DAYS 53 – 73: MALAYSIA, INDONESIA & SINGAPORE
After some time out you will all meet up again for the return trip to Surit Thani and push on to Malaysia. This former British colony has an exotic blend of Malay, Indian, Chinese and European influences, which are reflected in the people, architecture and, perhaps most of all, its food! Your overland tour’s first stop in Malaysia is Penang, where you will spend two nights and have a full free day before heading to the airport for the short flight to Medan, just across the Strait of Melacca on Sumatra, in Indonesia (flights are not included and can be booked during the trip).
It is Sumatra’s lush jungles, one of the richest ecosystems in the world, steaming and at times rumbling volcanoes and blue crater lakes which make this part of the world fascinating and so different from everything else experienced on the expedition to date.
As you head into the interior of the world’s sixth largest island our destination is Lake Danay Toba, high in the volcanic peaks and home to the Batak. The lake covers an area of 1707 sq km and we head for the island in the middle of the lake called Pulau Samosir which is almost the same size as Singapore. The island offers many different options but the best way to experience it is to head off on a bike of motorbikes and explore the countryside, from swimming to trekking, to trying your hand at Indonesian cooking in one of the culinary schools and just enjoying the stunning scenery. It’s a great place to kick back and relax and have a chat with the friendly locals.
The wildlife in all this area is abundant but your next destination’s big attraction is the orang-utan feeding station at Bukit Lawang. Deep in the Sumatran jungle, these feeding stations have been created to support the indigenous orang-utans as much of the normal habitat has been removed for agriculture or palm oil plantations. By creating these feeding stations, the orang-utans do not have to compete with the locals by raiding their fields. You will visit the feeding station and there is also the opportunity to trek through the jungle and hope to spot these incredible creatures in their natural environment.
The Gunung Leuser National Park and surrounding area has plenty else to offer, from exploring the ‘bat cave’, day or overnight guided hikes in the national park on the search for wild orang-utans and the many other primates and larger mammals in the park. The chance to float back down to the starting point on an inner tube is a great way to finish your trek!
Your last stop in Indonesia is the capital of Sumatra, Medan, where you can explore the Grand Mosque or palace, and just sit back and soak in the city’s atmosphere.
Returning from Indonesia to Malaysia, you will have time to explore the town of Georgetown on the island of Penang. Formerly the Malayan base for the historic East India Company, it’s a great spot to take a wander amongst the crumbling colonial buildings and check out the impressive street art. The other great thing is the food: Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand all had their fantastic cuisine to offer, and Malaysia offers another different twist with influences from India strongly evident in Georgetown.
Departing Penang you cross the Malaysian peninsula to another tropical paradise, this time the beautiful island of Pulau Perhentian; one of Malaysia’s showpiece islands, it is refreshing undeveloped and is a prime spot for snorkelling or diving. Imagine going for a snorkel just off the shore and seeing turtles and sharks! Getting to the islands is also an exciting speed boat ride across the bay.
After three nights of relaxed tropical bliss, you will need to drag yourselves off the beach because it’s time to head to the big city again as you reach Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia and one of South East Asia’s most important economic centres. This sprawling city is typical of Malaysia, with a variety of neighbourhoods and districts, each representing the many cultures that have given Malaysia its distinctive character while also giving a nod to the direction of this emerging country. There is the colonial area around Merdeka Square, the chaos of Little India or Chinatown with its famous Jalan Petaling, where you can barter for all kinds of varied goods and trinkets, or the modern and dynamic area around the Golden Triangle, home to the iconic Petronas Towers (best viewed at night when they are lit up). For the best views of the city, KL Tower is only a short walk away.
After two nights in Kuala Lumpur you continue south to Melaka, your penultimate stop on the trip. This city’s history as a strategic trading post lends it a unique blend of Malay, Portuguese, Dutch and British flavours and influences. Take a boat trip on the Malacca River, explore the museums, temples and churches, climb the hill to St John’s Fort or take a trip out to the Melaka Zoo, considered to be the best in all of Malaysia.
And so, in a flash, you will be arriving into Singapore, your final stop on this epic overland journey. The city has plenty to offer, from a world-class zoo, to endless shopping malls, and a national passion for food that is hard to match! Known as the ‘Lion City’ it is one of Asia’s most affluent and vibrant, and a great place to spend a couple of days exploring.
It’s also a great place to celebrate the end of your epic journey across Asia, and so in the spirit of overlanding this epic route you will head to the Long Bar at the Raffles Hotel and raise a toast with a Singapore Sling and relive all the experiences that you have shared since your trip began.