy hour: Bora bora beach restaurant.

They also experienced the Thaipusam: a typical hindu festival open to people from all the religion. This event is celebrated in between January and February on the first full moon in the Thai month of Tamil calendar. 

During the ceremony people are give donations in exchange of fortune. Moreover, the more coconut shell they smash on the floor the more purified they will get: a symbolic representation of surrendering one’s ego at the god’s feet. 


Breaking of coconut shells, Thaipusam festival, george Town
Breaking of coconut shells, Thaipusam festival

LANGKAWI (3 nights)

Langkawi which is the last Malaysian island in the strait of Malacca, can be reached from George Town through flight or ferry. The flight is the fastest but of course the most expensive one. However, according to the season you may not find a ferry to arrive in Langkawi. 

Giovanni, as we all like to travel chose the cheapest combination: ferry, train and ferry as follows:

Form Butterworth wharf take a train to Alor Setar, it will take 1h and 30. From there take a grab and go to Kuala kedah. For no residents usually there is only one ferry at 1.30 pm which in 2 hours will take you to the island.

Once in the island, a great recommendation is to rent a scooter, since is very difficult to move without it. A good, fair price for a day of renting should be around 25-35 RM.


Where to stay

The four of them booked a motel/guest house as they arrived: Mazza Nur Motel (85RM for four people/night). However is suggested to book 2 to 3 days in advanced during peak season.


What to do 

The main activities and spot to visit in the island are :

  1. Sandy skull beach, a nice and beautiful beach where to take a deserved relax. 

  2. Temurun waterfall is a refreshing spot, especially in hot days. During monsoon season it can be very suggestive as the high volume of water that it carries. 

  3. Tanjung Rhu beach is another great spot to relax but also for renting kayaks.

  4. There are two main lookouts and peaks in Langkawi. The first one, with the skybridge and the cable car (88 RM) is easy to reach. If your interest are climbing and hiking, you would looking for Chinchang mountain. Is just next to the skybridge and is free. The hiking is pretty hard but the view on top totally worth the fatigue. The hike starts right next to the skybridge cable car.  Even though at some point you will read a sing telling you to turn down, you still need to proceed until you finally arrive at the top. From there you can see the cable car on the other mountain and the beautiful view of the island. The hiking is around 3/3,50h in total. But no worries! You can cool down with a bath in the waterfall.



After the hike and a nice, cheap meal you can relax with a fabulous sunset at Cenang beach.

If you wanna stay more nights, there is the possibility to rent a jet sky or a boat tour to eagle point. But also book a bungalow in the middle of the island, kawah padi for example.


Where to eat

A nice tip for the night markets is that they change location every day. So take a look here to know exactly where to find them. 

Anyway for restaurants and food in general, local prices are about 7 to 12 RM for a main. Drinks from 2 to 4 as tea 5 to 7 as juice.



Sunset from Cenang Beach
Sunset from Cenang Beach


How to get from MALAYSIA🇲🇾 to THAILAND🇹🇭


From Langkawi they then headed to Koh Lipe, which is the closest Thailandese island. Book a ferry online or at the ferry station. A good advice is checking the visa requirement for your country, They just filled out the form before the arrival.


From now on the adventure continues!

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