From the glittering skylines of KL to the heritage sights of George Town
With international borders still closed, it’s the ideal time for a great Malaysian road trip – one that begins right at your doorstep. Or, if you aren’t up for quite so much driving and want to start closer to the finish, just take one of Malaysia Airlines’ newly reinstated domestic flights to your starting point, and pick up a rental car from there.
Avis Malaysia, an international car rental brand, is a great option for road trip rentals. It has a comprehensive fleet of modern automobiles that caters to diverse needs. Whether you’re after an SUV that can withstand rough terrain and fit large families or a sleek saloon for a solo trip, Avis Malaysia has you covered. You can rent a vehicle for the weekend or choose from daily, weekly and monthly rental packages. At your request, the delivery and collection of your Avis vehicle may also be arranged for maximum convenience.
Visit any of its 16 outlets in Malaysia, which include branches at Renaissance Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, Penang International Airport and its head office at Glenmarie Industrial Park in Shah Alam.
Here, we lay out a drive between two of the country’s most culture- and flavour-packed cities: KL and Penang. Not only are you in for overnight adventures at your start and end points, there’s also some breathtaking nature to soak up and a bit of hiking so you arrive in George Town nice and hungry. (For seven other road trip ideas, click here.)
Total distance: approximately 412km
Suggested duration: 3 days, 2 nights
Perfect for: Foodies, culture lovers
Before you hit the road
Make sure to factor in some time to explore the capital city. Travellers with families can enjoy a stay at Ascott Kuala Lumpur, which is a skip away from popular destinations like Aquaria KLCC and Masjid Asy-Syakirin KLCC. Situated right across the Kuala Lumpur City Centre Park, where families gather for picnics, the hotel has plenty of family-friendly facilities, including a fully equipped gym, tennis court and spa for the grown-ups and an outdoor pool, playground and play room for children. Its spacious one- to three-bedroom suites come with a kitchen, dining area and balcony. Ascott also offers babysitting, secretarial, laundry and dry-cleaning services. Take a short walk to the Suria KLCC Shopping Mall and check out many upscale restaurants, cinemas and retail outlets.
If more retail therapy is what you’re after, Somerset Kuala Lumpur is another great option. Not only is it situated near shopping malls such as The LINC KL and Intermark Mall, it is also a five-minute drive away from the Golden Triangle, KL’s famed shopping district, where the Petronas Towers reside. After hitting up the city’s top boutiques, retreat to one of the property’s 205 stylish residences – complete with living and dining areas, kitchen and home entertainment system. Built as part of an integrated development that will house Malaysia’s leading private hospital, HSC Medical Centre, Somerset Kuala Lumpur also has a rooftop infinity pool and jacuzzi, gym and guest lounge, as well as the casual dining restaurant SOULed OUT Ampang.
Also be sure to make room in your itinerary (and belly) for some of Malaysia’s most quintessential dishes in KL: brave the crowds at Jalan Alor and don’t miss out on the roti canai at Mansion Tea Stall or the banana leaf rice at Devi’s Corner. And when the sun sets, Changkat Bukit Bintang is the place to be. Take your pick from the myriad of bars, clubs, coffee spots and restaurants.
For contemporary Malaysian dining, head to De.Wan 1958 by Chef Wan, a Kuala Lumpur restaurant led by the country’s most famous culinary export. Located in The LINC KL, a trendy retail centre on Jalan Tun Razak, chef Wan’s concept is all about customisation, and the menu is designed as such. Choose from a selection of fish straight from the tank before deciding whether you want it deep-fried, steamed in garlic lime or barbecued. The rest of the mains are made to share, while the desserts – ranging from pumpkin cooked in coconut cream to lemongrass custard – celebrate what Malaysian cuisine is best known for: diversity.
If there is still some time to spare, make sure to stop by the beautiful Istana Negara, Malaysia’s national palace, which commands a prime position overlooking the Klang River. You can’t go inside but you’re welcome to take photos by the main entrance.
Pitstops along the way
When you’re settled behind the wheel, make your way to Kuala Selangor, before trundling down quiet back roads along the Straits of Malacca to the town of Sabak.
Just before you enter Penang, drive through Taiping – voted third-most sustainable city in the world. Stretch your legs with a hike up Bukit Larut, also known as Maxwell Hill. Standing at 1,250m tall, Bukit Larut is no walk in the park but the fresh air and lack of crowds make it an ideal day climb.
The final stretch
Hop back on the highway into George Town, where you can make a longer stop to soak up the heritage sites and slurp up the street food that the charming capital of Penang is famous for. Make sure to allow enough time to enjoy some satay, an oyster omelette and a bowl of laksa at the food carts lined up along New Lane or the hawker stalls at Kimberley Street. And if you find time to hit Batu Ferringhi in the north, you will also find the fluffiest roti canai at Pak Lan.
Save room for a visit to Projek Nasi Lemak, a three-decade-old Penang institution built on a secret family recipe. What started out in 1978 as one woman serving Malaysia’s national dish from her three-wheeled hawker stall has since grown into a mainstay of the city’s restaurant scene. Everyone from tourists to local celebrities flocks to this casual dining spot for its comforting servings of nasi lemak. While the essence of the recipe remains the same – rice cooked in coconut milk, served with anchovies and peanuts in chilli sauce – the menu has evolved and now boasts one of Penang’s best-loved dishes, the lobster nasi lemak, flourished with melted cheese and chilli.
Alternatively, rest your feet and order in with FoLo Logistic. Not your average food delivery app, Malaysia-founded FoLo Logistic is the only delivery platform in the country that lets you order from two restaurants at once and have the food delivered in a single trip. Whether you’re dining at home or sharing snacks with friends, cater to diverse taste buds and satisfy everyone’s cravings. Established in 2018, the halal-friendly platform, currently just in Penang, has partnered with about 800 cafés, restaurants and hawkers to bring you a wide range of options. Use the promo code, FOLOMAS, to enjoy a 50% discount, capped at RM15, with no minimum spend. Valid for new and existing users, this promo code has no expiry date and can only be used once per customer for orders made through the app or website.
When it’s time to call it a day, luxury travellers can enjoy Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort & Spa, a gorgeous beachfront property overlooking the Andaman Sea. The Rasa Junior Suite has its own soaking tub on the balcony, and Chi, The Spa offers a plethora of luxurious healing treatments. Add to that five eateries (including the beachside Pinang Restaurant & Bar), three tennis courts, swimming pools and a golf course, and you’ve got an amazing way to end a memorable road trip. Best part: local residents and staycationers get a daily credit of RM100 to spend on site.
Those travelling on a lower budget can head to Sunway hotels, in Seberang Jaya and George Town. They provide comfortable accommodations about 30 minutes away from Penang International Airport by car. Besides elegantly designed guest rooms, equipped with LED TVs and complimentary WiFi, you have the options of early check-ins and late check-outs, free cancellations and unlimited flexibility to change the dates of the stay – services that are well-matched to the unpredictability of a road trip. What’s more, there’s a RM30 rebate on petrol or toll expenses and a 10% discount on select souvenir packages with the hotels’ Cuti-Cuti Malaysia Road Trip package, available till 31 December 2020.
Before completing the Penang adventure, make sure to allow enough time for a stop by Butterworth Bird Park (also known as Penang Bird Park), Malaysia’s first and largest avian-focused park.
With thanks to our partners: The Ascott KL, The Somerset KL, De.Wan 1958 by Chef Wan, Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang and Spa, Sunway Hotel Seberang Jaya, Projek Nasi Lemak and FoLo Logistic