Embark on a nature-filled drive that takes you to the Jewel of Kedah
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.
One of the longest among our series of eight road trips, this one from Petaling Jaya to Langkawi covers much of the western coast of the country, and we recommend breaking it up into a few days. But what the trip demands in driving stamina, it makes up for with lots of relaxing activities along the way, from hipster café-hopping in Petaling Jaya and fruit-picking in Selangor, to cocktail-sipping in Ipoh and rice paddy-exploring in Langkawi. (For seven other road trip ideas, click here.)
Total distance: 490km
Suggested duration: 4 days, 3 nights
Perfect for: Foodies, beach bums and families with kids
Before you hit the road
The family adventure can kick off with a few days to enjoy Sunway Lagoon’s many adrenaline-pumping attractions. Hop on the Vuvuzela, the largest water ride in Malaysia; surf artificial waves at the Surf Pool, also the largest of its kind in the country; or bring the kids to Nickelodeon Lost Lagoon, where they can get close to characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Thrill-seekers should try the Monsoon 360, a vertical slide that sends you free-falling through a slippery tunnel. And after a day of frolicking, you can check into Sunway Pyramid Hotel next door.
Another resting place can be found in the commercial hub of Damansara. Somerset Damansara Uptown Petaling Jaya offers 211 serviced apartments and easy access to a plethora of cafés, restaurants, boutiques, banks and clinics in the area. It’s also linked to The Starling, a new eco-lifestyle mall with a park, rooftop garden, indoor playground and kid-friendly cinema. Each apartment comes with a kitchen, living room, working area and en-suite bathroom, while two-bedroom units also have washing machines and dryers. In addition to a gym, pool, play room and the residents’ lounge, Somerset provides babysitting, secretarial and shuttle services, as well as on-call doctors.
A 45-minute drive away from Petaling Jaya, Citadines DPulze Cyberjaya provides a quieter location after all the sightseeing in the city. It’s great for discovering the little-known gems of Selangor’s Sepang District as well, such as the Paya Indah Wetlands and Putrajaya Lake. Citadines’ cosy, contemporary rooms range from studio apartments to two-bedroom units, each of which features a home entertainment system, kitchen and separate living and dining areas – you’ll of course also have access to a fitness corner and swimming pool, and DPulze Shopping Centre is right next door.
Just a few kilometres away you’ll find Glaze Eatery, a rustic, industrial-style spot serving affordable café nosh with a local twist that will make the 40-minute drive to Cyberjaya worth it. Start with a basket of Stoner Fries, generously topped with cheese and a sunny-side-up egg, before digging into signatures such as the butter chicken, creamy curry pasta or Masak Lemak Cili Api Pasta, a spicy dish with squid and prawns. Finish off with a slice of the decadent chocolate Nutella cake, which looks as good as it tastes. Don’t forget to snap a few #OOTDs against the café’s backdrop of neon signs and exposed brick walls.
When you’re ready to hit the road, note that while it usually takes less than two hours to reach Ipoh from Petaling Jaya, you’re making a trip of it, so make stops along the way, or even make an overnight detour to the Cameron Highlands for some cool mountain air.
Pitstops along the way
To start your drive feeling fresh, stop in Rawang, about 30 minutes from Petaling Jaya on the AH2/E1, for a quick dip in the spectacular Taman Eko Rimba Kanching Waterfalls. There are seven tiers to the waterfall, and each has a pond for swimming.
Drive on another half hour or so and you’ll reach the Selangor Fruit Valley, where you and your family can experience being a farmer for the day and, of course, sample some of the delicious produce.
Before settling down in Ipoh, travel northeast to a kid-friendly destination with theme parks, natural hot springs and upscale glamping sites, Lost World Of Tambun has something for all ages, and all while surrounded by lush foliage and limestone hills – a picturesque backdrop against which to dive into heart-thumping activities. Start by hitting up the new Malayana Rainfortress, a thrilling water-slide complex that spans two and a half storeys. From 8pm onwards, pay a visit to the Luminous Forest and its glowing plants and magical creatures. Bed down at one of the floating villas or glamping sites for a memorable overnight experience.
Leave time in your schedule to enjoy the food- and heritage-filled jaunts in Ipoh as well. Nothing is quite as synonymous with Ipoh than its classic white coffee – and its endless selection of kedai kopi are your best bet for the real, authentic brew. Head to Sin Yoon Loong, a traditional Hainanese coffee shop, widely regarded as the birthplace of the famed drink. There are plenty of new Instagram-worthy joints and bars worth stopping by too.
Make sure to factor in some time for shopping. With its inviting food court serving tasty Malay and Thai cuisine and modern retail outlets perfect for afternoon perusing, Angsana Ipoh Mall, opened in the 1990s and formerly known as Greentown Mall, is a shopper’s delight. Situated in the city centre of Ipoh, the vibrant shopping mall is home to more than 80 stores, including gadget shops stocking the latest mobile and electronic products, as well as everything from smart and casual fashion to men and women’s jewellery from local and international brands. There’s even an indoor theme park for the kids to run wild.
If you can factor in a nightcap, pull up a stool at Tiga Bar, a speakeasy-style venue lurking in Ipoh’s colourful and inviting laneways. By championing small-batch brewers and embracing ingredients local to Malaysia’s northern territory, the mixologists at Tiga Bar have landed on some interesting and downright peculiar concoctions. While Buttery N I Know It combines whisky sour with a peanut butter and jelly infusion, Jack to the Future mixes jackfruit rum with honey, toasted sesame oil and Cointreau. Our favourite is Fruit to Thrill, a strawberry tequila cocktail with Fino sherry, lemon, tomato shrub and osmanthus syrup.
The final stretch
After a food- and heritage-filled jaunt in Ipoh, make your way farther north to the Kuala Perlis ferry terminal where you can park your car at the port or take it to the island via a car ferry (operated by either Langkawi Auto Express or Langkawi Ro-Ro Ferry Services).
Situated in the southwest corner of Langkawi, Holiday Villa Beach Resort & Spa Langkawi is nicely tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the island’s busier locations, despite being only a 15-minute drive from the nearest ferry port. Start the morning with a dip in the outdoor swimming pool, which boasts its own swim-up bar, jacuzzi and separate children’s pool. When it’s time to eat, the hotel’s six bars and restaurants provide plenty of variety, serving everything from local Malaysian dishes to North Indian cuisine, as well as a barbecue feast prepared on the beach.
Take a well-deserved break from the road to enjoy a mangrove cruise and admire the tranquil coastal forests or explore the rice fields around Padang Matsirat on a bike. Or, for a party vibe, hit up any of the buzzy beach bars along Pantai Cenang for great music, food and all-round good vibes.
With thanks to our partners Sunway Lagoon, Somerset Damansara Uptown Petaling Jaya, Citadines DPulze Cyberjaya, Glaze Eatery, Lost World Of Tambun, Angsana Ipoh Mall, Tiga Bar, Holiday Villa Beach Resort & Spa Langkawi