As we were finalizing the itinerary of one of our newest tours, Singapore & Malaysia: A Journey through Southeast Asia, our Director of Tour Development Lael Kassis traveled to the region to get a firsthand look at what it has to offer our travelers. Lael (pictured here in Malaysia) tested out different activities and excursions, saw a variety of significant sites and got to know the ins and outs of these two fascinating countries.
The biggest over-arching theme he took away from the adventure was the multicultural identities of the region, with each country merging Chinese, Indian and European influences in its own way. Here, Lael sums up his favorite highlights from the experience and shares some snapshots he took along the way.
There’s a great variety of cuisine with amazing Chinese, Indian and Malay dishes. A few must-try options include the fish head curry in Singapore, Laksa soup in Penang and char kway teow (a rice noodle dish) throughout Malaysia. Due to the countries’ high food safety standards, the street food is a great option for travelers—just look for stands that are favored by locals. There’s also many amazing fresh fruits that you probably can’t find at home, like mangosteen, durian and star fruit.
Singapore and Kuala Lumpur are extremely modern cities with diverse, growing economies, iconic buildings and lots of shopping and culture. They are very easy to get around thanks to great public transit systems and the large number of English-speakers. Kuala Lumpur’s monorail zips above the city—offering great views along the way—and Singapore’s transit system is clean, efficient and modern.
The island of Penang
In spite of its tiny size, the island of Penang has so much to offer. There’s a beautiful beach at Batu Ferringhi and a national park, complete with a rainforest, striking mountain views and thriving monkey populations. The downtown area of George Town (pictured above) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renowned for its multiple cultural influences, colorful architecture and history as a trading port. There are also great religious landmarks, including the Kek Lok Si Temple, the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. On top of all this, there are also modern neighborhoods with bustling industry and tall skyscrapers. Basically, the island has a bit of everything!
The countryside of the Cameron Highlands is truly special. Its cool and temperate climate is a refreshing change to the tropical weather of the region, and extends into rolling hills, picturesque farms and sprawling tea plantations. The area was colonized by the British, so little Tudor-style houses dot the lush green landscapes, lending a bit of unexpected charm.
Free time for relaxation
While this tour is definitely designed for a traveler with a sense of adventure and cultural curiosity, there is plenty of free time to relax in between exploring—whether that means lingering over a long lunch in Singapore or relaxing on the beach at the oceanfront hotel in Penang.
Want to join in on the action? View the itinerary.