My 5 Favourite Malaysia Road Trip Destinations

khim yap
2 Jan 2019

We never get tired of KL, even though we pretty much go there every year. We just love the food in KL; Madam Kwan’s, Little Penang Kafe, Grand Harbour Restaurant at Fahrenheit 88 and even the Food Republic food court at the Pavilion shopping mall.

It’s no secret that I love road trips… and luckily for me, my family loves ‘em too. We’ve done several road trips in Australia and one in Italy, and we’ve always enjoyed them. We’ll take any opportunity to drive into Malaysia, and we are happy to explore all parts of Malaysia, even if it’s just JB.

We love the adventure of a road trip and driving into Malaysia gives us the freedom to explore different places and the flexibility of stopping whenever and wherever we want to. And at each destination, lies the promise of great food, shopping, massages and interesting sights.

Penang is the furthest point up north that we’ve ever driven to. From the CIQ immigration checkpoint at the Second Link, Penang is about 710 kilometres away. It’s possible to drive all the way there in one trip, but we prefer to break up the journey so that it’s less tiring for everyone. On our trip to Penang, we stopped off at Kuala Lumpur (KL) and used it as a mid-point break before heading up to Penang.

Penang is well known for their street art murals that can be found all over Georgetown. You can easily pick up free printed maps of the city that indicate where all the murals are, and our kids loved exploring Georgetown to look for them. It was like playing a massive treasure hunt game!

One of our favourite things to eat in Penang is Char Kway Kak, which is basically what you get when you cross Chai Tow Kway (carrot cake) with Char Kway Teow. Some places in Penang use duck’s eggs (instead of chicken) to cook the dish, and this adds even more flavour. Very unique and yummy! The best Char Kway Kak we had in Penang was at a pasar malam (night market) in Farlim. Don’t miss going to this pasar malam when you are in Penang; there are plenty of other great eats here too!

We’ve been to Ipoh twice; most recently on our Escape the City road trip with BMW, but the first was when we were returning from Penang. Ipoh is about 560 kilometres away from the CIQ checkpoint at the Second Link, but from Penang, it is only 157 kilometres away.

Ipoh is a very scenic city with lots of gorgeous peaks and lush greenery. And the city also has this old-school vibe to it. We love the meat floss pastries from Ching Han Guan, a traditional bakery that’s been around since 1949.

The city is also known for their bean sprout chicken dish, but that’s not our favourite dish in Ipoh. Our favourite dish in Ipoh is the Moonlight Hor Fun (Yut Kwong Hor) at Tuck Kee Restaurant. The dish is basically a dry hor fun that’s topped off with a raw egg. You break the yolk egg and then mix it into the hor fun noodles before you serve. This dish can be found all over Malaysia and even here in Singapore, but the one we had at Tuck Kee Restaurant was unbelievably good. We were dining with a chef friend and even he was blown away. Bonus tip: Ask for two eggs instead of one… you won’t regret it!

Bonus tip 2: When in Ipoh, you should make a side trip to the Gua Tempurung caves. Gua Tempurung is said to be one of the longest caves in Malaysia, and their tours offer different degrees of difficulties to suit everyone. The more adventurous ones can do the ‘Grand Tour’ that takes 3.5 hours and will require you to crawl through tunnels and go through water obstacles. We didn’t bring a change of clothes that’s required for the ‘Grand Tour’ so we did the shorter, less-hardcore ‘Top of the World’ tour that takes half the time. The Gua Tempurung caves are only about a 30-minute drive away from Ipoh, and the kids really loved visiting this place.

We love the cool climate at Cameron Highlands. Towards the end of the year, temperatures in Cameron Highlands can drop to as low as 14 degree Celsius! Cameron Highlands is just 210 kilometres away from KL, but the drive will take you about 3 hours as you’ll need to navigate through narrow, winding single-lane roads to get there. This can certainly be a challenging drive as there are usually trucks on this route, so you’ll have to overtake them carefully when the opportunity arises.

Cameron Highlands is a great place for hiking; there are trails you can take to see waterfalls. We enjoyed visiting the Boh Tea plantation to learn about the tea-making process. I’m not into insects and animals, but the kids enjoyed visiting the Butterfly Farm.

We love the fresh fruits and veggies that are grown in Cameron Highlands. You can even eat the corn raw, and it tastes so sweet. We stopped by a roadside stall to buy some, and the stall owner told us to try eating it raw. We were a little sceptical at first but we tried a few kernels, and it was so good! We also cooked some when we got back to our AirBnb, and they were delicious!

We never get tired of KL, even though we pretty much go there every year. We just love the food in KL; Madam Kwan’s, Little Penang Kafe, Grand Harbour Restaurant at Fahrenheit 88 and even the Food Republic food court at the Pavilion shopping mall. Our favourite food court is the Lot 10 Hutong food court where you can get KL Hokkien Mee and lots of other great Malaysian dishes like Penang Prawn Noodles and Penang Char Kway Teow.

We love the seafood in Malaysia and when we are in KL, we will go get our seafood fix at Jalan Alor! The whole street is lined with seafood restaurants, and we love the crabs from Meng Kee restaurant and the KL Hokkien Noodles at Dragon View restaurant.

We even enjoy the fast-food and chain restaurants in KL like Nando’s, Wendy’s, Krispy Kreme, and A&W. Who can resist a Coney Dog with root beer float?

When we are in KL, we will also go to the Mid Valley Megamall and The Curve at Damansara. These malls are massive, and we can easily spend one whole day at each of these malls!

Another of our favourite places in Malaysia is Malacca. The city has so much to offer. We love the Peranakan food here and of course the Chendol! I have a weakness for Gula Melaka, and the best Gula Melaka is undoubtedly from Malacca. And because of that, the best Chendol is also from Malacca. Our favourite Chendol is at Jonker Dessert at Jonker Street. We also love the Jonker Street pasar malam — there are so many great eats that can be found just on this one street!

Malacca has this interesting blend of the old and the new. On the one hand, you’ve got the modern malls at Mahkota and Dataran Pahlawan, but you’ve also got heritage churches, shophouses and hotels that are steeped in history. All this and that amazing Chendol is only about a 3-hour drive away from Singapore!

Here are some tips that you might find useful for your next road trip to Malaysia.

Before going on your road trip, please make sure that your car is in good condition to handle the trip. I’ll usually send my car for servicing before a road trip, and I’ll also make sure that my tyres are properly inflated and my wiper fluid reservoir is topped up.

This is a stored value card that’s used to pay toll fees on the North-South highway. Super useful and highly essential. It will help you clear the tolls much faster, and you won’t need to fiddle with small change. Bonus tip: At the end of every trip, note down the remaining value on your Touch N’ Go card so that you’ll know how soon you’ll need to find a top-up station on your next trip.

When you’re driving on the North-South highway, you’ll definitely need to stop off for a toilet break at some point. We find that usually, toilets at the rest stops tend to be cleaner than the ones in the petrol stations. They are also usually bigger, so there are no queues too.

Always park head in (towards a wall ideally), with your wheels turned. Basically, you’re making the car as hard to tow away as possible. You should not leave your valuables in the car, but if you need to leave them in the car, then it’s best to keep it covered and hidden away. It’s also a good idea to use a steering lock as an additional deterrent.

You never know when your car will break down or touch wood, if an accident will occur. We always carry a big bottle of water and some snacks (like bread or biscuits) so that if we are stuck for a few hours waiting for a tow truck, we won’t be dying of hunger or thirst. These supplies can also be handy if you’re stuck in a bad traffic jam. You don’t want to have hungry kids (or wife) in the car!

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