Me and my girlfriend are starting to plan the holiday and we have to have it in December. Our first choice is Singpore and Malaysia as neither of us has been there and it seems like two very interesting countries. However, some questions have risen that we haven't been able to find really good answers to so I hope someone here can help us.
Obviously there's a monsoon period on the east coast of Malaysia during that time. Thus we've been looking at the west side. We've only found nice beaches at Langkawi but haven't been able to figure out if that side is affected too. So does anyone know?
Speaking of Langkawi, we've also read that in the northern parts sharia laws have been passed through and that women can be harassed. Anyone knows anything about that? We're obviously not going to go to restaurants in bikini/shorts but want to be able to hang out in the beaches without too much clothes. Would that be a problem?
Any other recommendations for beaches? We'd prefer in the south-west part (if it isn't hit by monsoon) since we'll fly from and to Singapore. Only things we've found to read claims that most of the west coast is pretty badly polluted and that the beaches aren't that nice.
We're a little bit picky when it comes to accommodation, and yet we don't have that much to spend. Basically we want a clean double room with private toilet. Would it make sense to try to find a place now (since it's "super high season") or would it still be no problem just going there and look around?
Thanks in advance
Don't worry, travel activities in Langkawi and other west coast islands in Malaysia are not affected by the north-east monsoon.
About Sharia laws being passed in the northern state of Kedah which Langkawi is part of, where did you get that info? The state is ruled by an Islamic party since the recent general election in March this year. While the same party rules the more conservative east coast state of Kelantan for almost two decades, the administration of Kedah appears to be more liberal and has even publicly said that they won't be like Kelantan. So far, it appears that they have kept to their words.
One important thing for non-citizens to know: In Malaysia, the federal constitution states that Islamic laws, which only cover personal and family matters, is under state jurisdiction and apply exclusively to muslims only, and non-muslims cannot be charged under these laws.
On the beaches in Langkawi, as far as I know, the usual bikinis are fine. Just dont go nude!
The Pangkor island in Perak has nice beaches as well. But I'm not sure if the budget accommodation there have private toilet like you wanted. Anything further down south, the seawater gets dirtier as the Malacca straits, with over 50,000 ships passing through each year, gets narrower.
In case you didn't know, December is a school holiday season in Malaysia and places tend to get busier and booked faster than usual.
On the beaches in Langkawi, as far as I know, the usual bikinis are fine. Just dont go nude!
The Pangkor island in Perak has nice beaches as well. But I'm not sure if the budget accommodation there have private toilet like you wanted.
Just to fill in the gaps...the usual bikinis are fine in Langkawi on the beach, we were there last year and had no issues. Yes there are fully clothes muslims who walk along the beach but I was never made to feel uncomfortable for wearing a bikini on the beach. All western women we saw (me included) had no problems walking around the resort in tank tops and shorts/above knee length skirts. Nearly all accommodation on Cenang beach has air con and private bathrooms with hot water. For a nice room right on the beach you are looking at around 120 MYR for a room (US$35), for across the road from the beach it's more like 90MYR (US$26). There is a wide range of accommodation to suit different budgets, it just depends on what you want to spend! There is lots to see on Langkawi island itself and you can hire a moped or car and go around the island in a day. Also, it's a duty free island so alcohol, chocolate and other things are very cheap here! You can fly Air Asia from Kuala Lumpur to Langkawi pretty cheap.
Pangkor island is lovely, the 'main' beach at Teluk Nipah is a smaller beach than Langkawi but is still really nice. There is a lot of choice with accommodation here and most do have private bathrooms with hot water, the prices range from 60MYR to 120MYR (US$17 to 35). It's a very small resort but a nice place to relax. Pangkor is only 4 hours by bus away from Kuala Lumpur, making it an easy stop if you wanted to bus it up to Langkawi (or even not!).
One thing to bear in mind with both these places is that they get very busy on a weekend with people from Kuala Lumpur having a short break at the beach...but even then it's not so busy that you can't move. I'd just advise not to arrive on a weekend as accommodation can be nearly full! Use a long stay as a bargaining chip for discounts on your room...it works!
Malaysia is one of our favourite countries, the beaches and water are very clean, the Malays have an excellent conservation policy in place!
Oh and Melacca is a nice place to spend a couple of nights, lots of history, you can reach it by 4 hours bus journey from Singapore!
If you want any more info on either of these places or Singapore, send me a PM and I can recommend some places to stay, eat etc.
[ Edit: Edited on Aug 12, 2008, at 12:13 AM by loubylou ]
A big thanks to both of you for the very helpful answers! I'll make sure to PM you loubylou with questions when we have booked our flights.
The source of claims of harassment was a Swedish (us being two of them Swedish people) book about Malaysia and Singapore, from a Swedish author. Really irritating when guide books just makes up things. On a side note, Lonely planet about Stockholm claimed so many things that where just made up and wrong that we've stopped reading their books.
Yes we're aware of the school holidays, but we must go during that period since that's our only chance to go somewhere together. Sorry to keep asking but about the accommodation, do you know if it'll be possible to come there (on a weekday) without reservation or will we be screwed then? We've both always found it nicer to pick hotels/hostels after actually looking at them since then you know what you get, but if that will land us under a bridge in a shoe box then we'll obviously book in advance.
I'll look around for info about Pangkor Island too. Thanks for the tip.
The earlier postings were on Malaysia. So I shall say a few words on Singapore. Yes. Dec is a peak tourist month. You should come down around 2 to 3 weeks before Xmas and soak in the party lights and shopping fever.
Dec is traditionally a wet month.. whether in Singapore (SG) or Malaysia (MY). Be like us; carry a small brolly and be prepared. Other than that, if you are sticking to the town area... there are plenty of buildings for shelter. If you go down to the beaches, there are pavillions and other shelters.
Hotels in SG would tend to be more expensive when compared to MY. However you can still find bargains. The best bet is to go online and check out those in the Hotel 81 chain. They are cheap and good; but sometimes situated in the red light areas.. and the area to avoid would be Geylang. But if you are up for some spice, do stay there and have an eye opener. Prostitution is not illegal in SG, only pimping is. These areas also tended to be well patrolled by the police but generally overall SG is a safe place. Crime is low; not that there is no crime.
Actually what are you looking for when you want to visit SG? Hear from you...
The plan is to land in Singapore around the 7th of Dec, and leave (also from Singapore) around the 2nd of Jan.
So far we've talked about staying in Singapore a day or two to get a feel for the city . Then head off to Malaysia, spend some time at beaches, some in Kuala Lumpur and some looking at nature/historical things.
Then head back for Singapore, how early depends on what we thought during the first days. The focus in Singapore would be electronics shopping and large modern city walking about. We haven't really started reading up properly yet and any hints on places to go and see would be greatly appreciated. Be it large malls selling electronics/other fun stuff, historical places (have read about the fort and definitely plan going there) or if beaches in Singapore compare to Malaysia maybe have some beach time there as well and cut down on the Malaysia time.
Will certainly look up the Hotel 81 chain, we'll try to avoid the red light. We where in Hamburg a month ago and we both got a life time dosage of red light districts.
Regarding Malaysia, I forgot to ask about Penang. It seems to be a nice place too, anyone with experience from there?
In my opinion, Penang is good for sightseeing colonial British history, the beaches are nowhere near as nice as Langkawi and Pangkor.
Penang does have the best Indian food we have ever tasted. It depends on whether you want a slice of history as well as beach life. Georgetown is nice to wander around for a couple of days and easy to get to from Langkawi by super-fast ferry.
Since Singapore and Malaysia are both on your itineraries, I suggest that you stay in Johor Bahru by the Strait of Johor. It is a port city about 45 minutes away from Singapore, and you can easily find transportation two and from either countries.
But I have to say that it is this big metropolitan area with no good resorts suitable for tourists who are looking to hit the beach. The island of Penang is a nice place to stay for exactly that kind of travel. Its capital Georgetown is listed on the Unesco World Heritage Sites and it is nicely filled with colonial buildings and architectural gems.
Because Penang in Malaysia is listed on the heritage sites, rent controls are strict and hotel choices are limited. There are many nice hotels in the area but not as much as, say Singapore. To travel the 2 countries within your budget, you have to stay in a mid-size hotel like the Century Bay hotel in Malaysia.
[ Edit: Sorry, no promos please. ]
I've just come back from Malaysia, I stayed in Penang and Langkawi, depending on how long you are going for both islands really only need a few days on, as there isn't that much to do. Going out in George Town Penang is cool I met loads of people mainly from the Australian Military on training but there were loads of people from Thailand renewing Visas.
I would say if you are going to Malaysia don't miss out on KL wonderful capital stay there for atleast a couple days its so busy and there is so much to do.
Hope this helps, have fun on your hols.
ps. If your girlfriend likes to shop Penang has wonderful shopping malls, which have loads of shoe shops!