A few ways you can (re)discover Malaysia without having to step onto a plane.
A few ways you can (re)discover Malaysia without having to step onto a plane. ((L) The St Regis Langkawi/Instagram / (R) Aleksandra Nadja/Instagram)

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19 months. That’s how long it’s been since our lives came to an unexpected halt. So you can imagine the thrill when news broke that fully vaccinated Malaysians are allowed to travel again.

I’m probably not the only one who’s fantasised about all the trips I’d take within minutes upon hearing the news, but a fair bit of caution began to rise when I examined what it’d be like to travel in the climate that we’re in. With many of the SOPs still in place, booking a flight can feel like an intimidating thing to do right now.

So, what do you do when travelling is on your mind but flying is not yet a comfortable choice? Here are a few ways you can explore and (re)discover Malaysia without ever having to step onto a plane.

Start with a road trip to Fraser’s Hill

This charming town situated in the highlands of Pahang is only a couple hours drive by car or bus from the capital city of Kuala Lumpur. Unlike Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands, Fraser’s is a low key travel destination. Which is perfect if you’re looking to avoid the crowds! Temperatures here drop to as low as 17ºC, making it perfect for walks and bike rides past lush flower gardens and old English style cottages.

If you’ve spent more time being inside in the last year, hiking up some of the family-friendly trails is a great way to reconnect with the outdoors. Some of the famous trails include the Hemmant Trail, the Abu Suradi Trail, and the Bishop’s Trail. A more challenging alternative is the Pine Tree Trail. Now, if hiking isn’t your cup of tea, there are other ways to get in touch with nature, birdwatching being one of them. Head to the Bird Interpretive Centre for a chance at spotting over 250 species of birds.

Fraser’s also happens to be home to The Paddock, an equestrian centre where visitors can ride horses around the course. On site, there is also an archery range if you’d like to try your hand at a bow and arrow.

No trip to this hill town is complete without afternoon tea and scones at The Old Smokehouse (Ye Olde Smokehouse), not to be confused with The Smokehouse Hotel in Cameron Highlands. The Old Smokehouse is a boutique hotel and restaurant that has preserved its antique charm for decades, and it’s the perfect spot for a warm meal before leaving town.

Make a trip to a local island by ferry

Malaysia has some of the most beautiful islands and beaches in the world. Whether you plan on spending the weekend at a beautiful island resort or simply making a day trip to one of the smaller islands, here are a few places that you can get to without having to fly.

1. Payar Island Marine Park (Pulau Payar)

Payar Island is an uninhabited marine park in Kedah. The only way to get to this protected reserve is by booking a day tour. A couple hours’ ferry ride from Penang (or 45 minutes from Langkawi) will earn you a day on the island snorkelling with juvenile sharks, swimming with the fishes, and diving the coral gardens. Just remember to be delicate and respectful of the park and creatures that reside in it, and we will have this beautiful sliver of paradise for years to come.

Book a day tour from Penang to Pulau Payar here.

2. Langkawi

Although a touristy choice, Langkawi is a big island that offers a range of activities to just about every kind of traveller. Whether you’re spending the week at a luxurious spa resort or riding jet skis and ATVs, there’s no shortage of ways to unwind and explore.

Renting a car on the island from the Kuah Jetty will give you the freedom to move around from the comfort of your vehicle. For those travelling solo, renting a scooter is not only a more economical option, it’s a fun way to escape to smaller beaches and secret hideaways such as Tanjung Rhu Beach.

Check out Langkawi Ferry Fares and schedules here.

3. Perhentian Islands (Pulau Perhentian)

Speaking of slivers of paradise, the Perhentian Islands have been a favourite destination for anyone who enjoys all the pleasures of island living, but there’s more to this bucket list travel destination than meets the eye. A hassle-free way to get to the island is by getting a bus to Kuala Besut, Terengganu and then hopping on a ferry to the Perhentian Islands.

There are endless activities to participate in on the island from sea kayaking to visiting the turtle sanctuary and the fire dancing show on the beach at night. The Perhentian Islands will leave you daydreaming about it long after you’ve left. Do note, however, that Perhentian is made up of two islands — Perhentian Kecil and Perhentian Besar.

View Kuala Besut ferry fares and schedules here.

Two-wheeled adventures

Sometimes, the best way to explore a place isn’t by booking a five-day stay at a fancy hotel, but by renting a bike and cycling around town with a local tour guide. That’s exactly what KL EBIKE offers you.

Situated in Putrajaya, the e-bikes are available for rent for as low as RM20. They also provide electric scooters for rent. Let the friendly team take you to some of the major sights around Putrajaya, and if you’re up for something a little more adventurous, opt for the night tours instead. Booking is made easy via phone call or WhatsApp messaging.

It’s easy to forget that there’s so much to learn and discover in our beloved Malaysia. There are plenty of ways to appreciate what’s in our own backyard without having to hop on an airplane. Travelling doesn’t have to be an overwhelming experience. Take your time, make a few plans, and when you’re ready, ease back into those travelling shoes.

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